Welcome to Keto Sister. If this is your first time here, I highly recommend that you start with my Keto Basics series. If you have been here before, then welcome back! I hope today’s post offers some insights into two strategies that be utilized for maintaining your low carb lifestyle.
Getting into Ketosis
My recommendations for beginning your low carb journey are similar to those of other keto experts. I advise my clients to:
- Reduce total impact carbohydrates in foods to 20 grams per day for about two weeks.
- Increase fat grams to 200 grams per day from quality, whole food sources such as butter, coconut, olives, avocado, and animal fats (to name my favorites).
- Eat an appropriate amount of protein for your height, sex, lean mass, activity levels and goals. I recommend starting with a range of 0.6-1.0 grams per pound of lean mass (total weight minus body fat). As a woman whose lean mass totals 115, my protein range for inducing ketosis is between 69-115 grams. Low is a better place to start because the body is sensitive to glucose and will turn any excess protein to glucose, which can delay producing and using ketones.
Once glycogen stores are depleted and the body is burning fat as its primary fuel source, there are two ways to go about maintaining ketosis. I call these methods Classic Keto and Keto Hybrid.
With a classic ketogenic diet, a person typically continues to eat the same ratios of food eaten to get into nutritional ketosis. This method was first introduced to me by my early “keto gurus,” if you will: Stephanie “Keto” Person, Jimmy Moore, Eric Westman, and Maria Emmerich. To follow a Classic Keto approach, you would continue to eat very low carb–under 50 grams net carbs and for many, even under 30 grams is needed—to maintain high ketone production. Additionally, you can increase protein to an extent but protein consumption often has to be limited as well. Fat grams do not have to be limited to maintain ketosis, though some find that limiting dietary fat helps them to shed excess body fat. This is fine as long as you determine the right amount to eat to maintain your metabolism. The Classic Keto method usually is extremely high in fat and much lower in other macronutrient groups: 80% fat, 15% protein and 5% net carbs.
There are benefits to maintaining ketosis with Classic Keto:
- This is the least expensive method.
- It almost guarantees ketosis for everyone who eats this way.
- People often see a big loss on the scale following this method. (It is water weight mostly, but if you have a lot to lose then losing water and inflammation is a big part of the process.)
- It is the fastest way to regain insulin sensitivity, reduce blood sugar and convince the body to burn ketone bodies.
- Classic Keto is great for controlling hunger and satisfying the body on less food.
- Fasting is easy on this method. The elimination of hunger makes it easy to go long periods without eating and without struggling if you stay well hydrated.
- This method can minimize gut disturbances, especially for those who suffer from SIBO or other gut issues for which a low FODMAP diet is suggested. When I had gut issues and temporarily eliminated all plant foods in favor of meats and fats only, my gut discomfort went away almost immediately.
Problems with Classic Keto:
- Dehydration is the number one complaint of this method. People often suffer from “keto flu” symptoms and ongoing issues such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, leg cramps, and fatigue. These symptoms can be alleviated by taking in extra sodium, magnesium and potassium, but relying upon foods to take in their nutrients often leads to a deficiency. Supplements are highly recommended.
- This diet is limited to eating a variety of animal proteins, fats and a few low starch vegetables. Those who love fats will enjoy exploring methods for eating and drinking high amounts of fats every day. Those who struggle with fats will have to adjust to eating a smaller volume of food and consuming their calories in the form of pure fats.
- Limiting carb consumption this dramatically also means limiting micronutrients and minerals from plants. Nutritional deficiencies are possible if you do not carefully construct your diet to get enough vitamin A, C, D, E, K, in addition to the minerals listed above.
- It is possible to suffer from symptoms of glucose deficiency. People often do not eat enough glucose or enough excess protein to meet their body’s needs. Most people in ketosis are able to generate enough glucose to make all that the body needs, which is why carbohydrate foods are not essential for human survival. But those who have gut issues will find themselves glucose deficient and suffering from symptoms of this deficiency (see post titled “Too Little Carbs?” for details).
