If you jump into the ketogenic diet without some rock-solid plan is going to set you up for a certain failure. You can use this approach, crafted by athletes and researchers which have already done the work and made the switch!
So you have heard the arguments, weighed out the benefits and challenges, and you decided that you are all in. You are trying the ketogenic diet.
First of all, you are in good company. Numerous people and athletes are implementing very low-carb, high-fat eating and they stick to it for months or even years. When they effectively make the switch from previously using carbohydrates to now using ketones and fat for fuel, they are going to find they are healthier, leaner, and more mentally focused than they have ever been.
However, for every lifter who ends up to love this approach, you are going to find another who had a miserable experience and he has given up after a few days. This is a shame, since they probably could have felt great only if they had simply had a better plan.
With the help of Myoplex athlete and the longtime keto-adapted athlete Jason Wittrock, we will provide you with the best induction experience.
Here’s what you need to know in order to increase your supplementation and nutrition during the first essential month of the ketogenic dieting, along with complete sample meal plan!
Calculating and Hitting You Macros on Ketogenic Diet
Maybe you think that you have what it takes to make the switch to the keto without tracking your macronutrients, however, you are probably wrong. Getting the macros correct is the essential aspect of starting down the path of the keto diet.
“Yes, tracking the macros could be tedious and cumbersome, but it’s absolutely most important during the first few weeks of the keto diet,” indicated Wittrock. “The diet likely goes against all the things that you have done before, so tracking your macros is giving you the feedback and lets you to troubleshoot until you get the hang of it.”
No matter what your diet regime has been to this point, keto are going to be a big change. In case you are coming from a standard American diet (SAD) background, your carbs are going to go way down, protein could either go up or down, and fat is going to go way up. If you are coming from a bodybuilding-style diet, your fat intake is going to jump to alarming levels, and the protein will likely drop significantly.
Dropping the protein? You read that correctly. Keto is a high-fat, carbohydrate-restricted, moderate-protein methodology to the macro distribution. Here is how the macros end up looking for most of the people:
- Carbohydrates: 5-10%
- Protein: 15-20%
- Fats: 70-75%
So where do you start your calculations? With protein and carbs. When you are getting started first, it’s ideal to keep carbohydrates less than about 50 grams per one day. Wittrock has found that he likes to go even lower.
“I recommend just 5 % of calories should come from carbs, that usually averages out to less than 30 grams,” he adds. “So, I understand why the people get nervous and they panic, and they think ‘Can I even eat a salad?’ This is the reason why I recommend tracking only ‘net carbs’, and that is the total carbs minus fiber. For instance, one avocado has 12 grams of carbs but 10 grams of fiber, meaning it has 2 grams of net carbs. Also, the green leafy vegetables are very nutritious and contain plenty of fiber, so you could eat them as much as you want and stay below the limit.”
In terms of protein, it’s very often recommended that the ketogenic athletes set protein between around 0.6 and 1.0 grams per one pound of lean mass—not per one pound of body weight. Below we will show you an example of how you can calculate the protein needs of a 180-pound lifter who has 15% body fat:
- 180 lbs. – 27lbs. = 153 lbs. lean mass
- 180 lbs. x 0.15 = 27 lbs. of fat
- 153 lbs. x 0.6 g = 91.8 g
- 153 lbs. x 1.0g = 153 g
- Protein range = ~ 92-150 g per day
In case you don’t know your percentage of body fat, you should either get tested or use some calorie calculator and multiply your daily intake by .15-.20 in order to determine your daily protein needs.
WHY SO LITTLE PROTEIN?
Supposing that you are familiar to a protein intake well over your bodyweight— you should let alone the lean body mass—you may be skeptical about diet which requires reducing protein intake by as much as half. Wittrock can relate.
“In the beginning, I was very worried that I will lose muscle mass as a result of the low protein intake. In fact, I lost absolutely no muscle and I was also able to add lean mass to my figure. So, how is this possible? It’s due to the fact that the ketones have a ‘protein sparing’ effect, and so, tons of protein is not necessary.”
