Tips for Starting a Plant-based Ketogenic Diet
(and a Mini Science Lesson)
Before we get into the how-tos let’s do a quick review of what exactly the Ketogenic diet is…. we know that the Ketogenic diet, or Keto, is a type of low-carb diet which differs from all other diets. The two main differences are real carbohydrate restriction and a real increase in healthy dietary fats, both of which often involve some measuring or logging food to get a handle on what it means. You may typically hear a Keto diet being referred to as a low-carb/high-fat diet. But as important is how it differs from the old Atkins diet, which was high protein. The Ketogenic diet is anything but high protein, it is best described as a moderate protein diet and sometimes even low protein for certain individuals.
So, why would you want to start this low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat diet? What is all the Keto hype about?
Before giving you a mini science lesson let’s take note of just a few of the benefits of a Ketogenic diet:
• Blood sugar stabilizer
• Increases energy
• Increases focus and clarity
• Encourages weight loss
• Improves brain function
• Slows the aging process
• Decreases pain and systemic inflammation
• Decreases disease risk
One of the main reasons why Keto has become so popular, including with my friends and peers, is because when you transition your body away from burning glucose as its primary fuel, to instead burning primarily fat, you just plain and simple feel better and look better. A low-carb/high-fat diet can bring about awesome changes to your body composition. Because when you switch to burning fat for energy, you preserve glycogen in your muscles, encourage fat tissue breakdown, and thus can maintain and build lean muscle more easily.
I have personally experienced reductions in chronic high blood sugar and a complete reversal in insulin resistance by adopting a Ketogenic diet. I have also lowered systemic inflammatory markers by focusing on a low carb diet.
Sounds pretty good, huh? Let’s dig into the science and learn more …
Keto: A Mini Science Lesson
When your diet consists of mostly carbohydrates or larger amount of carbohydrates (even the healthy ones) then your body’s primary fuel source is glucose. All carbohydrates eventually turn into glucose in your blood. Your pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin when it senses the rise in blood glucose. Insulin’s job is to transport glucose into every cell in your body to either create energy or become stored as fat. An over consumption of carbohydrates often leads to too much glucose which results in a myriad of effects, including but not limited to:
- Dependence on glucose for fuel
- Imbalanced blood sugars
- High blood sugar
- Insulin resistance
- Weight gain
- Intense cravings
- Low energy
- Brain fog or difficulty concentrating
Your body is very good at using glucose for fuel until there is too much. Your body also likes to take the path of least resistance, so it will always use glucose for energy instead of fat when it is available. This last fact makes it quite difficult to break down fat tissue, lose weight, or become fat adapted when you are eating carbohydrates throughout the day. By avoiding carbohydrates, your body gets the chance to find an alternative fuel source to replace glucose. Also, when you decrease your body’s need for insulin you’ll burn more fat, have more consistent energy, and start to reap all the Keto benefits.
Even your brain prefers fat in the form of ketones to glucose. Your liver makes ketones from dietary and stored fat. Ketones are a cleaner more long-burning source of energy our bodies may use instead of glucose. When your body becomes more efficient at making and using ketones you start to see more ketones in your blood (there are tests to measure this change), you being to feel some of the benefits, and you become fat adapted. When you really feel the changes, understanding why you’ve stopped eating like you used to makes so much sense.
Once you feel why you’ve given up the carbs like bread, grains, beans, pasta, rice, potatoes, oats, sugar, and even fruit, there is little reason to turn back. This is why I want you to try Keto, but not just plain old Keto, I recommend a plant-based Ketogenic diet, not a generic one. Many out there embark on a Keto train that consists of too many inflammatory foods such as processed dairy, or too many processed fats, or just foods that may fit the macronutrient requirements but have much nutrient value. We want the focus to be on whole, nutrient dense, real foods.
What is a Plant-Based Ketogenic Diet vs. a More Generic Keto Diet?
I love helping people start on a plant-based Ketogenic diet. We get to focus on vegetables, lots of green vegetables, lots of fiber, and lots of micronutrients. This is the way to start Keto the right way and avoid many of the pitfalls people experience when trying the generic Ketogenic diet or trying to adapt too quickly.
Every Bite Does Matter and What You Put Into Your Mouth On a Ketogenic Diet Matters a Lot!
It is important to transition to a Ketogenic diet slowly and with a dietary focus high in micronutrients; antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and flavonoids so that your body can make the metabolic shift without ill effects. The most common issues of trying to become fat-adapted too quickly are constipation, muscle cramps, low electrolytes, fatigue, headaches, moodiness, low vitamins and minerals, and bad breath.
Vegetables and superfoods are good sources of micronutrients and fiber and even though quality meats and fats have high amounts of vitamins and minerals, we also need to focus on getting enough antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber.
Micronutrients are critical nutrient compounds for our bodies. They help remove free radicals from our bodies, reduce oxidized LDL’s, which are formed from free radicals and cholesterol, and micronutrients are naturally low in calories giving our bodies what they need to build our immune system and avoid disease, reverse disease, and function properly.
Making sure your diet consists of plenty of cooked or raw green and colorful vegetables, adding superfoods like flax, chia, hemp, cacao, coffee, vanilla powder, green tea, matcha tea, herbs, and spices will help to ensure your body will run efficiently. We naturally produce free radicals all the time as a by-product of metabolism. However, healthy fat is the ultimate slow burning, efficient source of energy generated without any of the negative byproducts that glucose metabolism produces. In general, increasing your antioxidant levels through a focus on micronutrients will help to combat all the free radicals obtained internally, from processing glucose, exercise, stress, and from external sources like chemicals, toxins, and pollution.
