The ketogenic lifestyle can be difficult for many to maintain, or even just to get started. I have my own set of challenges - when they say, “the struggle is real,” believe that. Just as anything else that requires change, it’s not easy. But we all struggle with discipline - it’s the best way to be consistent and produce results.
Even the scientists over the years that have been studying ketogenics found it difficult to even report their findings to their colleagues who have been promoting a low-fat-high-carb diet since the 1960s. Unfortunately, we seem to have gotten our macros all screwed up. Generations of people on this harmful diet of replacing fats with carbs are now 2/3 overweight and 1/3 obese. These are devastating facts.
The science behind healthy fats.
Science has been proving that healthy fats are essential. This is not a new concept. They’ve known this since the beginning of the low-fat diet craze but didn’t report it. Why? Well, the food industry jumped on the low-fat wave and had a lot of financial investment in the research reporting limited findings.
So what are ketones anyway? Ketones are considered “the 4th macronutrient.” When we follow a ketogenic lifestyle, we burn fat for fuel. Ketones are the healthiest most powerful fuel source for our bodies. Compared to carbs, ketones offer us 38% more energy and only produce 1/10 of the free radical damage that carbs cause. As Dr. Don said, ketones “slow the aging process 10 times” longer than carbs. (Yes, I’ll eat more fat if I can feel and look younger!) Dr Don first learned about ketogenics in medical school for treating childhood epilepsy - healthy fuel for the brain. They also found cancer cells love sugar and carbs - those cells don’t do well with ketones. Ketogenic diets are also found in helping reduce the risk of early onset dementia.
Carbohydrates still break down into sugar. Excess sugar can be toxic. Know anyone with uncontrolled diabetes and dependent on insulin? I bet their doctor told them to eat a low-carb diet. But do they really understand how to do it? Maybe a ketogenic diet could help.
Ketones allow us to have more energy and more focus - yes our brains are made up of mostly fats and prefer them! Plus, when we focus our diet on fats rather than carbs, it takes less to feel full and we are less hungry. (Google “satiety.” It’s an amazing feeling when you focus on fats first.) Mind blown yet? I know mine has been day after day, researching the ketogenic lifestyle.
we must focus on our diet and create an awareness for how our bodies respond to certain foods.
Let’s talk about diet. Our diet is composed of everything we put in our mouths for nutrition. In order for anyone to follow a healthy lifestyle, we must focus on our diet and create an awareness for how our bodies respond to certain foods. An ideal ketogenic diet focuses on measuring our daily intake of macronutrients in these percentages: 70/20/10 - 70% fats, 20% protein, 10% carbs. Unfortunately, sugars take up a lot of that carb intake. So what should we do with sugar? Avoid it like the plague. Again, it’s not easy to do, but I do have some strategies to get us through some of those cravings in the beginning phases of this lifestyle. (I’m gonna plug my Pinterest page here. I have some fabulous low-carb treat recipes pinned.)
Why should we avoid sugar? Mainly due to the inflammatory nature of this nutrient. (I’ve said this before, “sugar makes me fat.”) So, avoiding added sugar is key, but also taking a look at “natural” sugar from certain fruit and minimizing it to that 10% intake per day. I actually like to snack on berries which are probably the most keto-friendly fruits that also pack a punch of anti-oxidants (yes, focusing on that less-aging factor again).
it’s not about giving up carbs. It’s about choosing the right carbs and how to eat them.
Some people say, “I can’t give up carbs right now.” I get it. Remember, we have been taught these carb concepts for generations. But really, it’s not about giving up carbs. It’s about choosing the right carbs and how to eat them. Us keto-folk talk about “net carbs” or “digestible carbs” which we try to keep to that 10% of our daily intake, or 20-30 grams per day (sometimes up to 50g, but keep those days to a minimum and catch up on healthy fats). To calculate net carbs, take total carbohydrates in grams and subtract the amount of fiber in grams. So, the more fiber we have in what we eat, the less digestible carbs processed in our systems to go into storage. Then what happens? Less carbs in storage means our bodies will turn to fat stores for fuel. Ding ding ding! Winner winner! Science is fascinating...
