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So, you’ve started eating a ketogenic diet. You know the basics of keto, and you’re keeping your carbs low and eating more fat. You’re following the 9 Rules for the First Three Weeks of Keto and doing great. But could you be getting more out of your new keto way of eating?
Or maybe you haven’t started eating Keto yet but you want to be prepared and maximize your success.
We’ve got some great keto tips to take your keto diet to the next level. These upgrades to your keto diet will improve your experience and your health by amplifying the benefits of being in ketosis.
Ways to Upgrade your Keto Diet
1. Fasting to get into ketosis
If you’re just starting out and want to hit the ground running, the best way to get into ketosis is to fast for 24 – 48 hours.
A ketogenic diet mimics the effects that fasting (going completely without food) has in our bodies. Short term fasting actually has many benefits, and one of them is the production of ketones as a fuel source for your brain.
Your brain can run on glucose (from carbs) or ketones (from dietary or body fat). When you deprive your body of carbs, you’ll naturally switch to producing and using ketones.
Fasting is not necessary to achieve ketosis. You can start out your keto experience by limiting your carbs to under 25 grams per day, and your body will work through its stored glucose in a few days.
If you fast, and go completely without food for 24-48 hours, your body will work through that stored glucose even faster, since it won’t have other alternatives.
2. Intermittent Fasting
Once you are in ketosis and used to eating a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting (IF) is a powerful tool to amp up the benefits of ketosis.
IF simply means having an extended period of time between two meals.
This fasting period should be at least 12-14 hours in order to get into the real sweet spot that happens when your body can focus its energy and resources on repair and rejuvenation instead of breaking down and metabolizing food, which is a very time and energy intensive process.
Intermittent fasting practices are commonly somewhere between 16-24 hours. For example, you could eat your last meal of the day in the evening, and not eat anything after 8pm. You’ll then have a couple of hours of your fasting window before bed, 8 or so hours of fasting while you sleep, and then a few hours after you wake. Eat your first meal around noon, and you’ll have practiced IF for 16 hours. Wait for your first meal until evening and you’ll be closer to a 24 hour fasting window.
Longer fasts have benefits, as well, but they should be practiced carefully and less often.
IF can be practiced every day if it feels good to you. Make sure you listen to your body and don’t force yourself to not eat. IF should come easily when you’re in ketosis because you are fat adapted and have a steady supply of ketones, which reduces hunger.
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3. Drink or cook with bone broth and gelatin
Real bone broth has minerals that you need, particularly when ketogenic, and extremely healing for your digestive tract. Bone broth is just good food and missing from many modern diets.
Bone broth is incredibly healing for your intestinal tract, which will help improve the health of your gut. You’ll notice a pattern in this and the next few upgrades, and they all involve gut health. It’s that important!
With your bone broth, you can simmer vegetables in it, make soup with it, drink it with a little salt and herbs, or make sauces.
If you’re using powdered gelatin, it can be mixed into just about anything.
Try Kettle and Fire bone broths made with the bones from grass-fed animals, Great Lakes Unflavored Beef Gelatin for thickening and making jello, and Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate for mixing into any liquid. Better yet, make your own bone broth.
4. Eliminate all grains, sugar, and processed oil
A ketogenic diet with 25 grams of carbohydrate or less each day will necessarily be low in grains and sugars.
This is a very good thing, as these are highly inflammatory foods, and they can be the root cause of numerous health issues, stemming from the gut and radiating throughout the body.
Such chronic inflammation is connected to arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, poor sleep, insulin resistance, depression, and even cancer, just to name a few!
Completely eliminating all grains (wheat, rice, and corn are the most prevalent in the Standard American Diet) and all sugars (table sugar, honey, corn syrup and all the many other variants of sugar) takes some label reading, but it’s truly worth it. You don’t have to memorize them all, but take a look at that list and avoid as much as you can when you see it on an ingredient label. You’ll feel better, your body will be healthier, and a healthy body loses excess weight faster.
Another highly inflammatory food category is processed oils.
Often when people first start a keto way of eating, the high fat intake leads to an increase in consumption of these dangerous oils. Chronic inflammation is also caused by these damaged fats, and you’ll feel better and be more successful if you avoid them.
Look at labels and avoid highly processed oils including:
- canola oil
- soybean oil
- corn oil
- vegetable oil
- peanut oil
- cottonseed oil
- sunflower oil
- hydrogenated fats of any kind.
5. Eat higher quality meat and dairy products
The quality of the animal products you consume has a direct effect on your health. The healthier the animal is, the healthier you will be.
Conventional dairy and grain-fed animals are eating a diet that their systems are not designed to handle. That causes problems for their health, and often they are more inflammatory and are less nutrient dense than whole foods. And both of these are important to long-term health and success with Keto.
Grass-fed meats and organic dairy come from healthier animals, and this yields foods for us with higher nutrient levels. High nutrient density and low inflammation levels will increase your weight loss and health gains.
Nutrient dense foods also taste better. And all those nutrients make them more satiating. Which means you need to eat less to feel full and satisfied.
Start by switching your dairy products (butter, cream, and cheese) to organic and preferably from grass-fed cows.
To upgrade meats, start with buying fresh meat at the grocery store and cook your own in place of the frozen or canned meats. You don’t have to do it all at once. Pick one recipe and try it out!
If you’re ready for the next step, it’s time to up your game and purchase high quality meats. I live in the rural Midwest, and we are fortunate to have access to grass fed, pastured beef and pork. We know the farmers that raise these animals. We raise our own backyard chickens and give them the freedom to range.
