The ketogenic diet (or keto diet) has become one of the hottest trends due to all the new research showing how beneficial a low carb diet can be to your health.
It requires you to cut out a large portion of carbohydrates in your diet and replace it with healthy fats.
When you restrict carbs from your diet, you re-adjust your body to run off dietary and body fat as its main source of energy.
But just the thought of cutting carbohydrates out of your diet can discourage many people from following this way of eating.
Luckily, there are several tricks you can implement immediately to help you start the low carb, high fat diet with minimal effort.
Here are 18 tips to help you on your keto journey:
- Try intermittent fasting
- Decrease stress
- Prioritize sleep
- Increase your salt intake
- Exercise frequently
- Don’t drink diet soda
- Eat protein in moderation
- Drink plenty of water
- Consume carbs from vegetable sources
- Use MCT oil regularly
- Improve your gut health
- Invest in a food scale
- Use exogenous ketones
- Count your carbs
- Measure your ketones
- Always have convenient keto-friendly snacks on hand
- Clear your kitchen of carbohydrates
- Be prepared when going out to restaurants
Intermittent fasting (IF) is arguably the most effective tip you can put into action right away to get into ketosis and help you lose weight — if that’s the goal.
IF means you don’t eat or drink anything that contains calories for an allotted period of time.
A Harvard study has shown that intermittent fasting can manipulate your body’s mitochondria in similar ways as the ketogenic diet to increase your lifespan[*].
When you don’t consume calories for a few hours, your body starts depleting all of the excess glucose that’s stored in your body from eating carbohydrates.
To start burning fats for energy — the whole point of a keto diet — your body needs to first burn through any glucose that’s present in your body.
There are several types of intermittent fasting protocols that will help you enter ketosis faster.
If you are a beginner to IF, skipping breakfast in the morning is a great way to start.
If you are already keto-adapted, fat fasting is a common way to help with a weight loss plateau. This is when you consume 80-90% of calories from fat for a set period of time (no more than three to five days) while limiting everything else. Doing so will allow your body to speed up its metabolism to burn more fat.
Chronic stress will severely hinder your body’s ability to enter ketosis. This is because the stress hormone cortisol elevates your blood sugar levels, which prevents your body from burning fats for energy because there is too much sugar in the blood.
If you are currently going through a high stress period in your life, starting the ketogenic diet may not be the best idea.
It’s best to begin this nutrition plan when you can keep stress to a minimum and you’re able to devote a large portion of your waking hours towards staying in ketosis.
If you definitely want to start a keto diet now, it’s still doable. Just be sure to take steps to reduce the stress in your life such as getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, taking time to do something you enjoy (like listening to your favorite podcast) or adopting relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
Poor sleep will increase levels of your stress hormones. As we explained above, that can prevent you from getting into fat-burning mode.
Maintaining a proper sleep schedule on a keto diet where you go to bed at the same time everyday will help improve your quality of sleep.
It’s critical to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night. But if you’re currently getting way less than that, try scaling back by a half hour every night until you hit your sleep goal.
Sleeping in a relatively chilly room (around 65 degrees) along with keeping a dark room will help you get into a deep, restorative sleep more frequently.
If you have trouble sleeping, supplementing with a natural sleep aid like melatonin can also work wonders.
Many people have a negative stigma when it comes to how much sodium you should be consuming daily. We have been taught that our sodium intake should be very low but this is typically only the case on high carbohydrate diets.
When you adopt a low carb, high fat diet like the keto diet, insulin levels are much lower and your body excretes more salt since there are no carbohydrates present in your body to spike insulin and hold onto the sodium.
When you’re in ketosis, add an extra three to five grams (3,000 to 5,000 mg) of sodium in your diet.
This will help you avoid electrolyte imbalances. The healthiest ways to get more salt in your diet include:
- Adding Himalayan sea salt (or pink salt), which contains natural trace minerals, to your water throughout the day
- Drinking organic bone broth everyday
- Sprinkling pink salt on each one of your meals
- Eating low carb foods that naturally contain sodium like cucumbers and celery
- Eating salted macadamia nuts
Maintaining a regular exercise schedule while on the keto diet can boost your ketone levels and help you transition into a low carb, high fat lifestyle much quicker than without exercise. To get into ketosis, your body needs to get rid of any glucose present in the body.
Exercising uses different types of energy for fuel including carbohydrates, fats and amino acids. The more frequently you exercise, the quicker your body depletes its glycogen stores.
Once your body has gotten rid of its glycogen storages, it will seek out other forms of fuel and will turn to fat for energy through ketosis.
Be sure to incorporate a workout regimen that includes both high intensity exercises in conjunction with low intensity steady state exercises like walking or jogging. This will help you balance your blood sugar and aids your body in entering ketosis.
