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12 Most Common Mistakes When Starting a Ketogenic Diet


minute read

April 15, 2018

Insider tips to help you avoid side effects, make healthy choices and know what to look out for when making a significant change in diet.

Keto mistakes

Congrats! You’ve chosen to start a keto diet, but what should we look out for when starting off on this new keto journey? Consult our list below to help minimize missteps, and common keto mistakes.

Most of these points are pretty simple, and therefore easily avoidable if you’re aware of them. If you’ve already started a keto diet, but are struggling to reach ketosis or see desired results – browse through this list and narrow down potential culprits so you can re-calibrate and get the most out of your keto experience.

1. Not Consuming Enough Calories and Fat

We were primed our whole lives to believe that fat is bad for us, therefore it’s very challenging to reverse this and to start to eat very large amounts of fat while on a ketogenic diet. This can lead to two different scenarios where we are not able to reach our ideal daily intake.  One such risk is a large caloric deficit - meaning that we eat far too few calories daily.   Alternatively, we can end up compensating calories with protein, which will kick you out of ketosis, if consumed too much. On a ketogenic diet it is crucial to eat 160-180g of fat from healthy fats on a standard 2,000 kcal diet.

2. Not Drinking Enough Water

The body stores carbs in the form of glycogen in the muscles or liver and for each gram of stored glycogen, it also stores 3g of water. When you are in ketosis, the glycogen stores will get depleted and the liver and muscles will excrete the stored water. It’s really important to stay hydrated on a ketogenic diet and drink a minimum of 100 ounces (or 3 liters) per day.

3. Not Getting Enough Electrolytes

When the glycogen stores get depleted and water is excreted, important electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium) will get “flushed” out of your body as well. This will lead to an imbalance and can cause side-effects, such as dizziness, headaches and muscle cramps. It is crucial to supplement with electrolytes (pink Himalayan or sea salt, potassium, magnesium, calcium) while on a ketogenic diet or make sure that you eat sufficient foods which are rich in electrolytes (sea vegetables, wild-caught fish, fermented vegetables, avocados, salts, bone or vegetable broths, olives).

4. Eating Too Many Carbs

When you are getting keto adapted for the first time, it will be crucial that you limit your net carb consumption to under 30g per day. Since it is challenging to tell how much sugar and carbs there are in processed foods, especially if they don’t have any macro nutrient information (salad dressings, sausages, sauces, etc.), you should avoid them completely during your adaption phase. Once you are keto adapted, you should be able to increase your carb levels slightly and even cycle in and out of ketosis faster and more easily.

5. Eating Too Much Protein

The keto diet is a moderate protein diet. When you are eating too much protein, your body will start a process called gluconeogenesis, where it metabolizes glucose from surplus protein. If you are not limiting your caloric intake to 20-30% of calories from protein per day, you can easily get kicked out of ketosis. A safe guideline is 0.7-1g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, depending how active you are. Make sure to count your calories and macros to avoid gluconeogenesis.

6. Eating Processed or Low-carb Foods

Most “low-carb” advertised foods still have too much carbs or artificial sweeteners in them to be considered safe for people looking to become keto-adapted. In fact, many of these foods can cause a blood sugar response and heighten cravings. It is no secret that low-carb foods can contain more carbs than regular foods, so check labels carefully! Best is to avoid processed or low-carb foods altogether and eat real and nutrient-rich foods.

7. Eating Too Much Dairy and/or Nuts

Since dairy and nuts are a great source of fats, you will generally increase your consumption of these foods. But it's important to control your intake of these, because nuts are very calorie-dense and easy to overeat. While too much dairy can result in digestive problems. Also keep in mind that non-grass-fed dairy contains a lot of unhealthy fats. 

8. Not Eating Your Vegetables

What would your mother think?! Vegetables are a great source of vitamins & minerals and help you maintain a healthy gut due to the large amounts of fiber. Be sure to eat 7-10 cups of leafy greens per day and add flavor with butter or extra virgin olive oil.

9. Too Much Stress

The keto adaption phase can initially put some stress on your body and you should avoid adding additional stress from work or your environment. To minimize additional stress, many people find it crucial to choose a time when they are not overly stressed and can focus on executing the ketogenic diet properly. Timing is key! 

10. Not Getting Quality Sleep

Besides diet and exercise, sleep is a crucial component in maximizing one’s health.  A good sleep regimen can get you far on a ketogenic diet and provides the necessary recovery time your body needs during this transition.  Going to bed early, avoiding blue light 1-2 hours before bedtime, sleeping in a cool, dark room and getting enough sleep are helpful ways to set yourself up for success while adapting to a keto diet. 

11. Too Little Exercise

A balanced exercise routine has many health benefits, supports the ketogenic lifestyle and increases ketone production. Long walks (low cardio) can help to get you into ketosis faster and HIIT (high intensity interval training) and weight exercises can stimulate the production of growth hormone. Try to exercise 3-5 time per week, and aim at making this a sustainable routine.

12. Drinking Alcohol

Most alcoholic drinks are high in sugar alcohols, carbs and can significantly add to your daily carb count. During the keto adaption phase, you should try to avoid alcohol completely. If you are keto adapted, you can try drinking a dry red wine, which is generally low in carbs, but make sure to check your ketone levels to make sure that you stay in ketosis.

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