If you’re reading this, you’re probably serious considering or actively preparing for a ketogenic diet induction in your life. If so, congratulations! You’re about to embark on an interesting and admittedly less-traveled road that very well may bring you to new levels health and potentially change your relationship with food forever.
There’s no denying that following a ketosis diet can drastically shift you away from the status quo of your daily life. Understandably, making adjustments and getting used to these changes can be tough, especially in the first two weeks, when:
- Your body has yet to fully become fat-adapted and thus is going through a sometimes uncomfortable "adjustment period", and
- You haven’t yet passed the amount of time researchers suggest is necessary for forming a sustainable new habit (around 66 days, to be exact).
Listen: anything worth doing is likely going to be tough, right? And if it’s not challenging you, it’s probably not changing you. So, don’t let the common difficulties of the early keto induction phase intimidate you (and anyway – it’s not that bad).
To help prepare you for the initial few weeks of ketosis, check out some of these tips and suggestions.
Preparing for Your Keto Diet Experience
"The best self-defense: don’t be there." -Dr. Kelly Starrett, doctor of physical therapy, CrossFit gym owner, and founder of mobilitywod.com
You’ll recall that the primary goal of a ketogenic diet is to switch your body from a glucose-burning machine to a (body) fat-burning machine. This is achieved by severely restricting the amount of carbohydrates you eat – most keto pros recommend no more than 25-50 grams of net carbs per day – while concurrently eating a lot of healthy fats and keeping protein consumption to a moderate (since too much protein can be converted into glucose).
Assuming this is quite a bit different from the way you were eating before, you’ll need to take a day or two to reconfigure your pantry and fridge. For instance:
- Throw away or give away the foods you don’t need. It’s much easier to resist the temptation of crackers, bread, bananas, and other carb-heavy foods when they aren’t in your house. And if you live with other people who aren’t doing ketosis, at least try to negotiate some re-arranging of these foods so they’re not front and center in your kitchen.
- Stock up on the foods you do need. Buy in bulk (since it’s usually easier to cook in bulk). Fill your home and surround yourself with delicious meats, fish, eggs, healthy fats (ghee, butter, lard), quality oils (coconut, flax, olive), nuts, seeds, and above-ground veggies.
- Invest in a handful of decent supplies for cooking and food storage. You’ll be getting a lot of quality and delicious food. No sense in letting it go to waste or having to spend excessive amounts of time in the kitchen.
- Refresh and read up on ketosis. This is not only to further educate yourself, but also to arm yourself with some honest responses for when you’re eventually and invariably questioned by friends, family, and co-workers about this "weird" new diet you’re on.
Simple steps like these will help you set yourself for success, and give you a bit of leverage as enter the first one to two weeks of your new way of eating…aka: the keto induction phase.
The First 2 Weeks: Day-by-Day Tips for Mastering the Keto Induction Phase
At this point, your body probably has plenty of stored glucose to use for fuel, so even though your food choices change today, you may not notice anything too different physically. No worries: it’s only just begun!
To help start off on the right foot, I recommend being very strict with your net carb intake today – this will help you get into ketosis more quickly and establish helpful habits, like checking nutrition labels and measuring certain foods. Eat lots and lots of leafy green veggies, and right off the bat make sure you mind your nut consumption, as too many of these can introduce more carbs than you want.
With all your new foods to eat and all the helpful keto resources at hand, it may be tempting to try a ton of new recipes right off the bat. But too much choice can be paralyzing and overwhelming.
Today, I recommend selecting a handful of "staple" recipes that you’ll make frequently throughout your ketosis experience. These should be simple meals made with a few ingredients and which keep well in the fridge (which happens to be most of what you’ll eat on a ketogenic diet).
Feel free to "plan" the rest of the week based on your few go-to meals. As you go along and get more experienced and comfortable, you might find yourself naturally being more spontaneous with your keto menu (and even venturing out to dine, too!). This is fine, but I find simple is generally best in the beginning.
