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Ketogenic diet : Your 3 Day Keto Kickstart and Menu Plan

So I’m writing this post today as much for me as I am for you. As some of you know, I’ve been doing the low carb and gluten free thing for 2 years now, with great success. Over the Summer though, I got a little lax and the weight started creeping on. I got serious for a bit, then lax again, then serious, then lax, etc.

Since then I’ve been gaining and losing the same 12 pounds for about 6 months – a cycle I really, really need to break. In the last couple of months the situation has reached Defcon levels, because the 12 pounds has grown to about 18.

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This is UNACCEPTABLE, people!!!

I need to start walking the walk, not just talking the talk! So I’m buckling down, getting serious, and hitting the Keto HARD from now on.

I’m guessing many of you are in a similar situation, since blog traffic has about doubled since January 1st! So I thought I’d share some of my tips for getting into ketosis in three days or less. Then we can rock the low carb thing together and lose the weight for good!

keto menu plan from I Breathe I'm Hungry

Some of you may be new to low carb eating, and whether you are following Atkins, Keto, or another low carb plan, there are a few basic things you should know.  The following are some things that I’ve found to be true by my own experience with low carb/keto dieting:

The IBIH Keys to Success on Keto…

1. Eat less than 20g net carbs per day if you want to get into ketosis. Net carbs are calculated by subtracting the fiber grams (or sugar alcohols in some cases) from the total carb grams. Don’t guess – you’d be surprised how many grams of carbs there are in things you might have considered “free” like onions, garlic, tomatoes, and kale, just to name a few.

2. Purchase some ketostix – they aren’t expensive and you can even cut them in half to get double the strips. Some people say they don’t matter, but when you are suffering as much as you will be in the first few days, it’s nice to get the validation that it’s working.

On average it takes most people about three days to get into ketosis.The sticks will confirm that ketones are being excreted through your urine. That’s all. They won’t change color at all for no ketones, then there is trace (light pink) and it goes up from there to dark purple. The darkness of the stick doesn’t matter. As long as you are showing even trace amounts, then you are in ketosis and good to go. In fact, if you are showing really dark on the stick, you may be dehydrated and need to drink more water (see #4.)

3. Eat enough salt! I’m going to say that again so pay attention.

EAT. ENOUGH. SALT.

When you eat low carb your body doesn’t retain water the same way, so sodium and other important electrolytes get flushed out quickly. You need to replenish these or you will feel awful – it can even lead to heart palpitations, panic attacks, and other scary things.

salt

Salted bone broth or stock is a great way to replenish your electrolytes. In addition, you should supplement potassium (I use a light salt which is half sodium and half potassium – works great and you can find it in your spice aisle) and magnesium to avoid lightheadedness, cramps, headaches, etc. Vitamin C is also good.

4.  DRINK LOTS OF WATER. THEN DRINK MORE WATER. THINK YOU’VE HAD ENOUGH? I DON’T CARE, GO DRINK EVEN MORE WATER.

You should slosh when you walk and be pee-ing every 10 minutes like you’re 9 months pregnant with an 11 pound baby bouncing on your bladder like a pogo stick (you moms know what I’m talking about).

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This is important. I don’t want to hear any whining about how you don’t like the taste of water, etc. You can throw of few drops of mio in there if you need to, but put your big girl pants on and drink it.

Aim for at least 100 ounces a day – especially in the first couple of weeks until your body adjusts. Then you can lower it to 99 ounces a day if you’re feeling confident.

Just kidding. DRINK MORE WATER.

(Necessary internet disclaimer: Use your heads people – there is such a thing as too much water so don’t get crazy about it and drink 5 gallons a day, but do aim for a minimum of 100 ounces a day – maybe more if you have a lot of weight to lose.)

6. If this is your first time doing low carb you may be blindsided by the detox symptoms. I’m not going to lie, depending on how carb heavy your diet is when you start, you may wish you were dead by day three.

DON’T PANIC.

