In Part 1 of The Beginner’s Guide to Keto, we went over the benefits of ketosis and how our body uses ketones for fuel. In part 2, we’re going to go over some simple methods of entering keto. We will also explore how to stay in ketosis and some easy food options to help you sustain ketosis long term.
Easiest way to Enter Ketosis
In part 1 we explained how the body goes into ketosis. You’re basically limiting the availability of glucose for your body. With that being said, The easiest way to enter ketosis is actually fasting. If you go without food for an extended period of time, your body will deplete it’s glucose stores and search for more energy.
During that point, you will begin to feel tired and weak. This is because your body is temporarily slowing down your metabolism to preserve energy while it searches for an alternate source.This is called hypoglycemia.
The first thing your body will do is attack some muscle to desperately create a little bit of glucose out of muscle protein. This is a short term process and does not have long lasting effects because once the body realizes that there is no more sugar coming in, it’ll give up on trying to maintain a glucose metabolism and switch over to using fat. Think of it like a steam engine train coming to a stop and starting back up again.
The transition is slow. You will begin to get weaker and slow down as your body is depleted of glucose, but then you will start to gain energy and heightened alertness as your body begins breaking down fatty acids and ketones for fuel. It should take somewhere between 2-3 days for you to start feeling normal again. By normal, I mean all the symptoms of hypoglycemia start going away. No more headaches, brain fog, lethargy, etc. This pain period is natural and normal, but there are ways to reduce those symptoms.
A lot of these symptoms are easy to avoid if we can stay hydrated and proper mineral management. I will explain more of that when I go into the second method of entering ketosis. The take away from fasting is that a quick 24 hour fast can start your body into a ketogenic transition. Essentially a shortcut to entering ketosis.
Option #2 for Entering Ketosis
The second way of entering ketosis may take a little bit longer, but may have an easier transitioning than suffering from a hypoglycemic crash. If we lower our carb intake to barely enough for our body to comfortably use, then our body will slowly start utilizing fat for fuel. This is another great way of entering ketosis. Just eat more fat.
This process might take anywhere between 5-10 days. The benefits of this is of course avoiding the energy crash as your body begins adapting to its new fuel type. You’re essentially easing your way into ketosis. However, you may still experience some symptoms if you don’t keep hydrated, eat enough fat and manage your minerals well.
Avoiding the “Keto Flu”
If you go on a 24-48 hour fast, but consume lots of water and bone broth, chances are you may make it out of the fast without even feeling a strong symptom. Some people can get passed the transition period with little setback. Maybe a little winded, but no major headaches or dizziness.
Still, even if you want to take the longer route, it’s important to get enough water along with enough minerals like sodium, potassium, zinc and magnesium. Organic bone broth is the best source for these minerals. It’s extremely rich and easy to prepare. All you really need is a cup a day really. Whether you decided to fast or just go very low carb.
Keep your food Choices Simple
Steak, chicken wings, seafood, etc are all good choices. If you focus on primarily eating meat and vegetables, you’ll be fine. Adding in more healthy fats like butter, olive oil and coconut oil will help you get into ketosis faster. In fact, it’s highly advisable the you eat an abundance of high quality fat. Don’t be afraid to drown your broccoli in cheddar cheese and butter!
What to Avoid
Avoid all grains and starchy vegetables. By grains I mean rice, bread, pasta, quinoa, oats. By starchy vegetables I’m referring to eggplant, squash, potatoes, beans (legumes) and yam.
Focus on fatty cuts of meat like steak, burgers, lamb, salmon. Avoid high lactose dairy like milk and cream cheese. Most other cheeses and cream are fine.
Fast food on the go Options
Here are a few places to grab a quick bite to eat on the go. These are also great options for those who don’t cook. Of course, not all of the them are the best option, but before improving the quality of what you eat, it’s important to eat the right things consistently.
McDonalds/Fast food Burgers
McDonalds was what I resorted to in my early days when I was young and broke. Getting five McDoubles with no ketchup and no bun was a life saver. It kept my diet consistent when nothing else was. Wendy’s was my second go-to emergency place. I would just ask for five large patties in a platter with some packets of salt and mustard. Bacon cheese burgers are great without the bun and ketchup as well.
Chinese food Spots
Ordering steamed shrimp and broccoli without rice was an easy meal. You can order beef and broccoli while asking them to hold the sauce as well. This always does the trick.
Chipotle/Similar style Mexican
When I became a little older and wasn’t as broke anymore, I started to indulge in Mexican. I would order a steak burrito bowl, no rice, no beans, extra steak, cheese, guacamole and sour cream. Sometimes I would get lettuce, but not much of anything else. Filling and satisfying. Almost all Mexican places can offer you the same kind of meal with the same adjustments.
When I’m in a hurry, I sometimes grab my favorite cold cut meat and cheese along with a few packets of mustard. Half a pound of Pastrami and Gouda or turkey & Swiss would hit the spot until I get home or wherever I need to be.
Any chicken wing spot that offers regular hot wings or dry rubs is fine. Ideally, you’d want to avoid refined industrial seed oils, but they are still a viable option if all else fails. You can always buy some coconut oil, frozen wings and a electric fryer to do them yourself anyway!
Most diners will hold the toast and just give you some great bacon and eggs. Restaurants will do the same as well. Ordering a steak and asking to replace the potato with some vegetables or a salad instead usually isn’t a problem.
Drinks and Beverages
Coffee and tea are fine without sugar. Avoid milk, soy milk and almond milk. Soy milk and almond milk are usually sweetened. If you can find unsweetened almond milk, that’s fine. Heavy cream and a little half and half are great ways to add fat to your coffee.Stick to water and unsweetened tea. Sparkling water and flavored sparkling water is fine as well. Just make sure there is no fruit juice or artificial sweeteners in it.
Most fruits are genetically modified to be sweeter (more sugar) and juicer (hold more water) as a way to make them better tasting and easier to sell. At the end of the day, most fruit has a low nutrient density and is too rich in rapid digesting sugar. If your goal is keto, I would avoid fruit in general.
Do you want a detailed list of each food that you should eat and the ones you should avoid? Check out Diet Doctor’s list
Let me make one thing clear. Almost everyone will benefit from short term keto, but not everyone will continue to benefit long term.
Meaning that once the theraputic effects of ketosis take effect, staying in it for any longer won’t make that much of a difference.
Not everyone will reap the same benefits from long term keto. Some people will receive it very well as a short term boost in fat loss, hormone regulation and inflammation reduction. After chronic symptoms disappear, maintaining healthy eating habits, proper stress management, exercise and good sleep will help maintain your health without needing to be in nutritional ketosis.
At the same time, there are those who functional optimally in long term nutritional ketosis. There are a few ways to tell in which camp you belong in. If you struggle with weight loss, neurological problems (ADHD, Alzheimer, epilepsy, etc) or early symptoms of metabolic syndrome, then long term keto might be very beneficial for you. After going very low carb and maintaining a keto state for some time, it’ll become clear how tolerant your body is to carbohydrate metabolism once you start adding them back into your diet.
If you feel stronger and sharper once you add more carbs into your diet, then that’s great, you are starting to metabolize them well. If you feel like your energy levels were sharper and more consistent in ketosis, then that might mean your body is going to function better in a long term ketogenic state!