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The ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat, and moderate protein-based nutrition plan. Adhering to a ketogenic diet plan allows the liver to produce ketones to be used to fuel metabolism. When the body has trained itself to produce energy from fatty acids or ketone bodies (versus glucose), this phase is called being “fat adapted.”
Following a ketogenic diet plan is useful for improving insulin tolerance and reducing inflammation. These factors consequently reduce the risk of chronic disease and stimulate muscle development and fat metabolism.
While a ketogenic diet is proving to have numerous health applications, many individuals are using ketosis to heal their bodies. The benefits of this can be attained through either a strict ketogenic approach or a cyclic ketogenic diet.
Following a cyclic ketogenic diet where the body goes in and out of a state of ketosis is useful to inhibit inflammation while also balancing hormones. A cyclic ketogenic diet means that you can go low-carb for three days proceeded with a day of a slightly higher carbohydrate intake, and then again followed by three days of low carbs.
There are several useful strategies to help you maintain a state of ketosis. These 10 steps will assist you in following this ketogenic nutrition plan to get into and maintain fat adaption.
Step #1: Exercise Regularly
Participating in high intensity exercise regularly helps to stimulate the glucose transport molecule found in the liver and muscle tissue known as the GLUT-4 receptor. This receptor is responsible for removing sugar from the blood stream and storing it in the liver and muscles as glycogen. Performing regular exercise doubles the concentration of this protein in the liver and muscles.
This metabolic adaptation is critical for maintaining ketosis as it supports the individual’s ability to tolerate slightly more carbohydrates. This is because the body will in turn store them in tissue. Speak with your doctor to see if your body is ready to participate in large compound exercises such as such as deadlifts, squats, push-ups, pull-ups, pull-downs, bent over rows, and standing overhead presses.
Incorporating low-intensity exercise such as walking or swimming will help you maintain ketosis by balancing blood sugar levels. Be cautious to avoid overworking your body beyond its limits which will increase your blood sugar levels and inhibit ketosis.
Depending on your state of treatment, participating in exercises including stretching, breathing, and even aerobic exercise can help you reduce fatigue and avoid muscle atrophy.
Sample Exercise Program: Exercise 150 minutes weekly, and also perform strength exercises at least 2 days each week.
Monday: 20 minutes light stretching
Tuesday: 30 minute walk
Wednesday: 20 minutes tai chi
Thursday: 30 minute light elliptical exercises
Friday: Resistance band strength training 20 minutes
Sat/Sun: 30 minute walk or low intensity exercise like dancing or gardening
Step #2: Improve Gut Motility
One of the main challenges for individuals on a ketogenic diet is constipation. Constipation contributes to increased stress hormones and blood sugar pulling your body out of ketosis. Constipation is often a result of:
- Inadequate electrolyte consumption such as potassium, calcium, sodium, and especially magnesium
- Chronic stress
- Limited consumption of fibrous vegetables and fermented foods and beverages
- Pre-existing problems with constipation related to Candida overgrowth or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
Improve your gut motility by consuming fermented foods such as kimchi, coconut water, kefir, and sauerkraut which are rich in probiotics. Juicing your own fresh green drink daily can help you improve any electrolyte imbalance you may be having. Taking a magnesium supplementation with plenty of purified water daily can also help.
Step #3: Consume Enough Good Salts
You’ve likely heard that it is crucial for your health to limit your sodium intake as many individuals struggle with a high sodium and low potassium ratio. This is a result of our society’s reliance on a high carbohydrate diet which elevates insulin levels. Insulin causes your kidneys to retain sodium leading to a higher sodium/potassium ratio.
The ketogenic diet plan supports the kidneys by adjusting to lower insulin levels and excreting more sodium. As a result, this can create a higher need for sodium in your diet by creating a situation of low sodium/potassium ratio.
