If you’re facing challenges on keto, chances are you aren’t alone. The questions we get here at Tasteaholics tend to follow some of the same themes, so we’ve put together this handy Top Ten guide to answer the most common queries.
“How do I know when I’m in ketosis? Do I need to use pee strips?”
There are several ways to know you’re in ketosis. Urine strips are commonly used; these test for the presence of excess ketones the body is flushing out through your kidneys. These should be used as a general indicator only, though; since you’re testing for excess ketones, the more efficient your body gets at ketosis, the lower your readings will be (which is precisely the opposite of what you think would happen). When interpreting urine strips, treat them like a pregnancy test: there’s no such thing as being “slightly” pregnant—you either are, or you aren’t. If the strip shows any indication that you’re in keto, you’re good to go.
Blood meters are more expensive but are far more accurate. Since these test for the presence of ketones in the blood (i.e., where they’re actually being used), you’ll get an exact reading by using these.
One caveat on using any testing equipment at all: if you stick to your macros and accurately track your food, you’re going to end up in ketosis. Test strips are like a scale: it’s good to know your numbers occasionally, but don’t let it rule you. It’s much more important to focus on getting the basics of your diet right than it is to continually react to the numbers you see on a test strip, which can vary for numerous reasons.
“I’ve been eating keto for a month and have only last a small amount (or none at all). Am I doing something wrong?”
Ketosis is slightly different for everyone and depends on many factors. For example, if you’ve successfully done keto before and this is your second (or higher) time around, your body is going to transition much more easily and quickly.
If this is your first time on the ketogenic diet, it’ll take a bit of time—sometimes up to two weeks. While your body is naturally programmed to use ketosis, you’ve likely been living on a carbohydrate-laden diet for your entire life, and it takes the body a bit of time to shake off the rust. Trust in the process: if you limit your carb intake and eat high amounts of fat and moderate protein, you will get into ketosis. Other than staying on your macros, the most important thing you should do here is be patient.
“Why are macros important and how do I calculate them?”
All foods can be generally divided into three groups: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The Standard American Diet (SAD, which is an appropriate acronym) is very carb-heavy. An overabundance of carbs can lead to negative consequences like diabetes, obesity, and even cancer.
Keto works by swapping out carbs for fat as your primary energy source. This is a completely natural process that your body is already programmed to use. To calculate exactly what this should look like, head over to our Keto Calculator and we’ll walk you through the process of figuring out what your overall diet should look like.
The numbers you get here will give you a broad overview, but it can be challenging to take the big picture and translate that into what meals actually look like. We’ve created a Complete Ketogenic Diet Guide for Beginners, and this will help you understand how to take your macros and turn them into meals.
“Do I have to reach my macros every single day?”
This is a bit like asking if you need to show up to work every day. Technically, the answer is no; if you don’t, however, you’re not going to see the results you want (no annual raise, and you might not have a job for very long).
The human body developed ketosis thousands of years ago to handle life when carbs weren’t available, but fat and protein were. In those days, someone’s diet forced ketosis to happen, and no one had to worry about macros (not that they knew what those were then, anyway). In today’s world where donuts are just down the street, regardless of where you are, you must induce ketosis—and that means staying strict with your macros.
You can miss your macros occasionally, but the more you allow that to happen, the longer it will take to achieve your weight loss goals—if you miss your macros frequently, you might not reach your objective at all.
“I’m finding it very hard to meet my fat goals for the day. How can I increase my fat intake?”
The first thing to keep in mind is that a “low-carb, high-fat” diet occurs in that order, focusing primarily on lowering your carb intake and then upping your fat consumption. If you’re consuming more than 25 grams of carbs per day and missing your fat goals, the problem isn’t that you’re not getting enough fat—it’s that you’re eating too many carbs.
As long as you’re hitting your carb goals, though, getting enough fat in your diet can be a battle. You can’t just refuse to eat, thinking that your body will chew through the muffin top you’ve stored for emergencies: if you eat too few calories, you’ll go into survival mode, which means your metabolism will slow and your body may sacrifice muscle before it digs into fat stores. Eating enough to keep your digestive system from freaking out is a keto cornerstone.
It can be hard to get enough fat, especially when you first start the diet. You’re used to consuming carbohydrates, which are quickly digested, and your digestive system has to slowly transition to the nutrient-rich, long-lasting calories found in fat. Switch it up to keep things appetizing: explore different kinds of cheeses, nuts, and plant-based fats (like avocados). Treat yourself to extra bacon, pork chops, or a steak. Look for fat bomb recipes that excite you. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of eating the same foods over and over again, but keeping it exciting and appealing are crucial factors to ensure you get what you need every day.
“Do I need to be taking any supplements while on keto? If so, what are they?”
It’s important to realize that “supplements” exist to, well, supplement what you’re missing in your diet. If you’re planning on taking supplements from day one, that means you’re planning on eating food that isn’t sufficient, and that’s a great way to crash and burn. Supplements do have a purpose, but they should only be used when you identify a specific need that, for whatever reason, your diet isn’t supplying. This will be customized to each person.
