With all the new people finding, switching, and transitioning into a low carb diet, I figured it was about time I put together an FAQ on all the common questions that are asked when someone is starting out. I don’t go too in depth in the answers, but I tried to give a direct answer and then link to a more in depth article on the topic to help you fully understand it.
If you have any other questions you’d like to be added, changed, or are unsure about – please feel free to leave a comment below so I can fully explain, or make changes to the answers on this page.
Best wishes, and to all the new people out there – good luck and happy dieting!
Frequently Asked Questions
Click any of the questions below and it will take you to the answer.
- How Long Does It Take To Get Into Ketosis?
- Where Can I Find Low Carb Recipes?
- How Should I Track My Carb Intake?
- Do I Need To Count Calories?
- Can I Eat Too Much Fat?
- How Much Weight Will I Lose?
- How Can I Tell if I Am In Ketosis?
- How Does Ketosis Work?
- What About Heart Attacks From All This Fat?
- What Are Macros and Should I Count Them?
- What Foods Can I Eat?
- Do You Have a Sample Menu I Can Look At?
- I Just Started and Feel Like Crap. What Should I Do?
- Constipation, What To Do?
- Can I Drink Alcohol On This Diet?
- I Stopped Losing Weight. What Can I Do?
- I Work Out, Should I Be Worried?
- What Supplements Should I Take?
- Common Terms and What They Mean
How Long Does It Take To Get Into Ketosis?
A ketogenic diet is not a diet that you can whimfully choose to go on and off of at any point. It takes time for your body to adjust and go into a state known as ketosis. This process? Anywhere from 2 – 7 days, depending on your body type, activity levels, and what you’re eating. The fastest way to get into ketosis is to exercise on an empty stomach, restrict your carbohydrate intake to 20g or less per day, and be vigilant with your water intake.
To improve the rate at which you enter ketosis, there is a method called Fat Fasting. I’ve written an article on Fat Fasting on a Ketogenic Diet and everything involved with it. Make sure that if you use this method, it is only for a few days, otherwise it can bring harm to you.
Where Can I Find Low Carb Recipes?
Everywhere on the internet! There’s recipes on almost every health website nowadays, and a quick Google of what you want will definitely help you out. You can even convert high carb recipes that use sugar or fruits in them to low carb recipes with artificial sweeteners or by getting rid of the fruit.
This website even has tons of recipes you can check out and get ideas from, ranging from breakfast to dinner and even dessert. Check out the Keto Recipes section to get inspired in the kitchen!
How Should I Track My Carb Intake?
The most common ways to track your carbs is through MyFitnessPal and their mobile app. You cannot track net carbs on the app, although you CAN track your total carb intake and your total fiber intake. To get your net carbs, simply subtract your total fiber intake from your total carb intake. I have written an article on How to Track Carbs on MyFitnessPal.
Others choose to use FatSecret. This is an app I am unfamiliar with, although I do know that you can track your net carbs. The choice is totally up to you and up to your own free will to decide.
Do I Need To Count Calories?
At the end of the day, calories matter. Calories in/calories out is such a simple equation that it will never stand true to any one person. Metabolic disorders, endocrine disorders, and food sensitivities will also play a part in all of this. Your job? Well, to eat properly. Never go too far into a deficit, and never snack on foods that are considered “bad”.
With a ketogenic diet you rarely have to worry about calories because the fats and proteins will fill you up and keep you full for a long period of time. But, if you exercise, you sometimes have to be vigilant. With exercise comes a greater calorie deficit, and you must eat to make up for it.
I’ve written an article on calories and why they should still be considered.
Can I Eat Too Much Fat?
In short, yes, you can eat too much fat. In the above question, I talked about calories and how they’re still important for us. In the end, we still need to be at a caloric deficit for us to lose weight. Eating too much fat will push you over that calorie deficit, and turn it into a calorie surplus. While most people will find it hard to actually overeat on a low carb high fat diet, it is still possible.
