The Ketogenic diet is a nutritional eating approach that can work really well for some nurses. It’s not for everyone, but the benefits can be huge. The ketogenic diet is a low carb, moderate protein, high fat diet. By low carb we’re talking about making your diet about 5% carbs, 20 % protein, and the rest is fat. When you reduce your carbohydrate intake to this level, your body breaks down fat and uses the byproduct, ketone bodies for energy.
Nurses on the ketone diet experience…
- Increased energy
- Improved sleep
- Dramatic weight loss
- Improved mental clarity
Sounds good, right?
It can be, but there’s absolutely a right way to go keto and a wrong way.
As a health coach the path to keto is a gradual one. If you try to go keto from where you are right now and the way you eat right now, you will probably experience some pretty significant side effects. These side effects can have a big impact on not only your professional life (it’s hard to work effectively when you’re foggy and exhausted), they can also have an impact on your home and personal life.
The potential side effects of going keto the wrong way include: insomnia, nausea, diarrhea, headaches and much more. The reason why these side effects show up when you do it the wrong way is that your body is looking for glucose for energy and you’re not giving it glucose, you’re giving it fat. It can take your body a few days, or even a few weeks, to start naturally turning to fat stores. In the meantime, you suffer. The good news is that there’s a way to avoid these side effects.
Before you go keto….
#1 Assess your current intake.
Track what you eat on a daily basis. This isn’t to judge your current diet, it’s to create a starting point. You have to know where you are if you are going to create a plan to get to keto. For example, let’s say that after tracking for three days you see that you generally eat about 200-250 grams of carbs a day.
You now have a baseline and can gradually reduce your carb intake over time, until you get to the 50 grams of carbs a day keto level. For nurses, I recommend a mobile app like Cronometer to track your intake while you’re at work and on the go. You’re busy and it’s an easy tool to use.
#2. Create your plan.
Look at your carb intake and create a plan. I recommend reducing by 50 grams a week. So if you’re at 200 grams a day right now, next week you’ll drop to 150 grams of carbs. You’ll stay there for a week and then drop another 50. It may seem like too much time but there are real benefits to the gradual approach.
Gives you time to adapt. One of the challenges to any new way of eating is that you’ll need to find replacements. So bread is one thing that is super high in carbs. Like one piece of bread may have 20-30 grams of carbs. So you want to find replacements for bread, sandwiches and so on. Gradually reducing your carbs gives you time to acclimate and find healthier replacement foods and habits.
Gives your body time to adapt. You’re not jumping right into high fat low carb, you’re giving your body time to acclimate. Will you still have some of the symptoms? Possibly. But you’ll be in a better position to manage them. For example, if you feel like you’re not sleeping well, you can increase your intake of magnesium or shift your carb intake to evening so you have a better night’s sleep.
#3 Remember to Eat Vegetables.
One of the biggest issues that I have with the keto fad is that people aren’t doing it in a healthy and viable way. They’re doing what I call “Crappy keto” or the “cheese and salami” keto. If you give yourself time to adapt to keto slowly over time, you’ll be able to make smarter choices and that includes eating vegetables.
Yes, vegetables are carbs but these are the carbs you’re supposed to be eating. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, leafy greens like spinach, and maybe a starchy carb like squash once in a while, will help you stay healthy and feel great.
As a nurse it can be difficult to figure out not only what to eat when you’re at work but also what to fix when you get home and have zero energy to cook. Keto makes these decisions easier. At work you can munch on macadamia nuts for example or have a delicious sandwich on keto bread.
You can enjoy a chicken thigh and some roasted veggies with ranch dressing. You can eat cheese for a snack. Sausage for dinner with some leafy greens. Real Plans offers keto meal planning options that can take the guesswork out of the process and they have make ahead and bulk prep solutions so you can cook once and eat all week.
Can keto work for you?
If you approach it as a lifestyle change rather than a diet and you prepare yourself to gradually embrace those changes, then yes. The ketogenic diet may be the ideal way for your body to thrive.
***Not sure if keto is right for you? Take this QUIZ and find out.***