You've likely heard horror stories of what competitors feel like when they cut carbs low, or when the average bro talks about going keto. However, the odds are that those people were not actually in nutritional ketosis, or more importantly, following a well-formulated ketogenic diet. Yes, you may experience some fogginess and discomfort, but it doesn't have to be intense if you handle it right.
The first signs of ketosis are known as the “keto flu” where headaches, brain fogginess, fatigue, and the like can really rile your body up. Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of waterand eating plenty of salt. The ketogenic diet is a natural diuretic and you’ll be peeing more than normal. Take into account that you’re peeing out electrolytes, and you can guess that you’ll be having a thumping headache in no time. Keeping your salt intake and water intake high enough is very important, allowing your body to re-hydrate and re-supply your electrolytes. Doing this will help with the headaches, if not get rid of them completely.
Also make sure that you know what foods have mostly carbs, fat, and protein, so you can make the right choices. For instance, it’s not just bread, pasta, chips, cookies, candy, and ice cream that contain carbs. Beans may contain protein, but they’re also very high in carbohydrates. Fruit and veggies also mostly contain carbs. The only foods that don’t contain carbs are meat (protein) and pure fats, like butter and oils (including olive oil and coconut oil).
If you're healthy and eating a balanced diet, your body controls how much fat it burns, and you don't normally make or use ketones. But when you cut way back on your calories or carbs, your body will switch to ketosis for energy. It can also happen after exercising for a long time and during pregnancy. For people with uncontrolled diabetes, ketosis is a sign of not using enough insulin.
All in all, the biggest takeaway I got from trying the keto diet for a month (other than losing 11 pounds and 3 percent body fat) is this: Life is hard enough, so if you decide to go on a "diet" or drastically change your eating patterns, don't make it harder on yourself. That's a surefire way to fall off the wagon or give up. If you're hell-bent on trying keto but meticulous meal planning isn't your thing, that doesn't mean it isn't going to work for you—just that you need a little help. If that comes in the form of meal kits, so be it.
Before starting, ask yourself what is really realistic for you, Mattinson suggests. Then get your doctor’s okay. You may also work with a local registered dietitian nutritionist to limit potential nutrient deficiencies and talk about vitamin supplementation, as you won’t be eating whole grains, dairy, or fruit, and will eliminate many veggies. “A diet that eliminates entire food groups is a red flag to me. This isn’t something to take lightly or dive into headfirst with no medical supervision,” she says.