You can use the keto calculator to calculate your macros and see how much fats, proteins, and carbs you should be eating a day. Keep in mind when you fill this out, you can edit the values of your protein and carbs (and should, depending on your activity levels). If you have any questions on this, please let me know in the comments.
How Much Weight Will I Lose?
The amount of weight you lose is totally dependent on you. Obviously adding exercise to your regimen will speed up your weight loss. Cutting out things that are common “stall” causers is also a good thing. Artificial sweeteners, dairy, wheat products and by products (wheat gluten, wheat flours, and anything with an identifiable wheat product in it).
Water weight loss is common when you first start a low carb diet. Ketosis has a diuretic effect to it that can cause many pounds of weight loss in only a few days. While I hate being the bearer of bad news, this isn’t fat. But on a side (and more positive) note, that shows that your body is starting to adjust itself into a fat burning machine!
There’s a huge list of keto-friendly recipes for you to choose from, go check them out!
How Can I Tell if I Am In Ketosis?
The most common way is to use Ketostix. They can be picked up at your local pharmacy usually. Keep in mind, though, that they’re incredibly inaccurate. Normally, they will give you an idea as to if you’re in ketosis or not. Any pink or purple on the stick shows that ketones are being produced in your body. Darker colors usually mean that you’re dehydrated and the ketone levels are more concentrated in your urine.
Ketostix measure the amount of acetone in your urine, which are mostly unused ketones. The ketone that is used by your body and brain for energy is called Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), and is not measured by Ketostix.
For a more reliable and accurate way to measure your ketone levels, you must use a blood ketone meter. These will show you the proper amount of ketones in your blood, and aren’t as easily changed through hydration (or lack thereof).
If you have a blood ketone meter, this is what the readings mean:
- Light Ketosis: 0.5 mmol/L – 0.8 mmol/L
- Medium Ketosis: 0.9 mmol/L – 1.4 mmol/L
- Deep Ketosis (best for weight loss): 1.5 mmol/L – 3.0 mmol/L
How Does Ketosis Work?
In a nutshell, ketosis is a state that our body enters when we don’t eat carbohydrates. It’s a way for our body to use fats (body fats included) as the primary energy we need. It’s not only healthy for us, it’s actually more efficient for our brains to use.
How do we get that energy from the fats? Well that “ketosis” state we are in allows our liver to break fats down into molecules called ketones. Those ketones provide the energy we need.
How does that all fall into weight loss? Through calorie deficit, we aren’t actually eating enough energy for our body to live, so we have to dig into our own fat stores to get the energy we need.
I’ve written a much more in depth article about Ketones, Ketosis and How It All Works that you can check out if you’re interested in the science behind it all.
What About Heart Attacks From All This Fat?
The main three fat groups we eat are saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats. The general consensus used to be that saturated fats were terrible for us and there was a clear link between saturated fats and heart disease. In recent years, though, saturated fats have shown to not only NOT cause heart attacks, but improve cholesterol levels. You can eat them without worry.
Polyunsaturated fats are a bit more tricky. There are 2 sides of the story here. Processed polyunsaturated fats (like margarine spreads and vegetable oils) are terrible for us, and usually include trans fats. They DO have a causation effect with heart disease and should be avoided. However, there are naturally occurring polyunsaturated fats in foods like fish, which are great for us and will improve cholesterol. It’s your job to seek out the healthy fats and eliminate the unhealthy fats.
Last but not least, there’s monounsaturated fats. These are pretty known to be “healthy” and are generally accepted as so. Olive oil is a pirmary example of something that is more proportionately a monounsaturated fat – being healthy for us and lowering our cholesterol.
I’ve written a more in depth look at Cholesterol and Fats on Keto that you can read at your own leisure.
What Are Macros and Should I Count Them?
