The low carb/keto world has gotten overly-complicated in previous years, and unnecessarily so. When we started out in 2006, there was very little information on the internet. Though Atkins had been around for some time, there was still a lot of skepticism about this ‘diet’ and even, rather especially, the medical community didn’t encourage people to eliminate carbs from their diets. Afterall, the government food chains have bread, pasta and rice right up there for everyone to eat, right? There weren’t many (good) recipes out there or meal plans to follow, and no fancy apps to track your daily intake, macros, etc. I had to go to specialty health food stores just to find almond flour and flax meal. I developed a lot of recipes myself, based on the foods that I knew were healthy to eat. Michael lost over 100 lbs without ever tracking macros or peeing on a stick.
Do you need to live by Macros?
Once you get your body into a ketogenic state, the magic happens by itself, if you’re doing things correctly. Everything else is just tools. The problem with this is you start relying on these tools for your progress rather than listening to your own body. Our bodies are sophisticated machines, and are very adept at telling us what we need. And I don’t mean listen to your body while you’re in the adaptation phase, because it will be telling you it needs a Big Mac and large fries! But once you’re keto (fat) adapted, listen closely. You will feel when you’re burning fat. You’ll have more energy, mental clarity, you will not be hungry all the time, you will eat less because your body is tapping into your fat stores to fuel your body. This is the whole goal. Listen to your body, and feel it. Don’t force yourself to eat because you are trying to reach your daily macros. If you’re hungry, eat. When you’re full, stop eating. When you’re thirsty, drink.
MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil, grass-fed butter, coconut oil are some of the healthiest fats we can put in our bodies.. and they’ve been around for a long time. Long before the “Bulletproof” craze came along, I was using MCT oil in my stir-fries. Baking with coconut oil. People are now dumping everything but the kitchen sink into their coffee, whether they even like coffee or not, because that’s what they think they have to do to ‘keto’. Some focus has been lost somewhere along the line. And I’m not saying don’t drink a Bulletproof coffee if you enjoy it. Go for it! I love them myself and it’s a great way to get good fats into your diet. But understand it’s a convenience thing. There’s no reason to choke back something that makes you want to vomit just because the internet is telling you that’s what you need to do. There are plenty of ways to incorporate these fats in your diet without putting them in your coffee. Cook with them. Throw a capful of MCT, coconut oil or an avocado in your smoothie, put an extra pat of butter on your veggies.
Peeing on Sticks
Testing your ketones with Ketostix is a helpful tool in the beginning, but you don’t want to become dependent on them, or put too much stock in what shade of pink/purple you are able to achieve. How light or dark your stick is depends on how concentrated or diluted your urine is. The ketones you’re peeing out in the beginning are those not being used by your body, and all you need to know is whether or not your body is producing ketones. If it’s any shade of pink, you’re good! You’re in ketosis. As you become keto adapted and your body knows what to do with them, your kidneys naturally down-regulate the volume of ketones they excrete into your urine. So, after awhile the Ketostix become irrelevant.
Many people, including myself, test their ketones from their blood. This involves a glucometer, like used by Diabetics, and special test strips to test ketones, rather than glucose. It involves a pin prick on the finger. This is helpful if you’re stalling and want to get better handle on your numbers so you know what to tweak in your diet. Unlike Ketostix, which are relatively inexpensive, the ketone test strips can be very pricey, averaging around $5 a pop, so it’s not something you want do all the time.
There is also a breathalyzer device available (Ketonix) that will detect ketones when you blow into it, and give you a reading. I can’t comment too much on this because I bought one, and it’s still sitting in my cupboard.
“Lazy Keto” or just Back-to-Basics?
I’m in no way saying to NOT to make use of any of these tools available to you. If you find the macro tools helpful and you need that structure, by all means use them. If you enjoy a Bulletproof coffee, have at it! But just know that it’s not something you have to do to successfully follow a ketogenic lifestyle.
Our personal macros go something like this – aim for 0 carbs each day. You’ll end up somewhere under 20g. Your carbs should be complex and come from non-starchy vegetables, NEVER simple carbohydrates. Eat lots of good fats, moderate protein, and don’t eat when you’re not hungry. This method also works, we’re testament to that 🙂
In a big way, all these things make keto feel more like a diet rather than a lifestyle. In a lifestyle change, you think about sustainability. You need to know it’s something you can live with for the rest of your life. If it becomes too complicated and tedious, you will want to abandon it. In a diet, you have the ‘once I’m off this diet….’ mentality. Surely you are not going to spend the rest of your life tracking nutritional macros and peeing on sticks. You’re going to get to a place where you’re comfortable with yourself, and you’re going to carry on with life. And enjoy your life as you should! You’re going to go to restaurants and make good choices, and not fear being tempted by other things on the menu. You’re going to go to family functions, events, go on vacations, and do things with your kids and pass on carby food. And you’re going to perfectly okay with it, even if other people aren’t. You’re going to be in charge of your own body, and ultimately your health. That’s where you want and need to be.