Keep in mind this is a beginner workout for people who want to incorporate an effective exercise program to aid with their journey to ketosis.
Just because diet soda has zero calories doesn’t mean it fits into your ketogenic diet plan.
Diet sodas use several sugar substitutes that can signal to your body that a large amount of sugar is entering the body. This can lead to increased blood sugar levels.
Plus, when you load up on zero-calorie sweeteners, you’re only going to increase your cravings for sweet foods and drinks in the future. One of the big benefits of a keto diet is that you re-calibrate your taste buds to crave healthy, low carb whole foods — but this can’t happen if you’re constantly bombarding them with sweet tasting foods.
Instead of diet soda, sparkling water can be a great alternative without the unnecessary sugar substitutes.
Eating too much protein on the ketogenic diet can be just as harmful as consuming carbohydrates. When you consume an excess amount, your body will convert the protein into sugar through a process called gluconeogenesis[*].
If you cut carbohydrates out of your diet but you’re still not in ketosis, make sure you aren’t consuming too much protein.
The frequency and type of exercise you’re performing will determine how much protein your body can utilize before turning it into sugar through gluconeogenesis.
If you are doing high intensity, heavy weight training exercises frequently, you can get away with more protein.
Someone who does low intensity exercise should be eating less protein.
The general rule is to aim for one gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Then divide your body weight by 2.2 to figure out the grams of protein per kg of bodyweight.
Increase this amount by around 30 grams if you are more active and decrease it if you are less active.
Here is a protein protocol to follow to maintain ketosis:
- Sedentary: 0.6 – 1.0 g protein per kg of body weight. Stick to the lower end of the threshold if you don’t exercise.
- Moderate Activity with no high intensity workouts. 0.8 – 1.0 g protein per kg of body weight. If you are following a workout regimen similar to the beginner program listed above, you can increase your protein intake up to 1.0 g protein per kg.
- High intensity workouts — 1.0 – 1.6 g protein per kg of body weight. The more you are exerting yourself (exercises that leave you out of breath), the more protein you can consume while still staying in ketosis.
Staying hydrated is important no matter what diet you’re on but you must pay extra attention when starting out on the ketogenic diet. This is because your body excretes more water from your body when carbohydrates aren’t present.
Aim to drink half of your bodyweight in ounces of water at the minimum[*].
Be sure to drink more on days where you are sweating more often such as hot summer days or after intense workouts.
It’s important to incorporate vegetables in your diet to ensure you’re consuming all necessary nutrients, including fiber, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut (more on that later!).
You should aim for nutrient-dense, non-starchy vegetables like:
- Brussel sprouts
Non-starchy vegetables are generally low-calorie, too. So if you’re the type of person who likes to feel physically full after a meal, it’s important to include plenty of these vegetables in your diet so you’re not eating an entire bag of macadamia nuts in one sitting.
While that would be delicious, it wouldn’t be helpful if you’re using a keto diet to lose weight.
Supplementing with MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil will help you get into ketosis even if your glycogen storages aren’t fully depleted. This allows you to consume slightly more protein and carbohydrates while still running off ketones.
MCT’s are immediately metabolized into ketone bodies and used for energy instead of having to go through your stomach for digestion[*].
While many people think coconut oil is the same as MCT, they are molecularly different.
MCT oil is made up of 100% medium chain triglycerides — caprylic and capric acids — while coconut oil contains 35% long chain triglycerides and 50% lauric acid. Coconut oil is only made up of 15% medium chain triglycerides. So your body has to go through its digestive tract to turn coconut oil into energy whereas MCT oil is converted directly into energy.
Gut health is linked to just about every system in the body. Several studies have proven that your gut microbiome affects everything from your mental health to your digestive system and several other systems in the body.[*][*].
When you have healthy gut flora, your body’s hormones, metabolic flexibility, and insulin sensitivity become more efficient[*]. These processes directly affect your body’s ability to transition from carbohydrates to fats for energy.
When your metabolic flexibility is functioning optimally, your body can seamlessly adapt to a low carbohydrate, high fat diet. But when your body is metabolically inflexible, it has difficulty utilizing fats for energy, instead, it will convert into body fat. Focusing on improving your gut health will greatly impact the health of your body’s metabolic flexibility[*].
Eating a low carb, high fat ketogenic diet also helps with your gut health. When you eliminate carbs from your diet, you’re getting rid of processed foods, which are known to harm your gut microbiome.
Focusing on improving your gut health can greatly improve your body’s ability to become a more efficient fat burner.
Weighing the food you eat can be a huge difference on the ketogenic diet, especially as a beginner.
Many people like to eyeball the amount of food they’re eating but doing so can cause you to overeat and kick you out of ketosis.
The difference between burning glucose or ketones as your primary source of fuel can be that one extra tablespoon of almond butter that you eyeballed.