Macros is a condensed term for the word macronutrients. The “big 3″ macronutrients are fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. As mentioned before, calories still matter – and it’s best you track all of them at the beginning. This not only gets you in a good habit, but also allows you to see how you are doing. You’d be surprised at how much we lie to ourselves, and how many unknown carbs can creep into our diet.
Tracking your macros also helps you if you come to a stall in your weight loss. You can pinpoint and nitpick at things in your diet that could well be causing this. When you track your macros, make sure you think in terms of GRAMS. Don’t think in terms of percentages. I see tons of new people thinking “well I did 5% carbs, 20% protein, and 75% fat – perfect” but that isn’t the case. Grams give a much more accurate description of what you’re eating, so use those!
Keep in mind that if you’re off on your macros by a bit, it’s not a huge deal. You have wiggle room to go up or down by 10-15g of fats and proteins, in most cases. If some days you go over, and some days you’re under, don’t freak out. As long as you’re keeping your calories in check and they’re not too far in a deficit, you’re fine!
I’ve written a more in depth article on What Macronutrients Are and why they are important to us.
What Foods Can I Eat?
It’s a very common question to ask what you can eat. The main thing is to stay away from carbs. In a nutshell, that’s sugars, breads, pastas, and rice. It might sound so simple when you look at it that way, but it’s not all that simple. Potato chips, tomato sauce, and even salad dressings can have carbs in them.
Even vegetables have carbs in them, but they are a necessary part of our diet, and that’s why we are allowed up to 30g of carbs a day – wiggle room, if you will, for some small amounts of residual carbohydrates from foods we need.
I’ve put together a small list of keto-friendly foods to get you started on building a shopping list and getting healthier!
Do You Have a Sample Menu I Can Look At?
This is a very hard question to answer. For every single person, their dietary menus will change. The amount of calories, fats, proteins, and carbs change per person and one menu wouldn’t be able to accompany or satisfy them. I have, however, put together a 7 day meal plan that is based off of my own macros.
You can view the 30 Day Keto Diet Plan to get an idea of what I eat on a regular basis, and how it all plays into calculating your macros. What your job here is, is to make it fit into your own macros. That means adjusting the portion sizes to make the calories higher or lower. Adjusting fat content (taking away cheese, adding cheese), adjusting protein values (mine is pretty high, so most of you will need to take away), and only adjusting the carb count slightly.
I think the carb count is quite good in the meal plan, but you could do with adding some vegetables if you don’t take a multivitamin, though.
I Just Started and Feel Like Crap. What Should I Do?
A very common happening when people start a ketogenic diet is getting headaches and “brain fogginess”. Since ketosis has a diuretic effect on our bodies, we end up peeing a lot more than usual. Factor that in with our bodies burning up the lasting glycogen stores, and you have yourself a big disaster on your hands. You’re peeing out electrolytes and you need to replace them.
Stay hydrated and eat salt. Broth, salty foods like bacon and deli meat, or salted nuts. These are good things to eat and drink while you’re transitioning into ketosis, and are good things to help keep you sane and functional.
I’ve written a more in depth article on the beginning symptoms of keto flu.
Constipation, What To Do?
It’s fairy common for people starting out on keto to have irregular bowel movements. Below is a list of common advice given to people for constipation or bowel movement problems.
- Take a Magnesium Supplement
- Drink Plenty of Water
- Eat One Tbsp. of Coconut Oil
- Stop Eating Nuts (if you do)
- Eat More Fibrous Vegetables
- Try Eating Chia Seeds or Flax Seeds
- Try Coffee or Tea
Can I Drink Alcohol On This Diet?
Alcohol can be consumed while on keto, but you must be wary. Those hidden carbs can creep in again.
The main takeaway point is to go after liquor. Wine, beer, and cocktails all have carbohydrates in them. Clear liquor is your best bet, but make sure you are steering clear of flavored liquors, as they can hold carbs in them.
