The keto diet is hailed by many people due to its many amazing health benefits. But it’s also a notoriously difficult diet since it has so many dietary restrictions and it’s so unfamiliar to an average person.
It’s important to take note that every individual’s body is unique and reacts differently to things. Although it’s great to just dive in to see what works for you and what doesn’t, a practical guide to common keto mistakes may help make your journey easier. If you’re just starting your diet, here are ketogenic diet mistakes you need to know.
10 common keto mistakes at the beginning of the keto diet.
#1 Expecting quick and consistent results
Getting fast results is probably one of the main key reasons for the keto diet’s increasing popularity.
At the beginning of the keto diet, most, if not everyone, experience a rapid loss of weight. This is because when we suddenly stop eating carbs, our body burns through the stored glycogen to make more energy for survival. The stored glycogen is released with water, which means that we lose a lot of water weight. It’s super motivating to see weight loss that quickly.
Then, your body gets used to burning ketones for fuel and the rapid weight loss stops. You think you’ve hit a plateau. What’s the point of continuing the regime with such strict conviction then? So you gradually fall back to your old eating habits, which is another one of the common keto mistakes.
If you think of the ketogenic diet as a quick fix, you’re making a huge mistake. To be honest, the keto diet is more like a lifestyle than a diet. It requires discipline to really maximize its success. It being a quick fix holds no water. Weight loss in the keto diet relies heavily on your body going through ketosis. Ketosis can be so easily offset by a slightly higher intake of carbs. Since for most people, an overconsumption of carbs caused the weight gain in the first place, gradually rolling back to your old eating habits may bring you back to when you first started out, plus a feeling of being a failure.
What you should do
It’s really tempting to give up when you’re no longer seeing the results that you’re used to. However, keep in mind the bigger picture and don’t lose sight of your goal because of a few details.
Don’t forget that the whole point of the diet is to prime your body into burning alternative fuel. Your body is sure to go through some pretty drastic changes in the beginning because it’s still getting used to it. Keeping to the diet after your body becomes keto-adapted might slow down the weight loss, but it’s definitely more consistent and sustainable weight loss in the long run.
#2 Obsessing Over the Scale
People who start keto often talk about how many pounds or kilos they’ve shed in the first few weeks. Feeling incredibly motivated and inspired, you go into the keto diet, wide-eyed and excited about starting. You anxiously wait for the numbers on the scale to drop. And that my friend, is your first mistake.
Everybody reacts differently to the keto diet. Some people lose weight fairly quickly while others take a bit more time to see the results reflected on the scale. It’s only natural.
When people start to define results solely by the numbers on the scale, they discount the fact that their body is changing in subtle ways. In many cases, people lose inches off normally fatty areas of their body such as belly or thighs, while seeing the same numbers on the scale. If you only rely on the scale to tell you if you’re losing weight or not, it’s going to be extremely discouraging when it remains the same. That, in turn, might demotivate you or stop you from continuing the keto diet.
What you should do
Diversify your ways of noticing results! Instead of solely doing weekly (or even daily) weigh-ins, take measurements of your own body periodically. It helps you keep track of your results and how far you’ve come from the beginning. Noticing the little changes that your body is going through could keep you pumped to continue the diet!
#3 Stopping when the keto flu strikes
This is perhaps the one of the most avoidable keto mistakes that you could make when trying out a keto diet.
The keto flu is a cluster of symptoms that arise when you’re new to the ketogenic diet. Symptoms generally show up between 24 to 48 hours of starting the keto diet. Your body is exhausting its glycogen supply and it is confused by the lack of carbs entering the body. When your body starts burning fats for fuel, you’re entering a state of ketosis. But since your body is not used to doing that, it needs time to adapt to it. The adaptation period could be as short as a few weeks or as long as a couple of months; it really depends on your body’s metabolic adaptability. Symptoms vary with people. Most people reported feeling fatigued and tired for the first few weeks while others reported brain fog and mood swings.
This is where most people give up on the keto diet. It could be unbearable to deal with the symptoms when they come in full force, especially when it messes with your vital functions like sleep. It also affects your work performances and daily life since you can’t think straight when you’re down with keto flu.
What you should do
Keto flu is basically carb withdrawal. It’s similar to having withdrawals from drugs—your body is simply trying to get over not having a constant supply of energy from carbs. It’s important to remember that keto flu would eventually pass. Most symptoms of the keto flu would eventually go away if you deal with it long enough. If it persists, you could increase your carb intake by a little and monitor your body’s reaction to it.
#4 Eating the wrong fats
Fats did not get the memo for equality.