That being said, there are some commonly-encountered issues with keto. Carbohydrates turn into glucose and glycogen as they’re stored in your system, and each molecule of sugar holds on to three to four molecules of water. When you transition to keto, you’ll lose a lot of water weight, and this could cause deficiencies in crucial electrolytes, such as sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. When you identify problem areas like this, your first goal should be to address it by eating more foods that naturally have more of those minerals. If that isn’t enough, however, consider a quality over-the-counter supplement.
If you’re fatigued, have headaches, and notice that your ability to perform athletically is less than you’re used to, you should probably up your salt intake. The good news is that keto allows you to use that salt shaker liberally, and it’s difficult to get too much sodium while going low-carb. If you’re experiencing muscle cramps or constipation, you might have a potassium or magnesium deficiency.
“I’ve heard intermittent fasting works great with keto; what is it, and how frequently should I be doing it?”
One of the most impressive benefits of keto isn’t the weight loss, but instead what it does for your energy levels and mental clarity. Because fat and protein are long-burning fuels, your energy levels remain consistent throughout the day.
Intermittent fasting restricts eating to a particular window in the day (for example, an eight-hour period where you can eat, followed by 16 hours of fasting). There are quite a few benefits to IF, but one of the most important is that the longer you force your body to go without food, the longer it has each day to dip into your fat stores to meet its energy requirements—i.e., you’ll lose weight more quickly.
There are a few guidelines to intermittent fasting, but it’s incredibly customizable. You can adjust the length of your feeding window, when it happens during the day, etc.
“Can I have a cheat day?”
A cheat meal, yes—a cheat day, no. This is one of the most common misconceptions of dieting, and it affects those on the keto diet more than people on most other diets. When people cheat on keto, it typically means that they’re going to consume carbs, and enough of these will knock you out of ketosis and back into glycolysis.
A single cheat meal every couple of weeks is fine, but a cheat day every week can all but eliminate the benefits of the other six days of ketosis. One of the things you’ll find if you stick to keto without cheating is that your taste buds and dietary preferences change over time. If you regularly cheat, however, you negate this advantage; instead of getting easier over time, keto stays just as hard, or can get even harder.
At the end of the day, cheating occasionally isn’t the end of the world. If you do it frequently enough, however, you eliminate all the advantages of keto, and you’re not going to see the results you want.
“Can I still drink alcohol? If so, what kind and how frequently?”
Yes, you can drink alcohol on keto. There is a right way and a wrong way to do it, however, which is why we developed our Ultimate Keto Alcohol Guide.
It’s critical to understand how alcohol affects your weight loss so you can make the decision on whether, when, and how much to drink. The human body treats alcohol like a fourth macronutrient (the first three being carbs, fat, and protein, of course), but considers it to be a toxic one. When alcohol is introduced into your system, your body will stop all other digestive processes to metabolize and remove it from your system. This is why you start feeling the effects of alcohol immediately and don’t have to wait until everything you ate beforehand is metabolized.
This is excellent news for a night out on the town, but not so great for dieters in general. Every time you take a drink, the momentum you’ve built up in your weight loss journey stops—you have to regenerate that momentum, starting when your liver gets rid of the last bit of alcohol. You can be doing everything else correctly, but a daily nightcap (even a low-carb one) can quickly destroy your efforts. The guide that’s referenced above will tell you how to drink without consuming too many carbs, but the most important thing to remember is that you should rarely drink as long as your focus is on dropping pounds.
“I haven’t lost weight in over two weeks and I’m sticking to all of my macros; am I doing something wrong?”
The first thing to remember is that your goal likely isn’t actually to lose weight—it’s probably to lose fat. As you burn through fat on the keto diet, your muscle mass might increase, keeping your overall weight at around the same number even though you’re accomplishing your goals. If you incorporate resistance training (i.e., weightlifting) into the mix, this is even more likely. Weightlifting has also been shown to increase bone density, a crucial factor in long-term health—but one that might keep your scale number from moving as quickly as you’d like.
However, if these aren’t the case and your fat loss has plateaued, there could be many, many reasons for that. Check out this article on overcoming plateaus for some great starting points on what to look for. The biggest thing to keep in mind, though, is not to get discouraged. It could be as simple as your body taking a break to reestablish a new normal before picking back up with weight loss (yes, it does this, and two common triggers are a significant change in diet—e.g., going on keto—and a substantial amount of previous weight loss).
Stick with the basics: staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest, staying active, keeping to your intermittent fasting window, avoiding mindless snacking, and maintaining your macros and a sustainable caloric deficit. Be patient, don’t get discouraged, and keep doing the right things—you’ll see the weight loss pick up.
The content on this website should not be taken as medical advice and you should ALWAYS consult with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program. We provide nutritional data for our recipes as a courtesy to our readers. We use Total Keto Diet app software to calculate the nutrition and we remove fiber and sugar alcohols, like erythritol, from the total carbohydrate count to get to the net carb count, as they do not affect your blood glucose levels. You should independently calculate nutritional information on your own and not rely on our data. The website or content herein is not intended to cure, prevent, diagnose or treat any disease. This website shall not be liable for adverse reactions or any other outcome resulting from the use of recipes or recommendations on the Website or actions you take as a result. Any action you take is strictly at your own risk.