10 Mistakes to Avoid When Doing Keto

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)
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The Keto diet takes some getting used to. At first, it may be hard to follow, but as long as you know what you’re getting into, the transition to a keto lifestyle — and the weight loss and health benefits — may really be worth it. Many people find the food really satisfying, but get tripped up by these potential pitfalls.

1. You eat too much protein.

It is incredibly satisfying and a vital source of fuel, but that doesn’t mean you should indulge mindlessly. If you eat too much, it will knock you out of ketosis (the state when your body burns fat instead of carbs for fuel) and you won’t get any of the benefits of the diet. Too much protein can also put a strain on your liver. The keto diet works best and is healthiest when you consume moderate amounts of protein. Measure and track how much protein you’re eating from the very beginning.

2. You focus only on the low-carb part of the program.

You need to get the right amount of protein and fat in your diet in order for it to work. In keto speak, you need to “track your macros” (see mistake #10 if you need some help with this).

3. You’re timid about fat.

If you want to get into ketosis, you’ll need to eat more fat. Don’t skimp out on the bacon, avocados, and steak. About 60 to 75% of your daily calorie intake should be fat.

4. You don’t drink enough water.

Your body won’t retain water as well as it normally does, so it is easy to become dehydrated. Drink more water than you are accustomed to.

5. You drink too much alcohol.

You can have a little alcohol, but too much might undermine your willpower. Alcohol also can’t be stored as fat, which means your body will metabolize it before the fat. That will slow your weight loss, if that is your goal for trying keto.

6. You don’t get enough sodium.

Seriously, even if you normally have high blood pressure, you might need to increase your sodium intake. Dr. Amy Goss, who runs clinical trials of the keto (and other) diets at University of Alabama at Birmingham, tells her patients to drink broth (which is high in sodium) in the afternoon. (If you are on blood pressure medication, consult your doctor before going on the diet so your meds can be adjusted). Many people (especially exercisers) benefit from the occasional no-carb electrolyte drink, which helps replace sodium along with other depleted nutrients.

7. You scarf down too many nuts.

Nuts are a great snack on keto — in moderation. For one thing, they do contain some carbs, so you have to be careful about that. And we all know how easy it is to eat nuts by the handful, but they are also high in calories. Some nuts are good; too many nuts can prevent you from losing weight, if that is your goal.

8. You eat lots of low-carb bars and other treats.

Fake sweeteners may help satisfy a craving in the short term, but they aren’t helping you reduce your cravings, which only makes the diet harder to follow. Now and then, one of these low carb “treats” can be okay, but don’t make a habit of it.

9. You look at overall carbs rather than net carbs.

This is a very important distinction. Carbs minus fiber = net carbs. The net carbs in a bowl of ice cream are pretty close to the gross carbs, but the net carbs in a cup of broccoli is are less than the gross carbs. The point is that the carbs you eat should be high in fiber and nutrients, and counting net carbs helps ensure this.

10. You don’t use a tracker.

Don’t try to do this all in your head. The diet is not necessarily easy to follow at first, and a tracker can make a big difference. Many fitness trackers make short work of keeping track of your net carbs, protein, and fat intake. There are also a slew of apps you can download.

Keto for Newbies: Curious about the ketogenic diet? This high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb lifestyle puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis, where you burns fat instead of carbohydrates as the primary fuel source. Read more here about what keto is and see all of Kitchn’s coverage on keto here.