Having a Hard Time Going Keto?
On our Facebook page we have recently received some questions regarding the details of the Ketogenic Diet. In this blog post we are hoping to clear up any confusions you have about the Ketogenic Diet and let you know about some great free resources that will help you along the way. This blog post will be a little dry and information heavy but bear with me. The knowledge and resources that you will gain from this post will definitely come in handy.
If you don’t already know, the Ketogenic Diet is a type of low carb, high fat (LCHF) diet. The premise of the diet is to restrict your intake of carbohydrates and increase your intake of fats so that your body utilizes fats as its primary source of energy. This is known as ketosis. While in ketosis your body will start to break down fat into what is known as ketone bodies. These ketone bodies circulate your blood stream similar to sugar and provide energy. There are many benefits of being in ketosis that do not come from utilizing carbs as your main source of energy. The main benefits for diabetics is that when your body is in ketosis you will be burning fat, and lowering blood glucose levels. This means that you will potentially be losing weight and reducing the need to take insulin and other diabetic medications.
This is all good in theory, however some things are easier said then done. This diet can be confusing and even frustrating for you if you are not sure where to start or how to tackle it. It will take some reading and practicing before you get the hang of living a Ketogenic Lifestyle but with all of the information and resources available to you, you will have the hang of it in no time! The first place that I recommend starting is getting a good estimate of what your macro-nutritional intake will look like while you are on the diet. So this is where we will start in on our journey of breaking down the diet.
Your Macro-Nutrient Intake
Maybe you are wondering what a macro-nutrient is? The simple answer is that there are three categories of macro-nutrients: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. They are the three main sources of calories and sources of energy for your body. I will give more detail on the individual macro-nutrients later on in this blog, but for now the most important thing to know is that the Ketogenic Diet advocates high intake of fats, moderate intake of protein, and low intake of carbohydrates. The very first step to starting the Ketogenic Diet is to figure out what these relative terms like high, moderate, and low mean for you specifically.
The best way to figure this out is to use a Keto macro-nutrient calculator. There are several free, online macro-nutrient calculators out there, however the best one that I have found is made by the website ruled.me. A link to the ruled.me keto calculator page is: https://www.ruled.me/keto-calculator/. Let’s take a look at what you will find on this page!
The first thing you will see when you get to this page will look just like this:
Here you will begin to enter all of your personal information. Select your gender, enter your height, weight, age, and body fat percentage. If you don’t know exactly what your body fat percentage is, you can either take a guess or look up what different body fat percentages look like to get a better idea. Keep in mind that this is just an estimate of what you macro intake should look like. Once you are done with that, keep scrolling down until you get here:
Here you will select the activity level that best describes your habits. It is beneficial to just be honest with yourself when filling this out. No body else ever has to see how you fill this out and the more accurately you fill this out the better you macro estimate will be! Once you have finished up with that, keep on scrolling down until you get here:
In this part, you get some freedom to customize what you would like to get out of the diet. This diet is good for everyone and everyone can benefit from it. Here you will choose if you want to lose weight, maintain weight, or gain weight. If you would like to lose or gain, you also get to choose how much you would like to lose or gain. Lastly, you get to choose how much carbs and proteins you would like to eat a day. If you are new to the diet, I recommend taking ruled.me’s suggestions. I advocate for absolutely no more than 30g of carbs a day and believe that is vital to your success with the diet.
Boom! You are done filling that out and your estimated macros should show up just like this:
These are the macro-nutrients specific to me after I went through and filled everything out. These will look different for you! Go through the above process to generate an estimate of your personal macros and you will be well on your way to tackling the Ketogenic Diet! Good work! So what’s next??? Well if you have your macros calculated but you have no idea what the different macros are or where they come from it does you no good! So, let’s explore the different macro nutrients!
What Are Macro-Nutrients And What Foods Are They In?