Headaches, bone deep fatigue, irritability, dizziness, and more, depending on your body. Hang in there, it’s worth it! The first three days are the hardest. Some of you have done it before and know to just ride it out and it will all get better soon.

Those of you who may be new to what they call “keto flu” might panic, thinking your death is imminent. I can assure you that it is highly unlikely that you will die from sugar/carb withdrawal – but just to be sure it’s always wise to consult your doctor before you embark on any new eating plan, or if something feels truly off it’s better to be safe than sorry – seek medical attention if you feel it’s necessary. Most symptoms can be alleviated by supplementing and drinking enough water (see #3 and >4.)

Your body is going to be like an angry child having a tantrum – IT WANTS SUGAR AND CARBS NOW, but you aren’t going to give it any are you? ARE YOU??? Just like with children, the key is to distract, distract, distract (oooh shiny!). Give it something else desirable, (bacon, cheese, etc.) even if it isn’t what it really wants. Don’t give in thinking you’ll feel better if you just eat a little bit of carbs – there is no compromising!

20g net carbs or less a day. LEARN IT!

It’s tough love time people, trust me on this.

sugar

6. Don’t obsessively plan everything and overwhelm yourself so it feels harder than it has to. This may be controversial for some, but I’m here to tell you not to worry about calories, or nitrates, or Omega 3 vs Omega 6, or if the meat you’re eating skipped about on acres of lush pastureland, while being hand fed organic vegan feed by the tiny perfect hands of 1000 virgin milkmaids.

SIMPLIFY FOR SUCCESS.

Get into ketosis. Give your body time to adapt to it so you can function. THEN you can worry about fine tuning and all the other stuff. Seriously.

Along the same vein, some of my recipes on the blog include hemp seeds, coconut flour,almond flour, and other not so easy to find ingredients – IGNORE THOSE RECIPES (for now). The focus here is, again, simplicity. You will likely be irritable, fatigued, and not feeling awesome during the first three days to a week. Trust me on this – the last thing you are going to want to do is make complicated meals.

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The basic strategy here is to a) never get too hungry, and b) to stuff your face full of delicious, high fat, very low carb foods often. Once you open the door to hunger, your resolve can fly right out the window and you’re back to square one (sadly, I speak from experience on this.)

7. WARNING! This is not a high protein diet! Your body can convert excess protein into glucose and we don’t want that. You want your body to learn to use fat for energy – that is the secret to unlocking your fat stores and losing weight almost effortlessly on a low carb plan.

Keto is a Low Carb / Moderate Protein / High Fat Plan.

Don’t think you’re going to cheat the system and lose faster by restricting carbs AND fat – you will feel (even more) awful, and after the intial water weight drop your weight loss can be inhibited by eating a lot of protein.

To find out how much fat/protein you should be getting for your body, try this handy keto calculator.

If you’re going to do this thing you have to commit to eating fat – throw your old ideas about fat = bad out the window and embrace it.

EMBRACE THE FAT!

If you have anxiety about that, here is a list of links to some great resources on the science of low carb, how and why it works, testimonials & success stories, etc.

Cholesterol Clarity (Book)
Everything about Keto (Reddit Forum)
Keto FAQ (r/keto)
Living La Vida Low Carb (Website)
Keto Video Compilation (collection of free videos from around the web)
Low Carb High Fat for Beginners (website)
Guide to Ketosis (website)

8. All brands are not created equal. Sometimes (but not always) you have to pony up for the name brand over the generic because the carbs are less – this is generally true with cream cheese for example. When buying heavy cream, go organic if you can find it because some brands use thickeners that add carbs. Buy your cheese in blocks or slices rather than in shreds – the shredded cheese is coated with food starch to avoid clumping and that adds carbs.

READ LABELS!!! Don’t assume anything is a free food!

Garlic powder, onion powder, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar – all contain carbs that add up. If you aren’t getting into ketosis there is a reason – it’s usually hidden carbs that you aren’t counting. When in doubt, look it up on sites like Calorie King or My Fitness Pal to be sure.

