Are you thinking about starting a ketogenic diet? This high-fat, low-carb diet is all the heat, and Instagram is flowing with success stories about going keto.
So, what is keto precisely?
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that seems to become more popular by the day. And according to some studies. It helps in weight loss while suppressing your appetite and lowering your cholesterol.
Even celebrities have mounted on the keto bandwagon. From Kelly Ripa to Kourtney Kardashian, Hollywood stars flow about its body-transforming results. Halle Berry is also a keto follower, and she says the secret is to train your body to burn fat by not feeding it any sugar.
Many people do see progress in just a short period. But without a road map, it can be hard navigating the difficulties that the keto diet presents.
Though this diet plan seems new, it’s been around for almost 100 years. It began as a natural approach to treat epilepsy but fell out of favor soon after its discovery. According to Alix Turoff, R.D., new anti-seizure drugs were an easier and more efficient way to handle the condition.
This diet also has similarities to the Atkins craze that topped in fame in the early 2000s. To follow the Atkins Diet, you could eat all the fat and protein you wanted as long as you rigorously restricted your carb intake. There was no calorie limitation, and the diet became a mockery of health, with people eating whole sticks of butter and pounds of bacon.
What makes the ketogenic diet different from the Atkins Diet is calorie counting. In addition, going keto promotes eating real food, not processed food.
Low-carb diets are known for aiding with weight loss, better body composition and may allow a host of other health advantages. But you may have noticed that you’re not getting the outcomes you expected on the ketogenic diet.
Maybe, after some initial progress, you’ve hit a weight loss plateau. Or perhaps you don’t have the unlimited energy you were expecting.
If you’ve been looking for an approach to burn fat, get ripped, or manage your hormones, the keto diet can surely help. Still, this practice is strict, and it’s easy to “fall out of ketosis” if you’re not following its principles carefully.
Many people run into the same common keto errors, but that doesn’t mean that keto isn’t for you! Read on to learn how you can correct the common keto mistakes, so you can reap its benefits.
16 Common Keto Diet Mistakes
Getting and staying into ketosis can take time and dedication. You may need to tweak your macros, adjust your workout routine, or focus on getting more micronutrients.
Regardless of your objectives, you might benefit from making some small changes to see some pretty significant effects.
Not Eating Enough Protein
There’s a common misunderstanding that consuming too much protein will spike your blood sugar and take you out of ketosis. It’s called gluconeogenesis.
As opposed to some opinions, though, you don’t need to worry about the excess protein on a ketogenic diet. Here’s why:
- Gluconeogenesis always occurs during ketosis. Regardless of the amount of protein you absorb on a keto diet, gluconeogenesis is already happening. That’s because your body requires small traces of glucose to function.
- Gluconeogenesis only happens in small quantities. Even with a high-protein diet, it’s likely you’re still burning fats as an energy source.
- Gluconeogenesis is good for you. Just as too much glucose is toxic, too little can kill you at the same time. Gluconeogenesis stops hypoglycemia and fuels the tissues that can’t metabolize ketones.
Instead, it’s much more likely that you’re not receiving sufficient protein. Amino acids from protein help increase and fix muscles and other tissues. Protein also helps keep you feeling satiated and can support weight loss.
If your appetite has gone way down since you began keto, it can be because you’re not getting sufficient protein or enough calories in general.
Calculate your unique protein and carb demands with this simple macro calculator.
Make sure you’re gaining about .8-1 gram of protein per kilogram of your body weight — and up to 1.6 grams per kilogram of bodyweight if you’re an athlete.
And try not to avoid protein just because you’re afraid it will kick you out of ketosis. In fact, it’s better to get higher protein than too little — especially if you work out daily.
You’re overeating saturated fat
One of the typical keto diet mistakes that people make is overeating saturated and trans fats. Yes, the keto diet is a high-fat diet, but there is still a distinction between the types of fats you should eat.
Healthy fats are the ones that should make up most of your fat consumption.
The American Heart Association suggests that you limit your saturated fat consumption. Too much saturated fat can raise your “bad” cholesterol and, therefore, your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
While it is impossible to exclude saturated fat from your diet completely, don’t let it make up most of your diet.
On the other hand, healthy fats can increase your “good” cholesterol. So, stock up on your nuts, avocado, and fatty fish consumption. Your body will thank you for it.
We’ve been trained to be afraid of fat, but that doesn’t need to be the problem, especially on the keto diet. Again, the key is absorbing the right types of fats.
