How Not to Die Early on the Keto Diet: 4 Ways to Fix Your Low Carb Diet
If you asked me three years ago whether or not the keto diet would ever go mainstream, I would have said “not in a million years.”
When I started doing a high fat low carb diet six years ago, I was actually embarrassed to talk about it. Back then, I was a bodybuilder and trainer who trained out of the world famous Metroflex Gym in Long Beach, California.
This was, and still is, one of the most hardcore gyms in America. We had guys like CT Fletcher, Mike Rashid, and a crowd of pro-bodybuilders, powerlifters. and competitive athletes running through the place every day.
In that crowd, if you weren’t eating a tupperware container of meat and carbs every couple of hours, people would look at you like you had three heads.
But unlike many others, I came to the ketogenic diet out of desperation. I suffer from a disease called Ulcerative Colitis: an autoimmune disease that attacks the intestinal tract. I’ll spare you the whole story of how I ended up with it, but know that it basically ravaged me to the point where I was running to the bathroom 20-30 times a day with bloody diarrhea. Medications weren’t working on me and my doctors were suggesting that I should think about having my colon removed.
With the prospect of crapping out of a hole in my stomach for the rest of my life hanging over my head, I decided to give the keto diet a try. Within a few weeks, my symptoms calmed down significantly, and within a month, they were completely gone. Though I’d previously feared losing any muscle mass I had left by completely eliminating carbs from my diet, I was actually building muscle mass and getting stronger.
Since that time, I’ve continued competing in bodybuilding, powerlifting, obstacle course racing, and Jiu Jitsu. Most importantly, I’ve avoided any more severe colitis flare ups.
The keto diet worked for me, and I think it’s a fantastic potential tool for many people. But if the keto diet isn’t formulated the right way, it can lead to significant health problems including higher inflammatory levels, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.
How Becoming Popular Has Killed Keto
Today, rather than feeling like I’m in the fringes of the nutrition world, I currently find myself in a sea of “gurus,” internet trainers, and social media personalities who are raving about the keto diet.
In many ways, this makes me happy because so many people have been introduced to a dietary tool that could potentially help them. On the other hand, with keto’s increasing popularity there’s also a lot of people without any real nutrition training that are giving out horrible and potentially destructive advice.
The worst part of this is that many of these people could benefit from a properly formulated keto diet, but they just aren’t getting ahold of the right information. When they end up feeling worse than they did before, gaining weight, or becoming sick, they begin to think that the keto diet is unsustainable or just ineffective.
If you’re doing the ketogenic diet, or just thinking about starting it, here are four mistakes you’re probably making and solutions to fix them.
Not Getting Enough Minerals in Your Diet
When you remove carbohydrates from your diet, your body doesn’t release as much insulin and glycogen begins to get depleted from your muscle cells. For every gram of glycogen you have stored in your muscles, you also store around 3 grams of water. With the lack of insulin, your body begins expelling water, and along with that, it expels vital minerals including sodium, potassium, selenium and magnesium.
This is why so many people experience the “keto flu;” a period of low energy, headaches, and nausea when they begin the ketogenic diet.
These minerals are responsible for hundreds of functions around your body, and when they get depleted your body does not run as efficiently. Potassium and sodium help to regulate your heartbeat and blood pressure. Selenium aids with thyroid function, and magnesium is responsible for over 300 different reactions throughout your body including helping your hypothalamus complete reactions that help you to get to sleep.
Many people complain of feeling like their heart is beating out of their chest or not being able to sleep while they’re doing the keto diet; the result of severe mineral depletion.
Many women will find that their progress on the keto diet either slows or reverses after a period of time, and one of the potential causes of this is a slowed thyroid. Selenium would help prevent this.
To stave off these issues you should:
Add a pinch of himalayan pink salt to every liter of water you drink
Drink at least half your body weight in fluid ounces plus 10 ounces every day.
Supplement with 400mg of magnesium prior to going to bed.
Either supplement with selenium or consume 4-5 brazil nuts every day.
Not Healing Your Gut
Regardless of what diet you’re doing, the first thing you should do in any fitness journey is fixing your digestive tract. Gut inflammation is one of the leading causes of fat storage, hormonal imbalance, achy joints, brain fog, autoimmune disease, and many chronic diseases.
This is particularly important to fix on a ketogenic diet because gut inflammation can inhibit your absorption of vital nutrients and minerals. Since low carb dieters are already naturally losing minerals, an inflamed digestive system could throw them even further out of balance. This, in turn, could stop fat loss progress in its tracks, lead to hormone deficiencies, and make inflammatory levels even more severe.
Throughout your diet you will want to:
Make sure you’re including good sources of insoluble fiber in your diet including raw celery and resistant starch. To get a good source of resistant starch in your diet, take a half a tablespoon of Bob’s Red Mill Potato starch and stir it into a glass of sparkling water. Drink that on or two times a day. Friendly probiotic bacteria feed on insoluble fiber, and when they feed on it, they release a fatty acid cally butyrate. Butyrate is highly anti-inflammatory and can help to heal the interior lining of your intestinal tract.
Include fermented foods in your diet every day. These include raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and coconut water kefir. Fermented foods help to populate your gut with friendly probiotic bacteria.