For comparison, just two extra tablespoons of almond butter comes out to an additional 200 calories and 6 grams of carbs.
Once you get used to what proper portions look like, then you can begin to eyeball your meals.
Similar to MCT oil, consuming exogenous ketones is like a shortcut to getting into ketosis.
Taking a ketone supplement will drastically help during the initial phases of your ketogenic journey because you are signaling your body to start using ketones for energy instead of carbohydrates.
You still have to adopt a high fat, low carb diet to fully benefit from this way of eating, but exogenous ketones have the ability to kick you back into ketosis even after an unintentionally high carbohydrate meal.
It is also an effective tool for avoiding the keto flu that is common in beginners.
While your body is still getting used to using ketones, you can use an exogenous ketone to help eliminate all of the flu-like symptoms that come during the induction phase of the ketogenic diet.
Here are more helpful ways to avoid or cure the keto flu.
Measuring your carbohydrate intake is extremely important. Be careful for hidden carbohydrates in certain foods that may seem keto-friendly but are actually loaded with sugars.
Here are some examples of keto foods that may have hidden carbohydrates:
- Chicken wings loaded with barbecue or buffalo sauce
- Most fruits (blueberries are fine in small amounts)
- Low-fat foods like yogurt
- Breaded meats
Make sure to look at the nutrition facts of everything you eat until you understand where those hidden carbs are coming from.
You should only be consuming 50 grams maximum in carbohydrates on the ketogenic diet.
When calculating your carb count, you want to determine the net carbs of your total daily intake.
Total carbs – Fiber = Net Carbs
The general rule of thumb is to consume 20 to 30 net carbs daily. If you exercise more frequently, you can get away with the upper threshold and still stay in ketosis.
Here’s a genius 5-minute hack that allows you to calculate your net carbs on MyFitnessPal.
In the beginning, it may seem like the only thing you do is count and track carbs all day, but we promise, it becomes more intuitive.
Using keto sticks or a glucose meter will give you feedback on whether or not you’re following the diet correctly and if you’re actually in ketosis.
The most accurate measuring tool is a glucose meter. It’s also the most expensive alternative which is why most people are deterred from using them daily.
Keto sticks are also a good alternative because they are cheap. Keep in mind, many people claim that the keto sticks are not entirely accurate because the longer you stay in ketosis, the more your body is able to utilize ketones for energy rather than excreting it through your urine. So you’re ketone count may appear low when it’s actually not.
Time is a huge factor when it comes to sticking to the ketogenic diet. Many people are discouraged due to the amount of homemade meals you have to make.
A great remedy to this is to prepare as many keto-friendly snacks as you can so you aren’t turning to convenient, carb heavy snacks when you are short on time.
Here are some examples of keto snacks you can take on the go:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Beef jerky
- Premade guacamole
- Keto MCT Matcha Fat Bombs
- Pre-cooked bacon
Here are 47 more snacks that won’t kick you out of ketosis.
Most people can stick to a healthy keto diet if they only have access to healthy keto foods. The majority of people fall prey to carbohydrate-laden foods simply because they’ve failed to remove them from their home.
Cleaning out your kitchen and pantry of all carbohydrates including bread, pasta, sodas, candy and rice will pretty much force you to stick to your ketogenic diet.
It may sound drastic at first, but replacing all of your carbs, except for non-starchy vegetables, with keto-friendly foods will help you stay on track. So when those carb cravings kick in, you won’t have any comfort foods to turn to.
When you first start the ketogenic diet, it can be difficult distinguishing what’s keto-friendly and what’s not.
But it gets easier with time. Almost every restaurant you go to will have a meal that’s ketogenic diet friendly, and with a little creativity, you will never have to resort to a carb heavy meal just because you went out to eat with friends.
Here are some of the best ways to stay keto when eating out:
- Breakfast — Always opt for eggs and bacon. Instead of going for pancakes or toast, substitute it with more eggs and a green salad on the side.
- Lunch — There are always salad alternatives in almost any restaurant you go to. Replace the sugar filled dressings with strictly olive oil and vinegar.
- Dinner — Every restaurant will have a meat dominant meal. If you are going out for dinner, ask for their fattiest cut of steak (such as rib eye) and replace the potatoes with an extra serving of vegetables.
It’s also a great idea to look at the menu beforehand so you know what the best alternatives are.
Follow These Tips and Start Benefiting From the Ketogenic Diet
People who are just starting out on the ketogenic way of eating need just about every trick in the book to stick to the diet.
After all, carbohydrates have been a major part of everyone’s diet. It’s not your fault that the carb urges are so strong.
As long as you steer clear from carbohydrates and incorporate the keto tips listed in the article, you will be well on your way towards a healthier, focused life.