The 10 Most Common Keto Mistakes

The 10 Most Common Keto Mistakes

Many of us have come across someone who has said they have tried the Keto diet, but it just didn’t work for them. They might say that they couldn’t get into ketosis or if they did, they felt horrible and had to get off it. Read more to understand the most common keto mistakes and how to overcome them.

The 10 Most Common Keto Mistakes

Many of us have come across someone who has said they have tried the Keto diet, but it just didn’t work for them. They might say that they couldn’t get into ketosis or if they did, they felt horrible and had to get off it.

The fact is that as humans we have all evolved to naturally shift into a state of ketosis when we eat fewer carbohydrates, and fats become the most common available dietary source of energy. This switch in metabolism is an efficient survival mechanism that allows us to adapt to whatever foods might be around at any given time.

There are some common reasons that may interfere with your ability to enter ketosis and, without knowing what they are, may lead you to think that the ketogenic diet is not for you.

Not only can everyone reach ketosis, but this can also be a worthwhile metabolic reset that provides numerous health benefits beyond weight loss.

So, to ensure that you get the most out of the ketogenic diet and avoid some of the potential challenges, here is a list of the 10 most common mistakes people make on their Keto journey.

Not enough fat

Ketosis is about burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. To do that you need to limit your carb consumption and increase the amount of fat in your diet. In fact, fat needs to make up most of your calories, somewhere in the realm of 60-65%. That means if you consume 2,000 calories per day, you would be looking at consuming about 140 grams of fat per day.

It’s also important that you focus on the quality of the fat you eat. You’ll want to completely avoid trans fats (also known as partially hydrogenated oils) as they are particularly bad for your health.

Also, stay away from blended vegetable oils, especially if they come in plastic bottles. These are often oxidised and then deodorised to mask the rancid smell. Moreover, they typically contain phthalates and BPA that have leached out from the plastic in the bottle.

The idea is to focus on a range of nutritious fats comprising of healthy sources of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

Too much fat

While increasing your fat consumption is critical to getting into ketosis, you can have too much. When this happens, you may find that your weight loss progress stalls and you might even start to put on more body fat. You will still be in ketosis, but you have likely exceeded your daily energy requirements from fat and have started storing it in your body as energy reserves.

The good news is that it's difficult to over-consume fat, especially when you significantly reduce carbohydrates. That’s because you are also reducing your insulin levels which are responsible for storing carbs, fat, and protein as body fat. When insulin levels are low your body is also more sensitive to satiety signals, which means you feel full more readily. And fat can create a sense of satiety that can last for hours.

The bottom-line is don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because Keto is a high-fat diet then more fat is better. Listen to your hunger signals and don’t overeat or snack when you feel full.

Not drinking enough water

When your diet is high in carbohydrates any excess gets stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen, along with a lot of water.

Another thing that happens when you eat a carb-based diet is your insulin levels are raised. This hormone sends signals to the kidneys to hold on to water.  So, when you cut carbs and sugars from your diet, your insulin levels drop, and your kidneys release all that water from your muscles.

This can result in dehydration which may last for the first one or two weeks until the body has properly adapted to ketosis. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of the set of symptoms known as ‘keto flu’.

Of course, the way to prevent dehydration during ketosis is to drink plenty of water. Make sure you are prepared for this side effect and bring a bottle of water with you when you go to work, and when you’re exercising or just out and about.

Not replenishing your electrolytes

The other thing that your kidneys excrete when you’re on a keto diet and your insulin levels are low, are electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. These essential minerals are important for maintaining hydration, balancing body acid levels and maintaining muscle, nerve and cell function.

An electrolyte imbalance is another common culprit for ‘keto flu’ which can include symptoms of fatigue, physical exhaustion, headache and diarrhoea.

The best and healthiest way of replenishing and maintaining electrolyte levels is with foods high in these nutrients.

Sodium: Make sure you are getting enough salt. Clinical observation suggests that people on a low-carb diet will benefit from 1 - 3 teaspoons of salt per day.

Potassium: There are plenty of keto-friendly foods high in potassium including avocado, spinach, mushrooms, Brussel sprouts, salmon, beef, and broccoli.

Magnesium: In this day and age it is difficult to get enough magnesium. As a result, most people tend to be on the low side of this critical mineral. Food sources include hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, mackerel, chia seeds and almonds. You may also want to consider taking a well-absorbed magnesium supplement.

Bone broth is an excellent source of electrolytes rich in magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and chloride.

Coconut water is a great alternative to sweetened sports drinks and, as long as it is unflavoured, is low in sugar and calories. 

Coconut water also contains electrolytes and may be more hydrating than plain water.

