Not everyone wants to read a 200 page thesis about the ketogenic diet.
Let’s cut to the chase. Below are the basic steps.
- Understand the Principle
- Determine Your Macros
- Choose a Meal Plan
- Clean Out Your Pantry
- Basic Tools
- Saying “No” (extremely important)
- Buy Your Own Groceries
- Do your Set-Up Sunday
Let’s break it down a little more.
1. Understanding the Basic Principles
What is keto?
- Keto is short for ketogenic diet. Often called keto, low-carb, or LCHF (low carb high fat), it’s a high fat, moderate protein, very low carb way of eating.
- When you stop eating carbohydrates, your body stops burning glucose (sugar) for energy and instead produces ketones from fat in the liver to be used as energy, hence the nickname, “keto”.
- To start burning body fat (also known as the state of ketosis), you have to burn through all of your stored carbohydrates (glucose).
- If you fast completely for 24-48 hours, you’ll probably get into fat-burning mode (ketosis, phase 1). Or you can reduce your carbs to less than 20-30 a day and get there more comfortably over the course of about a week or two.
What happens in ketosis (Phase 1)?
- Once you’re in ketosis (fat burning mode), at first you might experience some temporary issues with headaches, low energy levels, moodiness, etc. Some people call it the “carb flu”, but it’s more accurately a carb hangover due to natural water loss where you also lose electrolytes.
- If you’ve ever woken up after having one too many drinks the night before, then you know what a hangover feels like – you’re dehydrated.
- Think of carbs like containers for water in your body. Once you get rids of the stored glucose, you release the water previously needed to store it. And along with that water goes your electrolytes, which is what makes you feel like crap.
- To avoid a carb hangover, keep your electrolytes up with the right foods (or supplements) and drink enough water so that you’re not dehydrated. Supplements needed are: about 3-4 grams of sodium, around 600mg of magnesium, and 4-5 grams of potassium. This will be accounted for in your meal plan.
- If you’re an athlete or weightlifter, you may want to take it easy and reduce hard exercise while you’re transitioning. You can get back to your plan once you’re keto-adapted.
What is keto-adapted (Phase 2)?
- After about 4 -6 weeks in strict ketosis, you’ll be what’s called keto-adapted. At this point, every cell in your body has gotten the message and is now burning fat for fuel. There are lots of cells in your body and lots of complicated processes, which is why it takes over a month to completely adapt. At this point, you are a well-oiled (ha!) fat burning machine.
What will I be eating?
- Your food will be mostly fat (75-80%) for fuel.
- You will consume moderate protein (about 20-25% of your daily calories depending on your activity level).
- And you will have around 5% carbs (20 – 50 grams a day depending on your goals – weight loss/maintain/gain).
And that’s it. These are the big secrets that a lot of websites over-explain and want you to pay for.
Read on for a breakdown the remaining steps.
2. Determining Your Macros:
- Don’t be intimidated by this, it’s easy peasy with the calculator.
- The easiest thing to do is to use the calculator here to rescue you from the terrible world of math.
- If you are a math crusader and want to dig in, here’s a link to a detailed set of instructions. Knock yourself out!
3. Plan your month or Choose a Meal Plan
- Okay! You’ve got the basics down and now you know your macros. Well done, you’ve done most of the heavy lifting.
- Now it’s time to put your knowledge to good use. If you’ve got the time and the patience to set up your own meals and meal plan, then I encourage you to go for it.
- After all, you know what you like better than anyone else.
- Or if you’re a busy person or sometimes just lazy like me, choosing a turnkey meal plan can save you a lot of time and frustration. Setting up your own plan is a large undertaking, assembling recipes, making sure each one meets your personal macro requirements, making sure you get your whole day (and then your whole week) set up properly, working in your electrolytes and vitamins (again, depending on your custom needs)… and so on.
It can be a bit daunting.
It’s not impossible. But if you want to skip the setup, you can – I’ve already to put together a basic meal plan anyone can access for free. It’s not a custom plan, but it’s a good start if you don’t want to go the custom route. You can get it here.
