The main rule of the keto diet is simple: Eat high-fat and low-carb.
Follow this rule and you enter a unique fat-burning state called ketosis. Once you’re in ketosis, the benefits—weight loss, better energy, fewer cravings, and mental sharpness—soon follow.
It’s not quite that simple, however. You might feel low energy, crampy, and altogether lousy in the initial stages of the keto diet. Fortunately, this “keto flu” is typically short-lived, assuming you’re getting sleep, staying hydrated with plenty of electrolytes.
But doing keto right isn’t always easy—we know it can be hard to find a reliable, understandable source to guide you.
This article will help! Keep reading to learn how to avoid the main keto mistakes on your way to keto success.
Top 7 Keto Diet Mistakes
Doing keto right requires a bit of foresight. Absorb these seven keto diet pitfalls and you’ll be on your way to keto success.
#1: Not tracking macros
On a keto diet, you eat about 60 to 70 percent of your calories from fat, 20 to 30 percent from protein, and under 10 percent from carbohydrates. Keeping your macronutrients (or macros) in these ratios signals your cells to start burning fat and producing ketones.
Yep, that’s the key to ketosis. Keeping carbs low and fat high.
But because tracking can be tedious, many people forgo it. And when they do, they often miss hidden carbs.
Hidden carbs are sneaky, like the characters in Big Little Lies. They sneak into salad dressing, sauces, and soups. They hide in tomatoes, avocados, and berries. And they add up over the course of the day.
The solution to this problem? First, use a macro calculator to determine how much fat, protein, and carbs your body requires. Then, use an app like Cronometer to track your daily food intake. After about a week of macro tracking, your brain will learn the game, and you won’t need the app anymore.
#2: Not taking electrolytes
Most people don’t get enough electrolytes on keto. Especially sodium and potassium.
Why not? Two main reasons:
- A whole foods keto diet is naturally low in dietary sodium and potassium
- Cutting carbs lowers insulin levels, which causes you to lose extra sodium through urine
Combined, these factors are a recipe for electrolyte deficiency. Sodium deficiency, in particular, causes headaches, low energy, cramps, and insomnia in those who suffer it. This deficiency is often labeled “keto flu”, but it’s really low sodium flu.
To prevent this problem, aim for about 5000 milligrams sodium, 1000 milligrams potassium, and 300 milligrams magnesium per day in addition to dietary sources.
Drinking bone broth can be a great way to get more sodium and other valuable minerals in your diet. Also, don’t be shy with the salt shaker!
#3: Inadequate protein intake
Some sources urge you to avoid protein on the keto diet. They claim it will kick you out of ketosis and prevent fat loss.
Multiple studies show that moderate protein diets (about 30% of calories) are perfectly compatible with weight loss on keto.
More importantly, you need protein to build and maintain muscle. Without a steady supply of amino acids (the building blocks of protein), muscle loss is inevitable.
Muscle mass, by the way, is a powerful predictor of longevity. The more muscle someone has, the longer they tend to live. And protein helps you keep it.
#4: Not eating enough fiber
If, after starting keto, your digestion doesn’t run like a Swiss watch—you’re not alone. Diarrhea and constipation are common keto symptoms.
What’s the problem? Often, it’s insufficient fiber.
Dietary fiber is super important for healthy digestion. It not only keeps you regular but also feeds your gut bacteria, which in turn produce anti-inflammatory compounds like butyrate. Fiber, in other words, is the fuel that keeps your gut humming along.
Some fiber sources—think: starchy vegetables—are restricted on keto. But other low-carb veggies like kale, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and asparagus are fair game.
#5: Overdoing dairy
Can you eat too much cheese on keto? What about other dairy products?
In terms of macros, dairy is generally a keto-friendly food. Not all dairy, however, is created equal.
Raw unpasteurized milk? Definitely keto. Banana Yoplait? Definitely not. The truth is, most store-bought milk products contain tons of sneaky sugar. Read those labels!
#6: Eating unhealthy fats
Keto isn’t just about eating mountains of fat, whatever that fat happens to be. The type of fat also matters.
Vegetable oils are the fats you want to avoid. This can be a challenge since they’re in so many products!
These oils—which include soybean oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and several others—are high in the inflammatory omega 6 polyunsaturated fat, linoleic acid. Eating too much omega 6, in fact, has been linked to the American obesity epidemic.
Cooking with vegetable oils is especially dangerous. That’s because polyunsaturated fat oxidizes at high temperatures, creating oxidized lipids. And oxidized lipids, it’s been shown, accelerate the progression of heart disease.
Focus on healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, animal fat, and butter. Your body will thank you.
#7: Obsessing over ketone levels
Tracking ketone levels in your blood, breath, or urine can be a useful practice. If you confirm you’re in ketosis, you’re probably getting your macros right.
But many people get obsessed with ketone levels, making them a #1 priority. Here’s why that’s a mistake:
Here’s a pro tip: Keep a journal to track your energy level, body weight, sleep, mood, digestion, and any other health metric important to you. Let these metrics be your North Star to keto success.
Now that you know which blunders to avoid on your keto-fueled journey, you’ll be well-positioned for success. And success, as we define it, means marching ever upwards towards better health.
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Author: Brian Stanton
Bio: Brian Stanton is the author of Keto Intermittent Fasting, a certified health coach, and a freelance writer who helps health and wellness companies connect with their customers. Learn more about Brian by visiting his website at www.brianjstanton.com.