Sometimes people who are interested in losing weight or getting healthier are so focused on the minutiae of “optimizing” their diet, supplements, exercise, and lifestyle that they neglect the basics. This is a mistake. Whatever your goal, you have to lay a good foundation before worrying about the finishing touches. When starting a keto diet, that means gradually reducing carbs to build a base metabolic flexibility and entry into ketosis.
To be clear, you Can Slam your body into ketosis by dropping from the several hundred grams of carbohydrates per day, typical in modern diets, right down to the very low carb intake needed for keto. I don't recommend it.
For one thing, jumping from a high-carb diet to keto sets you up for the world sick known as the keto flu. When you suddenly deprive your body of glucose, you can experience headaches, lethargy, brain fog, and an inability to do your typical workouts. Reducing carbs gradually gives your body the opportunity to increase its ability to burn fat for fuel, a necessary prerequisite for ketosis.
Not for nothing, gradual transitions also give the people in your life time to get on board. You may be excited about your big lifestyle change, but I hear all the time from people who are struggling because their spouse, kids, or roommates don't really support them throwing out all the fast food and refusing to go through the drive-thru. thru. On the way home.
Even if you're already following the Primal moderate-carb diet, I still recommend taking the time to make your transition as smooth as possible. Wherever you start, the best way to reach ketosis is to reduce your carb intake gradually and systematically. This is the same approach that I described Keto Diet Resetand it works for thousands of people who have participated in our Keto Month challenge.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your liver makes ketones, which are molecules that can be used by cells that contain mitochondria for energy. Your brain and heart primarily thrive on ketones. To enter ketosis, you must deplete liver glycogen (glucose stored in your liver) and keep insulin levels low. Very low-carb diets and fasting, or a combination of the two, will get you there. Glycogen depleting exercises also help.
The ketogenic (“ketone-building”) diet is popular for everything from losing weight to lowering insulin and blood sugar to augmenting traditional cancer treatments. Inflammation is at the root of every chronic disease, and ketones are anti-inflammatory. They are also an efficient source of fuel, and athletes across the sporting spectrum are experimenting with using low-carb diets to burn fat and ketones during exercise.
Primal Blueprint qualifies as a low-carb style of eating, especially in comparison to the high-carb Standard American Diet, solely by virtue of the fact that it eliminates the primary sources of carbohydrates in the typical modern diet: grains and sugar. The keto version I recommend is part of the Primal diet you know and love, but with fewer carbs — under 50 grams or so per day. That's an order of magnitude less than the average person eats, and probably half or a third of what the average Primal person consumes. So how do you get there?
How to Reduce Carbs Gradually and Get into Ketosis
Step one: Start with the big offenders, grains and added sugars
That means no more sugary breakfast cereals, cupcakes, soda, or doughnuts, but it also means no “heart-healthy” whole-grain breads or pasta. Instead, build your meals and snack around Primal dishes—meats, produce, eggs, nuts and seeds, optional full-fat dairy, and “reasonable pleasures” like very dark (not super sweet) chocolate. To those of you who are familiar with Primal Blueprints, this should be familiar. In the term Keto Reset, we call it the metabolic reset phase. This is the first step to adapting to fat, which means that your cells can efficiently burn fat as a fuel in place of glucose.
At this point you're not counting carbohydrates, nor are you worried about the carbohydrates that naturally come with fruit, vegetables, dairy, or other Primal food sources. Depending on where you start, it can take a while to completely eliminate grains and added sugars and feel comfortable eating at your prime. Stay in this step as long as necessary. There's no rush here.
Step two: Eat less high-carb fruits and vegetables, tubers, and legumes
Next, pay attention to the food you are eating and start paying attention to the carbohydrate content. Most people have no idea how many carbohydrates, or how much fat or protein, they consume on average each day. Nutrition trackers like Cronometer come in handy here. You don't need to weigh and measure food carefully at this stage, but you do want to pay attention to what's on your plate.
Start limiting the portion sizes of your high-carb foods or swapping them out for low-carb alternatives. There's no rule about exactly how to do this, but aim to stay in the 75 to 100 gram range of carbs, give or take, on a typical day. (If you're eating out initially, this may already be your norm.) If you're eating two or three servings of fruit per day, maybe you cut that down to one and swap grapes (27 grams of carbs per cup) for strawberries. (12 grams of carbs per cup). If you still eat a cup black beans three times a week, try half a cup twice a week, then once.
This is also a good time to see you alcohol consumption. Apart from the carbohydrate content, Alcohol can interfere with ketosis.
Step three: Go keto!
The final step is to tighten control and manage your carbohydrate intake below 50 grams per day. I'm not worried about the carbs coming from above-ground greens and avocados, so you have some wiggle room there, but 50 grams per day is a good target to keep in mind.
While the first two steps are somewhat relaxed, here you need to be firm. Ketosis only occurs when metabolic conditions are right. There is a different on-off button. Too many carbs, and you won't go into ketosis. Therefore, it is often necessary track your food watch out for at least a few days to see where you are. You may also want measure your ketone level to make sure you hit your goals. It's not mandatory.
At this point, there won't be much room in your carb allotment for fruit, underground vegetables, or legumes. Prioritize the most keto-friendly fruits And Vegetables will allow you to enjoy the largest and most satisfying meals.
What Else Do You Have to Do To Encourage Ketosis
Transitioning to keto is all about developing new metabolic pathways. It's mostly about what you eat, but there are other things you can do to help the process.
- Boost your electrolytes. When you fall into ketosis, your kidneys start flushing electrolytes. Carefully increasing your sodium intake especially, but also potassium and magnesium, is key to preventing the keto flu.
- Customize your workout. During the transition, you may find it difficult to access top-end speed and power. Rewind the intensity and/or duration, then gradually return to your normal volume.
- Your stressed mind. Stress activates the fight-or-flight response, which increases the body's need for glucose.
Reverse the Process – Back off from Keto
Switching from keto to a more moderate carb approach is as easy as gradually increasing your intake of fruit, high-carbohydrate vegetables, and perhaps the root vegetables and legumes you reduced in step two. Add maybe 25 grams of carbs per week until you find your personal carb tolerance sweet spot—the point where you feel at your best mentally and physically.
Why do you want to stop eating keto? You don't have to. I know people who have been happily and successfully doing keto for decades. But I don't think constant ketosis is required. For optimal metabolic flexibility, I prefer to cycle in and out of keto. It also gives you the freedom to enjoy your vacations, meals with friends, and fresh summer fruit without worrying about staying in ketosis 24/7.
That's it, actually quite simple. Comment below with any questions or topics you'd like me to cover next!