Food Freedom Friday Edition 192 - Optimizing Your Keto

A ketogenic diet trains your metabolism to run off of fatty acids or ketone bodies through consuming a diet very low in carbohydrates. Fat adapted refers to the state when your body has adapted to run off of fatty acids/ketones at rest.

Getting into and maintaining this state of fat adaption is one of the biggest challenges faced by many following a ketogenic plan.  There are, however, some advanced ketogenic diet tips to support achieving and thriving on ketosis.

1.  Hydrate

This is considered a no-brainer, but is not easy to follow.  You might find yourself getting so busy in your day-day life that you forget to hydrate effectively.  One effective strategy is super hydrating your system by drinking 32 oz of filtered water within the first hour of waking and another 32-48 oz of water before noon.

You could also try your hand at a water fast or simply consuming smoothies or keto coffee or tea earlier in the day.  Hydration around these dishes is well tolerated by the digestive system.  In general, aiming to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water and closer to your full body weight in ounces of water daily will help you immensely.

As you begin super hydrating your system, you will find it not only becomes easier, but you will actually crave the extra hydration.

2.  Fast

Fasting is one of the best ways to get into and maintain ketosis because you are reducing calories and not consuming protein or carbs.   It is a advised to go low-carb for at least a few days before starting this in order to avoid a hypoglycemic response. 

Consider partitioning your day into a building phase and a cleansing phase.

Building Phase:  Time between your first meal and your last meal

Cleansing Phase:  Time between your last meal and your first meal

Begin with a 12-16-hour cleansing phase and an 8-12-hour building phase.   Over time, as your body adapts you may be able to move into a 4-6-hour building window with 18-20-hour cleansing phase each day.   If you are able to do this effectively then it becomes even easier to maintain ketosis.

During the fast, it is important to hydrate. You can also consume herbal teas and organic coffee with MCT oil, coconut oil and/or grass-fed butter.  The small and medium chain fats in these helps to boost up ketone production and stabilize blood sugar more effectively than water fasting alone.

3. Salt

Society emphasizes the importance of reducing sodium intake.  Many individuals are challenged with a high sodium/potassium ratio.  This is due to the fact that when following a higher carbohydrate diet, higher insulin levels are naturally higher. Insulin impacts the retention of sodium by the kidneys which can result in this imbalance.  kidney function in such a way to retain sodium which can lead to a higher sodium/potassium ratio.

When following a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet, insulin levels are lowered and the kidneys excrete more sodium. This can can lead to a lower sodium/potassium ratio and a greater need for sodium in the diet.

On a low-carb diet you should look to get an additional 3-5 grams of sodium from natural foods and through the use of a high quality rock or sea salt like Himalayan pink salt.  1 tsp of pink salt is equivalent to 2 grams of sodium. 

A few more ways to add sodium include:

·       Drinking organic broth throughout the day.

·       Being generous with the amount of salt you use on your food

·       Adding ¼ tsp of salt to 8-16oz of water throughout the day

·       Adding sea vegetable like kelp, nori and dulse to dishes

·       Consuming celery and cucumber which are low carb and have natural sodium

·       Having sprouted and salted pumpkin seeds or salted macadamia nuts as a snack

4.  Exercise

Regular, high intensity exercise helps to activate the glucose transport molecule called GLUT-4 receptor in the liver and muscle tissue.  The GLUT-4 receptor acts to pull sugar out of the blood stream and store it as liver and muscle glycogen.  Regular exercise doubles the levels of this molecule in the muscle and liver.

This is important for maintaining ketosis because it will allow you to tolerate a little more carbohydrate in your diet as your body will want to and be able to to store them in the muscle and liver tissue.

Large compound exercises that use multiple muscle groups have the greatest impact on GLUT-4 receptor activity.  This would include squats, deadlifts, push-ups, standing overhead presses and pull-ups or pull-downs or bent over rows.

Incorporating a regular exercise program that includes these resistance training exercises along with running sprints and low-intensity exercise such as walking helps to balance blood sugar and improve the ability to maintaining your fat adapted state.

Be mindful not to overdo it.  Small amounts of high intensity training are very effective.  If you over train your body, you will secrete higher amounts of stress hormones that will drive up blood sugar and pull you out of ketosis.

If you are a high-level athlete or do regular intense exercise such as Crossfit, consult with your trainer or coach who is familiar with your ketogenic lifestyle and modify the training based on that.

If you are battling a chronic or autoimmune disease it is best to not do any intense exercise at all. Focus instead on stretching and breathing exercises such as yoga and tai chi and low impact movement such as light walking or elliptical exercises.

5. Poop

Constipation is a challenge for many, especially on a ketogenic diet. Constipation drives up stress hormones and blood sugar and often prevents or thwarts fat adaptation. 