It’s particularly important to keep one of the common keto mistakes in mind because the whole foundation of the keto diet is to burn fats with fats. You don’t want to put bad fuel in your body, especially when it’s going to become the primary source of fuel. Consuming the wrong kind of fats not only set you back in terms of weight loss, it could also be unhealthier for you than when you first started out.
What are the wrong types of fats?
Unhealthy trans fats.
Trans fats is the worst kind of fats you could ever consume, regardless of whether you’re doing a keto diet or not. There are no health benefits known to this kind of fat at all. It raises the bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers the good cholesterol (HDL) at the same time, which also increases your risk of heart disease and cancer. It’s mostly found in food that you can store for a long time, since adding trans fats to a product makes the shelf life longer, which is why it’s very hard to avoid consuming trans fats if you eat a lot of processed food. Some of the examples of food with trans fats are store-bought baked goods, fried foods, snacks and margarine.
What you should do
Doctors recommend limiting your trans fat intake to as low as possible, meaning eating less processed food. Some of the examples of food that contains monosaturated fat are olive oil, peanuts and avocado. When making your keto meal plan, make sure to read labels for their trans fat and monosaturated fat content before buying. It may be a little difficult to get into the groove of knowing everything you eat, but it’s so beneficial in the long run since you’d know exactly what you put into your keto diet menu.
#5 Not eating enough fats
It’s hard to eat a lot of fat when you’ve been told your whole life that fats is the main reason for weight gain. You’re probably not used to eating that amount of fat daily. It’s also difficult to know what kinds of fats you should eat and what to actively avoid. It’s a steep learning curve after all.
On the ketogenic diet, you need to eat the fat to hit your daily fat macros. When it comes down to it, you need to consume at least 75% of fat in your daily diet. That’s a huge amount of fat to consume, but it makes sense in a diet that uses fats to burn fats.
Most people think that it’s logical to eat less in order to lose more weight. Not with the keto diet. Although it’s alright to miss the daily fat macro once in a while, if you’re consistently in caloric deficit, your body would cope by decreasing its need for energy. This is mainly due to the fact that you’re using the fat you consume in your keto recipes as fuel for your body. Without enough fat for energy, your body would go into low-energy mode and start signalling for more food. When your hunger cravings and increased appetite strikes, staying on the keto diet becomes more difficult than it already is.
What you should do
Since the ketogenic diet runs on the fat intake, just eat as much healthy fats as possible.
Try incorporating whole, full-fat ingredients when making your meals instead of using skimmed versions. Start cooking with fats and mix it up when you get bored of it. Instead of steaming vegetables, try sautéing them in butter. Drizzle some sesame oil on greens to make an Asian-inspired salad instead of using olive oil. Garnish with high-fat food like cheeses, nuts and avocado so you add healthy fats to your food as well. It’s also highly beneficial if you have as much fun experimenting with fats as you could since it doesn’t make cooking feel like a chore.
#6 Eating too much protein
If you hit the gym often, you’d know how good protein is for you. Protein is the building blocks of your body. It’s used to repair cells and make enzymes that are essential to the wellbeing of your body. Especially if you do a lot of strenuous exercises, your body would need more protein to repair the damage and stress that you put in your body, which is why bodybuilders rave about the benefits of protein.
However, it could become another one among the unintentional keto mistakes when it is consumed in excess by an average person on the ketogenic diet. On the keto diet, your body has to use fats as the primary fuel source. Protein is only used to help maintain muscle mass. In excess, protein is converted into glucose that raises your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar levels are increased, you get kicked out of ketosis, which is the last thing you need when you’re trying out the keto diet.
What you should do
It’s normally not an issue to hit your daily protein macros because protein is easily available and it seems to be in everything.
Meal planning is a great way to avoid overeating protein. It involves meticulous planning on what you put in your body. When you’re aware of the ingredients you use to cook, you could actively avoid using too much protein in your meals.
#7 Not drinking enough water
Water is not called the elixir of life for no reason. Without sufficient water, your body would simply not be the same. One of the biggest keto mistakes that people make when starting out on a the diet is to underestimate the amount of water that they have to consume.
When you’re in the initial stage of losing the glycogen in your body, you’re losing a lot of water as well. Without enough water in your system, your kidneys could be extremely stressed by the change of diet and it can’t be as efficient. So, it dumps some of the workload on your liver. Since one of the main functions of the liver is to metabolize fat, it can’t do that well as it has to deal with the kidney’s job as well. Besides that, water could also help suppress appetite, which helps you to not eat as much junk food. Water helps with some of the “keto flu” symptoms such as bad breath and constipation as well, making your transition into the keto diet less painful than it needs to be.
