5 Measurements to Track on the Ketogenic Diet

Embarking on a ketogenic diet means making some lifestyle changes.

It’s about following a diet that is low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein intake, and high in healthy fats.

Since the keto diet is scientifically driven, there are important measurements you must keep track of in order to optimize your efforts.

As a keto dieter, you’re trying to achieve a state of ketosis.

That is the point where your body stops relying on glucose from carbs for energy and starts relying on ketones, the chemicals in your body that also fuel your energy.

The standard keto diet consists of:

  • 75% fat
  • 20% protein
  • 5% carbs

Of course, these are recommended guidelines and not necessarily exact rules. You can hit these benchmarks using the following metric categories…

Macros

The term “macros” is short for macronutrients.

Macronutrients are the energy-giving nutrients in food that helps fuel our body. They include:

  • fats
  • protein
  • carbs

What you eat and the macro composition it contains can greatly influence things like appetite, brain activity, hormonal response, and metabolic rate [1].

Fats are essential on the keto diet.

In shifting to ketosis, your body takes the healthy fats and converts them into ketones. However, many people will often have trouble hitting their 70-75% fat intake.

One of the many good things about healthy fats is that they keep you full. If you’re not hungry, you don’t have to fill up to hit that fat macro.

Protein is a very important macro, particularly since keto depends on carbohydrate reduction.

It helps with tissue repair, your immune system, energy levels, making essential hormones and enzymes, and keeping muscle mass lean [2].

Regarding animal protein, try to find grass-fed and pasture-raised options for meat, since they don’t have nearly as much bacteria or hormones in them.

However, too much protein is not good for keto, because it can lead to lower ketone production and an increase in glucose production.

Carbs are made of sugar and starches, and are probably the least important macro because they can throw you out of ketosis.

Fiber can also be considered a carb but doesn’t count toward your total carb intake measurement because it’s hard to digest and doesn’t have a strong impact on blood sugar.

Always look at nutritional labels and view the amount in the line that says “total carbohydrates”.

Subtract the fiber amount also listed from total carbs and you get your net carbs. The net carbs are the macros you should keep track of. 20 grams of net carbs is a good measurement for those who are starting out on keto.

Ketone Levels

Ketone levels are the backbone of a ketogenic diet.

When your body follows the low-carb, high-fat way of eating, your liver produces ketone compounds to supply energy to your brain. Fat and ketones will eventually become your main fuel sources.

The best way to measure your ketone levels is to use a specialized meter.

This type of tool will calculate the amount of beta-hydroxybutrate (BHB) in your blood; BHB is one of the primary ketones found in your bloodstream.

Experts say that ketosis is achieved when ketones range from .5 to 3.0 mmol/liter (millimoles per liter).

  • These tools cost anywhere to $30-$40

The unfortunate part is that you will have to give your finger a small prick. But they’re the best way to get a precise read on your ketone levels and whether or not you’re in ketosis.

Body Tape Measurements

One indicator of successful dieting and weight loss is taking body tape measurements.

This is an encouraging metric because it often takes time to lose weight, but you might feel your clothes fit better. Taking measurements will show how your body’s changing over time.

Flexible tape measures that you can wrap around your body are cheap and usually widely available. Men can measure

  • shoulders
  • biceps
  • chest
  • waist
  • thigh
  • calf
  • hips (the fullest part of your seat)

Women can measure the same regions as well. Keeping a spreadsheet on Excel or Google Drive is useful to track progress over time, and measuring on a weekly basis is best.

Sleep

Getting enough sleep is vital.

Not getting enough will not only hinder progress with the keto diet, but also affect your overall health. Insufficient sleep can cause:

  • cognitive impairments
  • increased risk for medical conditions
  • mortality risk
  • increased odds of depression, anxiety, and dementia

However, sometimes keto dieters find that they might have insomnia initially. Others might find that they sleep better and have a lot more energy during their day.

So how can you make sure you are getting enough sleep (7-8 hours) on the keto diet?

Try some technological help.

Devices like Fitbits have sleep trackers, and there are plenty of sleep tracking apps on the App Store.

  • Sleep Cycle
  • Sleep Better
  • SleepBot

All popular sleep apps that will help you gauge your sleep quality.

Activity Levels

Diet and activity go hand-in-hand in making a change.

Activity will keep your metabolism moving, your endorphins flowing, and improve your overall health and happiness.

Tracking your physical activity during the day is also important. There are plenty of apps that track diet and exercise (MyFitnessPal is a popular option).

For best results!

It’s really important to eat enough, and to eat enough fats because you’re restricting carbs. A good goal is cardio 2-3 times a week and weights 2-3 times a week (on different days).

Some ways to get cardio in are running, cycling, aerobics, and dance classes. As far as weights, carbs aren’t needed to build muscle, so it’s totally popular to get a built body on the keto diet.

Initially when working out on the keto diet, you might feel foggy. It’s just your brain’s way of adjusting to the lack of glucose fuel due to your carb cutback.

This fog will pass, but in that time, it’s best to stay away from risky activities like biking on roads with cars or hikes. Also, since your body is going through so many changes, trying out a new workout, like a new karate class, isn’t a good idea.

While vigorous exercise like cardio is essential, you can even count activities like cleaning or walking to work as part of your activity. Moving more will definitely improve your overall health.

Conclusion

As you’ve probably noticed, the keto diet requires plenty of thought and planning, especially in the beginning when you’re still getting the hang of it.

Keeping track of metrics like macronutrient intake and sleep levels will keep you accountable and provide you with real-life data about your progress.

So, don’t neglect it!

References:
[1] Swinburn BA, Sacks G, Hall KD, McPherson K, Finegood DT, Moodie ML, Gortmaker SL. The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments. Lancet. 2011 Aug 27;378(9793):804-14.

[2] Res P, Groen B, Pennings B, Beelen M, Wallis G. Ingestion before Sleep Improves Postexercise Overnight Recovery. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2012 – Volume 44 – Issue 8 – p 1560–1569

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