It’s pretty safe to say that I have a love/hate relationship with keto. I’m sure most people do though. The weight loss is nice, of course, but the thing I love the most about it is the intense hunger I always suffered from is gone. That’s not to say I don’t get hungry. I do. But I think it’s more of a natural hunger that lets me know it’s time to eat. Not the 24 hour hunger that plagued me before. Something I’ve come to realize was probably set off by the amount of carbs and sugar in my old diet.
But it is really hard resisting sugar and carbs if it’s around me. I mean really hard. From my previous experience, I know the cravings will die down, but while you’re in the induction phase, try to avoid being around any temptations at all cost!
I’ve been talking about it so much that I’m sure some of you are wondering what keto is, and what it’s all about. And I’m sure some of you just wish I’d move on.
If you wish to learn more though, let me teach you the ways. In my head, that was said all mystical and stuff.
Keto is a diet that focuses on creating a state of ketosis in the body, and fueling your body with ketones instead of carbs. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend my post on Glycolysis vs Ketosis to learn more.
Keto can be a little complicated, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The basic premise is eat very low carbs, get adequate protein, and focus on high fat (the good kinds).
How low is low carb?
Keto guidelines suggest starting off with 20 grams or less of carbohydrates a day. After you get through the induction phase you can increase to 50 grams or less a day if you want. Many people choose to stick to 20 grams a day just in case they encounter “hidden carbs”. Hidden carbs are carbs that are either incorrect on nutrition labels, carbs that are in a seemingly healthy dish (starch in chicken, powdered cellulose used to keep shredded cheese from sticking, protein bars, etc.), and carbs that are in vitamins and medications. As long as you’re generally under 20 grams of them per day, you’ll be fine as the hidden carbs probably won’t put you over the 50 gram limit. Try to get your carbs from vegetables as much as possible though. Vegetables will provide needed fiber, which though technically is a carb, you’re able to remove it from any carbs in that food to get net carbs. Net carbs are the amount of carbohydrates in a food minus the fiber; because you cannot digest fiber (keeps you moving!) and it doesn’t cause an insulin response. It’s important to note that fiber isn’t an undo button, though. You can’t eat a donut topped with with kale and subtract carbs from the donut. You only subtract it from the carb count of the food that contains the fiber.1
Your protein intake should be moderate, somewhere around 0.69 – 1.2 grams per pound of lean body mass. Proteins are a limit, you shouldn’t try to go over your protein limit if possible. If you are mostly sedentary and don’t exercise much, keep proteins around 0.69 – 0.8 grams per pound of lean body mass a day. Having said that, in order for protein to convert to fat on your hips, you’d have to go way over your limit, so don’t stress if you’re occasionally over your goal. You should at least reach the minimum though; protein levels keep you burning fat and not muscle tissue.2
Though fat is extremely important, and you definitely want to include it in your daily meals, it’s also pretty flexible as far as the amount you eat. You want to eat fat to satiety. Meaning if only 50% of your diet for the day was in fats, and you feel fine, do not force yourself to eat another 25% of fats to reach your goal. Eating fat does keep you feeling full though, so it makes it easier not to go scarf on a pack of Oreos.
How do I figure out my daily goals?
To find out exactly what your macros/grams/percentages should be for your individual physical stats, use this link to the Keto Calculator.
Fill in the basic information of weight, height, and birthdate.
I always pick an activity level of sedentary, even if I’m exercising a little.
When you get to the body fat information, they have several links to help determine what yours is. Mine is 46%, ugh. So not good.
The calculator automatically put me at 25 grams of carbs a day. I recommend changing that to 20 grams. It will then give you two goals for protein and ask you to select a goal. I recommend filling in something in the middle.
You then choose the deficit you want to eat at. This will determine your fat goal and your total calorie goal. I chose a 20% deficit so that I’m not starving all the time, but will also give me progress of 1 – 2 lbs a week.
After entering all my information I ended up with goals of:
So when I prepare my meals, I’m looking to get as close as possible to the daily gram totals of: 20 grams carbs, 111 grams protein, and 130 grams of fat. Your daily goals will probably be different based off your starting stats.
It is recommended that as you lose 10 – 15 pounds, that you go back into the calculator to recalibrate and get new goals.
How do I know how many carbs, fat, and protein is in my food?
Almost all foods come with nutritional information.
Examining this nutrition label, you can see that the total carbs is 2 gram. However, the dietary fiber is 1 gram. So this means your net carbs for this item is 1 gram (2 grams carbs – 1 gram fiber = 1 gram net carbs).
If your item is missing nutritional information or you want to verify information, there are several options to check online:
My Fitness Pal food database: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calorie-chart-nutrition-facts
USDA food database: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/
And Reddit recommends SelfNutritionData’s food database: http://nutritiondata.self.com/
Using these resources, you should be able to find the carb counts in your food, even if you have to break it down by ingredient.
Jess, seriously, I just want a list of foods that I can eat on Keto.
Okay. Here’s a list of things I try to keep in stock at home:
cheddar cheeses (block or shredded)
actually, any cheese, you can’t go wrong
heavy whipping cream
blue cheese dressing
Caesar salad dressing
black and green olives
butter (real butter, not margarine)
cream cheese (full fat, not low fat)
sugar free coffee sweeteners
There is so much more I could add to this, but that’s more or less what my shopping lists look like, it just depends on the dinners I have planned that week.
You may notice a lack of fish. We are not big fish eaters. I do include the occasional crab, tuna, or shrimp to our week, but not very often. Fish is very keto friendly though and if you love fish, by all means, have at it!
Reddit has also pulled together a really nice list of keto friendly foods along with carb counts: A Comprehensible Printable Guide of Acceptable Foods and Their Net Carbs.
As you can see, there is so much you can eat on a low carb diet. You are basically leaving out sugars, breads, and potatoes. Everything else is fair game!
So that’s the basics of keto. As you can tell, in order to hit your daily gram and calorie goals, it does require meal prep. I probably spend an hour or two on Saturdays planning my meals for the week. I’m pretty slow though, so, don’t take that to mean that’s what you would be doing. At least not after you get the feel for how to structure your meals.
Thank you for reading! I think my next post will be another recipe, and then I’ll finish up my keto informational posts with a look at the pros and cons of this low carb diet.
Please don’t mind the mess.
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