Too many keto snacks

If you are reducing your carbs and increasing fats, you’ll find that you will want to snack less. That’s because ketosis controls your appetite, and you feel satiated for extended periods of time.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t feel like a snack from time to time and there are now plenty of keto-friendly snacks to entice you.

The first thing you need to make sure of is that the snack is truly keto-friendly. Many snacks claim to be ketogenic but in fact, have hidden sugars and carbs that will quickly bump you out of ketosis. Make sure you read the labels and avoid any unwanted ingredients. The best approach is to stick to homemade snacks using real, whole food ingredients rather than manufactured bars and packaged snacks.

Once you’ve found Keto snacks that you enjoy it can be all too easy to overdo it and have too many. Make sure you are actually hungry and only have enough to keep you going. Having too many keto snacks can still result in weight gain.

Chasing higher ketone levels

One of the great things about the Keto diet is that it provides you with a measurable marker for success, ketones. There are several easy methods for measuring your ketone levels so you can determine if you are in ketosis and burning fat for energy.

The problem can be in thinking that if low ketone levels are good, higher ketone levels must be better. This can be discouraging when higher levels aren’t reached, and you may feel compelled to take on more extreme versions of the diet.

When you adopt a high-fat low-carb ketogenic diet you will shift into a state known as ‘nutritional ketosis’. This is light ketosis and is what you should be aiming for if weight loss, appetite control and metabolic wellbeing is your goal.

Higher levels are more commonly desired if you are looking to manage a certain medical condition, in which case you would only do this under medical supervision.

Not getting enough sleep

If weight loss and metabolic well-being is your goal you must get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation not only makes you feel exhausted and foggy-headed it can also sabotage your metabolism and contribute to weight gain.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol to keep you active and motivated. While this might help to get you through your workday, studies have shown that heightened cortisol levels encourage the body to store more fat and break down muscle and other tissues as a source of carbohydrates for energy.

Higher cortisol levels also increase appetite and induce stress eating.

The good news is that studies show that a ketogenic diet promotes adenosine activity which helps to relax the nervous system and can help improve sleep.

Forgetting your fibre

There is a vast body of evidence showing the association of dietary fibre with digestive health, regular bowel movements, satiety, improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels, a healthy gut microbiome and favourable body weight. Researchers recommend at least 25 grams of fibre each day.

Going Keto means, you are cutting out carb-rich foods that also happen to be common sources of fibre. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of low-carb, fibre-rich alternatives available to you on a ketogenic diet. In most cases, these might just be the healthiest sources of fibre you will ever eat.

For a fibre-rich Keto diet consider including the following foods: avocado, chia seeds, almonds, pecans, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, cabbage, and coconut.

Overlooking food quality

It can be all too easy to focus on staying in ketosis while forgetting to eat healthy, fresh foods. You can still easily shift into ketosis while eating an unhealthy diet that consists of undesirable ingredients, such as blended vegetable oils, synthetic keto bars, processed meats and little to no vegetables. This is called dirty Keto and, while you might still lose weight, you will also be risking inflammatory conditions, constipation, and lethargy.

Remember, your goal should be metabolic wellbeing. Weight loss and body composition is the beneficial outcome of this state.

Make sure you include plenty of keto-friendly vegetables, high fibre foods, healthy fats, and quality protein such as grass-fed meat, free-range eggs or fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and some berries.

Failing to prepare

Going Keto means that you will be preparing most of your food. You will be using some ingredients that you may not be familiar with and other ingredients that you will want to prepare in unfamiliar ways.

Things can easily become a little overwhelming if you’re not organised.

So, if you are just starting out on your Keto journey, preparation is key to your success!

Plan your meals for the week in advance and make sure you have all the ingredients you will need on hand.

Go through your fridge and pantry and start getting rid of those carb-rich foods that might tempt you when you’re watching television after dinner.

Also, consider cooking in batches so you can have leftovers for lunch.

Be sure to work out your macros. How much fat and protein do you need each day and how will you incorporate this into your meals?

Remember, going Keto is about well-being as well as weight loss. Listen to your body’s signals and do what feels healthy. And don’t forget, stay hydrated, keep your electrolytes up and make sure you get enough fibre!

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Danny Urbinder

Danny Urbinder is a qualified naturopath and lecturer. He has been passionate about complementary and integrative medicine for over 25 years.

As a qualified naturopath who graduated from the Southern School of Natural Medicine, Danny lectured in Nutritional Biochemistry at the Australian College of Natural Medicine for many years. He also worked in functional pathology at Australian Reference Laboratories as Technical Services and State Manager.

For 15 years, since 2005, Danny worked at BioCeuticals as Director of Education and Director of Clinical Services. In 2012 he created and headed up FX Medicine, an online education platform bringing together education, research news and stories, to provide a high-quality reference source for those seeking evidence-based information on complementary and integrative medicine.