Keto can be confusing to new folks (and to veterans, sometimes). Nowadays, there are so many things that claim to be keto, but they clearly are not. How that happens, I honestly don’t know. People like to do things their own way, sometimes, and it can lead to tremendous confusion.
But, rest assured, there are some things you can do to make sure you are successful in your keto journey.
- Eat high fat
This might seem like a no-brainer, but I’m really surprised to see an emerging movement INSIDE the keto community of reducing the amount of fat in your diet. They have all sorts of reasons for it (some good, some not-so-good), but the fact remains that keeping your fat intake in the 75%-80% range will help you on your journey. Dietary fat does a lot to stabilize hormones, regulate hunger, and increase energy. So don’t think you have to starve yourself on keto…that’s just plain wrong.
- Eat low carb
Again, this one might seem like a no-brainer, but folks are starting to push for higher and higher carb counts and still calling it keto. I’ll be honest, I don’t care what someone else prescribes as a reasonable amount of carbs. As far as I’m concerned 20g per day, or less, is more than sufficient. Oh…also…I’d be remiss if I didn’t point this out: The idea that “if it fits your macros, it’s okay” is, well, not okay. That is, maybe, the dumbest thing I’ve heard recently. Stick to real food, don’t try to figure out an excuse or clever way to eat crap. No more processed “keto” foods. Be honest with yourself about what you’re eating and go with what works.
- Keep an eye on protein
Ahh…the controversy of the moment for many. Let me just say this: If you are all about the protein, and you want to eat a metric butt-ton of protein, then have at it. Enjoy. Use a fork, though. Manners.
But not everyone is okay with eating a lot of protein. Some people (a lot of people) react to excess protein exactly like they would to excess carbs, their bodies turn it to fat. Remember, protein is made up of amino acids. Those amino acids get used in one of two ways in your body. They are either used to repair and build soft tissue (like muscles and organs), or they are used to convert to glucose. If they convert to glucose, they get used to fuel or stored as fat. Finding the right balance of protein is a big game changer.
Just so we’re all clear, here, too. I’m not saying you MUST limit your protein. Nope. Not at all. You need to find the sweet spot for yourself of what is the right amount for your body. Of course, more active folks will need more (because they are causing more tissue damage through their activity), so it all depends on your particular situation.
So let’s recap, lest I be called protein-phobic again. There is such a thing as too much protein (if you’re trying to keep your blood sugar down). That does not mean everyone should limit their protein intake. Everyone needs to find their sweet spot.
- Take magnesium
Magnesium is a big-time power player in your body. It is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions. It is essential for energy conversion (from food to energy), muscle movement, utilizing protein, genetic maintenance, and regulation of your nervous system. It can lower blood pressure, help with headaches, help with insulin resistance, and it’s anti-inflammatory. Research is also suggesting that magnesium may help with treatment of depression. If you choose to get your magnesium in a supplement (like I do), make sure you choose a chelated form, like Magnesium Glycinate. It is absorbed MUCH better than the other kinds, and you won’t be wasting your money.
- Take salt
Salt is crucial. Though the past 50 years have seen the nutrition community demonizing salt, the truth is, if you’re keto, you NEED salt. The general guideline are 2 tsp per day. I prefer Celtic Gray or Himalayan Pink salt, because they are in a much more mineral-rich form. Increasing your salt intake will result in all sorts of “man, do I feel better” moments. Your activity levels will increase, your recovery will increase, and you’ll probably just feel better. Also, salt is pretty good on food.
- Take Vitamin D
Coming in at a close second to magnesium is Vitamin D. It is crucial in regulating insulin levels, improve lung function, immune system health, and maintenance of bones and teeth. One of the cool things about this vitamin is that you don’t have to do anything but go out into the sunlight to get some. Yes, the sunlight creates Vitamin D in your body. That’s pretty cool. However, not everyone gets to do that, so you might need to make sure you’re getting enough in food or through a supplement. Also, if you’re pregnant, it’s an absolute MUST.
I’ve talked about this many times. Sleep is fundamental for mental strength, immune health, recovery, clarity, and, maybe most importantly, overall stress management. Most people think they need 8 hours of good sleep. And they may be right. But, the truth is, the higher your stress, the more sleep you really need. Sleep is also on thing that gets tossed aside when life is stressful. And it should be the opposite.
I’d suggest, if you’re not getting enough sleep, that you start to rework your schedule as much as possible to accommodate adequate sleep. How do you know if you’re getting enough sleep? The best way is to determine how you feel in the morning, after you wake up. If you’re always looking to hit the snooze bar and go back to sleep, then you’re not getting enough sleep. If you’re waking up and you’re feeling rested, then you’re doing well.
- Drink water
This is a no-brainer. Drink water. Plenty of it. 1/2 oz per pound of bodyweight is a good rule of thumb. ‘Nuff said.
This might not be for the reason you think. Exercise is an escape. It should be something you enjoy. It should be something you look forward to. If you resent it, you’ll stop doing it (or you’ll end up stressed to the gills while doing it). The good news is that you can pick your exercise, try it, and see how you like it. Of course, I recommend lifting heavy stuff as something that EVERYONE can benefit from. It is the single best exercise you can do.
But…you need to find what works for you in your life. Whatever works for you, do it with passion, zeal, gusto, and enjoyment. It’s worth it.
Bonus: Find a coach
Some of this (or all of it, maybe) can be confusing. But don’t fret, it helps to have someone who has been down the road and knows how to take the mystery out of finding your health and your success. Getting a coach to help you will dramatically increase your chances of success and will shorten the amount of time needed to get there.