Constipation is often due to one of the following:

·       Pre-existing challenges due to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Candida overgrowth or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

·       Not consuming enough fibrous vegetables, fermented foods, drinks and tonics

·       Dehydration

·       Inadequate electrolyte consumption (sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium in particular)

·       Chronic stress slows down gut motility

It is important to correct any bacterial or yeast overgrowth issues by consuming fermented foods if tolerable. These include kimchi, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, pickles and fermented vegetables.  Adding magnesium supplementation, consuming plenty of clean water and adding in pink salts for extra sodium are also recommended.   You may choose to add fresh green drink daily to help increase potassium, magnesium and calcium levels.

6. Protein

If you notice yourself struggling to maintain ketosis evaluate your response to the amount of protein in your meals.  Some people need higher protein levels, while others can do just fine on lower protein levels.

The key variables include your level of exercise intensity and type of exercise (resistance vs aerobic) and your desire to gain muscle or lose weight.  Participating in intense resistance training in order to gain muscle requires more protein than doing aerobic or resistance training to lose weight.  If you are simply walking for exercise, you will likely need a little less than that still:

·       Sedentary Individuals:  0.6-1.0 g/kg of body weight.  If you are not exercising intensely, you may struggle to get into ketosis with 1 g/kg of protein, so try to drop it back to 0.6-0.8 and see how you do.

·       Moderately Active Individuals:  0.8-1.2 g/kg of body weight.  If you are walking on a regular basis but not doing high intensity training (which leaves you breathless) or strength training then try 0.8 g/kg and see what your ketone levels look like.

·       High Intensity Training Individuals:  1.0-1.8 g/kg.  If you are training with weights or doing sprint style of exercise at least 3-4 times per week you will most likely need more than 1.0 g/kg.  Try experimenting by consuming 1.2 g/kg and inch towards 1.8 g/kg. Evaluate you feel and what your ketone readings look like.

It is ideal to get your protein in 2-3 different servings daily with a minimum of 15 grams and a maximum of 50 grams per meal.  Most should aim for 20-35 grams per meal. 

7. MCT Oil

Using a high quality medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is perhaps the most important thing one can do attain and maintain fat adaptation.  A diet high in MCT oil allows you to tolerate more protein/carbs and maintain ketosis.

MCTs are immediately metabolized into ketone bodies and used for energy quickly in the body A diet that consists of long chain fatty acids, depends upon 80-90% of calories coming from fat.  Adding in lots of MCT oil reduces this dependency to 60-70% fats.

Coconut oil and MCT oil are not the same.  Although MCT oil is made from coconut oil, it contains 100% pure medium chain triglycerides (capric and caprylic acids), while coconut oil contains about 35% long chain triglyceride (LCT) and 50% lauric acid which is classified as an MCT but behaves more like an LCT.  That means that coconut oil is only 15% MCT and thus only 1/6  as ketogenic as pure MCT oil.

You can cook with MCT oil, add it to protein shakes, green drinks, coffee/tea, dips and dressings throughout the day to keep your ketone levels up.  

8. Stress Less

Chronic stress will shut down your ability achieve and remain in ketosis.  If you are going through a tough period of your life, maintaining ketosis may not be the appropriate goal.  This does not give you carte blanche to begin carb loading, but instead reset your goal to simply stay on a lower carb, anti-inflammatory diet.

Stress raises stress hormones which elevate blood sugar so you can fight or flee from the chronic stressor.  This works well for a short, intense time frame, but when it is prolonged, it drives up your blood sugar and in turn lowers ketones.

Devise some strategies that will help you lower your stress load and allow you to create more peace and relaxation in your life. 

9. Sleep 

If you are sleeping poorly, you will elevate stress hormones and cause blood sugar dyregulation.  Be sure to set yourself up to go to bed and sleep at an appropriate time (before 11pm) and sleep in a completely dark room.   Aim for sleeping 7-9 hours each night depending upon your stress levels (more stress means you need more sleep) and the amount that leaves you feeling good and mentally alert throughout the day.

Keep your room cool (60-65 degrees is usually ideal) with an overhead fan providing circulating air.  consider using a sleep mask to block out more melatonin disrupting light.  If you are extremely sound sensitive or find yourself in a louder area, using ear plugs can be extremely helpful!

Summing It up

Healthy lifestyle strategies play a very important role in helping you achieve and maintain your ketogenic goals.  Adjusting your nutrition and lifestyle habits and activities can create an enormous difference between finding yourself in a state of fat adaptation where you have sustainable energy and mental clarity or a state of sugar burning where you feel sluggish, and find yourself with rampant brain fog and carbohydrate cravings.

Michal Ofer