In general, carbohydrates are encompassing of all sugars, starches, and dietary fibers. This can become confusing because the only types of carbohydrates that are restricted while on the Ketogenic Diet are sugars and starches. Dietary fibers, even though they are a type of carbohydrate, are not restricted while on the Ketogenic Diet. Therefore, when Ketogenic resources are discussing “restricting carbs” they are talking specifically about starches and sugars, not dietary fibers. We will return to this confusing topic later in this post. For now, because understanding carbohydrates is so important to your success with this diet, let’s take a look at the different types of carbohydrates individually.
Sugar is the most simple form of carbohydrates. Most often when the word sugar is used, it is describing a “simple sugar”. The first thing that probably comes to mind when thinking about sugar is cane sugar. Although this is probably the most common form of “simple sugar” that you interact with, there are several forms that simple sugars can take. This includes but is not limited to: syrups, honeys, brown sugars, powdered sugars, and malt extracts. These are all examples of sugars and will show up as sugar on a nutrition facts label on a product if they are added to that product.
In addition to the raw forms of sugars discussed above, these raw forms are widely used in a variety of different products. Any products that are made using the raw forms of sugar will have that sugar content. Some examples of common “sugary” products are: cake, soda, cookies, candy, sports drinks, and many others. We will go into more detail later in the post on how to determine what kind of sugar content is in different products and foods. For now, just know that sugar is a type of carbohydrate and foods that have a high sugar content should be avoided while on the diet.
A starch is basically a molecule that has a large number of “simple sugar” molecules bound together. For this reason, starches are also referred to as complex sugars. However, even though starches are made up of simple sugars, they are not sweet like simple sugars. Don’t think that means that they aren’t just as important to avoid as sugars though! A large starch consumption is equally as bad as a large sugar consumption while on the Ketogenic Diet. With that said, you might be wondering what foods contain starches.
The types of foods that I would like to stress as the most important starchy foods to avoid while on the diet are grain based foods. This includes: bread, pasta, rice, wheat flour, oatmeal, and anything else made from grains. In addition to grains and grain based food, certain vegetables like potatoes are equally as important to avoid. The fact is that starches break down into simple sugars when digested and function in the exact same way once broken down. The point of the diet is to get away from using sugars and starches as your main source of energy and switch to burning fats.
As previously mentioned, even though dietary fibers are a type of carbohydrate, they are not bad for the Ketogenic Diet. Dietary fibers, also known as roughage or bulk, are a type of carbohydrate that your body does not digest. Even though dietary fibers are not digested by your body, they are good for maintaining healthy bowels, lowering cholesterol levels, and maintaining healthy blood glucose levels. Therefore, dietary fibers are not restricted while on the Ketogenic Diet. This can be confusing since dietary fibers are a type of carbohydrate, and the Ketogenic Diet is about restricting carbohydrates. Just remember that when the word carbohydrate is being used in a Ketogenic context, it is referring to only sugars and starches. Discussion of how to work around this confusion are in the following sections of this blog.
The word fat has a negative connotation in today’s society. Unfortunately, it is common that the word “fat” is used as a derogatory term to label someone who is overweight. It is for this reason that a misconception about fat exists. It is commonplace for people to believe that the consumption of fats will in turn contribute to making them overweight. It is unfortunate because this correlation of fats causing weight gain is not true according to real scientific research. It is quite the opposite, actually. There is a great amount of evidence supporting the fact that the increased consumption of carbohydrates in recent history is in line with an increased trend of obesity and diabetes. For more detail on this subject and how consumption of fats can help cause weight loss and help manage diabetes please refer to the What is Ketosis and Why Start Ketosis pages of the Beta BIOS website.
