You’ve heard of FAQs… frequently asked questions. They are the predictable questions that we ask to gain understanding about how something new to us works. FAQs answer the questions you know to ask.
What about the important questions you could be missing?
SAQs are ‘should ask questions’, and they’re the meaningful questions that can make the difference between success and failure. They are the questions you didn’t know to ask.
SAQs give you insight, direction, and awareness for both the expected and unexpected, including landmines so that you are able to safely navigate around them.
If you’re new to keto, here are three important questions you should ask that can contribute to a positive keto experience. (If you’re already a keto follower, look out for advanced keto SAQs later this month).
#1: How much protein is too much?
The early 2000s ushered in the low-carb craze when the Atkins Diet made headlines with its endorsement of large slabs of steak and meat-lovers pizza (hold the dough). It, along with other low-carb diets such as South Beach and The Zone, made protein a household name—disrupting the nation’s obsession with bread and pasta.
A ketogenic diet is, in fact, low carb. What it’s not is high protein, a common misconception. While macronutrient requirements vary slightly from person to person, generally speaking, this moderate-protein diet limits protein to 20-25% of your daily intake, with 70-80% from fats and 5-10% from carbs.
Keto beginners often eat too much protein to make up for the reduction of carbs, because it is easier and instinctive to add an extra drumstick to the dinner plate than it is to add more fat and veggies. Some sources of extra protein are obvious, like consuming meats. Others are not, such as protein-packed nuts and seeds.
If your protein intake exceeds what your body needs to support the vital functions that depend on it, such as building muscle, producing hormones, and supporting healthy skin and hair, then it could cause a spike in insulin and promote the breakdown of protein and fat into glucose, in a process called gluconeogenesis.
Gluconeogenesis on its own does not cause for concern. If you follow intermittent fasting as part of your keto practice, this is the vital metabolic mechanism responsible for keeping your blood sugars level during periods of fasting or carb avoidance. Without it, glucose levels could reach a dangerous low.
But it is only short-term… this activity subsides as your body becomes “fat adapted”—that is, accustomed to burning fat and ketones, but more importantly, favoring ketones instead of the sugar energy that gluconeogenesis creates.
Until you can ‘eyeball’ the right portion of protein per meal, it is wise for you to calculate and track the amount of protein you eat to make sure you do not eat too much.
#2: How does fat affect my heart health, and are there fats I should avoid?
Fat started to get a bad reputation over 60 years ago when one study and a politically well-connected researcher deemed fat to be the enemy of our health. As a result, omega-3s from fatty fish and nuts, saturated fat from coconuts, butter and meat, and monounsaturated fat from avocados were placed in the same food jail as industrialized trans-saturated fat and partially hydrogenated oils.
And for decades, it has been widely believed that fatty foods clog arteries, ultimately contributing to heart attacks and strokes among individuals. However, the data tells a different story when it comes to fat.
There are three main types of fat: unsaturated, saturated, and trans. Each type is the same number of calories but differs in chemical shape and role within the body. We have been told that unsaturated fats should make up the bulk of fat sources while saturated fats should be responsible for less than 10% of the total fat calories and trans fats should be
Saturated fat has been villainized as one of the leading culprits of major diseases plaguing the country. Association studies have repeatedly found levels of saturated fat in the diet directly proportional to heart disorders. Therefore, the higher the saturated fat in the diet, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, high-fat diets have been linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, increased body fat, and obesity-related disorders. But a deeper analysis of these studies reveals that there is no correlation between high-fat diets and cardiovascular disease.
It is the diets that are high in fat and also high in carbohydrates are most closely related to cardiovascular disease.
But, high-fat diets in the absence of carbohydrates, such as the high-fat keto diet, has repeatedly been found to lead to improvements in metabolic health and better weight management. In fact, some of these studies even increased saturated fat to more than six times the recommended amount and found that not only was weight easier to manage but that cholesterol and cardiometabolic health markers all uniformly improved. These studies have been replicated in several populations with similar results that a correctly designed high-fat diet has a positive impact on heart health.
Furthermore, increased levels of saturated fat may be protective against heart-related complications. Despite this compelling evidence, nutrition advice still focuses on decreasing dietary fat with the notion that it will benefit health, especially heart health. This information is outdated, misleading, and dangerous.
Thankfully, that flawed research has been debunked. The effect lingers, however. In the last 20 years, consumers have learned to distinguish between ‘good carbs’ (quinoa, brown rice) and ‘bad carbs’ (white flour, refined sugar)—yet fat is still feared, even the good kind.
Fact: fats are not all the same. The right fats nourish cells and promote healthier aging with the power to recharge the heart of our cells, the mitochondria. The wrong fats can lead to inflammation, which is at the root of many conditions, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, acne and rosacea, and metabolic diseases.
A keto diet favors fat, as you know. For the body to enter the fat-burning state of ketosis, where it burns through available carbs (glucose) and starts to burn stored fat for energy, a steady supply of fat is critical. Because of this high demand for fat, it is no surprise that keto spinoffs such as “dirty keto” have become popular.
Dirty keto attempts to make a keto diet easier to plan and follow by allowing any fat from any source. For example, a bacon cheeseburger (hold the bun) from a fast food restaurant is fair game on dirty keto. Regular ice cream for dinner is too, as long as the carb count remains within guidelines. The goal is strictly to enter ketosis by any means necessary.
Clean keto, on the other hand, prioritizes good fats from natural sources: fatty fruits like avocados and coconuts, nuts and seeds, meats and whole fat dairy, and fatty fish. It also restricts processed oils such as vegetable, corn and canola oils, as they contain too many omega-6 fats, which can create inflammatory activity.
That’s because clean keto has a long-term goal of nourishing the body and motivating it to preserve good health and age slowly.
#3: What if I don’t meet my fat goals?
It is understandable why fallacies surrounding fat consumption may have you feeling shy about eating 70-80% of calories come from fat.
As a modern society, we have been programmed to believe that fat is the enemy and should be limited, white bread, pasta and cereal have been long touted as fat-free health saviors. At long last, modern nutrition is changing and access to the breakthrough research that debunks these outdated myths is available to everybody.
The joy of being able to enjoy egg yolks in an omelet with guacamole, a fatty cut of beef, or not having to skip dressing a crisp salad with a generous portion of dressing made with real cream or rich olive oil is something to celebrate!
Typically, the challenge is not eating too much fat—it’s eating enough to keep you satisfied and energized throughout the day. For this reason, many keto followers enhance their food by adding butter or oil from MCT, coconut, olive, avocado or tea seed to their meals, coffee, and smoothies.
Getting the right amount of fat shouldn’t be stressful or cause anxiety. In fact, many individuals cite this as being one of the best parts of keto!