According to doctors and nutritionists, some of the best fat sources incorporate the following:
- Wild-caught salmon
- Olive oil
- MCT oil
- Coconut butter
- Grass-fed beef tallow oil
These are fats that you should avoid:
- Vegetable and Canola Oils. They are high in omega-6 fats, and they oxidize and become unhealthy. These oils also hold trans fats, which raise your “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase your coronary artery disease risk. Foods carrying trans fats include many processed foods.
- Dairy. This food group is thought to create inflammation, acne, allergies, and other skin conditions.
Not surprisingly, there’s a conflict in the medical and nutritional community about the ratio of fat to protein you should be consuming. Most of what you’ll read online advocates for more fat than protein, but some of the more reliable sources state that the opposite is true.
Some sources suggest that 60% to 80% of your calories come from fat. Meanwhile, some suggest that you should allocate it to your protein intake. We turned to Harvard Health for a conclusive answer, and what we gathered is that absorbing healthy, whole foods is the way to go.
If you will consume the bulk of your calories from fats and proteins, make sure they are unprocessed and “clean.” By clean, we mean eating meats that are grass-fed and pasture-raised, dodging dairy, and staying away from processed junk foods.
It’s also probable that individuals react differently to these ratios, and you might need to experiment to see what works for you. How do you determine this? By testing your ketones.
Lack of Vitamins and Minerals
Micronutrient deficiency can cause a laundry list of health problems. Hence, a robust ketogenic diet plan should include a wide range of nutrient-dense, low-carbohydrate foods. And that involves more vegetables.
Keep in mind that not all foods have the same nutrient value. Limiting carbohydrates and adding coconut oil in your coffee may get you into ketosis. But it doesn’t mean that your body is getting all the micronutrients it requires to thrive.
Prioritize foods with a host of micronutrients and try to modify your diet from one day to the next. Eating according to the season can help.
Here’s a list of ketogenic-friendly, nutrient-dense foods:
- Fatty steak cuts (e.g., grass-fed beef or NY strip)
- Organ meats
- Bone broth
- Leafy greens
- Broccoli sprouts
- More low-carb, nutrient-dense veggie options
Are you finding it challenging to fit those low-carb veggies every day? Check for wide variations of plant-based nutrients to help when you don’t get adequate phytonutrients.
You’re not drinking enough water
Due to the limitation of carbs, you lose a lot of water in the body. So, make sure that you stay hydrated.
A common side effect of the ketogenic diet is constipation, but it can be stopped. For every gram of carbohydrates you consume, your body holds four grams of water.
Overall, this result can be a good thing because your body will shed excess water weight. The problem happens when you lose water that your body needs for vital functions like digestion.
Make sure to up your water consumption if you’re feeling stopped up. Start by drinking 64 ounces of water a day, and then double it if you’re still not regular after a few days.
Keep your water bottle with you at all times, as it’s easy to get sidetracked and forget to drink. Don’t let your thirst be the only sign to have some water. If you’re thirsty, it indicates that you’re already getting dehydrated, and we want to avoid going down this path.
If your urine is on the yellow side, then drink up! It indicates that you are not drinking enough water. You want it to be light or pale yellow.
Not Getting Enough Electrolytes
This also falls in the micronutrient range, but it gets its section because it’s so essential.
If you’re encountering keto flu symptoms, you might want to try to consider an electrolyte supplement.
Here’s why: When you begin your keto diet, and your body is burning through stored glucose (aka, glycogen), you might find yourself urinating more. That’s because as you burn glycogen, you’re also releasing stored water.
An increase in urination is temporary, but it’s always a good idea to support your electrolyte levels, mainly if you work out regularly.
Electrolytes carry the minerals:
Ensure you’re getting adequate of these by:
- Attaching a high-quality electrolyte supplement
- Adding nutrient-dense, low-carb foods to your meal
- Add some high-quality sea salt to your morning water or drink lightly salted water before your workout
Forgetting to Plan your Meal
Keeping a ketogenic diet is a lot easier with a little planning in place. Even having keto-friendly foods on hand is more efficient than starting your week with an empty fridge.
This is especially necessary during the beginning of your keto journey when cravings are at their worst.
Choose one or two days per week to go to the grocery store, prep your meals for the week, and store them later.
Having healthy food at the ready will prevent you from ordering that pizza or running to the closest taqueria.
Not Calculating Your Macronutrients Correctly
Tracking your macronutrient consumption is your number one answer to success on a keto diet.
Your macronutrient requirements won’t be the same as your partner’s or your brother’s. So it’s essential to understand how much protein, fat, and carbs your lifestyle demands.
If you’re hitting a weight loss plateau or you’re not receiving the full benefits of ketosis, it can be any of the following:
- You’re not getting enough protein or fat
- Your eating too many carbs
- Your calorie count is way off.