I’ve written an article on keto and alcohol so you can get a more in depth idea on what’s going on and what you can drink.
I Stopped Losing Weight. What Can I Do?
Weight loss plateaus happen to everyone at least once. There’s a number of things that could be the problem but I will keep this one short. You can try a different number of methods that may help you out – ranging from cutting certain foods out of your diet to changing your eating patterns through intermittent fasting or fat fasting.
Here’s a list of common suggestions that are normally advised to people that aren’t losing weight:
- Cut Out Dairy
- Up Your Fat Intake
- Decrease Your Carb Intake
- Stop Eating Nuts
- Stop Eating Gluten
- Cut Out Artificial Sweeteners
- Look for Hidden Carbs
- Begin Cutting Processed Food from Diet
- Switch to Measuring Instead of Weighing
I’ve written an article, where you can read more about weight loss plateaus and how to break through them.
I Work Out, Should I Be Worried?
There’s 2 types of people that work out. People who run and people who lift weights. If you’re someone who does a lot of cardio – running, biking, marathons, or the like, then you don’t need to worry. Studies show that aerobic training (endurance training) isn’t effected by low carbohydrate diets. There’s a more in depth article on training on a ketogenic diet that I wrote.
Now, the story changes if you lift weights. You have to know your end goal here. As a short answer, carbohydrates do help your performance and also help with recovery of muscles. That means faster gains, and better strength performance in your training sessions. There’s two routes you can take here – TKD and CKD.
TKD is a targeted ketogenic diet, where you’re intaking just enough carbs before your workout to knock you out of ketosis for the duration of your workout. How it works is that you supply a glycogen source to your muscle to use, and then once it is used up after you finish your workout you will resume a ketotic state. You can read more on the targeted ketogenic diet in the article I wrote.
CKD is a cyclical ketogenic diet, and is also known as a more advanced technique. This shouldn’t be used if you’re new to keto, or new to training. It’s more for bodybuilding and competitors that are wanting to stay on a ketogenic diet while still building muscle in their intense workouts. In this method, you stay on a regular ketogenic diet for a period of time (usually 5 days) and then do what is known as a carb-up for a period of time (usually 2 days, or the weekend). In a CKD, you are essentially replenishing all of your glycogen stores for all the training you’ll do for the rest of the week, and your goal is to deplete that glycogen. You can read more on a cyclical ketogenic diet in the article I wrote.
What Supplements Should I Take?
Sometimes it’s common for people to get cramps or just not feel “right” after starting a ketogenic diet. Some supplements that are commonly suggested for people include:
Always check with your doctor before introducing vitamins into your diet.
Common Terms and What They Mean
- AS: This means Artificial Sweetener. Normally used to sweeten our foods with a reduced or zero carb count.
- BPC: This is known as Bulletproof Coffee. It’s normally butter, oil, and coffee mixed together with an emulsion blender to help up your fat content and give you a “full” feeling for the morning. Here is a common recipe for bulletproof coffee and the health benefits behind it.
- Fat Bomb: These are generally packed full of oils and fats to up our fat content for the day. Some people have trouble keeping up with their fat content so they make a fat bomb to help them out. They don’t HAVE to be sweet – you can make them to your own liking and even make a salty version too. Here is a common fat bomb recipe for you to use.
- HWC: This stands for Heavy Whipping Cream. Just ordinary cream that, for a lot of us, is a daily staple in our coffee and diet.
- IR: This relates to insulin resistance. This is where the body’s cells cannot properly respond to the insulin hormone.
- LCHF: Low Carb High Fat, the whole point of this diet!
- MCT: Medium Chain Triglyceride. These help boost your metabolism and are quite unique. When they are metabolized, they’re turned into ketones straight away.
- SF: This means Sugar Free. There’s a range of sugar free foods that a lot of people consume, normally containing artificial sweeteners.
- WOE: Way of Eating. This is just a term used to reference their own diet.