While following the ketogenic diet, get an additional 3-5 grams of sodium from natural foods and quality salt such as pink Himalayan sea salt. Each teaspoon of pink salt is equivalent to 2 grams of sodium. Healthily add sodium to your diet in the following ways:
- Eat sprouted and salted pumpkin seeds for a snack or salted macadamia nuts
- Add sea vegetables to dishes like kelp, dulse, and nori
- Add ¼ tsp of pink salt to every 8-16 oz glass of water throughout the day
- Drink broth throughout the day
- Consume naturally low carb foods containing sodium such as celery and cucumbers
- Generously add pink salt to your meals
Step #4: Remain Hydrated
Our days get busy and we often forget to hydrate properly. The digestive system is most easily flushed out during the morning. Drinking purified water within the first hour of waking up followed by another 32 to 48 oz (approx 1-1.5 litres) of water before noon is an excellent regimen to practice good hydration. This is usually tolerated well in combination with smoothies, green or herbal teas, or a ketogenic-style coffee (see the bullet about coffee in step #5 below).
Step #5: Practice Intermittent Fasting
One of the most effective ways you can get into and maintain ketosis is to practice intermittent fasting. It is a good idea to go low-carb for at least a few days before starting this in order to avoid a hypoglycemic episode. Follow these recommended intermittent fasting tips:
- Consider a “building phase” which is the time between your first meal and your last meal to account for 8 to 12 hours.
- Begin with a 12 to 16 hour “cleansing phase” that is the time between your last meal and your first meal.
- Consume organic coffee (or green tea) prepared with MCT oil, coconut oil, and/or grass-fed butter to boost ketone production and stabilize blood sugar
- Hydrate with purified water and plenty of organic herbal teas
Throughout time the body will adapt and you may be able to narrow your building (eating) window to between 4 and 6 hours and have a cleansing (fasting) period of 18 to 20 hours for a better achieved state of ketosis.
Step #6: Don’t Over Consume Protein
Be cautious to avoid over consuming protein as excess protein will activate a process called gluconeogenesis. This biochemical process turns amino acids into glucose. Some individuals require lower protein levels while others have a higher protein need. Monitor how your body responds to the proteins in your meals if you notice you are coming out of ketosis.
Protein need is dependent on key factors. An individual who participates in intense resistance training to gain muscle will require more protein than the same sized individual who does aerobic or resistance training to lose weight. Similarly, an equal sized person who only walks for exercise will require less protein than the previous two.
Aim for one gram per kg of body weight for starters. Divide your body weight by 2.2 to determine the grams of protein per kg of body weight. Consume this amount of protein on your lighter workout days. Increase the protein to 1.5 grams per kg if you are strength training or attempting to gain muscle.
Ideally, aim for 20-35 grams of protein per meal. Consume protein in 2 to 3 different servings daily with a minimum of 15 grams and no more than 50 grams in a meal. The lower level is for a lightweight individual while the upper limit is for a very large, strength training male. Consider the following examples:
Sample Protein Estimate 1: Individual weighs 150 lbs and does not exercise other than walking. This person requires 68 grams of protein daily. He or she should consume either 2 meals containing 30-35 grams of protein or 3 meals containing 20-25 grams per meal.
Sample Protein Estimate 2: Individual weighs 150 lbs and participates in resistance and aerobic training 3 to 4 days each week and does not want to gain weight. This person requires 68 grams of protein on non-training days and 75-80 grams on training days. He or she should consume approximately 25-30 grams of protein at each meal.
Step #7: Choose Your Carbohydrates Wisely
Although this is a low-carb diet plan, choosing your carbohydrates wisely is beneficial when you cycle out of ketosis. Consume nutrient rich carbohydrate sources such as non-starchy veggies and small amounts of low-glycemic fruits like lemon, lime, half a granny smith apple in a green shake, and/or a small handful of berries in a protein shake.
On the one or two days of the week that you cycle out of ketosis, up your carbs by consuming these nutrient dense carbs and also sweet potato with a generous portion of grass-fed butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
On low carb days, avoid sweet potato and eat no more than a small handful of berries. Consume a maximum of 1 carrot, 1 beet, or ½ granny smith apple in your shakes on low carb days.
