The ketogenic diet is as much a lifestyle as it is an eating plan. Properly executing a well-maintained ketogenic diet yields an innumerable amount of benefits for both your physical and mental health. But everything that’s good isn’t earned easily – the full extent of the benefits provided by the ketogenic diet can only be experienced if it’s maintained long-term. In other words, you’ll have to continually follow a ketogenic eating plan to truly get the best of its benefits.
Hitting optimal ketosis levels is the main achievement, but maintaining them is what sets apart keto-beginners from veterans.
However, before you can maintain ketosis, you must be able to reach it. In order to do that, you’ll need to be efficient throughout the initial stages of your keto-diet. This efficiency comes from proper planning, including being informed and setting up achievable goals. The best way to set yourself up for success within the ketogenic diet is to identify with and figure out each of its phases.
The ketogenic diet is comprised of five phases, each related to its difficulty and undertaking. They all comprise a significant area of the keto-diet journey, compartmentalizing it into achievable goals that will ensure you remain motivated and efficient all throughout. Knowing them will undoubtedly help you prepare and know what to expect.
Learning about the following five phases and aspects of the keto diet will ensure the best possible results when attempting it.
It’s always good to figure out a motivation for your ketogenic diet. That way you can establish goals for yourself instead of just aimlessly trying your best to reach ketosis (which usually doesn’t end well if you’re an uninformed beginner).
Figure out what you want most out of a ketogenic lifestyle, and why it’s important for you to achieve it.
Do you want to lose weight? Increase physical and mental performance? Maybe you’re cutting off carbs to improve your general health and stave off diseases.
It’s important to be able to clearly discern a valid reason behind your attempt at leading a ketogenic lifestyle, as this will undoubtedly increase your chances of succeeding. Breaking down your keto-diet goals and why you want to achieve them will mentally prepare you for the challenge which is a lot better than starting out with an indifferent mindset.
The bottom line regarding this facet of the ketogenic diet is to ask yourself: “What do I want out of this, and why do I want it?”
As they say, knowledge is power. Knowing is always helpful no matter what the circumstance or situation may be. With keto-dieting, informing yourself of what you’re getting into on a nutritional and metabolic basis will help you understand what exactly you’ll be doing.
Learn about ketones, take note of what nutritional and optimal ketosis is, discern the difference between ketosis, the keto-flu, and ketoacidosis, and read up on the many positive effects ketosis has on the body.
There’s never any harm in learning – the more you know the better you’ll be able to navigate yourself throughout your keto-journey.
The bottom line regarding this facet of the ketogenic diet is to ask yourself: “Do I properly understand what I’m about to put my body through?”
Adequate preparation is key within the ketogenic diet. You can’t just start a keto diet without knowing what you’ll eat, how often you’ll eat, what you’ll resort to when snacking, how you’ll prepare your meals, how you’ll keep track of your macros and so on.
While the food intake rules of the ketogenic diet are fairly simple (70% fats/25% protein/5% carbs), they do require meal plans to be properly followed. If you don’t have a meal plan set up for yourself and don’t know how to prepare keto-friendly meals, you won’t know what to turn to for food when hungry.
This is one of the most fundamental aspects of a ketogenic diet and its mastery is paramount towards success.
Before you start buying keto-friendly food, learn the difference between healthy and non-healthy fats, inform yourself of which products to buy, learn to always thoroughly check the nutritional label of any product, practice carb counting and inform yourself of the setbacks of excessive protein intake.
This information will help you make a list of groceries and meal plans as well as balance out your meals for an adequate protein/fat ratio. You’ll also have to resort to learning how to prepare some keto-friendly meals in the kitchen. After all, most keto diet-veterans have some degree of cooking skill thanks to the pro-keto meals they prepare.
The bottom line regarding this facet of the ketogenic diet is to ask yourself: “Am I well-informed enough of the foods & food groups I need to target while attempting the ketogenic diet?”
Taking the right macros while leading an active lifestyle will definitely get you on a fast-track to ketosis. But that’s the long-term challenge of the keto diet. The initial short-term challenge of this diet is the infamous ‘keto-flu’.