All set? Onward!
4. Clean Out/Rearrange Your Pantry
This may not seem like an important step, but it is absolutely essential to your success.
- Successful habit change relies on good planning and set up of your environment. Your environment absolutely MUST be set up appropriately or this will be significantly more difficult.
- If you don’t get the carbs out of your pantry (or at least out of your site), I promise you: you will eat them.
- I’ll say it again, and it will be the only thing repeated in this post: if you don’t get the carbs out of your site, you will eat them.
- Not maybe, not possibly, not even probably. It is a sure thing, as sure as the sun comes up every morning, you will eat the carbs.
- If possible, get your whole family on a low carb menu. They don’t necessarily have to be at a keto level, but almost everyone can certainly benefit from less sugar and processed carbs in their lives. You can read more about keto families in an upcoming post. Email me directly with any questions you have.
Of course the perfect scenario is someone who lives alone or controls the his/her kitchen with an iron fist!
But that’s not always the case. So, realistically, we all have partners, spouses, and kids who will lose their minds if they don’t get their hits of bread and sugar.
- The solution is to compartmentalize.
- One way is to choose a cabinet which is entirely yours, completely separate in location from the carbs. Be sure it’s large enough and convenient for you, as this will be the only place you store your keto supplies.
- My partner eats bread with every meal and remains healthy, so I didn’t want to take that away. In our most recent house, we have a walk-in pantry that is built into a corner closet. So I decided I’d start by putting the carby food on the right side and my keto supplies on the left.
- Without realizing it, this helped me develop the self discipline to see the carbs and skip over them completely. It also helps that I have equally delicious alternatives at the ready, always.I have to resist fresh donuts and cupcakes and chocolates at my office EVERY DAY anyway, so compartmentalizing at home helps me practice avoiding the carbs.
- It also helped that I only purchase my family carby foods that I don’t like. For example, I don’t like pretzels or triscuits or lemon cookies, but my family does, and since I buy the groceries, that’s what goes in the cabinet!
- If you’re not the buyer of groceries, become the buyer of groceries.
5. Basic Tools
You will need a few key tools:
- lunchbox or meal prep containers (or both)
- food scale
- Cronometer phone App (free version is fine, this is what I personally use – and I do not get any money from them for the recommendation)
If you’re guessing, you’re wrong. Weigh and track everything. The key is knowing/planning your daily food intake and then not going outside of that.
- Lunchbox: I use the lunchbox method because, the way my brain works, I find it easier to know exactly what I’m eating on a particular day and put all of it in a medium size lunchbox.
- That way, if I eat outside of my lunchbox, I know I’m not in my plan anymore. It forces me to face what I’m doing and not make excuses by guessing/pretending I know how much I’m eating.
- Meal Prep Boxes: If the lunchbox method isn’t appealing, think about a set of meal prep boxes to keep in the fridge. You can get about a dozen of these on amazon for super cheap. They’re stackable and don’t take up much room in the fridge.
- They’re also easy to grab in the morning for lunch or breakfast. They’re especially convenient after work when you’re tired and don’t feel like taking the time to cook and measure a meal from scratch.
- Scale: absolute must have.
- You need a food scale that can measure pounds, ounces, and grams. For example when a bag of whole pecans says you can have ¼ cup serving for x amount of carbs, but it gives you 28 grams as an equivalent measurement, you’d be surprised at the difference between the weighed amount and then the actual ¼ cup amount. There’s a difference.
- The scale is the tool that keeps us honest, which is why it should stay in a super convenient place in your kitchen. My Scale of Honesty lives in a drawer next to the stove. I always know where it is and it’s really convenient to grab when I’m trying a new recipe. Your Scale of Honesty can live on the counter, if you like.
- Remember, if you’re guessing, you’re wrong.
- Calculator: another no-brainer, especially if you’re working out your own plan.