Limiting your low carb days to 1 serving or less of fruit aside from lemons and limes and no starchy vegetables will keep net carbs to about 40 grams (not counting fiber). Higher carb days you should aim for 2-3 servings of antioxidant rich low-glycemic fruit and no more than 2 servings of starchy veggies like pumpkin, carrot, beet, or sweet potato allowing up to 100 grams of net carbs.
Step #8: Limit Stress
Dealing with chronic stress removes your body from ketosis. Stress hormones elevate blood sugar keeping your body alert to defend itself against the chronic stressor. For short periods of time, this response is natural but when it is prolonged, blood sugar raises and ketones reduce.
Under stressful circumstances in life, you may decide that maintaining ketosis is not the best lifestyle choice at that time. Rather than focusing on following a strict ketogenic diet plan, simply change your goals to consider a low carb and anti-inflammatory diet overall. Develop natural stress-relaxation techniques to reduce your body’s stress response and create peace and relaxation in your life.
Step #9: Quality Sleep
Poor sleep habits will also elevate stress hormones and consequently increase blood sugar and cause physiological problems. Focus on getting to sleep before 11pm. and catching those zzz’s in a pitch dark room. Aim to sleep 7 to 9 hours each night depending on your stress levels and the optimal timeframe that enables you to feel most alert the next day. More stress means that your body will require more sleep.
Maintaining a cool room temperature between 60 and 65 degrees (approx 16-18 Celcius) is ideal, with a fan to circulate air. You may wish to wear a sleep mask to block out disrupting light that inhibits melatonin production. Ear plugs can also be helpful if you are sensitive to sound and plan to sleep in a louder area than usual.
Step #10: Consume Quality MCT Oil When Possible
Consuming a high quality MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil is one of the most important key habits you can develop to maintain ketosis. MCT oil allows one to consume more protein and carbs while maintaining a ketogenic state.
A diet primarily containing long chain fatty acids depends on 80 to 90% of calories from fat. MCT oil consumption reduces this calorie load to 60-70% fats. Unlike other fats, MCTs are quickly broken down into ketone bodies and utilized for quick energy in the body.
Contrary to popular belief, coconut oil is not the same thing as MCT oil. MCT oil is extracted from coconut oil but consists of 100% pure capric and caprylic acids (medium chain triglycerides). Coconut oil contains 35% long chain triglycerides (LCT), and 50% lauric acid which although categorized as a MCT acts like an LCT. The remaining 15% is MCT which makes up only 1/6th the ketogenic need of MCT compared to pure MCT oil.
Consider cooking with MCT oil, adding it to hot beverages like coffee or tea, stirring it into protein shakes, smoothies, and more to keep your ketones elevated.
Maintaining a Ketogenic Lifestyle
Maintaining a ketogenic lifestyle is based on many variables of living a healthy lifestyle. Creating lifestyle habits and activities beneficial to supporting a state of fat adaption will help you sustain energy and provide mental clarity. This is certainly better than living in a condition of burning sugars for fuel which usually leaves one feeling fatigued, craving carbohydrates, and experiencing brain fog.
By understanding how your body tolerates stress and following the strategies above you will give yourself a significant advantage to living a healthier life. Learning what factors help you maintain a state of ketosis and which factors take you out of ketosis will help you improve your quality of life.
The ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat, and moderate protein-based nutrition plan which allows the liver to produce “ketones” to be used to fuel metabolism.
When the body has trained itself to produce energy from fatty acids or ketone bodies (versus glucose), this is called being “fat adapted.”
A ketogenic diet is proving to have numerous health applications including healing inflammation and other diseases.
There are many useful strategies to help you maintain a state of ketosis. Here are 10:
- Exercise regularly
- Improve gut motility
- Consume enough good salts
- Remain hydrated
- Practice intermittent fasting
- Don’t over consume protein
- Choose your carbohydrates wisely
- Limit stress levels
- Get quality sleep
- Consume quality MCT oil when possible