9. This one is strictly for the ladies out there.

If you are not, or never have been, the proud owner of your very own uterus, then I suggest you skip over this one. You’ve been warned.

The first month or two on keto you may experience some strange periods (aka. Shark Week.) Don’t be alarmed. When you lose weight and your body detoxes from sugar and excess carbs, all kinds of hormonal changes (for the better) occur. Initially though, you may experience heavier periods than normal, more extreme PMS symptoms, etc. This is normal, and while it’s inconvenient it shouldn’t last more than a few months at the most.If your weight loss is rapid on keto (let’s hope), you may also lose more hair than normal for a month or two. It can be disconcerting, but it’s not permanent and will stop when your hormones regulate.

I have experienced all of these things on keto since I started, and I can promise you that the increased energy, weight loss, better skin, and other pros far outweigh these few temporary issues. Stay the course unless something seems really wrong, in which case you should see your doctor just to be on the safe side.

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In Summary:

Consume 20g or less of net carbs per day, not too much protein, lots of fat, drink at least 100 ounces of water per day, get plenty of salt and supplement with potassium and magnesium. Boom, three days later you’re in ketosis (which you can measure with your ketostix,) and on your way!

Now, what should you eat? There are endless combinations of food and it really depends on your personal preference. I put together a simple 3 day keto menu plan to get you started. This is what works for me, and because my body knows the drill, I can actually get back into ketosis in less than 2 days on this plan. If you are new to low carb, it may take you as long as 4 to 5 days. Don’t despair, it will happen.

I don’t really concern myself with portion size for the first few days – it’s about eating until you’re full and satisfied, and that will differ for everyone. Remember, we’re not concerned about calories right now – it’s just about getting into ketosis – lots of satiating fat, not a lot of carbs. That is all.

3 Day Keto Menu Plan

Day One

Breakfast:

Cream Cheese Pancakes with butter and sugar free syrup (if desired)
coffee with heavy cream (& no carb sweetener if desired)
bacon or sugar free breakfast sausage

Snack

2-3 String Cheese

Lunch

Ham and Cheese rolled in Cream Cheese Pancakes with mayonnaise and arugula or spinach

Snack

Half an avocado with lite salt and pepper

Dinner

Classic Buffalo Wings
sugar free blue cheese dressing
celery sticks

Dessert

1 serving Chocolate Mousse or Chocolate Truffles (optional)

Day Two

Breakfast:

Eggs (any style)
bacon or sugar free sausage
coffee with heavy cream (& no carb sweetener if desired)

Snack

Half an avocado with lite (potassium) salt and pepper

Lunch

Simple tuna salad (tuna, mayonnaise, salt and pepper) boats
romaine lettuce leaves (just spoon it in and eat like a taco)
1 cup chicken broth

Snack

12 almonds and/or 2 string cheese

Dinner

10 minute no-chop chili
cheddar cheese, sour cream, and pork rinds for dipping (optional)

Dessert

1 serving Chocolate Mousse or Chocolate Truffles (optional)

Day Three

Breakfast:

Cream Cheese Pancakes
coffee with heavy cream (& no carb sweetener if desired)
bacon or sugar free breakfast sausage

Snack

12 almonds and/or 2 string cheese

Lunch

Leftover 10 minute chili, tuna salad, or ham and cheese/pancake rollups

Snack

1 cup chicken broth
half an avocado with lite salt and pepper

Dinner

Easy Cajun Chicken
Cheesy Cauliflower Puree
2 cups baby spinach with carb free dressing

Dessert

1 serving Chocolate Mousse or Chocolate Truffles (optional)


This should be more than enough to get you started! Feel free to mix and match or eat the same thing every day if you want to – as long as you stay under 20g net carbs. I hope that you will let us know how it works for you in the comments – I’m curious to see how you guys fare on it.

I’m also considering doing more menu plans, with daily calorie and carb counts, maybe with shopping lists – would you guys be interested in something like that? 7-day? 14-day? Longer? Let me know in the comments!

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