A quick note before we begin:
Both the Vegan and Ketogenic diets are restrictive diets, and combining them has the potential to result in nutritional deficiency depending on the individuals age, nutrient requirements, health status, knowledge and lifestyle.
While I believe that the vegan ketogenic diet can be adopted in a healthy way and provide many benefits, if you are doing this for medical reasons or have any doubts I strongly recommend you consult a doctor for advice prior to embarking on this journey.
Table of Contents
How Does a Low Carb Ketogenic Diet Work?
Two things happen when you reduce your carb intake: First, your blood sugar levels drop (or stabilize if you tend to overindulge in carbs). When your blood sugar drops, so do your insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas which makes it possible for your body to use the sugar from carbs. One of the biomarkers associated with longevity (Maalouf, Rho, Mattson) is reduced fasting insulin levels.
When insulin levels go down, fat stores are released from the body as energy. When insulin levels are up, fat stays locked in the cells. Insulin promotes fat storage. So, reducing your carb intake and subsequently reducing your insulin levels unlocks the fat stores in your body.
The second thing that happens when you reduce your carb intake and your insulin levels drop is your liver turns this “unlocked” but still stored fat into ketone bodies to use as fuel. Ketone bodies are the molecules produced by the liver when it breaks down fatty acids instead of carbohydrates (Laffel). Ketones are always present in the blood but at increased levels when you cut carbs or engage in intermittent fasting. Pregnant women and infants also have elevated levels of ketones in their blood.
Free Fatty Acids (FFAs) and Ketones
If carbs are in short supply and the body uses its limited stores of glucose it will turn to excess protein for glucose (it does this through a process called gluconeogenesis) and once this is depleted the liver begins breaking down free fatty acids (FFA) which can be used for energy by most parts of the body (the brain and central nervous system cannot use FFAs). FFAs and ketones do not cause insulin levels and blood sugar levels to rise, whereas carbs do.
During this process ketones are released into the blood stream, which these serve as an alternate source of fuel for the brain. The brain can use ketones for up to 75% of it’s energy, and for the remaining 25% is will get needed glucose from any carbs you eat, and/or by gluconeogenesis.
As more FFAs are broken down and ketones begin to enter the bloodstream in higher amounts the body enters a state of “ketosis”. When in a state of ketosis, the body has a nearly unlimited source of energy (fat) and no longer requires much glucose so the liver slows its rate of glucose production causing insulin levels to drop.
In this state, the body uses fat as its primary source of energy, quite literally turning your body into a fat burning machine.
Getting into Nutritional Ketosis
To get into a state of nutritional ketosis you’ll need to severely restrict your carbohydrate intake so your glycogen stores are depleted and your body turns to fat for fuel.
Any period of fasting will send you into ketosis in some form, including a good night’s sleep. The longer the fast, the deeper the ketosis you will experience.
This can happen after 2 – 4 days of restricting carbohydrates to the levels recommended in this guide, but while your body may start switching to fat as it’s fuel source at this point and begin metabolizing fat into ketone bodies, it’s just the beginning.
Like anything it takes time for your body to adapt to this state, and for your body to become truly fat adapted (metabolising fat with high efficiency) it usually takes a minimum of 3-4 weeks of committed keto dieting (Phinney).
Who Could Benefit from a Vegan Ketogenic Diet?
Who could benefit from a vegan keto diet? It’s simple! Anyone who…
- Wants to lose fat quickly without losing lean muscle mass
- Wants to reduce hunger cravings throughout the day
- Wants to reduce symptoms of epilepsy
- Wants to protect and nourish their brain
- Wants to reduce the risk of diabetes
- Is a diabetic who wants to reduce their blood sugar and insulin dependence
- Wants to reduce the possibility of metabolic disease
- Wants to increase athletic endurance performance
7 Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet Explained
#1 Burn Fat
Many people have adopted the ketogenic diet as an effective and relatively simple way to manage their weight. By adopting a low carb high fat diet your body will enter a perpetual state of ketosis, forcing your body to burn fat until you reach a healthy weight.
It even happens without intensive exercise, as the diet forces the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates for its energy. For many dieters, this shift alone triggers significant weight loss in a brief period of time.
Also you’ll find that your abdominal fat, which is traditionally very tough to lose, will disappear much faster in ketosis than when on a “normal” high carb diet.