What happens in case you go too high? Simple: Say goodbye to the ketosis! Some amino acids are gluconeogenic, meaning that they can actually be used for making carbohydrates.
Put another way, keeping the protein intake very high might end up having the same effect as eating excessive amounts of carbs. That being said, once you gain more experience with your personal levels of ketosis, you will be able to start playing with the amount of protein that you consume in a day. Wittrock adds that he stays right around 20 % on his ketogenic diet.
LIVING THE FAT LIFE
The easiest macro to be calculated in the ketogenic diet is the fat. Once you have your protein and carbs set, you should simply fill the rest of your daily calorie needs with fat sources. In case you want to gain some weight, you should add approximately 500 calories’ worth, or around 55 grams. If you want to lose the weight, you will need to cut down on your fat intake by around 200-500 calories, or approximately 22-55 grams.
When you are following a ketogenic diet, most people usually start with a fat phobia and they are scared to lather it on. Wittrock vividly remembers these days.
“It was so difficult,” he recalls. “You’ve spent your entire life hearing that fat makes you fat and it’s causing you heart attacks and strokes. And now, all of a sudden, you eat 200 grams of fat per day. There is an enormous psychological component to conquer just before you can become successful with the ketogenic diet. In the beginning, it’s like you are trying to convince the people 1,000 years ago that the world is actually round, not flat.”
Still, it might be hard to get enough fat in the early days. Nuts, butter, coconut and olive oils, and fatty cuts of meat are all on your regular menu. However, don’t go overboard with the polyunsaturated fats such as the soybean, sunflower, or corn oil. Keto dieters which are increasing their intake of these fats very often end up with some gastrointestinal distress which causes them to give up too soon.
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YOUR MUST-HAVE (AND MUST-NOT-HAVE) FOODS
Are you feeling ready to start buying groceries? You should go through the pantry, freezer, fridge, and secret stashes under the bed, and then get rid of all the foods with any significant carb content. In the first several days, you could end up craving them, and craving them badly. Sorry, but no fruit for now. Even onions and carrots are too high-glycemic to work with keto, adds Wittrock.
Here are some of the staples that you should build your diet around:
- Fatty nuts and seeds: Cashews, pumpkin seeds, macadamia nuts
- Full-fat cheese
- Whole eggs
- Beef: Ground chuck (80/20), porterhouse, filet mignon, ribeye
- Chicken: Thighs and legs
- Vegetables: Spinach and other greens, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage, bell pepper
- Pork rinds
- Salted butter
- Olive oil
- Heavy cream
- Cream cheese
- Sour cream
- Fatty fish: Salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies
- Chicken broth or bouillon cubes with at least 1 gram of sodium
That last item could surprise you, but for most people, it makes all the difference. The reason? When carbs are being cut, we rapidly deplete glycogen, which is the stored form of carbohydrate. For every gram of glycogen that we lose, we lose 3 grams of water. Addition of the bouillon is going to help prevent dehydration and also improve the way that you feel on the diet. Water is just not enough on keto; you need enough sodium as well.
“Chicken broth is certainly critical on this diet as a way to ensure that you are getting enough sodium,” explains Wittrock. “Any time some client calls me and he is not feeling good, I immediately tell them to drink one cup of chicken broth, and usually their symptoms go away.”
To have some super-fatty treats to help you hit your ambitious macros is also necessary. Luckily, there are many people who have gone where you are going. “There are plenty of ‘fat bomb’ recipes that you can find on the Internet. These are very good at satisfying your cravings for sweet, and an amazing way to increase the fat consumption without going over on protein. In addition, I’m a huge fan of salted pumpkin seeds as well as the salted sunflower seed kernels. You may not believe it but the pork rinds are also a very good keto snack,” concludes Wittrock.