Keto flu – the period of uncomfortable signs and symptoms which crop up as your body transitions from making and burning glucose to making and burning ketones – may start showing its ugly head today. Things like huge food cravings, low energy, decreased physical performance, lightheadedness, constipation, and oily skin may occur.
This. Is. Normal.
Keto flu shouldn’t last too long and it’s not going to hurt you. Sure it may be a little icky, but by mentally preparing for it ahead of time and arming yourself with some tools to mitigate its effects, you’ll be able to get through it.
And remember: if you’re used to eating a lot of sugar, then suddenly stop, your body can literally go through withdrawal. This is normal, it’s not harmful, and it’s not necessarily a sign you’re doing anything wrong.
Getting through the keto flu is worth it, and you’ll come out on the other side healthier and happier than ever. So, chug some water and stay strong!
Keto flu symptoms may still be significant on day 4, but stay the course. Hopefully you’ve spent the past three days focusing your energy on simply choosing the right types and amounts of food and drinking lots of water – riding the learning curve, so to say.
But today might be a good day to start looking into some supplements, to enure you’re getting all the necessary fat, vitamins, and micronutrients you need for optimal health. The following may work for you:
- MCT oil (great in coffee or tea)
- Fish oil
- Vitamin D3
- Magnesium (threonate and glycinate are generally well-absorbed forms of this mineral)
- Exogenous ketones
You tend to get what you pay for when it comes to supplements, so do your research and consider chatting with a doctor before stocking up your keto medicine cabinet.
And when in doubt, remember to let thy food be thy medicine. Get the highest quality meats and produce as your budget allows. By no stretch of the imagination, purchasing better foods is an investment in your health and longevity.
First week in. Yay! Depending on how quickly you’ve been able to enter the state of ketosis, you may be noticing some of the telltale signs:
- Fruity and foul-smelling breath and urine (sorry, folks)
- Decreased appetite
- Increased energy
You may also be noticing a few missing pounds on the scale: a good sign your body is switching to burning ketone bodies for fuel. As your body becomes more and more efficient, these noticeable signs and symptoms of ketosis will become more prominent.
This may also be a good time to re-visit and double down on your "why’s" of doing the ketogenic diet. Are you trying to lose excess body fat and achieve the lean body you can be proud of? Are you trying to reverse or prevent a chronic health disease? Are you sick and tired of feeling sick and tired?
Whatever your "why" for doing the ketogenic diet, it’s helpful to have it front and center in your mind as you’re transitioning through this induction phase. To wax philosophical for a moment: "He who has a why to live can bear almost any how." – Friedrich Nietzsche
Day 8-14 and Beyond
By this time, keto flu symptoms should be gone or well on their way out. The diet itself should feel much more natural. Depending on your particular goals and response to ketosis, this "diet" may even turn into a new way of living. Kudos, if so. Enjoy your increased energy, accelerated weight loss, improved performance in the gym, and overall mental clarity and focus that can make you feel like a savant (at least, perhaps, compared to how you used to feel). You’ve earned it!
If you haven’t already, I recommend scheduling a consultation with your primary care physician, or finding a keto-savvy doctor near you. This is particularly important if you’re dealing with any chronic health conditions or if you take any prescription medications (in which case, you probably should schedule a doctor’s visit before even starting ketosis). Your doctor can run some tests and measures (e.g., blood work, weight, blood pressure – the usual) to ensure you’re responding well to the lifestyle change.
Got any other tips for surviving and thriving in the keto induction phase? Let us know about it the comments, and be sure to share this article with anyone else in your life about to embark on their first (or second, or third…) ketogenic diet journey!
About the Author Nate Arnold
I started this website because it was hard to find trustworthy, evidence-based information about the ketogenic diet. Information that was published and peer reviewed by respected scientific journals. After years of research, I'm sure you'll achieve great results in a healthy way following my advice. I do my best to translate scientific research jargon into plain English. Remember, it's always a good idea to consult a doctor before starting a new diet!