Eating keto sounds simple enough – get rid of the carbs, load up on fat and in a few days you are burning fat at the rate of knots and feeling more focused and energised than you have in years.
While this is a slightly more simplified description of what happens when you commit to a keto eating plan, this experience may be possible as long as you stick to the number one rule of following keto: getting your calories and macros right, which can be easier said than done.
Keto is not just a low carb eating plan, rather it is a high fat plan. Since there are not that many foods that fit this description, keto eating plans are specific, relatively strict and rely heavily on a handful of foods to make meals from on a daily basis.
The other key thing to remember about keto is that calories are still important. And as high fat, low carb foods such as cheese, avocado, nuts and oils are extremely high in calories and extremely easy to overeat, keto requires a lot of attention to ensure you are reaching these targets.
Mistake one: Eating too much protein
The first mistake many keto fans make with their keto eating plans is that they simply swap carbs in their diet with protein rich foods such as meat, chicken, fish and eggs.
While some types of fish and meat such as salmon and fatty minces do contain relatively large amounts of fat, they are also high protein foods. As such swapping a couple of eggs for one meal and a hearty serve of meat or fish at each meal will take your overall protein intake way about the upper limit of 20 per cent of total calories required to ensure your fat intake remains at 70 per cent of intake, the proportion required to induce ketosis.
Too much protein will halt ketosis by inducing a process called gluconeogenesis, or the process in which extra protein is broken down into glucose molecules to be burnt as energy.
Mistake two: Eating too much fat
The second mistake commonly made on keto is overdoing fat intake. While keto is a high fat eating plan, it is easy to eat a lot of fat quickly.
For example, an avocado contains at least 20g of fat, a tablespoon of oil 20g and a serve of high fat meat or fish 20-30g. Even when fat intake is required to reach 70 per cent of calories overall, for a small female who burns 1400-1600 calories a day.
It equates to just over 120g of fat in total. This means if you enjoy a serve of oily fish, a couple of tablespoons of oil, an avocado along with a handful of nuts and seeds you will be close to your upper intake of fat, whilst also keeping your calories controlled. If you then are tempted to snack on extra nuts, or serve of fatty meat or creamy dressings it will be very easy to blow out your overall calorie intake from fat and halt ketosis.
It is true that the high fat nature of keto can help to manage hunger, but for many of us who still have the desire to eat regardless of true hunger, high fat snacking can be an issue.
When adhered to, keto can be an extremely effective way to drop the kilos quickly but it is not easy to follow. Keto eating requires a significant amount of commitment, meal planning and food prep as well as the focus to follow it 100 per cent of the time.
For keto to be successful it also requires calorie control and a key understanding of macronutrient balance to ensure that your keto eating plan is actually keto – if you can stick to this you can then reap the potential weight loss results keto offers.
Susie Burrell is a nutritionist. Follow her on Twitter: @SusieBDiet.