First, calculate your unique macronutrient requirements. Then, check-in with the guidelines below to see if you’re on the right course.
#1: Make Protein a Priority
Protein can help you drop weight, keep you feeling satisfied for longer, and helps build and repair muscle. Make sure you’re getting full of it!
- Intense exercise. About 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram body weight (around 150 grams of protein for a 200 lb person and 100 grams of protein for a 140-pound person)
- Moderate exercise. About 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram body weight (around 120 grams of protein for a 200 lb person and 80 grams of protein for a 140-pound person)
- Minimal exercise. About 1 gram of protein per kilogram body weight (around 90 grams of protein for a 200 lb person and 60 grams of protein for a 140-pound person.
#2: Check Your Carb Intake
Decrease your carbohydrates to 20-50 grams of total carbohydrates, not net carbs.
Stay on the lower end if you don’t exercise regularly. If you’re an athlete, you can get away with a higher threshold of 50 grams per day.
#3: Fats Should Take Up The Rest of Your Calories
The final step in determining your macronutrients is to fill the rest of your calories from healthy fats.
All you need is subtract your daily protein and carbohydrate consumption from your total calorie allowance. The remainder of your daily macros should be from fats.
You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Not sleeping adequately or getting poor quality sleep can drive your stress hormones through the roof.
And high cortisol can result in undesired fat gain, cravings, and a total disruption of sex hormone production.
Getting sufficient sleep is a must for anyone looking for more energy or to lose weight and recover from workouts.
Yes, the number of hours you sleep does matter, but your sleep quality matters more.
Here are just a few ways to get deeper, more healthful sleep every night:
- Sleep in a chilly room at around 65-70 degrees
- Sleep in a completely dark room
- Supplement with sleep aids like melatonin and magnesium
- Use earplugs if you’re encountering sound distractions
- Don’t use your devices at least an hour before bedtime
You’re having too many “cheat meals”
Unfortunately, on a keto diet, you can’t have a cheat meal similar to other diets.
This is because a cheat meal will commonly high-carb. This will surely kick you out of ketosis, and then you will have to start all over again to get your body back into it.
However, it is impossible to disregard your cravings completely. This will make you prone to binge. So if you ought to have a cheat meal, be smart about it.
You can try having low-carb options for your favorite meal, such as cauliflower crust pizza. Or, if you want to order it from your local pizza store, choose thin crust over a thick or deep pan. This way, you can still indulge while still staying as low-carb as possible.
Keep in mind that a single cheap meal can kick you out of ketosis, and you’ll have to start the process again. It can take a minimum of two to four days to get back on track (make sure you test your ketones), so better ask yourself if the pizza is worth it before you indulge.
For different cooking ideas, try looking online for some keto recipes. You’d be astonished which foods have keto-friendly recipe adaptations. There’s even a way to make Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups submissive with keto!
Another method to have a cheat meal on the ketogenic diet is to make the meal worthwhile. Don’t just mindlessly snack, but only consume something that you’re craving and enjoy every bite of it.
Then, you can get back to your keto diet stronger than ever.
While it’s true that the keto diet requires limited carb intake and more fat and protein, it doesn’t suggest that you can eat in infinite quantities. Like any diet, its success depends on achieving your calorie deficit. You must burn calories more than you consume if you want to lose weight.
According to research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, reaching a daily calorie deficit between 500 and 1,000 calories is ideal for safe and healthy weight loss.
Overeating High Inflammatory Foods
While the ketogenic diet is recognized for its anti-inflammatory advantages, some low carb, high-fat foods can exacerbate it.
For instance, it’s prevalent for keto newcomers to consume processed meats and vegetable oils. That’s because the macronutrient ratio fits within the keto diet.
But you should withdraw processed, poor-quality food as much as possible. Inflammatory foods like highly-processed vegetable oils and low-carb packaged foods will create systemic inflammation and zap your energy.
Replace any processed foods with fresh, pastured meat and organic low-carb vegetables. And replace low-quality oils like canola oil, soybean oil, and peanut oil with high-quality fats like:
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil
- Olive oil
- Unrefined palm oil
- Fatty meats and fish
And for cravings that you just can’t kick, find a healthy ketogenic option to fill your craving.
For example, instead of opting for a Hershey bar, replace it with a keto fat bomb. If you are in the mood for a salami, consider eating grass-fed beef instead.
Using Chemical Artificial Sweeteners
Sticking to your macros is crucial, but that doesn’t suggest that you should eat (or drink) whatever you want.
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose may create gut irritations, inflammation, and even affect good gut bacteria.
