The ketogenic diet can be treacherous, at least during the induction phase.
Why? Simple. You are essentially “forcing” your body to use an alternate energy source, namely ketones, which are the metabolic by-products of fatty acid breakdown. This is accomplished by dropping daily carbohydrate load significantly in order to ultimately deplete liver glycogen stores, the “on-switch” for ketogenesis.
This metabolic shift or transition is uncomfortable because the body is patterned to use glucose as a source of cellular energy as opposed to fat. Even if your diet is “clean.” Most people are eating more high glycemic index carbohydrates than they believe and are therefore unconsciously conditioning their bodies to utilize sugar as opposed to the body’s fuel of choice: fat. They’re pouring sugar into their gas tanks as opposed to clean-burning petroleum-based fuel, in essence, fat. Given this “metabolic inertia,” the body resists the change to an alternate fuel source and revolts. Enter mistake #1.
- Inducing ketosis too quickly: Acutely and drastically cutting daily carbohydrate load to less than 25 grams to induce ketosis will predispose one to the so-called “keto flu,” characterized by fatigue, irritability and headaches, to name a few. Why be miserable? Induce ketosis by gradually reducing your daily carbohydrate intake (load) while concomitantly reducing the glycemic indexes of the consumed carbohydrates. Both will lower the body’s insulin signal, deplete glycogen stores and allow for a smoother transition into ketosis. But there’s more to winning this battle, and the transition is truly a metabolic battle of sorts.
- Not drinking enough water: Flu-like symptoms are, to a great degree, caused by fluid and electrolyte abnormalities, the result of lowered bodily insulin. This induces an aggressive diuresis that can be mitigated by drinking at least 1 gallon of water daily. You may consider nightly chicken soup or a basic chicken broth to temper electrolyte (particularly sodium) loss as well. Just say no to the “keto flu.”
- Eating too much protein: You read that right. Contrary to popular belief, a ketogenic diet is not a high protein diet. In fact, protein should make up only 15-30% of your daily calories! Else, ketone production will stall, the result of a process known as gluconeogenesis. And so the age-old adage applies here: You can have too much of a good thing, except fat.
- Not eating enough fat: If you were around in the 80’s and 90’s, you may recall a time during which fat was vilified. “Low fat” was the in-thing. To lose fat, you were to avoid fat like the plague. Wrong. In fact, just the opposite is true in fact. To induce fat loss, eat fat. And lots of it. Don’t be afraid, else your energy levels may wane. 60-75% of your daily calories should be derived from healthy fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated) and omega-3 fatty acids. Talk about a complete one-eighty!
- Not eating enough, period: The goal of a ketogenic diet is fat loss, right? Fat. Not muscle. Don’t sacrifice your hard-earned muscle by failing to meet your daily caloric requirements. Remember, your muscles are expensive, metabolically speaking. They place significant energy demands on the body. Bottom line? You must feed them else they’ll be catabolized (to a degree) in the ketogenic state. Not cool. So eat! Aim for a daily intake isocaloric to your calculated basal metabolic rate (BMR). Frequent small meals are the key here. Don’t be scared: Eat up, weight down...