- It is easy to undereat by too large of a deficit and to slow your metabolism to a screeching halt. I have written about this issue in posts titled “Eating Low Fat and Calling It Keto” and “Ketosis and Hypothyroidism.”
- This method can cause gut disturbances for those who struggle to process fats. If you had your gallbladder removed or have other gallbladder problems, it can take a little while for the body to adapt to eating this level of fat. Digestive enzymes or ox bile salts can be helpful for some, but they do not work for everyone.
I followed the Classic Keto method for about a year and a half before giving the second method a try. Popularized by folks like Leanne Vogel, Paul Jaminet, Dave Asprey and Terry Wahls, this approach includes a more moderate intake of carbs. Rather than limiting carbs to under 30 grams, Keto Hybrid allows a person to determine his or her own threshold limit and to even push this limit by supplementing with medium chain triglyceride fats that convert readily to ketones. Another means of increasing carb threshold is to do glycogen-depleting exercise. When I lift heavy things, walk and do yoga, I can eat more carbs and remain in nutritional (measurable) ketosis. It is not uncommon with this approach for a person to eat 50, 75 or even 100 (if you are very active) grams of carbs a day and to be able to include starchy and sweet plant foods. The key is eating MCT oils like Brain Octane or Mickey’s 8 oil, and to also add coconut milk and coconut oil to meals. The Keto Hybrid method usually contains food ratios that are highest in fat but contain slightly higher amounts of carbs: 55-65% fat, 15% protein, 20-30% carbs.
Benefits of the Keto Hybrid Method:
- You get to eat more carbs. This allows for larger variety of foods in the diet. It also allows for greater access to micronutrients and minerals from plant foods. It is also less stressful on the body because this method saves the body from needing to produce glucose through gluconeogenesis. Those who suffer from hormonal imbalances, chronic fatigue or other adrenal or thyroid issues may find this method is gentler on the body.
- It is easier to maintain hydration. Carbs help to hydrate the body (hence the name, carbo-HYDRATE) because carbs cling to water molecules. Eating carbs keeps more water in the body, in the same way that eating more salt helps the body stay hydrated. This approach can work very well for athletes and those who are very active.
- This method helps support gut flora. More than getting enough nutrients and extra glucose, this method allows for consumption of resistant starches to feed gut bugs. Gut bugs can feed off of fats and proteins such as collagen, but the primary food sources are fibers and resistant starches which are contained in carb foods. The Classic Keto approach can be designed to support gut flora, but it takes careful planning to obtain enough fiber. Because carbs on Keto Hybrid are not limited to 30 grams, you can eat starchy foods like white rice or potatoes and still maintain ketosis with this method.
Problems with Keto Hybrid:
- This method is easy to do incorrectly. If you overeat carbs (and many people do, especially if they are addicted to carbs or extremely deficient), then it is easy to get knocked out of ketosis.
- MCT oils and coconut products are expensive.
- Many people dislike the taste of coconut or experience terrible side effects from these products (ever hear the term “disaster pants?”).
Which method is best for you?
I have tried both methods and both worked well for me. I think what helps to determine the best method really has to do with your preferences. Some people prefer the simplicity of eating a diet that consists of mostly animal proteins and fats with a few vegetables. Others prefer having access to more carbs. The keys to making either method successful are to:
- Plan your diet carefully, whether you follow Classic Keto or Keto Hybrid, to make sure you have the right foods available wherever you are.
- Make sure you eat a variety of foods to get adequate nutrients. Supplement essential nutrients as necessary.
- Support your gut by eating quality fibers, resistant starch, and fats that feed gut bugs.
- Pay attention to how you feel and be willing to be flexible if you need a different method for a while.
I hope this guide answer your questions about the two ways to eat ketogenic diet. If you have further questions, feel free to comment below or to contact me. Thanks for reading.