So what is a fat??? In technical terms it is a chain of fatty acids that are attached to a glycerol base. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t worry, it doesn’t mean a lot to me either. I think the most important thing to know about fats is that there are two different types: white and brown. White fats are the type that you are probably the most familiar with. They are the fats that your body puts away for long term energy storage. The more interesting fats are the brown fats! These types of fats are the fats that your body will create from white fats while on the diet to burn as a source of energy. To learn more about the different types of fats in a Ketogenic context, I highly recommend watching this 35 minute long video of a speech given by Dr. Benjamin Bickman and his research on the matter:
Although all of this information is really interesting (at least to me), the more important thing to consider about fats is where they come from. There are three different types of fats: unsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans fats. Without getting too technical, unsaturated fats and saturated fats are the healthy types of fats to consume. These are good to eat if coming from whole and natural foods. You have probably heard your whole life that saturated fats are bad. We encourage you to challenge this status quo put out by traditional medicine. Lastly are trans fats, which are completely a product of human manipulation and should be avoided. More detail on where these different fats come from is discussed below.
The first thing that probably comes to mind when you think about where fats come from is meat. Meats are a great source of fat, specifically unsaturated fats (both poly and monounsaturated fats). In fact, one of the healthiest fats, omega-3, comes from seafood. Other unsaturated fats are contained in other types of meats including beef, poultry, and pork. In addition to meats, avocados are actually loaded with unsaturated fats, specifically a fat called oleic acid. Other sources of unsaturated fats include: nuts, seeds, and some oils such as olive, peanut, and canola.
Saturated fats can also come from meats. Bacon, hamburger, and sausage are examples of meats that are high in saturated fats. Also, many dairy products contain saturated fats, such as cream, cheese, and butter. Lastly, certain oils contain saturated fats: coconut oil, palm kernel oil, etc. Saturated fats and unsaturated fats are the only two fats that you should consume while on the ketogenic diet. Trans fats, discussed below, are unhealthy and should be avoided.
Trans fats are fats produced by a chemical reaction with naturally occurring fats and hydrogen gas. These fats were created for processed foods that need to have a long shelf life. Even though these fats preserve for a longer time, they are unhealthy for consumption. Without going too far into the details, trans fats are not found in nature and are not healthy for consumption. To determine whether or not a product contains trans fats, you should first look on the nutritional facts label. With the large controversy over trans fats, many companies will advertise their products as 0g trans-fat.
Proteins are the third and final macronutrient. An analogy for helping you understand how proteins fit into the mix is given. They are similar to medium sized logs on a campfire. Carbs are the kindling and provide immediate energy, while fats are the hot coals that give sustainable heat. Proteins are helpful in maintaining a healthy diet, but do not rely too much on them. They, too, metabolize into sugar like carbohydrates, but they have added benefits as well.
Proteins are the macronutrient made up of essential amino acids. They provide your body with energy and building materials for tissue and muscle. They can even help suppress your hunger, so you do not end up eating so much.
This being said, eating too many proteins can kick your body out of ketosis because the molecule will break down into sugar. This means your body will be utilizing that rather than burning fats. Proteins are essential for all-around health, so this is why the diet is “moderate” in protein. About 20-25% of your caloric intake should be proteins. Of course, this amount will differ from person to person, so be sure that you judge how you feel on a regular basis as well as testing your own blood glucose levels.
Types of foods that contain protein are meats, dairy products, eggs, and nuts. Again, it is important to know how your body feels and functions to determine the “correct” amount of protein you should intake. Again, we recommend about 25% of your calories come from protein.
Whew! That was a lot of information. Don’t worry if you didn’t follow everything. The important thing is that at this point you know what your macro-nutrient intake should look like on the Ketogenic Diet and you have a general idea of what the macro nutrients are. Furthermore, you can always come back to this blog post in the future for the information. Let’s stray away from all the technical heavy explanations and turn to learning how exactly you will know what to eat while on the Ketogenic Diet. If you are anything like me the best way to get good at something is through examples and practice!
Determining Keto Friendly Foods
So now that we have some background on the Ketogenic Diet, let’s learn how to determine what foods are okay to eat while on the diet! We will start by considering food products that have a nutrition facts label directly on them. We will then move to foods that do not come with a nutrition facts label and we will finish out with the easiest way to estimate the nutrition facts in a homemade recipe! By the end of this you will be well on your way of succeeded at living a Ketogenic Lifestyle!