#2 Get More Energy
When you are on a carb heavy diet your body is constantly going through a cycle of converting carbs into glucose, elevating your blood sugar levels, giving you energy, and then the energy spike ends and you feel depleted. This leads you to feel hungry and crave more carbs to bring you back up.
Being in ketosis is like burning wood logs instead of kindling on the fire. When burning kindling (carbs) the fire burns hot for a brief period of time and then disappears. When burning logs (fats) they burn steadily for a long time. You have more consistent energy levels without the energy spikes, and so don’t feel the carb cravings.
#3 Treat Epilepsy
Despite the fact that it has only recently become “Internet famous,” the ketogenic diet has been in use in the medical community for more than ninety years (Gasiej, Rogawski, Hartman). It was developed in the 1920s as a way to mimic the biochemical process that happens during fasting or starvation.
The ketogenic diet is an established and effective therapy for difficult-to-treat and medicine-resistant forms of epilepsy.
#4 Protect the Brain
There is mounting evidence that the ketogenic diet has disease-modifying and neuroprotective qualities that researchers believe may be able to help prevent a host of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease (Vanitallie et al.), headaches, and sleep disorders. A high-fat, low-carb diet may even protect the brain in traumatic brain injuries and stroke.
Researchers are not 100% sure, but believe the energy efficiency that takes place when the brain relies on ketones for fuel instead of solely using carbohydrates provides more energy per unit oxygen used, greater access to mitochondria in the brain cells, and increased energy reserves (Krikorian et al) in the hippocampus (a part of the brain important for learning and memory).
#5 Lower Blood Sugar
When we consume carbs our blood sugar (glucose) levels rise rapidly and so the pancreas produces insulin to carry the glucose to our cells to either start storing it or burning it for fuel.
When we eat too many carbs our blood sugar and insulin levels are constantly spiking and this can cause a whole host of problems, lead to insulin resistance and ultimately lead to type 2 diabetesand obesity.
When on a ketogenic (low carb) diet we primarily consume fat which does not affect our blood sugar, does not cause insulin to rise and so protects us from these issues.
#6 Fight Metabolic Disorders
The ketogenic diet helps minimize the occurrence of metabolic diseases by restricting our caloric intake and eliminating the overconsumption of carbohydrates that elevate blood sugar and insulin levels. When insulin levels are elevated, the body does not burn fat.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more than 2 in 3 adults (68.8%) are overweight and 1 in 3 children are overweight. Overweight and obesity puts tens of millions of people at risk for developing metabolic disorders like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.
A metabolic disorder occurs when abnormal chemical reactions in the body interfere with your ability to turn food into energy. This often manifests when your liver, pancreas, kidneys, or other organs stop functioning properly.
In Western countries, the greatest cause of metabolic disorders is obesity, due in large part to the fact that we now eat more and move less than we ever have before.
The USDA recommends getting 50 – 65% of our calories come from carbohydrates. That’s 200+ grams of carbs per day, depending on your caloric intake. The fact is most people do not need carbohydrates to produce energy. Further, with the proliferation of desk jobs, many of us do not expend enough energy to use 200 grams of carbs a day.
There is a well-circulated quote in the keto community from “Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids” published by the Institute of Medicine:
“The lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed. However, the amount of dietary carbohydrate that provides for optimal health in humans is unknown”.
Protein and fat are a different story. The body cannot survive without protein and fat. The brain lives on healthy fats. According to HumanKinetics.com, fat is the body’s most concentrated sourceof energy. It is also a more efficient source of fuel per unit of weight than carbohydrates.
Protein’s job is to build, maintain and repair body tissues. It is used to synthesize enzymes and hormones. You may have heard it said that that body doesn’t store protein like it stores fat. That’s true. As such, we always have to make sure to keep enough protein in our diets to maintain optimal performance.
#7 Boost Endurance Performance
Ben Greenfield is one of the 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness. He is a biohacker, Ironman triathlete, brain performance coach and author of the New York Times Bestseller “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health and Life”.
In 2014, Greenfield participated in the FASTER study at the University of Connecticut. The purpose of the study was to find out how a high-fat, low-carb diet (referred to as fat-adapted keto-adapted athletes) impacts performance.