- Nutrition Tracking App: Alternatively you can use a nutrition app on your phone to enter, calculate, and track everything all at once. I use Cronometer because I went through a lot of anger and frustration (and money) trying many others. Cronometer gives me the biggest bang for my buck. There is a paid version, but if you can stand a small ad at the bottom of the screen, the free version is fine. Again, I receive nothing from Cronometer and am in no way affiliated with their company.
What tools do you find indispensable? Leave a comment and let us all know! We’re here to help each other!
6. Saying “No”: Have a Gameplan
- Another essential skill that is required for all keto ninjas is being prepared to say no to everyone around you at any moment.
- If you’re too nice to say no to food pushers… then lie to them. It sounds like a terrible thing to say out in the open, but I am one of these people. We’re too nice! We think it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings if we say no. To get around that awkwardness, tell a white lie. Tell them you have a stomach ache or you’re allergic, etc. It stops food pushers in their tracks. And that’s what we really want – for them to go away and stop trying to sabotage us.
- If you’re good at boundaries, aren’t a people pleaser, and thrive on getting your way all the time, then skip to the next section. But many people, including myself, are people-pleasers and have been saying yes to everyone all of our lives.
- If this sounds like you, come back and read this post, because mastery of this skill will absolutely change your life.
7. Buy Groceries for the Week
Okay, so now you’ve got a basic understanding of the principles, you’ve got your tools, you’ve set up your environment for success, and you have a strategy for saying no.
You’ve done all the hard stuff!
Now it’s time for the fun part: shopping and eating!
- If you’ve got a meal plan, you’ve got a grocery list – be sure to buy everything you need for at least one week on a Friday or Saturday. Get extra ingredients if you plan to double recipes for family dinners or for freezing for later meals.
- Side note: I have recently discovered that Amazon does their 2 hour prime member delivery in my area as long as I spend at least $35. Compare that with my local grocery store who will also deliver but only the following day and for a $15 fee.
- I can’t get everything I need from the Amazon delivery service at the moment, but I can see the availability of items growing every week. Also, most things are cheaper and I don’t mind switching brands if there’s no big difference in price or ingredients.
- Here at CustomKeto we are all about automation, and anything that makes your life easier and more efficient is approved. Let me know in the comments if you’ve got some tips about automation, I’d love to hear it!
- While I don’t really want to pay $15 for grocery delivery, I don’t mind paying $5 and picking them up.
- Lowes Grocery allows me to shop entirely online and allow the kids to bag it up for me, so when I pull up, they load it right in the car. Skip a couple of hours of grocery shopping after work? Don’t mind if I do! I think Walmart currently does this for free, check with your favorite grocer. It’s all about what works for you.
- With enough of these changes, you may even find yourself kicking back watching TV at night instead of cooking and cleaning!
Full confession: TV is my favorite thing.
- The point is, you never want to find yourself at home after work needing to run to the grocery store for anything. Because inevitably, it will happen and it can set you up for failure. No, go ahead and get everything for a solid week, whether you’re doing it yourself or having it delivered.
- And doing your shopping on a Friday or Saturday prepares you for Setup Sunday.
8. Setup Sundays*
- Setup Sundays are when you will make your bread, bites, bars, and bombs.
- The bits, bites, bars, and bombs can be interpreted any way you want (mostly I just like to alliterate).
- I usually make a loaf of my favorite keto bread, a pan of banana bread fat bars, and then possibly some fat bombs IF I approve of the recipe.
- Not all fat bombs are created equal. If meal planning yourself, put the custom recipe in your favorite keto app to be sure about the macros.
- Set aside a few hours on your planning day (Sunday for me) to cook the things that will support your keto plan and save you time during the workweek. Don’t forget the items you need to see on your side of the pantry to save you when you see your kid’s pop-tart and cereal boxes.
- While you’re at it, double or triple your recipes to freeze extra for nights and weekends when you don’t feel like cooking. Be sure to account for the extra groceries if you double or triple anything.
*Note: your set-up day can be any day of the week. Currently I work a very sad Monday – Friday, 9 – 5 job with weekends off. If you have a different schedule, do your set up on an off day the day before a long stint of work days.