To make matters worse, sugar replacements seem to trigger the same reward pathways in the brain as sugar and even cocaine. This indicates that you’re firing the same responses in your brain when you eat non-caloric sweeteners when you consume sugar.
This may develop cravings and make it harder to stay in ketosis.
Instead of replacing sugary sodas with diet sodas, it’s best to start to train your brain and body to stop yearning for sweets altogether. Replace diet sodas with sparkling water or some exogenous ketones.
Not Paying Attention to Hidden Carbohydrates
Hidden carbs are everywhere. If you’re not keen about asking what’s in your dressings and sauces at restaurants or your mom’s house, you may end up consuming more carbs than you think.
The more hidden carbs you consume, the longer you stay out of ketosis, and the more likely you are to encounter cravings and weight gain.
Always ask for the restaurant’s ingredients. If your server is unsure, just ask them to put all the dressings and sauces on the side.
Read the nutrition labels. Even foods that declare to be low-carb or ketogenic may have higher carb counts. Make sure to examine the nutrition label to see how many carbs it has per serving. For example, a low-carb cookie label may only hold 10 grams of carbs, but the cookie usually has 2-3 servings.
Also, beware of ingredients like sucrose, fructose, agave, maltose, dextrose, honey, and maple syrup. Plenty of those will kick you out of ketosis quickly.
Common foods that may carry hidden carbs:
- Dairy and non-dairy products
- Low carb packaged foods
- Peanut butter
- Protein bars
- Protein powders
- Sports drinks
Not Eating Enough Low-Carb Vegetables
Vegetables give you an array of nutrients, including precious micronutrients and fiber. Many people who try a keto diet think they require to bypass veggies because they’re high in carbs.
There are lots of low-carb vegetables you can eat on a keto diet. Just avoid any higher-carb vegetables like potatoes, squash, corn, peas, and beans.
Instead, opt for large amounts of low carb veggies like:
Eating Too Much Dairy
It’s easy to consume a ton of dairy on a keto diet. It’s high-fat, after all!
But there are a couple of potential traps when it comes to dairy, and they might be affecting your ability to lose weight.
- Several people are allergic or sensitive to dairy. Even if you don’t have any apparent symptoms after eating a piece of cheese, you could have a more complex sensitivity that’s causing some inflammation.
- You’re overeating of it. Dairy is calorically dense. And delicious. And although the calories in – calories out model aren’t perfect, it’s likely you won’t lose weight if you’re taking in more calories than you’re burning.
- Dairy products, especially milk and some yogurts, are pretty high in carbs.
If you are stuck in a weight loss plateau, consider excluding all dairy from your diet for two weeks.
Worrying Too Much About Ketone Levels
It’s fascinating to see those high ketone readings when you’re just starting. Ketones are a great sign that all your hard work is paying off.
However, seeing high ketone levels on your urine strips or blood ketone meter shouldn’t be your primary goal.
High ketone readings forever isn’t fundamentally a good thing.
It’s normal to see higher readings when you’re first starting on keto. You probably have more fat to burn, and your body isn’t used to burning ketones as fuel. This appears in more circulating ketones.
Over time, however, your body does become more effective at burning ketones. This indicates they’re not hanging out in your blood or getting excreted through your urine. This shows lower readings, but more ketones are getting burned up as fuel.
Stop obsessing over ketone readings. Instead, monitor metrics like body composition and energy levels.
Stressing Too Often
When you’re stressed, your cortisol levels increase. And high cortisol levels can affect regular hormone composition and cause unwanted weight gain.
It works like this:
- Stress tells your adrenal glands to deliver cortisol so you’ll have the energy to run away from danger
- Cortisol discharges stored glucose
- Your blood sugar levels increase
- At the same time, cortisol makes your cells less receptive to insulin
- Glucose keeps circulating in your bloodstream
High blood sugar makes it more difficult for your body to produce and use ketones. Plus, constant stress can severely throw off hormone production. This can cause cravings, trouble sleeping, and much more difficult hormone issues.
Choosing a low carbohydrate diet can place a relatively huge amount of stress on your body at the beginning. So you mustn’t be making any additional lifestyle alterations until your body is accustomed to ketosis.
To stress less, try avoiding:
- Starting any intense exercise programs while you’re just starting on a keto
- Sleeping too little
- Making drastic new lifestyle changes like moving houses or apartments
To manage stress, try:
- Light movement
- Deep breathing exercises
A ketogenic diet is an effective strategy for weight loss, mental clarity, and so much more.
Sure, it seems easy to cut carbohydrates and eat tons of steak, bacon, and butter to start burning fats. But it takes a little more effort to get the most out of keto.
If you do not see the effects you hoped for, these tips should help.