Greenfield adopted a keto diet in the months leading up to the study, then went through a ferocious battery of physical challenges in the UCONN Human Performance Laboratory, including blood tests, saliva swabs, stool tests, urine analysis, and the extraction and analysis of Greenfield’s thigh muscle tissue.
The conclusion of the FASTER study was consistent with what every keto dieter hopes to learn:
Compared to highly trained ultra-endurance athletes consuming an HC diet, long-term keto-adaptation results in extraordinarily high rates of fat oxidation, whereas muscle glycogen utilization and repletion patterns during and after a 3 hour run are similar.
Fat oxidation is the process of breaking fat (or fat lipids) down into smaller chunks so they can be converted to energy. The conclusion at which the UConn researchers arrived is that long-term use of the ketogenic diet helps highly-trained ultra-endurance athletes increase the amount of fat that can be broken down and burned.
As a participant in the study, Greenfield offered four key takeaways from his experience:
- Eating a high fat diet doesn’t make you fat.
- Eating a high fat diet can increase the amount of fat you burn as fuel at both rest and during exercise.
- Eating a high fat diet can allow you to exercise or function for longer periods of time while eating relatively few calories.
- Avoiding high carbohydrate intake improves health but doesn’t limit performance.
Difference #1: The Shopping List
You’ll be eating a lot of chia seeds, flaxseeds, coconut oil, pumpkin seeds, avocado, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini and more on this diet.
You’ll get a bunch of protein from nuts, seeds and tofu, and consume a bunch of coconut oil. You’ll likely want to supplement with protein powder, although I’ll cover more about that later.
I also provide a meal plan later on in the guide so don’t worry if your not sure what to make – I have you covered!
Your vegan keto shopping list will look something like this…
Vegan keto still allows a lot of different foods – you just need to get a little creative with your meals to make it work. The benefits are worth it!
The second difference between the vegan keto and standard keto diets relates to the first one.
Difference #2: You’ll Want to Supplement
I applaud you for choosing a diet that doesn’t involve the consumption of animals, but when you combine this with the restrictive nature of a low carb diet it can be very easy to miss out on key nutrients such as iron, vitamin b12, zinc and more.
While you will be eating a variety of foods, I recommend that everyone following the vegan keto diet picks up a vegan multivitamin just to fill any possible nutrient gaps.
It’s extremely cheap and provides a very large amount of key vitamins in very high numbers.
I take one of these daily and think every vegan should.
In the next section I’m going to talk about your ‘Macros’ and explain how many carbs, protein and fats you should be aiming for on the vegan ketogenic diet.
Chapter 4: Calories, Carbs and Protein
It’s important to know how many calories you should be consuming each day to ensure you are getting enough energy or to ensure you don’t consume too many. You’ll also need to be tracking your carbs and protein, but we’ll get to those afterward.
How to calculate your calories
Just about every popular nutrition plan, including the USDA’s Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), is based on macronutrient allocation. If you have no idea how to calculate your macronutrients, there are dozens of macro calculators online that will use your current weight, target weight, age, height, gender, profession, and level of physical activity to calculate a proposed macronutrient plan for you.
Just keep in mind that these calculations aren’t etched in stone. At best, they are educated guesses which serve as a fantastic starting point.
If you would rather use an online calculator then calculate your calorie requirements yourself scroll to the bottom of this section.
In order to calculate your macros yourself, you first need to know how many calories you should be eating every day. If part of your reason for starting a vegan keto diet is to lose weight, you may not be able to follow the Recommended Daily Allowance of 2500 calories for men and 2000 calories for women.
Instead, you may use the Estimate Energy Requirement equation from the Institute of Medicine.
Adult Male over the age of 19 – Estimated Energy Requirement
(662 – (9.53 * Age)) + Physical Activity * ((15.91 * weight) + (539.6 * height))
Adult Female over the age of 19 – Estimated Energy Requirement
(354 – (6.91 * Age)) + Physical Activity * ((9.36 * weight) + (726 * height))
|Activity Level||Adult Male||Adult Female|
Sedentary means only the light physical activity associated with independent living, moderately active means about half an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise in addition to this. Active means at least an hour of exercise and very active means being physically active for several hours each day. (Source)
There are separate calculations for boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 18, toddlers age 2, obese girls between the ages of 3 and 18, and obese boys between the ages of 3 and 18.
