Common Sense keto (CSK) protocols can be a bit daunting for some people initially. The idea behind CSK is to get to a point where everything is optimal for increasing metabolism and health in order to get the best and longest lasting weight loss. The end point can be a hard place to get to for some people. Especially for those that are brand new to keto. The point of CSK is not to necessarily stay at that level forever, just until you hit maintenance weight. By this time you should be flexible enough anyway that you can eat more protein or maybe even a bit more carbs and still maintain weight. I personally still eat to the CSK protocol most of the time and it suits me just fine. It is perfectly fine but some may not want to do it forever. Keep in mind though, you will always have to watch the carbs and to some extent the protein but you will be able to get more flexible eventually.
The goal of this guide is to show a path to optimal. For the optimal CSK protocol you can look here:
If you are brand new to keto and have never done it before then you want to start off with the very basics:
The easiest way to get started is to just google keto recipes.
This in no way is ideal but it will get you a basic start and some practice at just eating low carb. They often contain foods that will have adverse reactions or sweeteners that are not optimal but if you have never eaten low carb or keto it will get you started. The ultimate goal is to not make recipes. The goal is to just eat foods in their natural state. Meat, eggs, dairy, some veggies. That is the end goal. Foods that you would have been able to find before grocery stores existed. This is a decent resource for keto recipes but you can find hundreds of different recipes just by googling “keto “insert food name here”:
Learn how to determine carbohydrate content of foods.
Either look on the food label or get yourself a tracking app like www.myfitnesspal.com or www.carbmanager.com and determine the carbs in all the foods you are eating. Don’t worry about “net” carbs, just count total carbs and initially try to get them under 20g or as close as you can. 20 total grams is the ultimate goal but you may need to titrate them down. You likely won’t get into ketosis if you don’t get below 30g though so be aggressive with cutting out the carbs.
Ideally you will want to be only eating meat, eggs, cheese, heavy cream (avoid milk), and low carb veggies and maybe some nuts but you want to try and limit nuts as they can cause weight loss issues and can be inflammatory. Initially you will be able to get away with more however and still lose weight so you may do OK with nuts. Here is a list of my personal choices for low carb veggies that are the safest for health:
How often to eat?
Most people think they need to cut calories to lose weight. Well that is true if you are eating a high carb diet. Keto works for different reasons. The biggest problem with cutting calories is actually that it is not sustainable because you can only starve for so long before you crack and start to eat more. When you cut calories you lower your metabolism. When you lower your metabolism and you do crack and start to eat more, you gain all the weight back. That is why diets fail.
Keto works because it keeps insulin low and keeping insulin low will allow the body to use fat for fuel. There is little to no need to cut calories unless you are eating too much carbohydrate and too much fat together. There is a time where too much protein can affect weight loss and that we will address when we get more advanced. For the complete newcomer, you will be able to lose weight just by cutting carbohydrate.
So how do you determine if you are eating enough to not lower your metabolism? Eat 3 meals a day. With breakfast being the most important and the largest portion of protein and carbs. We are most insulin sensitive in the morning and eating at this time causes the expression of genes that make you even more insulin sensitive and allow you to better control weight. Read these articles to see why breakfast is important:
Besides eating 3 meals a day the only other thing to begin with is to not snack. Every time you snack you raise insulin slightly and this slows down your weight loss. Just eat your 3 meals a day and that should get you in the right range to start with.
Moving forward towards TDEE
You should be fine doing this for a few weeks to get used to low carb eating. The sooner you start refining things the better so don’t sit here too long. You may be losing weight and be getting excited but you can actually be losing too much weight. I know, sounds crazy but it is true. Study after study has shown that the most lasting weight loss is in those who lose 1-2 pounds per week maximum. If you are losing more than this you may be losing too fast and slowing your metabolism. This will make things difficult later and cause you to hit the dreaded “stall” everyone is always talking about. You will definitely want to start looking at the amount of calories you are eating. We refer to the amount of calories one should be eating as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).
