There are so many conflicting opinions on the best way to lose weight and what constitutes a healthy diet.
Many people have discovered the joys of keto dieting, which mostly includes fats and proteins (plus certain vegetables), and practically guarantees weight loss if properly followed.
How do you keep a keto diet?
Most of your calories (70%) will come from fats. It sounds strange, but a high-fat diet, with proteins (25%), and low carbs (only 5%), causes a process in your body that is called ketosis.
Ketosis is how your body reacts to protect itself from starvation. It causes a ketosis response which leads the body to burn fat stores as fuel. Basically, fats are broken down to acetyl-CoA, which enters the Kreb’s cycle of your cells and is transformed in the cycle to keto acids, which are used to produce energy-carrying molecules.
You must keep your carb intake down so that your body receives the signal to burn fat; starved for glucose, your body dips into stored fat and burns it as energy.
Sour cream and other full-fat dairy, butter, nuts, nut oils, coconut oil, almond flour…There are many alternatives to carbs that can be combined almost endlessly to create delicious meals that keep you satisfied while losing weight. Supplement a range of fats with fresh and steamed vegetables, which can be enjoyed as long as they are low carb veggies.
This isn’t a diet you can cheat on. As soon as sugar (and carbs) enter your system, the ketosis process can be disrupted.
So how many carbs can you have on the keto diet? For beginners to the keto lifestyle, the recommendation is to stay within 20 grams of carbs per day for at least the first three months on the diet.
Once you have achieved and maintained ketosis for the first three months, you can experiment with finding your edge. That means the maximum amount of carbs you can eat daily and still stay in ketosis.
Depending on a variety of factors such as age, weight, body type, and ketogenic diet experience, you may be able to eat as much as 50 grams of carbs per day without slipping out of ketosis. However, a more realistic amount of carbs, in the long run, is about 30 grams.
Since this number is individualized, you will have to add carbs in a slow and deliberate manner in order to stay in ketosis. If you do go out of ketosis from eating too many carbs, you run the risk of weight gain from all the fat and calories that are contained in a keto diet.
It’s better to be conservative and be sure that you are not taking in too many carbs.
What are the recommended carbs on a keto diet?
To determine the net carbs of your diet, there is a simple formula. You just take the total number of carbs in the food you are eating, minus the amount of fiber.
If a bell pepper has 7 grams of carbs, and 2.5 grams of fiber, the total fiber in the pepper will be 4.5. Add up to 20 grams of carbs and you have maxed out on carbs for the day.
The only way to be sure you are staying in ketosis as you increase your carbs is with methodical testing of your ketone levels. Ketone test strips are available at your local pharmacy in the diabetic supplies section.
When ketones start to go down, you will be approaching the outer limit of carbs for your body. It takes time to do this properly, as ketones do not immediately appear in blood tests the way glucose does.
In any case, complex carbohydrates are preferable to simple ones. Complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly and tend to raise glucose levels at a slower rate, reducing the impact of the ketosis process in the body.
You will still have to severely limit carbs, but the effect of them on your body is less disruptive to ketosis, if consumed in proper quantities. Unlike other diets, cheat days don’t really work on a ketogenic diet because any spike in blood sugar levels will affect ketosis.
This same logic applies to complex carbohydrates being preferable to simple ones, as they are far less likely to cause blood sugar spikes and keep your metabolism and ketosis steady.
One possible way to work with carbs on a keto diet is called “carb rotation”. That means eating fewer carbs for a few days and then having more on other days.
If the overall picture is the proper macros for a keto diet, you will be fine, as long as you don’t overdo the carbs. By carb rotating, you can periodically fulfill the desire for your favorite carb foods (in moderation).
When sticking to a diet, there are a lot of psychological benefits to knowing that you can enjoy your favorite foods once in a while. However, it is not recommended to try carb cycling until you are quite experienced with maintaining a basic keto diet for a minimum of three months.
How long until ketosis begins?
If you limit your carb intake to 15-30 grams per day and receive 70% of your calories from fat and 20% from protein, your body should kick into ketosis within about four days.
Beyond blood testing, there are a few other signs of ketosis in the body. One is a fruity smell to the breath.
Another is weakness and lightheadedness. Remember, this diet tricks the body into thinking it is starving, so some of the symptoms of ketosis aren’t the most fun.
However, once the transition is made, many people on a keto diet report higher energy levels, the ability to wait longer between meals, and stabilization of blood sugar levels.
Since the modern diet is so high in sugars and processed carbohydrates, stable blood sugar levels can be a new experience for many, and a good one. When your blood sugar is stable, emotional ups and downs can come into control, providing feelings of well being and calm.