To solve the equation, calculate your weight in kilograms and your height in meters. Physical activity is assigned a numeric value based on the level of activity.
What many people don’t realize is that you don’t need to restrict your carbohydrates to 5% of your total caloric intake to achieve ketosis. Most people who claim to have reached ketosis have done so consuming between 20g-100g carbs, with 100g carbs being the very upper limit.
But before I get into how many carbs and how much protein you need, let me explain carbs vs NET carbs.
Total carbs vs net carbs
Whenever I talk about carbs I am referring to net carbs. Net carbs are what’s left from total carbohydrates after you subtract fibre.
The reason we exclude fibre from our carb counts and focus on net carbs instead is that fibre is primarily not digestible by the body and does not affect or blood sugar and insulin levels negatively. Let me explain…
There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble. Most fibre is insoluble meaning it cannot be digested by the body and passes through without providing any calories. Soluble fibre on the other hand does contribute calories but the body can only process these at 2kcal per gram of soluble fibre which is insignificant when you consider how much soluble fibre one might consume on any given day. To give you an idea, if you consumed 15g of soluble fibre throughout the day that would provide 30 calories.
Research also shows that soluble fibre does not negatively affect blood sugar levels. In fact increases in soluble fibre are directly correlated with a decrease in blood sugar!
Product packages in the US now break down Total Carbohydrates into two subcategories: Dietary Fiber and Sugars. You typically won’t see an option for insoluble fiber. In that case, simply subtract the total grams of Dietary Fiber from Total Carbohydrates.
Let’s take a 16-oz jar of creamy peanut butter for example. The label lists Total Carbohydrates per serving as 8g. Below it, Dietary Fiber is 2g and Sugars, 4g. So, the Net Carbs per serving of peanut butter is 6g (Total Carbs – Fiber).
How Many Net Carbs Should I Eat Per Day?
Generally the upper limit for ketones to be produced is around 50g net carbs per day, but for optimal performance 15-50g net carbs is the range we want to stay in.
A good guide for most people, consuming up to 2000 calories a day, is to stay below 30g net carbs.
If you require a higher calorie intake and are exercising you can look at increasing your net carbs to between 30g-50g as long as you remain in ketosis and your blood ketones remain in the optimal range (more on this later).
So where does that leave us?
Sugar Free Products and ‘Sugar Alcohol
Sugar is something that should generally be avoided on a keto diet, but be wary of sugar free products. Manufacturers of low carb products will often use ‘sugar alcohols’ to sweeten the product.
It is generally accepted that sugar alcohols do not raise glucose levels, but they can cause ketone levels to drop and so should be either avoided or taken into consideration.
Three of the most common sugar alcohols to look out for are maltitol, lacitol, and sorbitol.
See this guide on Matthewsfriends.org for more information.
Daily Carb Guidelines for Vegan Keto
I recommend the following net carb guidelines:
- 2000 or less kcal = Max 30g Net Carbs
- 2000 – 2500 kcal = Max 40g Net Carbs
- 2500 – 3000 kcal = Max 50g Net Carbs
Most vegans who try keto find they achieve ketosis and lose weight just fine with this approach, and it allows you to consume a wider variety of foods and nutrients than you would not be able to otherwise. That’s important.
What many people don’t realize is that you don’t need to restrict your carbohydrates to 5% of your total caloric intake to achieve ketosis. Most people who claim to have reached ketosis have done so consuming between 20g-100g carbs, with 100g carbs being the very upper limit.
But before I get into how many carbs and how much protein you need, let me explain carbs vs NET carbs.
How Much Protein to Consume
Proteins are the primary building blocks of your body and are used not only to build and repair muscle, but to support organs, tendons, hormones and much more. The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains:
“Proteins are large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.”
If we don’t get enough protein on a vegan keto diet our bodies will not function properly and we may experience a whole host of negative symptoms.
On the other hand, too much protein and the body will use gluconeogensis to convert protein into glucose which will result in higher insulin and blood sugar and potentially kick you out of ketosis.
Getting enough protein is one of the more familiar challenges new vegan keto dieters face. The idea of eating more protein than carbs is easier to adopt than the actual practice of eating more protein than carbs. So, how do you get enough protein and virtually no carbs on a diet where your primary protein sources are complex carbohydrates?