Omega-3 fatty acids are the most ideal, but also lacking from the American diet.
What about protein? Consume in moderation of course. We want our bodies to turn to burning fat for fuel, not proteins. Especially grass-fed beef and fish like salmon which are both high in omega-3 fatty acids - essential fats for heart and brain health. “Essential” means we need to add this to our intake to stay healthy.
But all fats are not created equal. Omega-3 fatty acids are the most ideal, but also lacking from the American diet. (I think Japan has the highest intake of omega-3.) We often find more omega-6 fatty acids in our diet, and even the dreadful transfats found in processed foods and vegetable oils (mostly hydrogenated for better transport and shelf-life). Just say “NO to transfats” and balance out your omega-6 by eating more omega-3. Forget about what they’ve said about saturated fats - we actually need them, but of course the healthy kind with light fluffy LDL particles... Are you still paying attention? When in doubt, take an omega-3 supplement. Your heart and brain will thank you.
MCTs and MCFAs
You can also supplement your diet with MCT oil. Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) or Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) do not raise unhealthy cholesterol levels. We metabolize MCTs more efficiently for fuel, the process we call ketosis. MCTs and MCFAs can be found in coconut oil and coconut milk. But if you’re like some of the folks in my family, the flavor of coconut oil does not always agree with the dish you want to cook. So, we turn to other healthy oils with mild flavors like avocado oil, or consume other products like Keto Creamer, Keto Coffee, grass-fed butter, clarified butter aka “ghee,” unsweetened coconut beverages, etcetera, etcetera...
It’s a daily process...
How can we optimize this whole ketosis process? Can we really burn fat for fuel and focus? Can we maintain it with just diet? Of course we can! But we all have our challenges. Luckily, there are ways that we can supplement our ketones throughout the day. Here’s an example of how some of us use diet and supplements to burn fat for fuel every day:
7:00 am - Wake up after fasting since 7pm the night before. Take Ketones to jump start ketosis. Get ready for the day (meaning brush your teeth, get dressed, work out, whatever...).
8:00 am - Drink Keto Coffee or add Keto Creamer to a cup of coffee or any other healthy morning beverage. You can add Greens Chocolate to your coffee (or other flavors of Greens shaken with water) for the added nutrient boost.
10:00 am - Snack time. You can add vanilla or chocolate vegan Shake to almond milk or coconut beverage.
12:00 pm - First meal of the day to “break your fast.” I love eggs, avocado, low-carb high-fiber veggies like leafy greens or squash/zucchini. I also like to add extra fat in many ways, mainly sour cream, cream cheese, or cook a warm lunch in avocado oil.
3:00 pm - Snack time again. You can also drink Keto-Go for that afternoon slump or for a preworkout boost without the jitters.
6:00pm - High fat low carb dinner. Again, focusing on healthy oils when you cook and healthier proteins. High-fiber low-carb veggies to round out your plate. If you decide to have a treat, watch out for those carbs. When in doubt, take Fat Fighter 15-60 minutes after that last bite.
Allow carb-cycling days at least once per week help to “remind” our bodies how to process carbs. I would still focus on high-fiber carbs to reduce the storage-factor. We can all use a day to reload and reward ourselves.
We all share about the good, the bad, and the ugly of ketogenics.
It is still a daily challenge to maintain this lifestyle, but it gets better. You’ll feel more energy, less cravings throughout the day, and satisfied with only small amounts of food. You’re grocery bill might even be smaller because you consume less (well, I may have to do a separate study on that). But what has helped me through this has been my Keto Lifestyle Challenge group. These people are so supportive. We all share about the good, the bad, and the ugly of ketogenics. Many of us are still newbies and don’t know what the hell we’re doing. Some of us experience the “keto flu” or keto-adaptation while going through sugar withdrawal. But those of us that have found our stride will share what’s working - something I’ve appreciated throughout this process, especially since no one else in my home has gone keto. Yes, our family is a bit lower carb now, but my kids still love rice, toast, and a small sugary treat every day. I still offer plenty of healthy fats in every meal and my kids get to have omega-3 supplements with their vitamins too.
Stay tuned for more to share about healthy fats soon. Something I like to call “fat facts”...