Heal your gut with anti-inflammatory nutrients. The best nutrient for this purpose is a protein called collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and it makes up much of the interior lining of your intestinal tract. It also contains an amino acid called L-Glutamine that aids in healing the intestinal lining. The best source of collagen from food is bone broth. You can sip on bone broth throughout the day. Collagen protein is also the best type of protein powder to supplement with on the keto diet for its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Not Getting Enough Omega 3’s and Eating too Many Omega 6’s
When I look at social media accounts promoting the keto diet, I often cringe when I see the types of foods they’re recommending. These include cured meats, cheeses, bacon, pork rinds, peanut butters, and foods high in vegetable oil.
While any of these foods are fine in moderation, you shouldn’t base your entire diet around them. That’s because they’re loaded with Omega 6 fatty acids. Unlike Omega 3 fatty acids, which help to fight inflammation, Omega 6 fatty acids raise inflammation.
You need some Omega 6 fatty acids to survive, but the problem is that most people already get too many, especially if you’re chomping down on farm raised meats, dairy, and Omega 6 based oils all day long on the keto diet. To be healthy and avoid inflammation, you need to balance Omega 6’s with Omega 3’s.
Fatty fish is a great source of Omega 3’s, but if you probably don’t want to be eating 3 servings of fish every day. Even if you like fish, you’ll need to worry about heavy metals like mercury building up in your system.
On the other hand, most vegetable sources of Omega 3, like flax, do not have DHA and EPA, the two main anti-inflammatory fatty acids, in a bioavailable form. Your body has to convert them and you end up losing a lot of DHA and EPA in that process.
You can solve this problem by consuming Algal Omega 3’s. Algae is loaded with bioavailable EPA and DHA.
To improve your Omega 3:6 balance:
Opt for grass fed organic, free range, and wild caught meats and fish.
Avoid consuming seed oils or nuts in abundance. Keep it to a small serving every day.
Supplement with an Algal form of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Relying too Much on MCT Oil and Exogenous Ketones
Of course, with the rising popularity of keto, we’re seeing the fitness industry looking to cash in. Companies are flooding the market with keto supplements. MCT oils and exogenous ketones are amongst the most popular.
Exogenous ketones are actually some of the most revolutionary products to hit the fitness industry in my opinion. The most common form of these are beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) salts. When consumed these salts rapidly convert to ketones in your bloodstream – putting you into ketosis. They are fantastic for performance enhancement, but not so good for fat loss if not used in moderation, and I’ll explain why in a second.
MCT’s or medium chain triglycerides are shorter chain fatty acids that quickly convert into ketones through the liver. They present the same dangers that exogenous ketones do with overuse.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people making with the keto diet is in over relying on both of these supplements. The reason is this: both exogenous ketones and MCT oil raise the amount of readily available ketones in your bloodstream, but these ketones come from an outside source.
If you’re doing the keto diet for fat loss, the goal isn’t to burn ketones from MCT oil or BHB salts. Rather, it’s to mobilize your own fat stores into ketones so that they can be burned. Relying too heavily on MCT oil or exogenous ketones will keep this from ever happening.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t take MCT’s or exogenous ketones. In fact, especially when you’re going through the initial keto adaptation phase, MCT’s and exogenous ketones are a great way to give you some extra energy and help you avoid the keto flu. When you’re already in ketosis, you should still consume some MCT’s in moderation because they are very anti-inflammatory and will aid in providing you energy.
The key is in understand the place these supplements should take in your diet and using them for your proper purpose. This should set you on the right track:
Avoid exclusively consuming MCT oil as your only source of fat.
If you want to, use exogenous ketones while you’re adapting into ketosis, but wean yourself off of them after the first 7-10 days.
How to Put it All Together
The keto diet is a highly effective tool, but it’s not magic. As with any diet, the quality of the nutrition you’re putting into your body matters. Simply cutting all of your carbs and raising your fat intake isn’t enough. If you truly want to benefit from the keto diet and be healthy, you need to be putting the right kind of fats in your body while fighting inflammation.
As I mentioned, taking supplements like Algal Omega 3’s, Collagen Protein, and MCT oil in moderation can help you to strike the balance you need to put this all together. This, however, can get quite expensive, especially if you’re looking to use quality supplements.
One product that I’m actually very impressed with is something called Keto Balance that was formulated by Thomas Delauer. It places all of these vital ingredients into a balanced and highly absorbable form. With this product, you can get everything you need in a single tablespoon a day, and you can save money by avoiding the need to buy three products to fill your nutritional holes. It’s got:
400 mg of DHA Omega 3 from Algal Oil
3000 mg of MCT’s
1000 mg of Grass Fed Hydrolyzed Beef Collagen
The big benefit that Keto Balance has to offer is that it actually protects these products with liposomes. Liposomes allow these nutrients to maintain their integrity rather than getting deteriorated by your stomach acid. This, in turn, allows them to get delivered to your intestinal lining where they will have their maximal impact.
Without this kind of protection, you end up needing much higher doses from individual supplements, and you end up spending a whole lot more money to get the nutrition you need.
They’ve also got a 60 day money back guarantee, so if you don’t like it, you can send it back.
If you want to give Keto Balance a try, you can do so by clicking HERE. I am an affiliate for this product, so if you do purchase it, I will get a commission, but know that I only promote products that I’ve tried and that I believe in.
The keto diet has done a whole lot for me in terms of keeping me healthy, lean, and able to perform mentally and physically. Nevertheless, I find the current keto fad in the fitness industry pretty annoying because of the amount of shoddy products and poor advice being dealt out. My advice to you, if you want to give it a try, is to educate yourself as much as possible. If you formulate your diet the proper way, the keto diet could be a fantastic tool. But if it isn’t formulate the right way, you could end up shooting yourself in the foot.