Well, many plant foods contain high amounts of protein – nuts, nut butters, seeds, and tofu will go a long way.
Complete VS Incomplete Proteins
Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids, of which there are 20. 9 of these amino acids are considered “essential” because the body cannot produce them on it’s own, and so must be gained from food. For a protein to be considered complete it must include all 9 of the essential amino acids.
While there are only a handful of plant foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids need to be considered a complete protein (including soybeans, quinoa, buckwheat, tempeh, tofu, flaxseed, chia, hemp seed) you can still get more than enough protein on a daily basis by eating a variety of plant foods throughout the day.
In fact, every vegetable has some form of protein, and just because they aren’t “complete proteins” on their own doesn’t mean your body will suffer. This is because your body stores excess amino acids when consumed, and so as long as you are consuming a variety of plant foods you are going to be getting more than enough of each of the 9 essential amino acids throughout the day.
The American College of Sports Medicine states:
“However, even vegetarians can achieve adequate protein intake when a variety of plant sources are included ensuring intake of all essential amino acids.”
In short, complete proteins are a non-issue as long as you are eating a variety of vegetables and other plant based foods.
Recommended Protein Supplement
In the event you fall short on your total protein intake, you can supplement your protein intake and still stay within your macros with a protein supplement.
We’ve tested a whole bunch of plant based protein powders and found Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant Based Protein to be the absolute best in terms of mixability and flavour. They offer both chocolate and vanilla and I usually have both on hand to mix up my daily protein smoothie.
Having a protein shake at breakfast or midday is a good way to add protein, vitamins and minerals quickly and easily without adding too many additional carbs.
Daily Protein Guidelines
The recommended daily allowance of protein for sedentary men and women is 0.8g per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36g per pound of body weight.
If your goal is to increase muscle mass the American College of Sports Medicine recommends you consume between 1.2-1.7g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day.
Now plant proteins are not absorbed as efficiently as animal proteins, and so the Dieticians of Canada recommend increasing protein consumption by 10%.
Based on this on the vegan keto diet the recommended protein intake is as below:
- For sedentary people and those exercising to lose weight between 0.4g – 0.6g protein per pound of body weight per day.
- For active people and those wishing to build muscle between 0.6g and 0.9g protein per pound of body weight per day.
You can likely eat a little more than this but if there is a great amount of excess protein consumed the body will resort to glycogenesis so try to stay within these boundaries.
Chapter 5: 7 Day Meal and Diet Plan
You can use this meal plan for 1 week, 2 weeks or as long as you’d like, and you can certainly adjust the meals to add more variety as long as you keep the net carb content in mind.
One thing you’ll find with vegan keto is that it can be a little challenging to get enough calories while keeping within your net carb range.
The way around this is to supplement meals with plenty of high fat, high calorie, low carb foods to meals like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, almonds and walnuts, coconut milk, coconut cream and oils.
Lastly, the recipes for this meal plan can all be found in the recipes section of this website (vegan keto recipes).
Now lets get to it!
7 Day Vegan Keto Meal Plan
Chapter 6: Avoiding the “Keto Flu”
Symptoms of the Keto Flu
Some commonly reported symptoms of the “Keto Flu” include:
- Brain Fog
- Feeling Dizzy
- Muscle Aches
If you experience any of these symptoms you may be deficient in electrolytes. Let me explain…
Importance of Electrolytes
Switching from a high carb to a low carb diet causes your insulin levels to drop and your body to excrete sodium and potassium at a higher rate. This is because insulin is responsible for telling the kidneys to hold on to these electrolytes and when insulin is lowered they are excreted at an accelerated rate. This means you may need to consume more sodium than normally required as your body adapts to the ketogenic diet.
If you’re not getting the keto flu symptoms then you don’t need to worry about getting more sodium.
On the other hand, if you are getting some of those symptoms simply add half a tablespoon of salt with some water daily and see if the symptoms start to lift.
The recommended daily limit of sodium is 1500mg – 2300mg but as ketosis causes sodium excretion you may find yourself lacking.
Recommended Sodium Supplement:
None. Simply add salt to meals or add 1/4 a teaspoon of mineral salt to water and consume.