This number is relatively high and is why some people find it hard to get right to CSK protocols. I assure you though it is the normal amount of calories you should be able to eat and not gain weight on a standard high carb diet so it is an amount you should be able to lose weight on keto. If you can’t eat this amount and lose weight this means your metabolic rate is too low and you need to get it working properly again by eating appropriately. The first step to getting there is seeing where you are. Start tracking everything you eat in one of the trackers I mentioned above. Compare it to your TDEE which is explained here:
Once you see where you are then you can come up with a plan on how to get there. Start increasing calories from fat at each meal. Do this as fast as you feel ok doing so. The goal is never to make yourself sick. Just work at it as fast as you feel comfortable doing. Here are some of the foods I use to get more fat and less protein and carbs:
- 3 cups romaine with 4 tbsp of olive oil – 54g of fat (3g protein and 3 carbs)
- coffee with 4 tbsp HWC – 20g fat (1g protein and 2g carbs)
- 2 eggs fried in 1 tbsp butter – 26g fat (13g protein and 1 carb)
- 4 egg yolks – 18g fat (11 protein and 2 carbs)
- 0.5 cups macadamia with 2 oz cream cheese – 57g fat (8 protein 11 carbs)
- 2 oz triple cream brie – 24g fat (10 protein and 2 carbs)
- hollandaise sauce – 31g fat (2 egg yolks, 30g melted butter, lemon juice to taste and whisk together. Put on meat or whatever you want) (5 protein and 1 carb)
- Boursin cheese 2 oz – 24g fat
- 0.5 cup macadamia sauteed in 2 tbsp butter – 62g fat (5 protein and 9 carbs)
- Half an avocado – 11g fat (1 protein and 6 carbs)
- 10 olives – 5g fat (0 protein and 2 carbs)
- 1 tbsp butter – 12g fat (0 protein and 0 carbs)
- 1 tbsp avocado mayo – 11g fat (0 protein and 0 carbs)
- 1 tbsp macadamia butter mixed with 1 tbsp MCT or coconut oil – 22g of fat (4 protein and 3 carbs)
- Liver pate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liver_pâté – tons of fat with little protein and tastes amazing – (100g is 28g fat with 11 protein and 2 carbs)
- Raw Cacao butter – (10g of butter is 10g of fat with no protein or carbs)
What about carbs?
Carbs need to be below 20g to have this be optimal. That doesn’t leave room for much outside of the low carb veggies so use them sparingly. “Don’t I need veggies?” No you don’t. Keep lowering the veggies until you get below 20g and don’t waste any of the carbs on anything questionable like keto products with “net” carbs or keto treats. Look at the carbs in everything you eat and ensure everything is carb free as possible. All carbs count. Even fiber. Work the carbs down as low as you can. If that means eating no plants then so be it. They are not essential. I have been essentially plant free for over a decade and I thrive. There is also a rapidly growing carnivore community that is thriving. If you like plants and want to use carbs for those then so be it. Just don’t eat them out of a need. You can and will thrive without them. Here are some articles detailing why plants are not necessary unless you like them and why we count total carbs not net.
What about protein?
So protein can be an issue with weight loss as well. The body can only use so much protein. Protein is only needed to rebuild tissue and to provide some enzymes for other body processes but the amount you actually need is very low daily. Most people way over consume protein and any excess cannot be stored. It can only be used for tissue turnover or it has to be used as energy or converted to glucose for storage. Since the goal of keto is to use fat for fuel you don’t want to be using protein and you certainly don’t want to turn it to glucose.
The next goal is to start lowering your protein intake to maximize on fat loss. All we need for protein to keep from losing lean mass is 0.45g per KG of lean body mass. That is not very much. For example, my lean mass is 171 lbs or 77.7 kg. That means my requirement to not lose lean mass is 35g per day. Now I don’t want people just to get the minimum because protein is where we get most of the nutrients from on keto. A safe and reliable number I find to be useful is 50g for women and 80g for men. This number will give you what you need to maintain plus enough to build some lean mass and give you some added nutrition without leaving much to convert to glucose or be used instead of fat. Now you want to start lowering whatever you are eating for protein now down to these targets. Do this by just making the servings of protein containing foods smaller in each meal. Rather than having 6oz of steak have 4oz and so on until you reach the target number.
Once you have your carbs and protein in check and your calories where they should be you are now eating in the optimal way to ensure your metabolic rate stays high and you are running on fat for fuel. The weight should come off slowly and reliably for years to come. It might not be fast but it will be reliable and long lasting. Now once you have all this sorted and you have eaten to your TDEE for 6 weeks at least you can start playing with some more advanced strategies to get weight to move a bit faster. Keep in mind though that you still don’t want to be losing more than 1-2 lbs per week. We will cover these later but first I want to cover some other important factors. Foods to avoid and supplements.
Foods to absolutely avoid:
- Sweeteners (artificial or “natural”)
Sweeteners are number one thing I cut out. Sweeteners are chemically similar enough to glucose to fit in the receptors in the mouth that signal glucose is coming. This is why they taste sweet. The point of these receptors is to signal that glucose is coming. This starts a chain reaction which includes insulin secretion in the stomach. Insulin secretion is something we want to avoid as much as possible. When the gut is expecting glucose and it doesn’t come (there are more sensors in the gut to detect it but the sweeteners get broken down differently than glucose so they don’t activate the gut receptors) the gut will send a signal to the brain demanding what it was promised. This is called cravings. These cravings will continue until you either give in and produce some carbs or you just suffer through the cravings.
