The ketogenic diet has surged in popularity lately, and it’s easy to understand why. Keto focuses on cutting carbs and enjoying ample amounts of fat, with no need to meticulously track calories, spend hours on the treadmill or limit portion sizes to the point you’re still ravenous between meals.
The keto diet works by putting your body into ketosis, a metabolic state where you switch from using glucose for fuel to using fat for fuel. By changing the source of energy your body uses, the ketogenic diet can have a major impact on your health.
Although it has recently received spotlight attention, the ketogenic diet is far from a fad diet. The ketogenic diet has actually been around since the 1920s. Originally used to treat epilepsy and control seizures, researchers have since uncovered a slew of other health benefits associated with the diet, from speeding up weight loss to reducing the risk of chronic disease and increasing longevity.
But getting into ketosis—and staying there—can take practice. And if you’re just starting out, you’re almost guaranteed to make a few rookie mistakes along the way. However, armed with the proper knowledge of how to start a keto diet, navigating your way will become a breeze.
Here are 5 of the most common mistakes you may be making on the ketogenic diet – plus easy tips on how to fix them.
1. You’re not eating healthy fats
Many people look at the ketogenic diet as a free pass to load up on fatty foods like bacon and butter. While fat is definitely a crucial component of the ketogenic diet—and bacon and butter are totally keto-friendly—it’s important to keep in mind that not all fats are created equal.
Filling up on the wrong types of fat may raise your risk of several chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer. Healthy fats, on the other hand—like omega-3s and monounsaturated fatty acids—actually boast a host of powerful health benefits.
Nix the trans fats from processed and fried foods and opt for healthy fats from foods like avocados, ghee, coconut oil and fatty fish. Nuts, seeds, full-fat dairy, dark chocolate and grass-fed beef are a few other tasty, good-for-you ways to boost your fat intake.
2. You’re limiting low-carb veggies
Vegetables are an essential part of any diet, ketogenic or not. They’re bursting with the important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you need to stay healthy and fight off disease; plus, they contain tons of fiber to help keep your digestive tract humming.
On the keto diet, vegetables are often overlooked in an effort to cut carbs. However, veggies should be the last thing you eliminate from your diet. To get the most nutritional bang for your buck, limit your intake of high-carb, starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn and peas. Instead, include a good variety of non-starchy, keto-approved vegetables, including asparagus, mushrooms, leafy greens, tomatoes and broccoli.
3. You’re eating too much protein
You know how vital it is to get enough fat when you embark on the keto diet, but it’s just as important to get enough protein. Protein supports satiety, prevents muscle loss and promotes overall health.
That said, it’s easy to go overboard on the protein and throw your macronutrient distribution out of whack. Consuming protein in moderation is especially important because, like carbs, protein can also be converted to glucose in the body and has the potential to bring your transition into ketosis to a screeching halt if you’re not careful.
So how much protein do you need? As a general rule of thumb, keep protein intake to between 1-1.5 grams per kilogram of your ideal body weight. Someone who weighs 150 pounds (68 kilograms), for example, should stick to around 68-102 grams of protein each day to stay in ketosis while still meeting their protein needs.
4. You’re sticking to the standard keto diet
Following a traditional ketogenic diet can bring incredible results in terms of both weight loss and overall health. However, that doesn’t mean the standard ketogenic diet is right for everyone. In fact, far too many people go keto only to feel frustrated and discouraged because it doesn’t fit into their lifestyle.
If you find that the standard ketogenic diet is too restrictive or challenging, a modified ketogenic diet may be a better fit. This approach is less limiting, focusing on cutting carbs down to around 30 percent of total daily calories while upping fat and protein to 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
Carb cycling is also an option that’s especially useful if you’re coupling your ketogenic diet with an intense workout regimen. Carb cycling involves increasing your carb intake 2-3 days per week, scheduling it to land on the days when you’re most active. This allows you to get in more of the carbs that you need to fuel your workout, while still reaping the benefits of a traditional ketogenic diet.
5. You haven’t tried fasting
One of the best ways to amplify the effects of the ketogenic diet is by pairing it with intermittent fasting, which involves a pattern of cycling between fasting and eating regularly.
Intermittent fasting can complement the ketogenic diet by forcing the body to burn fat stores for energy. It also comes with its own set of benefits, ranging from improved cholesterol levels to reductions in inflammation and hunger.
Alternate-day fasting, for example, is a popular type of fasting in which you eat either a small amount or nothing at all every other day. The 16/8 fasting plan is another option in which you fast for 16 consecutive hours, mostly by not eating after dinner and skipping breakfast the next morning. Find the plan that works best for you and combine it with a ketogenic diet to take your health up to the next level.