DEFEATING THE “KETO FLU”
You certainly have heard the horror stories of what competitors feel like once they cut carbs low, or when your friends talks about going keto. However, the chances are that those people were not actually in nutritional ketosis, or more importantly, they are not following a well-formulated ketogenic diet. Yes, you can experience some discomfort and fogginess, but it doesn’t have to be intense in case you handle it properly.
Within just a few days of cutting out the carbs and raising fats, the ketone concentrations in the blood rise and your brain is going to start using them for energy preferentially. This initial keto-adaptation process is usually taking around 4 weeks to complete, at which point you are going to reach peak fat-burning adaptations.
All of the side effects that you will hear about happen in the period of those first 4 weeks—or even in the first 4-5 days—and the experienced ketogenic dieters, such as Wittrock, swear that most of them could be chalked up to a single cause: the electrolytes deficiency.
“There are lots of people who jump right in, thinking all they need to do is to cut carbs and increase the fat. All of a sudden, they hit a wall and get the so called ‘keto flu.’ They feel lethargic, tired, and experience headaches,” he adds. “The main reason that they are getting these symptoms is deficiency of the 3 primary electrolytes: potassium, sodium, and magnesium. In case you are deficient in any of these, you are going to suffer mentally and physically. This is one of the biggest reasons why many people fail on the keto diet.”
So how you can get enough of these big 3? Sure, you can use supplements, but you don’t need to. “For sodium, I suggest eating salty snacks, salting your food, and using chicken broth. Increasing the sodium for many people is hard to grasp, as they associate sodium intake with fat loss and water retention. But replacing the lost sodium is essential, especially when you are working out.”
As for the other 2 electrolytes, you should meet your new best friends: greens, avocados, and nuts. “I suggest eating 1-2 avocados per day,” says Wittrock. “The green leafy vegetables are also a great source of both magnesium and potassium.”
The fattiest seeds and nuts, such as the almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, and the pumpkin seeds, also happen to be the ones to contain the most magnesium. So you need to eat them heartily, but don’t be afraid to supplement them as well.
If it happens to you to start getting muscle cramps or headaches, you can toss a bouillon cube into a mug of hot water with one or two tablespoons of salted butter. This will not only relieve some of your symptoms, but it will also provide a very easy avenue for upping fat intake.
KETO-FRIENDLY WORKOUT SUPPS
The most science-backed performance-boosting supplements, such as beta-alanine, creatine monohydrate, and caffeine, are all approved on the ketogenic diet. Therefore, if you take a pre-workout, you have to be able to continue without problems. We would recommend taking some bouillon before your session in order to ensure your magnesium and sodium levels are on point.
As for branched-chain amino acids, you are going to find smart people who swear that they are keto-friendly, and some others who won’t. One of the BCAAs, valine, might be gluceogenic, meaning that it could lead to glucose production and potentially contribute you to leave the ketosis behind. But does that mean that it will happen? Not necessarily, particularly when you are only an occasional supplement user.
Therefore, for your first month you need to be restrained but not necessarily strict. In case BCAAs help you train and recover, you could drink them during your training, but don’t consume them during the entire day. In the occasion that you have any doubts about whether they’re affecting your ketone levels, your test sticks will tell you.
This is a good point to reinforce that when ketosis is your goal, you should test your ketone levels by using keto sticks or with something similar often. Don’t just assume that your plan is working!
When you want to slam a protein shake post-workout, that is probably fine as long as you have room for it in your macros. However, shoot for one that is very low—preferably zero—in carbohydrates. When you are struggling to fit fat in during the day, you can toss a tablespoon of olive oil in your shake. You won’t taste it, but it will give you about 13-14 grams of fat.
If you are the type pf person who takes carbs post-workout in order to spike insulin, well, you should stop. Put that Pop-Tart down.
Whatever you do, you need to resist the urge to refeed, cheat, or otherwise deviate from the plan. For the first few weeks in particular, the ketogenic dieting demands strict adherence. Give it a chance to work!
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