More and more grocery stores are carry more natural meat products, but as a consumer you need to be very careful. There are no labeling guidelines for grass-fed or pasture-raised, and companies can claim this even if the animal has only spent a fraction of its life eating grass. There are good companies out there, and stores like Natural Grocers and Whole Foods are committed to sourcing products that meet higher standards.
Local farmer’s market are great. You can meet the people who raise the animals and you can ask how they are fed and cared for. Plus you support the local economy!
What if you don’t have that kind of option? Luckily, more and more people are realizing the importance of well raised animals, both to our health and the environment. And they are stepping up to create services that make it easy to have high quality food from healthy animals.
ButcherBox is one of these amazing services. Making the commitment to high quality meat is a serious commitment to yourself, and ButcherBox makes it easy by shipping a variety of great options, straight to your door!
6. Start regularly eating organ meats
Nutrient density matters, and organ meats are the most nutrient dense foods out there. We hear plant foods like kale and blueberries being touted as superfoods with great nutrient density, but gram for gram, they don’t hold a candle to organ meats.
Organ meats contain anywhere from 10 to 100 times more micronutrients than corresponding muscle meat, while having about the same amount of protein. Liver is the king of organ meats, with significant amounts of iron, copper, potassium, selenium, and vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid. If you’re only going to eat one organ, make it liver!
By incorporating organ meats, you’ll be increasing your micronutrient intake, which may help with carb cravings. Your body is very smart, and it remembers foods that are high in particular nutrients. When you are short on a particular vitamin or mineral, you’ll start to crave foods that are good sources of those nutrients. Eat organ meats on a regular basis, and you’ll cover your nutrient bases without adding to your carb count!
If you just can’t stomach organ meats, there is an alternative. Ancestral Supplements is a company that makes a very high quality line of organ supplements. They are made with freeze-dried organs, so you are getting the whole food. While not as ideal as eating the freshly cooked meat, it’s better than not consuming organs at all.
I keep the Grassfed Beef Organ supplement around for the times when I just haven’t had the time to cook fresh organ meats or haven’t had access to high quality liver. The Grassfed Beef Organ supplement contains a mix of liver, heart, kidney, pancreas and spleen, so I know I am getting a wide variety of nutrients that will support my health and well-being. I buy mine off Amazon, and I have had good contact and support from the company. I highly recommend them! You can buy the Grassfed Beef Organ supplement on Amazon here.
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7. Eat fermented foods
A healthy gut makes everything better, quite literally.
Simply put, research suggests that a healthier gut will lead to a healthier body; and a healthier body will reach a healthier weight easier and faster.
One of the easiest ways to improve your gut health is to consume naturally fermented foods.
As you’ve started your keto diet, if you’ve removed processed foods (particularly grains, sugars and industrial oils), your gut microbiome will already be improving. The balance of “good” to “bad” bacteria will already be moving in your favor.
Foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, naturally fermented pickles, and unsweetened kombucha are good keto-friendly options to add to your diet to continue to increase the health of your gut microbiome.
Fermented foods are easy to make at home, or there are more and more good options at the store.
Look in the refrigerated section at your health food store or health section. You need foods that have live bacteria, and canning or heat processing of any kind kills them.
Farmhouse Cultures is a good brand with several flavor options to provide taste and variety.
8. Prioritize sleep
When we don’t get enough sleep, our cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is the fight or flight hormone, and when it is high, it raises your blood sugar, too, in case your muscles need an immediate energy source to escape!
If your hormones are raising your blood sugar, you will not stay in ketosis, no matter how you eat.
Our hormones are incredibly powerful, and we can’t out maneuver them.
If you need sleep, you need sleep. Period. Make it a priority, just like eating well.
Weight loss is 80% food and 20% exercise.
“You can’t out exercise a poor diet.” – Ang
If you’re doing keto, you are on the path to the 80% of food associated weight loss.
There is no need to exercise on keto in order to lose weight. But if you want to take it to another level, exercise is one way to do that.
We do not advocate spending hours in the gym or slaving on the treadmill. And just like when you make a big change in your diet, you should always check with your medical professional before starting a new exercise regimen.
Your goal is to exercise hard enough that your body senses an emergency. It needs to realize that it needs to get stronger in case that emergency happens again. This is different for every person at every fitness level – as long as you work as hard as you can, it counts!
Then you need to give your body time to recover, build those muscle fibers, and gain that strength.
We suggest HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) 1 to 2 times a week, and definitely no more than 3 times a week. Anywhere from 7-15 minutes of hard work is all it takes. Do 20-30 seconds of work, then 10 seconds of rest.
Any bodyweight exercise will work – think pushups, squats, pullups and planks.
You can start there, and as you improve, try new things. There are lots of YouTubers with great HIIT videos. If that is above your ability, start with exercise variations that make sense for your fitness level.
Be active on the other days, but do things that are lower intensity and promote endurance and flexibility. Yoga, tai chi, foam rolling and pilates are all good examples, and you should incorporate these 2 to 3 times a week.
Make sure you get 10,000 steps every day. You can get these by taking long walks some days. Other days, get 5-10 minutes of walking several times throughout the day until you reach your goal.
Founder Advantage Meals
Angela earned her Master’s Degree in Holistic Nutrition 14 years ago and began her lifelong journey of nutrition and wellness learning. She began keto meal planning and cooking over a decade ago when she began working with local clients who were under the direct supervision of a medical doctor. Angela is the author of No Cook Keto, the easiest keto meal plan available.
Disclaimer: I am neither a licensed nutritionist nor a medical professional. I never prescribe diets. I only share my personal experiences and those of my clients for informational purposes only. Nutrition details are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical nutritional data. You should consult your medical professional before making any major changes in the way you eat.