If you’re having trouble getting into ketosis, it is useful to understand the factors that actually impact blood ketone levels. When I first started on the ketogenic diet, I made sure to educate myself fully on how I can efficiently get into a fat-adapted state (ketosis).
Just like everything else, there’s going to be some hurdles you’ll face when adopting a keto lifestyle.
Watch out for these 8 ketogenic pitfalls you could be potentially be falling for.
Pretty much all steps involved in producing ketones are inhibited by insulin, this means that ketone levels are extremely sensitive to carb intake. There isn’t an exact amount of carbohydrates that works for everyone to get into ketosis. But, there is a general guideline that works for most people. It has been estimated that around 50 grams per day or lower of carbohydrates will elevate your blood ketone levels.
You should be eating less than 30 grams in order to get into ketosis.
From personal experience, I found that if i’m more active on any given day, I can get away with eating more carbohydrates and still have decent blood ketone levels. I actually have been able to get away with upwards of 100 grams of carbs and still be in ketosis. I believe this is because when you are active, you are burning extra glycogen storages that come from carbohydrates.
Just like carbohydrates, increasing your intake of protein to fat in your diet will limit your ketone production. The reason behind this is because over half of amino acids in proteins are converted into glucose in the body, thus, producing an anti-keto effect. This is not as big of a deal for athletes / people who are very active because the body is utilizing the protein and amino acids to the point where it is not hindering your ketone production.
The less you exercise, the less protein you should consume in order to stay ketotic.
3. Exercising. (and too much of it!)
If you test your ketone levels after a workout, they are usually higher around 1-2 hours after exercising due to an increased delivery of fatty acids and higher rates of fat oxidation. Again coming from experience as well as research, it has been shown that this beneficial increase in ketone levels after a workout is almost completely blunted if you consume carbohydrates after the workout.
It is NOT recommended to have a protein shake immediately after a workout. Especially on a keto diet, since being in ketosis has a protein-sparing effect, you can hold off on eating anything for an hour after your workout. This fully optimizes the beneficial raise in ketone levels after exercise.
On the flip side, exercising too much can knock you out of ketosis. Too much can cause excess stress to your body which will begin to convert protein in your body into sugar, which is the last thing we want when going ketogenic.
4. The time of day.
It has been observed in individuals who are keto-adapted that upon waking up is when you have the lowest levels of blood ketones and it gradually starts to increase as the day goes on.
Meals high in fat and very low in carbohydrates will also produce more ketones. Don’t get too crazy with measuring and tracking when you are in ketosis. Rather, make it a daily effort to stay as low as possible in carbs and high in fats.
I personally track my ketones once a day and that is a couple hours after lunch. To me this is an accurate representation on if you are keto dieting correctly. Stay consistent with when you measure your ketone levels.
This means that MCT’s are converted directly into energy. It does NOT get stored into the fat cells meaning once you consume MCT’s, it is directly utilized as energy. MCT’s are oxidized in muscle cells or used by the liver to make ketones. This further proves that MCTs result in the rapid production of ketones.
There are natural sources of MCT such as dairy fats and coconut oil. If you track your ketones multiple times a day you will notice that after having a meal heavy in dairy or coconut oil that you will have elevated ketones.
My personal recommendation is to consume 14grams of MCT oil a day before increasing your dosage. Once your body has become accustomed to MCT’s, only then should you increase your daily servings.
When I first started out, I made sure to consume some form of MCT’s with every meal because it helped me become keto-adapted quicker than if I didn’t take any MCT’s.
My suggestion is to start your morning off with a bulletproof coffee.
If this is the first time you have heard of bulletproof coffee (BPC), it is simply putting coconut oil and grass fed butter (or ghee) in your coffee and using a blender to mix it up. I highly recommend doing this when you are first starting out and replacing your breakfast with a BPC. This way, your body is already depleted of its glycogen storages and by drinking a BPC, you are giving your body a surge of ketones. You will feel very energized.
I have recommended a BPC to all of my friends who were curious about the ketogenic diet and it has not failed to send them into ketosis right away.