Foods High in Sodium Include:
- Table salt – 1 teaspoon: 300 milligrams
- Bouillon cubes – 1 cube: 1200 milligrams
- Soy sauce – 1 tablespoon: 1005 milligrams
Keto dieters often find themselves deficient in potassium as primary sources are high carb foods such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, bananas, beans and lentils. On the other side avocado and broccoli are low carb potassium sources, and nuts and seeds also contain potassium, so be sure to eat plenty of those.
According to MayoClinic 1600 – 2000 mg should be sufficient daily potassium intake for an adult. If you feel yourself getting symptoms of the “keto flu” consider taking a potassium chloride supplement.
Recommended Potassium Supplement:
We recommend Now Foods Potassium Chloride as it’s cheap and provides a good amount of potassium per serving. Simply dissolve one serving in some water and consume it!
As a precaution we don’t recommend taking more than one serving of this per day as if you have too much potassium chloride you can develop hyperkalaemia.
Foods high in potassium include:
- Avocado – 1 whole: 1,067 milligrams
- Spinach – 1 cup cooked: 839 milligrams
- Broccoli – 1 cup cooked: 458 milligrams
- Mushrooms – 1 cup raw: 390 milligrams
Magnesium deficiency is very common in the united states, with about 43% of the us population not meeting the used recommended daily magnesium allowance. Combine this with the switch in diet and many find themselves lacking magnesium.
The RDA of magnesium for adults ranges between 310 – 420 mg per day.
Recommended Magnesium Supplement:
We recommend Now Foods Magnesium Citrate Pure Powder.
As per with potassium and sodium you can just add this to water and consume. You can even put all three in a glass and drink that to cover all bases if you like.
Foods high in magnesium include:
- Dark Chocolate — 1 square: 95 milligrams
- Avocado — 1 medium: 58 milligrams
- Spinach — 1 cup: 157 milligrams
- Pumpkin seeds — 1/8 cup: 92 milligrams
- Almonds — 1 ounce: 80 milligrams
Remember to Stay Hydrated
As you restrict your carb intake and enter ketosis your body begins to deplete its glycogen stores. Each gram of glycogen is chemically bound to 3-4 grams of water, and so as your glycogen stores are depleted you’ll lose water.
For this reason make sure to drink more water than usual on the first week or so of the vegan keto diet.
How long does it take to adapt?
Many people start a keto diet not fully understanding that becoming fully keto-adapted (fat-adapted), takes time. Novice keto dieters confuse ketosis with being keto-adapted. The two are very different. Most people can slip into mild ketosis just by skipping breakfast and lunch. But it takes time for your body to adapt to relying on fat for fuel.
According to Dr. Steve Hertzler, Chief Science Officer of EAS Sports Nutrition, “While you might get into ketosis after three, fours days on a high fat diet like this, you may not be fully adapted to a keto diet for weeks, or even months.“ When you understand that from the beginning, it will help you to better navigate the physical challenges and physical reactions you experience as part of your new lifestyle.
Chapter 7: How to Know if You’re in Ketosis
One of the most common symptoms of ketosis is bad breath, which is because elevated ketone levels in your blood stream. Specifically, a ketone called Acetone which is excreted through the urine and breath causes the breath to take on a rather ‘fruity’ smell.
Many people doing keto brush their teeth multiple times a day to mitigate this, and I’m sure your dentist wouldn’t call that a terrible thing.
Short Term Weight Loss
Many people doing keto find they lose an exceptional amount of weight during the first three weeks. This is usually primarily ‘water weight’, where your body is releasing water it had stored with its glycogen cells.
If you find your weight has dropped, make sure you’ve been eating enough calories and if so, this is an indicator of ketosis.
More Stable Energy Levels
Another side effect of ketosis is more stable energy levels throughout the day and less hunger cravings. As your body is depleted of carbohydrates and becomes used to burning fat as a primary energy source, you are no longer trapped in the up and down blood sugar/insulin cycle and so you have more consistent energy and less hunger cravings.
If you find you have a clearer head, are hungry less often and your energy levels are more stable you may be in ketosis.
Short Term Fatigue
Another potential symptom of ketosis is short term fatigue, especially in the first week. Switching from a high carb western diet to a very low carb diet such as keto is a massive change for the body and there is an adjustment period.
For some people, this results in a lower energy levels for the first few days to a week. Your energy levels should pick up and become more consistent and stable though. If your still feeling fatigued after a couple weeks make sure you are getting enough calories, make sure you’re not getting too many carbs, make sure your eating your veggies and make sure your getting your electrolytes.