Reading Nutrient Facts Labels
Below is an example of a nutritional facts label from a product called a “Beyond Cereal Protein Bar” made by a company called Quest. A link to the page I found this product and nutritional facts label can be found here: http://www.savagefuel.com/blog/quest-beyond-cereal-protein-bars-ketogenic-friendly/. As an exercise in reading nutritional facts labels with a Ketogenic mindset, I want to take you through the thought process that I would go through when deciding whether or not this product is good for the diet. The website I found this label on, Savage Fuel, also does a review of the Keto quality of this product for even more practice analyzing products for the Ketogenic Diet.
The first place that I look when evaluating a nutrients facts label like this one is the serving information. For this product, the amount of calories per serving is 110 and one of these cereal bars is a serving. This is pretty typical for a snack of this nature so everything checks out there. However, if you notice the amount of calories that come from fat is only 40. This should be your first red flag because that indicates that less than half of the calories in a serving of this product come from fats. When on the Ketogenic Diet, the majority of your calories should come from fats, but let’s keep checking out this label for the practice.
The second place that I look at is the carbohydrates. Remember to ignore any percent daily values information as that will all be based on a 2000 calorie diet approved by the FDA, not the Ketogenic Diet. Instead, look at the total amount of carbohydrates in grams. On this label that is 17 grams. This 17 grams includes the amount of dietary fiber in it and remember that dietary fiber is not a restricted carbohydrate while on the diet. Therefore to get the amount of restricted carbohydrates in the product you have to subtract the amount of dietary fiber from the amount of total carbs. For this example, that is 17 grams minus 7 grams for a total of 10 grams of restricted carbohydrates. This should be your second red flag. Depending on what you are restricting your carb intake to, this is anywhere from about 30 – 50% of your daily intake of carbs. That is a very large percentage of your daily carbs to get from a 110 calorie snack bar.
The next place to look is at the other two macro-nutrients, protein and fat. For this product there are 12 grams of protein and 4.5 grams of fat. This again, is a red flag. Of all the macro nutrients this product has the least amount of fat and is made mostly of protein and carbs. From this analysis I conclude that this product is not very Keto friendly.
This analysis is not to say that you could not eat this cereal bar while on the diet. It would not put you over your daily limit of carbohydrates and it does have some fat in it. However, if you were to eat this product you would have to have meals that day that were much more high in fats and low in carbohydrates. In general, I would recommend against eating this snack while on the diet because for the amount of calories you would get from it you would be getting a large portion of your daily carbohydrates and not a lot of fat.
Foods Without Nutritional Facts Label
So what if a product does not come with a nutrients facts label? There are some foods that don’t come in neat packaging with nutrient facts printed directly onto the packaging. For instance a lot fruits and vegetables that you get at the grocery store do not come with nutrient facts. A lot of cuts of meat also do not come with nutrient facts. It is still a good idea to keep track of what kind of macros you will be getting from this types of foods.
The best way to get an estimate of how much fat, protein and carbs you would get from eating these types of foods is to do a quick google search. If I am trying to figure out what kind of nutrients I would get from eating something like a banana I just type into google “nutrient facts banana”. For instance:
Just from googling the nutrient facts in a banana I can easily find out that there are 30 grams of carbs, 1 gram of protein, and have no fat. However, I do not know how many of those 30 grams of carbs come from dietary fibers. Let’s see what happens when I ask google “how much fiber is in a banana”.
Boom! Just like that I found out that there are 3.1 grams of fiber in a banana! So putting everything together, subtracting the amount of dietary fiber from the amount of total carbs, we find out that there are about 26.9 grams of restricted carbs in a banana. Therefore, bananas are not the most Keto friendly fruit. Adding a small portion of banana to a meal won’t kill you, however you have to be careful not to have too much.
So what if you have a recipe that you you want to estimate the nutrient facts from? You probably don’t want to look up the nutrient facts of every individual ingredient on Google and compile all of the information together. That would be a long tedious process. Instead I am going to show you a great resource that will do exactly that for you and will take you less than half of the time. Let’s check it out.