Once you’ve started the ketogenic diet, your body won’t appreciate being cut off carbohydrates. This will undoubtedly lead to the dreaded (although temporary) ‘keto-flu’. This is why it’s imperative to know how to properly execute the initial stages of the keto-diet regardless of the macro intake and exercise.
Learn about the keto-flu symptoms, stock up on the right kinds of fluids to help you stay hydrated throughout, take the proper supplements, know how to calm your symptoms with the right methods and opt for the right snack foods in adequate quantities. And as always, eating the right fat/protein balanced foods alongside exercise should be the main priority for all keto-dieters.
When the ketogenic diet is executed correctly, the keto-flu’s temporary unpleasant symptoms should be a walk in the park, and you’ll be guaranteed to reach ketosis in no time.
The bottom line regarding this facet of the ketogenic diet is to evaluate your performance and ask yourself: “Am I doing the best I can with this diet?”
Once you think you’ve reached ketosis, it’s time to test yourself out. Observing your hunger-levels as well as ‘keto-breath’, and evaluating your physical/mental performance may help you discern whether you’re in ketosis or not. While these methods are reliable to an extent, nothing beats the accuracy of ketone-measuring instruments.
There are three main keto-measuring apparatuses for measuring ketones: Urine-based tests, breath analyzers, and blood analyzers.
Read up on when it’s best to test your ketone levels, which instruments work best, which ketone levels are desirable, and how to maintain your ketosis levels after achieving optimal ketosis.
The bottom line regarding this phase of the ketogenic diet is to simply ask yourself: “Am I testing myself for ketone levels, or just blindly hoping for the best?”
Once you’ve wrapped your head around the five main ketogenic diet phases and what they require, you’ll be much more prepared to take it on. You’ll know what to do every step of the way and have the information necessary to succeed.
The only way to improve your keto-diet and overall lifestyle is to learn from your mistakes. Realizing your mistakes and correcting them is imperative towards refining your ketogenic-lifestyle.
You’ll know what to do should you make a mistake because you’ll be aware of what a mistake actually is as opposed to keto-dieters who uninformedly try to achieve ketosis. Remember, the keto-diet is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and valuable lessons can be learned throughout the whole journey which will help you be more efficient with your efforts. Mistakes are arguably the best way you to improve your ketogenic lifestyle, and they can happen to even the most experienced ketogenic dieters.
If you’re seeking to improve your ketogenic lifestyle, refine your diet or correct a mistake you’ve made, ask yourself one of these following questions:
When tracking your progress, measuring ketone levels is the most accurate way to do so. It’s recommended to measure your ketone levels with a ketone-measuring instrument once a week to check your progress. If your ketone levels are 0.5 – 1.5 mmol/L, then you’ve reached ‘nutritional ketosis’, and are on your way to optimal ketosis. When ketone levels hit 1.5 – 3.0 mmol/L, that’s when you know you’re in optimal ketosis.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the concept and difficulties of the ketogenic diet, it’s time to work out your macronutrient needs. Everyone needs a different amount of macros within their daily caloric intake depending on their lean body mass and other factors.
The best way to calculate your macronutrient needs is to use a ‘keto macro calculator’, which determines your macronutrient needs based on your lean body mass, lifestyle, and other health-related factors.
While the ketogenic diet dictates that your daily macronutrient intake should be 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbs, you still need to figure out the right quantity for yourself in grams. This is why it’s imperative to calculate your macro needs before starting the keto diet.
Your daily macro results should clarify what kind of meals you’ll need to prepare yourself. This means you’ll have to plan out meal plans for yourself according to your macro needs. Meal plans can consist of virtually any combination of keto-friendly meals, made from recipes that include ingredients necessary to meet your macro needs.
Of course, if all of the meal planning aspects sound daunting, we can help you out. Check out the Keto Academy, which includes all the pre-made meal plans you’ll ever need.
If you encounter a recipe with no macro count but are curious to try it, you can always enter its ingredients into various diet apps such as ‘Cronometer’ or ‘MyFitnessPal’ to get a breakdown of its macros.
And when it comes to cooking your meals, it’s best to plan ahead if you’re leading a work-oriented life. You might want to make extra quantities so as to have leftovers for the next day and not have to cook two days in a row. Or you might want to cook a large number of your meals during your free time in order to eat them during the work week at your leisure. Taking the cooking time into account will undoubtedly help you set up a schedule that will work best for you.