What you should do
The easiest way is to always have a water bottle by your side. It’s even better if you know the exact amount of liquid that the bottle can hold since it allows you to keep track on how much water you’ve drunk.
You could also flavour the water to give yourself an extra incentive to drink it. Lime and lemon flavoured water is extremely refreshing and delicious to drink. You could also add just a tiny bit of salt to your water to make it taste a little different than usual. Salt is also a great source of electrolytes that your body would desperately grasp onto when you lose a lot of water.
Make yourself a promise to drink water when you feel thirsty. It’s also beneficial to have a drink schedule or a timer set to remind you to drink some water. Although it’s generally a rule to drink as much as you can, it is possible to drink more water than your kidney can process. However, this is extremely rare for a person who has the average diet, so it’s still more beneficial to drink as much as you can and take note of your body’s reaction to it.
#8 Not getting enough sleep
Not getting adequate sleep is often one of beginners’ keto mistakes.
Without enough sleep, your body won’t be able to function of maximum capacity, leading to a dramatic decrease in life quality. Sleep deprivation doesn’t allow your body to reset and be fresh for the next, creating a cumulative effect of fatigue in your body. Since sleep also affects the levels of leptin and ghrelin—two hormones that affect hunger and fullness—not having enough sleep would trigger cravings. Besides leptin and ghrelin, sleep also affects your insulin level. When you don’t get enough hours of sleep, your body releases a higher amount of insulin to regulate the blood sugar level and fat storage. You could actually get fat with lack of sleep.
What you should do
Some people don’t intentionally go with less sleep when they get started on the keto diet. In some cases, insomnia is a part of the notorious keto flu.
Some people recommended sleeping in darkened and cool room. It also helps to put your electronics in a different room so you feel compelled to use it before sleep. Relaxing sounds or light exercise during the day could also help you relax and fall asleep better during the night. Some recommended taking magnesium or potassium supplements. Melatonin could help as well. If all fails, you can increase your carb intake a little to help your body ease into the ketogenic lifestyle.
#9 Letting social engagements ruin your diet
Going out to eat can be tricky with the keto diet since it’s got so many dietary restrictions and restaurants can be very unclear on what their dishes contain. The social pressure can be intense as well. It’s natural to not want to be judged by what you eat, so you eat a little pasta to fit in with the crowd.
What you should do
There’s really not much to be done except to try and balance your social life with your diet. You have to figure out a way that works for your social wellbeing and your body. You could call ahead and ask about the menu to see if it is keto-friendly. It’s also a great idea to eat keto diet snacks before going out since being full would hinder you from ordering food that you don’t feel like eating.
Social engagements don’t have to be about eating as well. Opt for a cup of black, unsweetened coffee at your local coffee joint instead of going to a restaurant to eat. The caloric content in beverages is less complicated and easier to find out than a full meal. It’s less stressful to order unsweetened coffee or flavoured water than to make a bunch of demands to the waiter anyway.
#10 Feeling the need to fast
You might have noticed that there is a myriad of YouTube videos recently about the benefits of fasting and people trying to fast for a week.
Intermittent fasting is a method very commonly linked to the ketogenic diet since it’s the fastest way to go into ketosis. There are a couple of ways to do it. The most popular way is eating in windows during the day. However, in an attempt to expedite ketosis, a lot of people go one 24-48 hour fasts, effectively exhausting the glycogen in their body since they’re not having any intake of food; another one in the list of keto mistakes.
The problem with this is that the research on fasting has been predominantly done on mice and the long-term effects on humans are not clear. Although many people have reported great results, these remained subjective since it is based on personal observation instead of empirical results.
A particular concern is that if fasting is done by people who are taking medication for diabetes or high blood pressure. Especially since the keto diet has been recommended to people who have type 2 diabetes, it could be detrimental to the health of type 2 diabetes patients if they go in and out of fasting. Also, because fasting has been hyped to be the most effective way of going into ketosis, many people feel the need to fast at one point during their keto journey.
What you should do
Fasting, like many methods to maximize the effects of diets, is subjected to the needs of each individual. You should monitor the effects of the diet on your body and decide if it’s the best way to do things. It’s also vital to remember that each method affects everybody differently and you shouldn’t feel pressured to do something just because it works for someone else.
These are easily avoidable mistakes
One of the best things about common keto mistakes is that they are often very easily avoidable. By knowing what not to do, you’ll be able to adapt the diet better and efficiently. When you get into it, it’s not difficult to keep the keto diet. Like everything, persistence is the key to success. Keep at it and you’d be able to do anything you set your mind to.