It also starts a possible chain reaction of negative events because of the insulin secretion without the actual glucose. If you secrete insulin without glucose there is a potential for hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). If the blood glucose drops to a level below what the body wants, it can cause a release of stress hormones like cortisol to signal the body to create more glucose. If you start this you will get increased blood glucose. This happens to me if I take stevia. I get high blood glucose. The stevia lowers my already low blood sugar and I get a cortisol spike and a subsequent glucogenic reaction resulting in elevation of blood sugar which in turn releases more insulin. Depending on how insulin sensitive you are you may not see this result but you will definitely get an insulin response. All of that just trying to satisfy a desire for sweet. Hardly worth it.
2. Pre-packaged foods and powders
Any powdered “food” like protein powders have ingredients in it that are not optimal for human consumption. Stabilizers and modifiers to keep them from hardening and to make them mix easier. These are not real foods and are not good for you. This includes collagen supplements. You can get all the collagen you need in eggs. Those are real foods and have a complete profile of useful amino acids and nutrients.
Any pre-packaged food is going to have preservatives and poor ingredients in it in order to make it shelf stable. Eat foods that are natural and that would have been available before there were grocery stores.
These foods are full of both glucose and fructose. Both sugar. There is no place in weight loss keto for these and they actually signal genes for weight gain. Animals eat fructose when they want to fatten up for the winter. If you are a bear getting ready to hybernate then you should eat fruit and berries. If you are a human trying to lose weight it isn’t a great idea.
4. Nut flours
As a treat for a special occasion there is nothing wrong with having a fat head pizza or a keto mug cake or something like this. These are treats and should be treated as such. For someone trying to lose weight these should be avoided. They are high in omega 6 which is very inflammatory.
5. Lectin containing foods.
See my article on approved veggies: http://commonsenseketogenics.com/safe-vs-unsafe-veggies/
6. Oxalate containing foods can be an issue for some as well:
See this article on Oxalates: http:// http://commonsenseketogenics.com/oxalates-one-more-reason-why-plants-are-not-the-best/
In a perfect diet you wouldn’t need any supplements. A perfect diet is not something anyone has with the exception of maybe some indigenous hunter gatherer tribes like the Maasai who eat lots of meat, raw dairy and consume the blood of the animals. During a weight loss phase it would be impossible to consume enough of the foods you need to consume to get enough nutrients. This is true for any weight loss diet wether it is low fat or low carb. Ideally one would eat lots of high nutrient organ meats, raw dairy and eggs to get all their nutrients but that is not going to be doable in a weight loss phase. Maybe the end goal after weight loss is achieved.
With that being said here is a list of the supplements you need on low carb:
So this should be more than enough to get you started and get you moving towards the ideal way of eating that will keep you running optimally and losing weight for the long haul. Now I will briefly cover how I speed up my weight loss while also not cutting calories and not slowing metabolism.
This is a basic strategy used by every nutritional coach. Usually it is done by cutting calories lower than TDEE and keeping them low until weight is lost then slowly coming back up to regain metabolic rate. This works but it is hard because you starve at the low calories and often gain some of the weight back when you bring the calories back. I do it a little different.
It is called reverse Dieting. Rather than decreasing calories to lose weight, you increase calories above TDEE to raise your metabolic rate then drop back to TDEE or just below. This has the same result except you don’t slow metabolic rate and you don’t starve. 🙂
Typically the way I do it is I go up by a large number of calories. I normally eat 2500 calories a day. When I reverse diet I go to 4,000 or sometimes even 5,000 cals a day. This is hard as well. Eating that much food is difficult. I find it almost as hard as starving but not quite. 4,000 is not too bad but 5,000 is very hard. You can follow my last 5,000 calorie challenge here:
I typically do this for anywhere from 7 to 21 days. The goal here is to eat as much as you can without gaining weight. I only gained about 2lbs while doing 5,000 cals for 21 days. That is acceptable.
For someone beginning you could start by going up by 500 calories above TDEE. You will have a hard time keeping protein and carbs down so just increase your macros and keep them in the range of these percentages:
- 3% or less carbs
- 13-15% protein
- 80-85% fat
If you don’t gain weight on 500 calories after a week go up to 1,000 more calories and do another week. After two weeks that should be sufficient. Go back to TDEE or even 200 calories less than TDEE and stay there for a few weeks. Repeat this cycle. This is reverse dieting. 🙂
I hope this has been helpful in getting started on the keto diet and to move you in the direction of optimal eating for the best possible metabolism and lasting weight loss. If you still feel you need help I do offer personal coaching. I am certified in sports nutrition and am currently completing my Registered Holistic Nutritionist Certification. With 14 years of experience in the keto diet I have seen and done it all and can help you achieve the success you want.
Check out my coaching program here: http://www.MaritimeDietaryManagement.ca/Programs