Estimating the Nutritional Facts of Homemade Recipes
By far the best way to estimate the nutrient facts of a recipe is to use a resource called myfitnesspal. This website is made by Under Armor and is completely free to sign up for. Let’s dive in and see how exactly to generate nutrient facts labels for different recipes! The first thing that you will see when you go to this link, https://www.myfitnesspal.com/, will look like this:
If you already have an account, go ahead and log in. If not, then you have two options to sign up for free. You can either sign up with Facebook or sign up with an email. Just pick whichever way you want to get access to the resources that this website has and sign up. You will be taken through the sign up process and once you are done signing up you will be directed to your home page for your new account which looks like this:
There are a TON of different functions on this site that I will not be going into on this blog that I suggest you explore. However, the function that I do want to show you is the ability to generate nutrient facts for different recipes. To do this, go to the food tab in the top bar and then once in the food tab go to the recipes tab in the secondary bar below the top bar. Once you are there it will look like this:
As you can see I already have some recipes in my recipe box. Unless you have used this website in the past that will be empty for you. In order to start your first recipe, click on the “Enter New Recipe” button in the “Old Recipe Calculator” box in the bottom right of the screenshot. This will navigate you to a page that looks like this:
Here, you can start to build your recipe. At the top you can name your recipe and input the number of servings that recipe produces. Then, you want to start adding all of the ingredients. To do this, click on the “Add Ingredient” button. This will direct you to a page that looks like this:
On this page you will find that you can search the myfitnesspal database for any kind of food that is an ingredient in your recipe. For this example I chose to look up avocado and I chose the top option under the “Matching Foods”. The next step is to tell myfitnesspal “How much?”. It has a variety of different metrics to choose from if you click the drop down arrow where is has the option set as “1 medium”. Choose how you would like to measure the amount (1 medium, lbs, oz, grams) and then choose how many servings of that metric go into the recipe. For instance, if the recipe calls for two avocados then change the “1.0 servings” to “2.0 servings”. Once you are done with that, click the “Add” button and it will take you back to this page:
Just like that you have added your first ingredient to the recipe. You will then repeat that process, clicking “Add Ingredient” and choosing all of the ingredients that go into the recipe. At the bottom, it automatically sums up all of the nutrient facts information for you. You can also adjust the number of servings to see what the nutrient facts will be per serving. From that you can get a good estimate of what the nutrient facts of your recipe are. For another cool feature, click on the “Save Recipe” button when you are done adding all of the ingredients and it will take you back to this page:
Now, you will be back to this page except you should have a recipe in “Your Recipe Box”. Click on that recipe to take you to this page:
Bam! You have your own nutrient facts label associated with your recipe. You also have the option to “Edit Recipe” on this page where you can go back and change the ingredients that you have added to the recipe. In addition to getting all of the macro information you also get information on vitamins, minerals, etc. Just remember to ignore the daily value percentages because those are based on a 2,000 calorie diet that the FDA recommends not the Ketogenic Diet!
I hope this blog post helps you start your journey toward a Ketogenic Lifestyle. I hope you are not overwhelmed or discouraged to start the Ketogenic Diet. If you are feeling that way, please contact me at email@example.com or post on either our Facebook page or group. The point of this post was not to give you a sense of how hard this diet can be or scare you by showing you that you will have to cut a lot of foods out of your diet. I just wanted to give you information and resources that will help you be successful on the diet.
Trust me, I know that it can be hard to go on this diet. I am not telling you that if you go over 30 grams of carbs one day that you are going to die. I just truly believe that this diet can work wonders and miracles for you if you commit to it.
Lastly, please give me your feed back on the content I have put into this blog. At Beta BIOS we are currently developing a recipe book that compiles this information and more with over 50 recipes that are Keto friendly. Let us know if that is something that you would be interested in and also let us know if there is information we left out or that you would like us to focus on more! We appreciate your support and advice! We are here to help you so please tell us what you would like from us!!!