You can also use various tools to check if you are in ketosis, which I’ll discuss next.
Tools to Measure Your Ketones
Ketones can be measured in three different ways, with three different primary methods.
- Ketone Blood Meter (Most Accurate – Most Expensive)
- Ketone Breath Meter (Less Expensive – Less Accurate)
- Ketone Urine Strips (Cheapest – Lowest Accuracy)
You can order all of these at Amazon.com.
Ketone Blood Meter
Ketone blood meters are the most accurate but they are also by far the most expensive method.
You’ll need to buy a meter with which you insert ketone blood strips which are sold serparetly, and then you prick your finger to draw blood. It will tell you exactly how many ketones are in your blood.
For nutritional ketosis, according to The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Dr Jeff Volek and Dr Stephen Phinney you’ll want to see blood ketone levels between 0.5 and 3.0mmol.
The strips are one use only, and cost around $30 for packs of 10.
The other downside is sometimes the read fails and you waste a strip. Still this is a very accurate way to measure blood ketone levels and it can be worth testing yourself occasionally if you want to be certain you are in ketosis.
Recommended Blood Ketone Meter:
This system is well known and affordable at around $60 for the system.
You can buy these strips for using the meter.
Ketone Breath Meter
Ketone breath meters are a more accurate way to gauge if you are in ketosis, and this method is a little more expensive upfront. It will set you back between $140 – $200 for one of these, but once you buy it you don’t need to buy any additional “strips” or “sticks”.
The way it works is you plug it into a usb slot, breath into and it will measure the acetate in your breath. Acetate levels in the breath are a fairly accurate method of measuring ketosis, and with the one off cost a Ketone Breath Meter can wind up being the most cost effective choice if you want to continually measure your ketones.
Recommended Ketone Breath Meter:
This ketone breath meter is a great way to measure ketosis and is affordably priced compared to some others on the market.
Keto Urine Strips (Ketostix)
You can measure the levels of ketone in your urine by using cheap urine strips called Ketostix. These are fine for a beginner and should give you an idea of whether you are in ketosis or not.
A lighter pink color indicates a lower number of ketones (but still in ketosis), whereas a dark purple colour indicates substantial amounts of ketones.
The thing with this method is it measures a ketone called acetoacetate in the urine, and this can be affected by hydration and how keto adapted your body is. If you are dehydrated the stick will show a darker colour, and if you have consumed a lot of water it will be lighter.
Additionally, if you’ve been on the vegan keto diet for a while now your body will be more efficient at processing ketones and so less will appear in the urine, meaning a lighter colour is shown.
Use these to check if you are in ketosis at the beginning.
Recommended Keto Urine Strips:
Ketostix are the industry standard for keto urine strips.
Chapter 8: 7 Tips for a Seamless Transition into a Vegan Keto Diet
#1 Don’t Try to Taper off Carbs
Many people new to keto decide to gradually cut back on carbs in order to ease themselves into this new way of living. The issue with this is if you cut back on carbs but not enough to go into ketosis, your body is still trying to use carbs for energy but it is simply getting much less than before.
This can leave you craving carbs, feeling hungry, feeling low on energy and overall not feeling too great. This can be discouraging and cause you to falter.
To get the benefits of a keto diet you really need to cut the carbs back to our recommend levels (under 30g net carbs for 2000kcal per day or less). Otherwise you end up in a sort of halfway state where you aren’t getting energy from carbs and you aren’t getting energy from fat.
#2 Plan Your Meals in Advance
Because the vegan keto diet has a very specific set of requirements it’s very easy to overeat on carbs and kick yourself out of ketosis.
To avoid this, use an hour on your weekend to plan all of your meals (including snacks) for the week ahead. Get everything you need from the supermarket and prepare some of the meals. This will greatly reduce the opportunity for error and enable you to feel the benefits of keto in no time, meaning you’ll be more likely to stick to it!
Check out the 7 day meal plan from earlier in this guide to start you off.
#3 Drink water every morning before you ingest anything else.
One bottle of water. It is amazing what drinking water first thing in the morning will do for your mental clarity, digestion, and appetite. Drinking just 500ml (about 17 ounces) of water can increase your metabolism by 30% within 10 minutes (Boschmann). Not only is water great for the skin, but it has a noticeable impact on digestion, particularly if you happen to wake up with a sugar hangover (stomach ache).