Remember that it’s not completely necessary to hit your macros perfectly. However, it’s always best to stay under the protein and carb limit than to go over it.
If you want to create your own recipes while keto-dieting then feel free to use any of the following pro-keto foods and food groups listed in the following breakdown.
Below, we go over a brief list of foods that you will want to eat on keto. If you want a more in-depth list, see our Keto Food List >
It’s imperative to opt for non-processed varieties when it comes to fatty foods because processed fatty food products contain high levels of harmful trans-fats and other unwanted additives. At least half of your total fat intake should come from the following foods and food groups:
It’s crucial to pick grass-fed, pasture-raised sources when purchasing protein-rich foods. Processed meat/poultry products typically contain questionable ingredients and carbohydrates. The following foods should be your primary source of proteins while under the keto diet:
The leaner the meat cut, the more proteins it has, which is why it’s always good to pick fattier cuts of meats that contain a good fat-to-protein ratio.
When it comes to keto-friendly vegetables, think leafy green, low-carb, non-starchy kinds:
Virtually all fruits contain high amounts of carbs, which is why almost all of them are prohibited under the ketogenic diet. They should only be turned to when in need of a snack, and should preferably be small berries with low-carb quantities such as:
Most dairy can be eaten under a ketogenic diet, just be sure to always choose full-fat versions. Low-fat dairy has its fat replaced with added carbohydrates and other undesirable ingredients. Try to opt for organic, raw and/or grass-fed products if possible:
Remember that dairy should be eaten sparingly – try to add dairy products to whole meals or rely on the purely as snack foods. Also, avoid milk at all costs as it is full of carbohydrates. Use unsweetened almond or coconut milk as a replacement.
Many sauces and condiments contain high quantities of carbohydrates, which is why it’s always best to make your own natural homemade kind. If you’re short on free-time however, you can always opt for the following pre-made sauces and condiments: (just remember to double check for carb contents)
Virtually all pre-made mixes of herbs and spices contain added carbohydrates for flavor. You’ll want to stick to singled-out, dried variations of any herbs or spices you’re willing to use. These can include:
The number one rule with sweeteners is to avoid high-glycemic index kinds that affect blood sugar levels. High glycemic level sweeteners cause oscillations in your blood sugar and can trick the body into thinking its receiving carbohydrates, which keeps you away from ketosis.
Additionally, you’ll want to stick to liquid-form sweeteners instead of powders or pills as they contain no harmful chemical binders such as dextrose.
And lastly, avoid sugar alcohol-based sweeteners such as maltitol, dextrose, and maltodextrin, as they can cause a variety of health problems while keeping you away from ketosis.
The best sweeteners to use while under the ketogenic diet are:
Aside from food, there are supplements you can take alongside your ketogenic diet for extra vitamins and minerals. Taking these supplements is optional, but they all help your body stay energized and healthy and can also accelerate your ketosis progress.
MCT, otherwise known as medium chain triglyceride is an essential fatty acid that can be taken as a supplement within the keto diet. It can be taken whole or added onto meals such as salads and meats. Never cook using MCT oil because all of its essential fatty acids burn up at just 320 degrees Fahrenheit. (160 celsius)
MCT comes in many forms including liquid, capsules, and powder.
If you’re in need of an extra protein boost during your ketogenic diet, collagen protein is the best kind to opt for. Not only is it the most common kind of protein, but it’s also significantly healthier than other inflammatory animal protein supplements such as whey and casein.
Collagen protein derived from grass-fed beef is undoubtedly the healthiest, most nutritious kind of protein on the market.
Starchy vegetables and fruits which are cut out of the ketogenic diet contain significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which you’ll miss out on while keto-dieting. Fortunately, there are a plethora of supplements available which can provide you with all the aforementioned micronutrients.
Attempting the keto diet with limited information is a recipe for failure. Being adequately informed of what you should expect from a keto-lifestyle will help you establish a competent mindstate when taking on the challenge. Being mentally prepared is just about half the challenge – the other half is the execution.
Now that you’ve picked up the necessary knowledge on how to properly attempt a ketogenic diet, you’re ready to dominate your ketogenic lifestyle and overcome any obstacles you may encounter throughout your journey.