In part one of this post, we looked at the basics of the ketogenic diet—a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb diet. In part two, we looked at the benefits and side effects of the diet. This third and final part will look at how you can put your body into ketosis and get started on the ketogenic diet.
How to Set up Your Macros on a Ketogenic Diet
Getting into ketosis isn’t complicated, but it does take effort and discipline. If you’re used to eating a lot of carbs, it will be a big change.
There are a few quick calculations that need to be done to determine the amounts of carbs, fat, and protein you’ll eat each day. These are known as macronutrients (or macros).
Step 1 – Calculate Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure
The first step is to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). This is the number of calories needed to maintain your weight.
We’ll use my TDEE numbers as an example. My TDEE is 3,400 calories. This is what I need to eat each day (including exercise calories) to maintain my weight. If you’re interested in weight loss, you’ll need to reduce your TDEE number.
Step 2 – Set up Your Macro ratios
Now that you know how many calories you need to eat each day, you’ll need to set your macro ratios.
The macro ratio we’ll use for this example is 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. This ratio can vary, but you need to keep carbs low to put your body into ketosis.
Enter your TDEE calories into this calculator and set the above macro ratios. Using my example of 3,400 calories a day, we get:
- 283 g of fat (75%)
- 170 g of protein (20%)
- 43 g of carbs (5%)
This is the amount of food (in grams) you’ll eat each day. Here’s a graphic showing a ketogenic meal versus other diets:
Track Your Macros
Because the ketogenic diet uses strict macro ratios, you’ll need to track your food intake using a calorie counter. I suggest setting up a free account on MyFitnessPal.
Using my macro numbers above, you’d go into MyFitnessPal and set your daily targets at 283 g of fat, 170 g of protein, and 43 g of carbs. Then, you’d track your food intake for a few weeks. This will allow you to meet your macro targets.
You don’t need to track your food forever, but you need to learn portion sizes and how to keep your carbs low. Tracking your intake is the most accurate way to do this. It can be a pain to start with, but once you get used to it, it’s quick and easy.
Key Dietary Changes to Get Into Ketosis
Remember, the point of the ketogenic diet is to switch your body from burning sugar to fat. So, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind as you transition into the diet.
Keeping carbs low is the most important factor in getting your body into ketosis.
You can experiment with the number of carbs, but I wouldn’t go any higher than 100 g per day. Generally, carbs are kept around 50 g a day, with some people going as low as 20 g. To put that in perspective, one banana has about 25 g of carbs.
Eating more healthy fats can boost ketone levels and help you get into ketosis. Many people that try the ketogenic diet are worried about increasing their fat intake. Fat becomes your main source of energy on the diet, so you have to eat a lot of it. It’s a big change at first, but you’ll quickly learn about healthy, high-fat options to eat.
Coconut oil is particularly helpful on the ketogenic diet. It contains fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Unlike other fats, MCTs are rapidly absorbed and taken to the liver where they can be converted into quick energy or ketones.
Keep Protein Moderate
Protein is really important. On a ketogenic diet, you eat a moderate amount (around 20% of your macros).
Too much protein can kick you out of ketosis by raising insulin. And if you eat too little, you could cause muscle loss and increase your appetite. Make sure you get enough by hitting your daily macro target.
Foods to Eat on the Ketogenic Diet
Any low-carb vegetables are good. Leafy Greens (e.g., spinach, kale, lettuce, etc.) and above ground vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are low in carbs.
You can eat a wide range of lean and fattier protein sources. Some examples include:
- Whole eggs
- Bacon and sausage with no added sugar or fillers
- Nut butters
Fats will take center stage in your diet, so you’ll need to add in lots of different sources. Here are some ideas:
- Coconut butter
- Fatty fish
- Animal fat (non-hydrogenated)
- Egg yolks
- Macadamia/Brazil nuts
- Avocado oil
- Macadamia oil
- MCT oil
- Cocoa butter
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
Foods to Avoid on the Ketogenic Diet
Obviously, carbs are the macro that will be reduced the most. That means avoiding all sugars as well as healthy carb sources. Examples of carbs to avoid are:
- Most fruit
- Starchy vegetables (e.g., potatoes, yams, carrots, corn, and beets)
- Sugars (e.g., honey, agave, maple syrup, raw sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and cane sugar)
Full-fat dairy products like sour cream, butter, and yoghurt are okay on the ketogenic diet. Avoid all other milk and low- and reduced-fat dairy. The carb content of these products will be too high for the ketogenic diet.
Processed meats like hot dogs and chicken nuggets also need to be avoided because of added sugar and batters.
Avoid all sweetened drinks like:
- Soft drinks
- Coffee or tea if they have added sweeteners or milk
- Alcohol with mixers or beer—search for low carb alcoholic drinks for options
How to Know If You’re in Ketosis
It can take anywhere from days to weeks to get into ketosis depending on the person. How can you tell when you get there? There are three main ways to test if you’re in ketosis:
- Urine sticks - cheap and convenient but not very accurate.
- Breath ketone meters - these are more accurate than the urine strips but not as accurate as the blood meter.
- Blood ketone meter - very accurate, but the strips needed to test your blood are expensive.
While it might be fun to run some tests, you’re better off focusing on meeting your daily macro targets. After a few weeks of sticking to the diet, you’ll be in ketosis as your body would’ve used all of its glucose.
Now that we’ve covered macros and foods to eat and avoid, all you need are some recipes. Here’s a great site with plenty of meal ideas as well as a shopping list.
Don’t just consume information. If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you find this post useful. You’ve now got two choices: 1) close the screen and think ‘that’s nice’ and move on with your day. Or 2) if you’re considering the ketogenic diet, calculate your macros and get going on it. Start with an easy change like reducing carbs at one meal. And as Nike says, just do it! Decision creates action. Action creates results.
I Need Your Help
I’ve also got a huge favour to ask of you. No, I don’t want your money. But will happily accept it! I’m trying to get this blog off the ground and I can’t do it without your help. Simply sharing this post on social media (you’re so close to the share buttons—look down below) or emailing it to a friend makes a HUGE difference in my life. In return, I promise we can be best mates and you can reach out anytime. Seriously. If you need help with any health, fitness, or Jedi Knight goals you can contact me here.
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