Ketogenic dieting is a big jump for some people. You’re literally switching over to a new metabolic substrate. That can take some getting used to. The best way to enhance your chances for success is to have a Primal-aligned eating pattern in place for at least a few weeks. (The Keto Reset Diet offers a step-by-step protocol for accomplishing this in 21 days. Mark’s Daily Apple is all about transitioning and maintaining Primal eating. If you’re new to the blog, I’d encourage you to begin here.)
Beyond stepping into keto from a solid Primal base, what else can you do to make keto work for your weight loss?
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Make a Minimum Commitment to Six Weeks
The first three weeks will be the most difficult as you transition to new fuel sources, but then you can expect breakthroughs. (Some serious athletes may experience a temporary performance dip in the early weeks, but then will come back strong after 4 weeks and beyond.) Once you get to the six-week mark, the metabolic machinery is in place, and it’s hard to reverse the adaptation. Extra mitochondria don’t just disappear.
Get Plenty of Electrolytes
You’ll want lots of sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Try 4.5 grams sodium (about 2 teaspoons of fine salt or a little under 3 teaspoons of kosher salt), 300-400 mg magnesium, and 1-2 grams of potassium each day on top of your normal food. Going keto really flushes out water weight, and tons of electrolytes leave with it.
Eat Fat, but Don’t Be Crazy about It
Just because a ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet doesn’t mean you should eat ungodly amounts of fat. Being ketogenic is more about not eating carbohydrates than it is eating as much fat as you possibly can.
Eating extra fat in the first 4-7 days can accelerate keto-adaptation (by increasing AMPK signaling). After that first week, you can bring your intake down to the recommended 65-75% of total caloric intake.
The vast majority of vegetables are keto-friendly. Not only do they provide important micronutrients and phytonutrients, they provide negligible amounts of carbohydrates. To meet your essential micronutrient needs, above-ground vegetables should be the bulk of your keto diet in terms of volume, even while fat will provide the majority of your calories.
Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries are all quite low in glycemic load and extremely high in phytonutrients. While eating a flat of strawberries isn’t very ketogenic, a large bowlful won’t knock you out.
Many people on ketogenic diets tend to ignore or malign fiber. That’s a mistake. First, fiber doesn’t digest into glucose. It doesn’t “count.” Second, fiber feeds your gut biome, providing fermentable substrate for your gut bacteria to turn into beneficial short chain fatty acids and to provide support to your immune system.
Lift Heavy Things
A common criticism of ketogenic diets is that they cause loss of lean mass. This isn’t totally unfounded. If your ketogenic diet reduces appetite so much that you undereat, you might lose muscle. If you’re on a super-low-protein ketogenic diet, you might lose muscle. Lifting weights prevents these issues by sending an anabolic signal to your muscles and allowing the consumption of more protein without hampering ketosis.
Do Lots of Low Level Aerobic Activity
Walk, hike, jog, cycle, row. Keep things in the aerobic HR zone (under 180 minus age in heart beats per minute), and you’ll increase your utilization of body fat, which will speed up ketone production and adaptation. For more on exercise while keto, check out my recommendations here.
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