Ketogenic diets are quickly taking North America by a storm and for good reason. It seems to me that every where I go and every woman that walks through my door is interested in trying the Ketogenic diet. Although I have danced around the Keto diet for a number of years it’s only in the last year that I have been fully committed to it. Like all ways of eating, there are challenges as myself, my clients and On Track members have found- especially for those of us with hormonal issues. Today I am going to share with you my 5 essential tips for women switching to a Ketogenic diet.
1. Eat Fat
I know your probably saying yeah duh Karen I know I need to eat fat on a Ketogenic diet! But one of the most common mistakes I see people make is eating an Atkins style diet (high protein and fat) and thinking it’s Ketogenic. Throwing a little MCT oil and butter in your coffee every morning and adding some avocado to your salad is typically NOT enough fat. What I see people doing is grazing on protein all day barely eating vegetables and throwing around a bit of coconut oil and thinking they are rockin’ it. WRONG you need fat at every meal and lots of it.
My calculated fat intake, if I would like to lose weight, should be around 122 grams a day according to the Keto macro calculator . In order to maintain my weight which is my current goal I should be around 132 grams a day. So what does 132 grams of fat look like in a day;
Bulletproof coffee for breakfast with 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon MCT oil= 26 grams of fat
3 oz chicken = 8 grams
4 oz ground beef = 20 grams
1 avocado = 24 grams
1 table spoon butter with vegetables = 12
1 tablespoon MCT oil on salad = 14
1 tablespoon coconut oil for cooking = 14
1 table spoon olive oil on cooked meat = 14
Grand total of 132 grams!
Now this is specific to me and your calculations are going to be different but you can see that this is can actually get pretty challenging to consume this much fat in a day!
The problem is people tend to go heavy on the protein and if you consume excessive protein then your body will turn the amino acids into glucose through a biochemical process called gluconeogenesis. That extra protein will then be stored as fat if it’s not burned.
Solution: I suggest using a macro Keto calculator and figuring out what your macros should be when you are just starting out. As much as I am not one for calculating macros as it can turn into an unhealthy obsession around food, when just starting out on the Keto diet it is a good tool to use. I use this macros calculator
2. Supplement with minerals
When researching Ketogenic diets you will read a lot of people boasting about how amazing they felt for weeks to then suddenly hitting a wall. Energy plummets, they feel shaky, light headed and get low blood pressure. For many they pack in the Keto diet claiming that the diet wasn’t for them and figure their bodies need the carbohydrates in order to feel good. What is happening for many of these people is they have gone and peed out too much of their electrolytes (minerals found in the body that are the electrical signaling molecules used for maintaining functions within the body, specifically sodium, potassium and magnesium). When you shift to a Ketogenic diet, your body tends to release more water as opposed to storing it thanks to a drop in a hormone called aldosterone. When there is a decrease in insulin due to the low carbohydrates, the kidneys excrete water rather than retain it. This can lead to a deficiency in the those key minerals and can make you feel like shit.
Solution: Invest in a good quality electrolyte mix that contains: sodium, magnesium, potassium and Taurine. Take 2 servings a day mixed into water. Add raw sea salt or Pink Himalayan salt to your food and even into your water, aim for 2 teaspoons a day. Take 400 mg magnesium glycinate before bed. Incorporate avocado, mushrooms and dark leafy greens into your diet for potassium.
Constipation is one of the biggest challenges people have on a Ketogenic diet. The sudden increase in fat and protein can back things up. Constipation can make it challenging to stay in Ketosis as it drives up stress which in turn drives up blood sugar. The main causes of constipation are;
– Increase in fats and/or protein and not having efficient stomach acid or digestive enzymes to help break them down.
– Gut dysbiosis such as small intestinal bacteria over growth, candida, parasites, leaky gut and chronic stress.
– Lack of essential minerals
Solution: take a full spectrum digestive enzyme with added HCL, pepsin and Ox bile before every meal. It can also help to add in bitters prior to ingesting meals which helps stimulate the gall bladder.
Take added essential minerals (see above)
Eat more fiber and even supplement with various fiber products. You want to aim for 6 cups of vegetables a day!
Test for underlying infections through your MD or ND.
4. Eat more vegetables
Another common mistake I see many people do is leaving their vegetables in the dusty wake of the Ketogenic diet. NOT GOOD! A common and sought after side effect of the Keto diet is the decrease in hunger levels. Awesome for those of you wanting to lose weight and wanting to get out from under your food addictions. However with that comes a decrease in the amount of vegetables they are eating and a general variety in food. If you repeatedly eat the same things with little vegetables your body will quickly become nutrient deficient. Variety in all your macros is key to sustaining a healthy Ketogenic diet.
Solution: aim for 4-6 cups of vegetables a day 2 cups of greens 1-2 cups cruciferous and 1-2 cups colored vegetables. Not only that you want to vary your proteins and different fats to get a broad intake of vitamins and minerals.
5. Incorporate carb ups every 3-4 days
Once you are Keto adapted which usually takes an average of 3-6 weeks you can opt to start carb up’s every 3-4 days. This can be essential for women to do if they have high amounts of stress, thyroid issues and like to train hard. They can also come in handy when you hit the dreaded weight loss plateau which is inevitable for most women. Our bodies are smart little buggers that can quickly adapt to situations such as a drastic change in diet. Many women report dropping big amounts of weight loss in the beginning but soon find that the number on the scale slows or even stops dropping. The other thing women notice is there hormones get a little whacky, periods get heavy or non existent, moods swings are exaggerated, hair begins to thin due to the absence of carbs in our body. Doing carb ups signal to our hormonal system that there is plenty around we are not starving and go ahead and continue losing weight. In some studies low carb diets have shown to effect thyroid function. What sometimes occurs is a syndrome called “euthyroid sick syndrome,” characterized by low T3 and high reverse T3 hormone levels and elevated cortisol. Carb ups can help avoid this problem.
Solution: Try doing regular carb ups and see if it helps break through weight loss plateaus, increase your energy and help balance hormones. Carb ups can happen once a week to once every three-four days each person will need to determine how often they need to do this. Carb ups usually consist of eating a carb heavy dinner with low to no fat. For detailed instructions on carb ups join the Intro to Keto program below.
Check out my OnTrack membership program that offers a weekly Ketogenic meal plan and support through group coaching.