So you want to get fit and healthy, and you want to do it via that hot-right-now-but-actually-old eating system called keto. Everyone, from your mother's friend's friend to your boss, is doing this cool keto thing, and they've achieved results. Yes, they've lost a few (or a lot) of pounds, but they're also filled with physical energy and a mental clarity that can only be described as bouncing off the walls. How'd they do that?
1) First, a primer
The simplest way to explain keto is this: fat as energy. To achieve this, you have to deplete carbohydrates and sugar in your bodacious body, which will then force it into ketosis, or that state of using fat as fuel, whether it's from the fat-rich diet you eat or the fat that's been overstaying in your belly.
2) You gotta count
There's no getting around this. Keto only works if you do the numbers right. The macro protocol is specific: high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates with a general ratio of 75 percent, 20 percent, and 5 percent respectively. (And, yes, that's 75 percent fat.)
This can be daunting because what the hell does that all mean? But thanks to the Internet, a monster that provides whatever you need, there are macro calculators that will do the number crunching for you.
From there, you just have to stick to your numbers, whether it's 144 grams of fat, 87 grams of proteins, and 22 grams of carbs every day for this month and another set of numbers on the next month. Because, yeah, you have to readjust the values as your weight changes.
3) You gotta plan (and cook)
Now, use those numbers as guidelines for what you eat every day. And again, the Internet is a bountiful resource for building that perfect meal plan for your needs. Keto enthusiasts abound, and they've shared their wealth of knowledge in the form of recipes (with macros!) in order for other keto-ists (ketoans? ketonians?) to succeed.
Think of it as a puzzle: What three meals and maybe a snack will fit your macros? Will the cheese-stuffed bacon-wrapped hotdogs, plus butter chicken, plus chicken avocado casserole work together? Do you need a fat bomb to meet your fat requirements?
Some people have the luxury of a cook or their mom to figure it all out. Most will have to do it on their own, and that means choosing recipes that don't require a lot of work in the supermarket or the kitchen.
Pro tip: Cook in batches so you have your meals ready to go for the entire week, including lunch at work. Of course, you can also do delivery services, but just make sure that the numbers are within your values.
4) You'll be one of Those People
Instead of 'gramming your plate, you'll be scrutinizing it. Actually, even before your food lands on the table, you've already studied the menu. What's in this purple mush? Is there honey in this?
At the supermarket, this translates to reading the very small nutrient label of that mega pack of macadamias. To casual observers, this obsessive accounting of what you put in your body may appear very weird, but you have to persevere—and continue counting.
5) Which brings us to your friend, MyFitnessPal
It really is a pal, a friend, a bud because this app tracks all those numbers for you. This will be most helpful when you stray from your carefully constructed meal plan of home-cooked (if slightly burned) meals. “Fitty, what are the macros of Chippy?” Okay, it doesn't talk like Siri. And you shouldn't eat Chippy.
6) It's delicious
Four words: bacon, butter, cheese, chicharon. You will never feel deprived.
7) It'll cost you
Two lunch buddies on perpetual diets, one on keto, the other on salmon fillets, come to the conclusion that eating healthy ain't cheap. On keto, the cheeses and butters will deflate your wallet, especially if you get the good stuff. And you should get the good stuff, because the not expensive cheeses or butters are actually not real cheeses or butters but analogues whose macros will not help your cause. Also, they don't taste as good.
8) But it's still possible
That's not to say that keto on a budget is not possible. The market offers a spectrum of goods at every price, so you will find what fits your purse. It all boils down to planning. Maybe a keto recipe with three ingredients rather than one with specialized or too many ingredients will be better for you? Maybe you should lay off your expensive macadamia habit and just snack on, um, your saliva?
9) Skip the harvest
Guess what makes that summer mango sweet? It starts with an “S.” You have accept the fact that, in keto, the desserts of the earth are a no-go because they do contain sugars, fructose to be exact, which is actually a carb.
But what about sugar substitutes like aspartame (chemical) and stevia (natural)? Most will not affect ketosis and can be consumed. What other things they'll do to your body is another can of worms that we're not going to discuss here. A cold glass of Coke Zero tastes so good though.
10) You will be lit
Puzzlement lead many people—let's call them Carb Lovers—to ask, “But if you don't eat bread or rice, where do you get your energy?”
Well, Carb Lovers, keto disciples lie in bed all day, starved of carbs as they are. Just kidding! Keto provides a steady ebb of energy plus greater mental clarity throughout the day. Expect no open-mouthed after-lunch naps at your desk, the cause of which are spikes of insulin, the root of which are starchy or sugary foods.
11) You won't turn into a tub of butter
Maybe a well-meaning friend told you that they heard from another friend that you can only do keto for a certain amount of time or else you will turn into pillar of butter or, worse, die.
You are what you eat, right? And if you've been eating spoonfuls of butter and fat every day, then logic says you are a Fat Butter Person, a miracle of nature that will expire soon.
There are studies that show the longterm viability of keto as a way of life. Then again, if you dig enough, there will be studies that will say otherwise. For your peace of mind, consult your doctor.
12) No such thing as a free day
It takes a while to get into keto, as in that state when your body chooses fat as energy. Naturally, if you break the spell by stuffing a chocolate bar down your mouth (no judgement), your body will reset itself and then take a few days to a week to get back into that fat-burning state. Take that into consideration when faced with the temptation of the truffle honey cheesecake.
13) But you can (and should) take a break
A break from keto on very special days like, say, the birthday of baby Jesus or other great occasions that call for celebration can be done. Just don't go ham. Your body will not be used to the influx of too much food, too much sugar, and too much carbs. Some people experience splitting headaches or feel very unwell after an uncontrolled binge. Note: Don't do this every weekend.
14) Just do it
Yes, there are many things to remember when diving into the wild world of keto, but that's the same for other eating systems or, actually, any endeavor. Just know that you don't have to be armed with perfect knowledge to start. To get into fit and fighting shape, with keto or any other program, the best course of action is to take that first step today.