6. Too much stress
It would be impractical of me to tell you to stop stressing all the time. Especially in the world we live in, full of fast-paced stressors, information, technology, getting the kids out the door, Donald Trump being president…
…Ahh, it’s too much! I’m stressing out just thinking about stressing out!
We all know how this feels. There isn’t one person alive who doesn’t experience long bouts of stress. The hormone cortisol is the reason why keeping your stress levels down will help you get into a state of ketosis.
Cortisol is our body’s stress hormone. It releases in our body as a response to our fight or flight mechanism. Short quick bursts of cortisol is fine (like exercising) but, producing cortisol long term can do a serious detriment to your body and your ability to adapt to ketogenesis.
It breaks down protein for sugar. This one simple fact is a huge reason why it affects ketosis so much. As we all know, to reach ketosis you must eliminate carbs from your body and sugar is a carbohydrate so that’s a no-go.
Cortisol also increases your cravings and appetite[*].
Why else do you think there is a thing called, “stress eating”?
Simply take the time out of your day everyday to mindfully rid of unnecessary stressors in your life. Bad relationship? Cut him/her off. Work deadline stressing you out? Get it done and out of the way now. By getting the things done that you know you need to do, you are automatically de-stressing your life.
On top of that, several studies, have shown how profound meditation is to decreasing stress and improving focus. There is actual science showing the brain increasing its grey matter through a daily meditation practice.
You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel by incorporating meditation into your daily routine on top of simply cutting out unnecessary stressors out of your life.
7. Lack of Sleep
This intertwines with the previous advice of becoming less stressed in order to reach a level of ketosis.
It is common knowledge to know you need 7-8 hours of sleep every night to perform optimally. For the same reasons above, the lack of sleep will increase your cortisol levels meaning you’ll never go ketogenic even if you are eating virtually no carbs.
The sheer amount of health problems that can be cured by getting a full night’s rest is staggering[*].
Numerous clients ask me why they still aren’t in ketosis after cutting carbs out and when I ask them how much sleep they are getting, 9 out of 10 people will tell me they are getting 5-6 hours of sleep. That is a no-go. I’ve been using earplugs before going to bed and it’s made literally the world of a difference. Try it out.
8. Eating “hidden” carbohydrates
A very common mistake for the newbie keto dieter. There are a ton of foods, veggies, and fruits that contain carbohydrates that will kick you out of ketosis.
Aside from the usual carb culprits like bread, sugar, rice, grains, and the like..
..you also need to be watching out for certain veggies like tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes. If you didn’t know, it is also very important to stay away from most fruits as they contain a moderate amount of carbs as well. The only exception would be some blueberries here and there.
This image from Diet Doctor shows what you is and is not recommended on the ketogenic diet. Stick to the “Above ground” carbohydrates and try to steer away from the “Below ground” carbohydrates.
9. Too much unnecessary snacking
Okay I know how great it feels to plop down on the couch after a long day, turn on the TV and start snacking. Here’s the thing, even if you are snacking on “ketogenic approved” foods such as nuts or pork rinds, you are still susceptible to overeating.
A very common mistake I see with keto dieters is the overconsumption of these snacks. Since nuts (and even dairy) are calorie dense foods, it is very easy to overeat.
It’s important to take these 9 reasons into account before and after you are measuring your blood ketone levels.
Here’s a quick actionable guideline you can follow to help you reach ketosis.
- Exercise at least 4 times a week, even if it’s a simple long walk. Anything is better than nothing.
- Keep your carbohydrates below 50 grams. Under 30grams is even better.
- Consume MCT oil whenever possible. MCT’s help your body convert fats directly into energy. A staple in the keto diet.
- Keep stress levels down. Meditate and do whatever possible to stay relaxed (stop watching TV!).
- Fix your sleep schedule. Get at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night and no screens an hour before bed.
- Eat healthy fats and watch out for hidden carbs.
There you have it. By following these guidelines and watching out for these pitfalls, it’ll be much easier for you to reach ketosis and finally start experiencing a boost of sustained energy throughout the day.
If you are looking for a complete A to Z blueprint on how the most effective ways to use ketosis for increased energy and fat loss, check out my Ketogenic Diet Roadmap for a comprehensive, science-backed program.