Top Five Keto Mistakes
Updated: May 3
Perhaps you’ve heard of the ketogenic diet? The ketogenic diet, or “keto”, has exploded in popularity in the past few years. What was once a therapeutic treatment for epileptics in the 1920s is now heralded as one of the best ways to regain your health.
Why the hype?
Quite simply, this diet is moderate protein, high fat and very low carbohydrate. Given less foods that raise your blood sugar to drive up your blood glucose, this way of eating trains the body to burn fat for fuel. Fatty acids are broken down into ketone bodies, which your cells use for energy. Since this form of energy is more easily usable, it’s preferred by nearly every cell in the body, with the exception of the brain, which relies on a bit of glucose to run smoothly. However, you don’t need to consume sugars and starches to support your brain. As a matter of fact, don’t do that! Your liver has a process called gluconeogenesis that it uses to turn protein into glucose when needed to stabilize blood sugar and support those brain cells.
Here's a brief list of five of the most common and perhaps among the most detrimental keto mistakes.
1. Overdoing protein.
Eating keto is not all about burgers, dairy and bacon. Too much will drop you out of ketosis and drive the liver to make glucose out of whatever you can't use. If you're worried about muscle loss, don't be too concerned. Keto is naturally protein-sparing so there’s much less worry about muscle loss if you dip into a lower daily amount. Aim for about 0.7g protein per pound of body weight, increasing to as high as 1g/lb if you’re very active. Check out this calculator if you're unsure of where to start your macros.
2. Avoiding non-starchy vegetables.
There are many “forms” of this diet and while it’s true that there’s no such thing as an essential carbohydrate, dark green and cruciferous veggies are an abundant source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Completely cutting out all vegetables may contribute to digestive issues and drive your mineral needs up. Adding just a cup or two of greens per meal won’t ruin your carb macros. What carbs should you avoid? Anything highly processed, like most grains, sugar, and even overeating tree nuts and beans.
3. Drinking very little water.
Your kidneys will dump electrolyte minerals on a low carbohydrate diet. When you eat whole, unprocessed foods, they are naturally low in sodium which means you need to supplement. Other factors, such as high temperature, sweating, illness and stress will further deplete the body. Keeping your self properly hydrated will ensure your entire body is running efficiently. Proper hydration means taking care to add a pinch of mineral-rich pink Himalayan or real sea salt to your food or water daily in addition to consuming foods &/or supplements rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. It also means remembering to drink half your body weight in ounces daily. When consuming coffee, tea, soda, alcohol or juice, drink one and a half times the amount of water. For example, 12 oz of diuretic beverage equals needing another 18 oz of water. Avoiding these diuretics is the best way to ensure you get enough water.
4. Failure to make keto a lifestyle change.
You can’t do keto halfway, or it will do more harm than good. I have seen people “eat keto” for one meal, then completely blow it on the next. Not to say that you have to stay super strict forever. Once you’re adapted, you will likely know your body well enough switch up your diet a bit. In fact, many swear by having metabolic flexibility to eat a bit more carbs here and there to go into and out of ketosis. My point here is this: If you’re eating donuts for breakfast, then bacon and burger patties for lunch, and a pasta dinner, you will not get into fat-burning and will store fat instead. Sticking with the plan will ensure success.
5. Not eating real food.
The point of keto is-should be-to regain your health and for some, lose a bit of weight in the process. Just eat real, whole, minimally processed (or totally unprocessed) food. Reaching for those ketone supplements, eating processed food like keto bars or low carb TV dinners aren’t going to do much to clean up the diet. Similarly, relying solely on smoothies and protein shakes can inhibit weight loss and may even lead to overeating.
Want even more real talk about keto? Check out my post 6 Truths You Should Know Before Starting Keto."