Most important, however, is drinking water in the morning hydrates your body. Some refer to it as water therapy, but drinking water in the morning is just a good, old-fashioned act of hydration. Keeping your body hydrated helps energize your muscles, push toxins and waste out of the body, promotes mental clarity, and even helps control your body temperature.
Drink plenty of water both before you start the diet and especially during your first few weeks becoming keto-adapted.
#4 Track Your Progress
In the beginning, you will need a way of tracking your progress, whether that progress is in reducing your carbs, making sure to eat enough protein, or just figuring out if you are losing weight.
A very useful tool for this is MyFitnessPal, a calorie tracker and nutrition journal that you can download for Android or iOS. The app allows you to log the foods you eat in a digital diary by scanning the barcodes on the packages. The nutritional information is automatically added to your food diary.
You can manually enter new food items and meals (food combinations) you frequently eat. The app also has a search feature with a database of foods commonly-logged by other MyFitnessPal users.
One of the key features of calorie trackers like MyFitnessPal is they allow you to set and monitor with progress with timed weight loss and nutrition goals. For instance, you can designate a goal to eat 1500 calories a day and your app will keep a running tally of the total number of calories you eat throughout the day. You can also watch your nutritional intake to determine how many net carbs, protein and fats you are consuming.
Tracking your behaviour and progress over the first few months of the keto diet will help you identify what works and what doesn’t.
#5 Give yourself, your friends, and your family time to adjust
It’s a good idea to choose a date to begin the vegan keto diet, not because you are procrastinating, but because you need to give yourself and your tribe time to adjust to the new you.
For instance, you may not want to start your diet a few days before the family vacation, the next big food holiday, or your 10th wedding anniversary! If you have a spouse, partner, family, or friends with whom you socialize, you will all need time to adjust to your new lifestyle. It will take them time to adjust to and accept your new behaviours and it will take them time to learn how to socialize with you on your new terms.
When Ben Greenfield recounted the “dark side” of the ketogenic diet, he named the social aspect as one of the challenges both he and his friends had to overcome: “I simply wasn’t the most fun guy to hang out with in social situations due to my extreme dietary restrictions, the intense self-control became nearly exhausting, and when I travelled, I missed out on many culinary experiences, such as homemade ravioli in Rome, freshly baked crostini’s in the Basque regions of Spain, and Korean rice bowls in Seoul.”
#6 Measure Your Ketones
This is not a requirement, but some people find it helpful to check if they are in ketosis using either Ketostix, a ketone breath meter or a ketone blood meter. I’ve touched on these in the previous chapter, and recommend starting out with Ketostix as for most people there’s no reason to use precision ketone measuring tools at the start.
Alternatively, go without measuring and just see how you feel after a week or two. If you have a clearer head and more consistent energy, you’re probably in ketosis.
You can also measure your weight before starting and measure again a week or two later. If you’ve lost weight this is another indicator of ketosis.
#7 Remind Yourself Why You’re Doing Vegan Keto
Determine your “why” and remind yourself of it regularly. Whether you are doing keto to lose weight, for brain health, to get more energy, reduce your blood sugar levels or another reason it will help you to remind yourself of this.
This is especially important in the first few weeks. After that the results should speak for themselves, and you’ll have some empirical evidence of the benefits of keto to spur you forward.
I hope this guide helps you achieve your goals with the Vegan Ketogenic Diet.
I have provided the tools you need to start off on the right foot and make this diet work for you!
I believe this diet is a fantastic way to lose weight, it can help you feel great and it has a whole host of other benefits. That said, many will choose to adopt the diet for a period of time, reap the benefits, and then switch to a different diet. Perhaps a more lenient low carb diet or another diet all together. The human body has an incredible ability to adapt.
If you choose to follow a vegan keto diet, rest assured that the lifestyle is 100% achievable. Yes, there will be a short period of transition in which your body will have to get used to the new regimen, but the same is true of adopting a new exercise program or buying new glasses.
Use the meal plan included in this guide, and come up with your own creative take on high-fat, low-carb vegan recipes. Share your story with me in the comment section below, and if you have any questions please feel free to ask.
Here’s to your health!