The TIPS You’ve Been Waiting For
Eat High-Quality Foods
Focus on quality grass-fed, pasture raised, organic meats, wild caught seafood, healthy fats, and organic vegetables.
Eat Lots of Low Glycemic Green Vegetables
You want at least 1/2, preferably 2/3 of your plate to be filled with vegetables both raw and cooked and you’ll be taking it easy with starchy veggies.
Avoid Inflammatory Foods – like Processed Dairy, Grains, Vegetable Oils, and Anything Refined
YES! This does mean NO more processed foods. Focus on replacing foods, doing a food swap, rather than just eliminating. Use my Food Guide and make sure you know what to eat instead.
Enjoy Large Amounts of Healthful Fats.
Some examples are avocado oil, bacon fat/lard, coconut oil, coconut butter, cacao butter, ghee, macadamia nut oil, MCT oil and powder, olive oil, and tallow/grass-fed beef fat.
Exercise Often and Move Daily
Our bodies are made to move. We were not designed to be sedentary. We thrive most when movement is a daily habit. When starting Keto it’s really important to move your body for 30 minutes every day for the first 30 days and then continue with a new exercise routine. You can walk, jog, run, do yoga, bike, swim, ski, start resistance training, or whatever you like most. Almost anything you choose counts, just move!
Supplement When Necessary
Electrolyte balance is crucial when starting Keto; you tend to drop a lot of stored water quickly and with it tends to go electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Using the right supplements will help to keep you from experiencing the “Keto flu” and improve your experience. In addition to electrolytes, some other helpful supplements include; exogenous ketones, collagen, MCT oil and powder, and just good old sea salt.
It is okay to go at this alone but much easier and more fun when you have someone to share experiences with and someone that can hold you accountable. Find a friend, a group, or use a healthcare professional for advice and support. That’s what I’m here for.
Sleep More and Lower Your Stress
Definitely don’t let the idea of starting a new way of eating become a new stress. We all have enough stress already. If counting macronutrients and trying to understand food ratios is too much for you then don’t do it. The focus is really not on your macronutrient percentages but on the quality of foods you choose to eat.
Change The Way You Think About Food
This is not a diet, it is a new lifestyle and you’ve really got to grasp that
There’s only one way to get lasting change when it comes to food, health, performance, how we look and feel about ourselves, and that’s to permanently change the way you think about food. There does not have to be a set meal plan, strict macronutrient guidelines, or feelings of deprivation that go with calorie counting. Really if you fill yourself with real, nutrient-dense, high-quality foods your body will take care of the rest.
Commit. Really Make This Commitment to Yourself. This may be the most important TIP
Many people never really understand their why; why do you want to do this, what do you want to change, which habits do you want to let go of, and how do you really want to feel? Write all this down and post it somewhere you can see it every day. While it is important to grasp that the quality of the food you eat directly influences how you feel every day as well as your long-term health, your emotional state can be the deciding factor for whether you are able to commit to seeing the changes you want or not. Whether you just want to lose weight, or you want to optimize your health by stabilizing your blood sugar, eliminate cravings, increase your energy – you can do this and it all starts by changing the way you think about food.
One of the most powerful tools you have to change your health is food. The second is your commitment, your self-honesty, your will power, and your desire to feel your best. We know that the foods you eat are full of the nutrients you need for your cells and influence every function in your body. Your food choices will directly impact your emotional, physical, and physiological health, thus as your health improves your commitment will become easier and feel more like a new lifestyle.
How Long Will It Take Me to Become Fat Adapted or Keto-Adapted?
I have found 3-4 weeks to be the average time people need to become fat adapted and really begin using fat instead of glucose for their main source of energy. The way you start your Keto journey will determine your success in creating a new lifestyle and not just be on another diet. So, I feel it is important to start off on the right foot.
I take people through a 30-day Pure Keto Reset and help make sure all the basics are addressed. I supply as many resources as possible such as a pantry cleanout guide, approved food lists, recipe and meal planning, Keto flu support and how to deal with carb cravings. It’s all about supporting you. I want to make sure your body is breaking down and absorbing foods well, that you are digesting fats properly, and that your health issues are supported before beginning to detoxify through weight loss and increase dietary fats too rapidly.
With Keto, it is important to give it some time, while you may start making ketones early in your transition you might not actually be using them to energize and fuel your body and mind. Your first 30 days are so important because you’re literally changing your body’s main fuel source from glucose dependency to fat burning. This period of time is called Keto-adaption and depending on where you are starting it can take a little time and patience. You want to make sure you are using the ketones your body makes.
Read more about the PURE Keto Reset here
During this 30-day program, you’ll focus on things like:
• Transitioning your energy source from glucose to fat and ketones
• Improving the quality of your foods
• Improving the quality of your sleep
• Cooking with whole, nutrient dense, real foods
• Eliminating your sugar cravings
• Learning how much exercise is best for you
• Reducing your stress
• Creating a new lifestyle, not going on another diet!
The biggest challenge with the Keto diet may actually be that most people never make it through the fat adaptation phase. Many people get frustrated during the adaptation period and give up, or they don’t learn how to do a plant-based Keto diet correctly and completely miss out on all the benefits.