The ketogenic diet (keto diet) is one in which your food consumption is comprised of 80% fats, 15% protein and 5% carbohydrates. Such a low carbohydrate intake allows your body to shift from using glucose to using fats and ketones as fuel.
Many people do this diet for weight loss. Others do it because of its health benefits. A “low carb” diet is healthy because many carbs, like refined sugar, are inflammatory. Ketones and healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids) are anti-inflammatory.
This diet is also popular for individuals with epilepsy, children with Autism and for cancer patients. I was first introduced to the ketogenic diet during my wife’s battle with breast cancer five years ago. At the time, there was very little available information about how to properly do the diet.
With an overwhelming amount of online information now available, here are some easy “hacks” for the ketogenic (or keto) diet that I’ve found helpful and about which you typically don’t read.
1 – Blood Glucose & Ketone Meter
The goal of the ketogenic diet is to get your body into what is known as ketosis – where you use ketones from fatty acids for fuel. To do this, you need a low blood glucose level and a high blood ketone level. The best and cheapest way to measure your blood glucose and ketone levels is with the Precision Xtra – a glucometer that can also measure ketones. Similarly, the Keto Mojo is good too.
To determine if you’re in ketosis and how “deep” you are in ketosis, you can measure your blood ratio of glucose to ketones. A good and sustainable goal is to have a 1:1 ratio of glucose to ketones in your blood. Blood ketones and blood glucose are reported in two different units of measurement. This being the case, you need to multiply your blood ketone number by 18 to before calculating your ratio. For example, if you have a blood glucose of 65 and blood ketones of 3.5, then 3.5 x 18 = 63, giving you a ratio of 65:63 or 1.03, which is “high ketosis.” A ratio under 5, you are in “moderate ketosis.” A ratio under 9 is “low ketosis.” All of these levels of ketosis have benefits. However, the lower the ratio, the more benefit you receive.
2 – Fasting
The quickest way to “jump start” your keto diet is to drink only water (no food) for a full 24 hours. When I do this, I eat dinner the evening before the fast and go to bed. The next day, I drink water throughout the day and then go to bed. I’ll awake the following morning and will break the fast with “bullet proof” coffee (which as unsalted grass-fed butter and MCT oil) or eggs scrambled cooked in lots of coconut oil. Alternatively, you could break the fast after 24 hours at dinner that night. Either way, the results this has given me is blood ketone levels around 1.5-2 and blood glucose levels in the mid 70’s to low 80s. This yields a ratio of 2-3 which is mid to high ketosis.
3 – Use Good Oils
Taking in 80% of your calories as fat is difficult. Oils are fats and because of this, oils are your very good friends when doing the Keto diet. Cook with organic, cold-pressed coconut oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids and therefore anti-inflammatory. I get two tubs of Nutiva brand coconut oil every month through “Subscribe and Save” from Amazon. MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil is similar to coconut oil in that it has high omega-3 fatty acids, but is easier for the body to process. Consequently, this lends to quicker energy conversion. Don’t cook with olive oil because it has a low smoke index, meaning that it is not stable at high heat and will oxidize more readily. However, organic olive oil used on your salads along with red wine vinegar serves as a wonderful low-carb dressing. Avoid all soybean oil and canola oils, as these are genetically modified and contain trace levels of glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp.
Avacado and macadamia nuts are common staples while on the ketogenic diet. A cup of avacado has 21 grams of fat and one gram of sugar, while a cup of macadamia nuts has 106 grams of fat and six grams of sugar.
4 – Sulforaphane for the “Keto Flu”
Sugar and carbohydrates can be addictive and so many people who implement the keto diet feel bad at first. This is in part due to the withdrawal effects from stopping your carbohydrate intake. This malaise is often called the “Keto Flu”. Besides withdrawal, if you are dropping weight, the fat that you are also burning as fuel is likely releasing toxins of which your body is desperately trying to rid itself. Sulforaphane is perhaps the best single chemical to aid your body with this detoxification; it is known to have 39 distinct pro-health benefits. The only supplement with actual sulforaphane in it is BrocElite.
5 – Lipoic Acid
Lipoic acid or alpha lipoic acid is a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound possessing 30 distinct pro-health benefits. It is sometimes called the “Master Antioxidant”. For the keto diet, lipoic acid can help drop your blood glucose number therefore moving you towards a better glucose-to-ketone ratio. If you’re doing the keto diet for weight loss, this clinical trial showed an increase in weight loss with lipoic acid supplementation. A good quality and inexpensive supplement can be found at VitaCost.
6 – Metformin
Similar to lipoic acid, Metformin helps drop your blood glucose levels but in a different way. Metformin is a pharmaceutical, so you need a prescription to get it. This is one of the few pharmaceuticals that you’ll hear us discuss positively. While it is a drug used to treat diabetes, it has 10 pro-health, off label uses.
7 – Electrolytes
About two weeks into a two-month ketogenic diet, my heart started to beat both quickly and irregularly. I honestly thought that I might be dying. I asked a research scientist if this could be contributed to electrolytes; he said that it “most likely” was. He advised me to make a solution consisting of one gallon hot water with 1 teaspoon of potassium citrate and 2 teaspoons of magnesium citrate dissolved into it. Within 30 minutes of drinking 16 ounces of this solution, my heart began beating normally.
When you are on the ketogenic diet, you lose a tremendous amount of electrolytes (salts) into your urine. Most people don’t get the heart issue I had and instead just feel “off”. By making your own salt water solution and drinking one gallon of it per day, you will feel better because you will have replenished the salts your body needs to properly and optimally function.