Starting the ketogenic lifestyle can be a difficult choice. Let’s be honest, it’s a different way of living, and it’s not for everyone. But it can be incredibly rewarding. I’ve broken down what I think are the three phases to the keto journey.
- The Introduction Phase
- Adjustment Phase
- Fitness Phase
This phase has two parts, really. The first part is where you get mentally prepared to deal with the changes you are about to make. You have to get your mind set right and focused on the goal you have put in place. But after that (or at the same time), you have to start getting a handle on the right kinds of foods to eat. In this phase, you will be ejecting all the bad stuff from your pantry. Toss the sugar, bread, pasta, sweets, fruits (berries are okay…but not Crunch Berries or Frankenberries), sodas (yes, diet soda, too), alcohol, potatoes, etc. Get rid of all the bad foods that have gotten you to this point. Also, you need to start getting used to eating copious amounts of fat and eating cleaner carbs (veggies). You’re going to change the kinds of meat you eat from the lean stuff to the fatty stuff (or, as I like to call it…the delicious stuff). You’re going to realize that dessert doesn’t signal the end of a meal, being full does. This phase requires a lot of discipline so that you can start to develop good habits. This is the rigid, structured, unbending phase. It is a necessary phase and it will take anywhere from 21 days to 12 months.
This phase is when you finally get your Introduction Phase goods figured out, dialed in, and settled. You have, by this point, figured out what keto foods you like and you’ve gotten good at sticking to them. When you get to this point, you have developed traits and habits that you can rely upon. THIS IS IMPORTANT: If you haven’t gotten to the point where you can resist the bad foods easily, you are not in the adjustment phase. Once you have your good habits developed, you can rely upon them like…well, habits. So you can give yourself permission to develop some variety in your healthy carbs (veggies and fruits). Alcohol can also be introduced in this phase, if you choose. You can also adjust your fat and protein levels (increase or decrease) to see how those adjustments help you get to your goals. This is an open-ended phase, without any real end point. The idea is that your body’s requirements change as you lose fat and get healthy, so you need to keep pace with the changes and make the necessary adjustments.
This phase can be done in conjunction with the Adjustment Phase or after, depending on your situation. During the Fitness Phase you start to incorporate physical exercise into your life. Physical exercise is a way to add an extra element into your fat burning, not because of calories, but because exercise is a great way to deplete your glycogen stores (muscle sugar) and kick start your body to fat burning. There are three main types of exercises that you should consider incorporating at this point: high-intensity intervals, low-intensity aerobics, and lifting weights.
High-intensity intervals involve short bursts (20 seconds) of very intense exercise (sprint, body weight exercises, etc.) followed by a very short rest (10 seconds). You should repeat this interval 8 total times. Low-intensity aerobics is, basically, walking. Just walk a few times a week for an hour or so and you’ll feel the improvement in your mental clarity. And everyone should be lifting weights. The heavier the better. Nothing will bring you overall health faster and better than lifting weights. Make sure you use compound movements (using more than one muscle group), and avoid isolated exercises (using just one muscle group).
- Bonus: Maintenance Phase
This is when you get everything dialed in exactly the way you want it. You’ve seen the results you desire and you just want to keep it going. Lots of folks reach this, have a low body fat percentage, have fun exercising several times a week, and enjoy the rest of their lives without fretting and worrying. This is the phase we all want to reach.
So there you go, what did I miss? What would you add? Let me know.