LCHF Kick-start Guide

Which LCHF macro to choose?

Fast Fact
If you are sure you want to change your lifestyle, there are two things you have to decide: which macronutrient ratio you want to go for and your baseline energy expenditure you have to cover.

Some people will like to change their macronutrient ratios slowly and progressively: let’s say they start from 45:20:35 (carbs : protein : fat). They could decrease the carbs to 35 and increase fats to 45 the first week and so on until they reach a level where their fat intake represents 60% or more of the energy they consume.

This approach might reduce the potential adaptation issues, but most of the clients have the best success with going directly to very LCHF or as we also call it standard ketogenic diet. This means choosing either the ratio 5:20:75 or 5:15:80. Higher protein share is recommended for people who do sports regularly.

It is true, this kind of fast transition increases the chance of adaptation issues with people who eat a lot of carbs, have trouble controlling their appetite and show signs of constant carbs cravings. If you are one of those and decide to go directly to the strictest of LCHF forms, knowing what might happen will help you deal with the potential issues when adapting to your body’s ketogenic adaptation.

Do I need to count calories?

Fast Fact
Keeping tabs on energy intake when on LCHF diet is spontaneous and easy. However, it’s a myth that amount of energy you eat is irrelevant. Especially for beginners: bear in mind that both the quality and quantity of nutrients you eat are important. Later on both will become a routine and you will not have to waste time thinking of either!

The question of counting calories is basically the same question as »how do I translate my LCHF macro to the food I eat«?

Let’s say you choose the macro 5:20:75. This means that 5% of your daily energy will come from carbs, 20% energy from protein and 75% from fat. It doesn’t however tell you how much food that percentages mean.

Usually, when talking about very strict LCHF, we say that your daily carb intake should be lower than 20 grams. It is an approximation, but it is not very accurate.

Especially in the beginning, you should take into account your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). TDEE is an estimation of the energy you need through the day. TDEE is different for women and men, changes with age in body weight, but most of all, it depends heavily on your activities – if you are a doing heavy exercise every day, your TDEE will be higher.

Let’s illustrate why that matters: if you are a 35 years old woman of normal height and slightly overweight with sedentary lifestyle your TDEE will be around 1500 kcal (6,3 MJ). 5% of the energy you will need will be represented by 19 grams of carbs. So you fit into the 20 grams maximum, mentioned above.

On the other hand, if you are a very tall male who regularly exercises, your TDEE might be much higher – let’s say 2500 kcal (10,5 MJ). 5% of energy from carbs in your case means intake of 31 grams daily.

However, if you are that sedentary woman of normal height and you eat 36 grams of carbs, this will represent 10% of your daily energy intake. If you wanted to adhere to the very LCHF / standard ketogenic diet, you would be failing to do it, as your carb intake would most probably be too high.

How to calculate the quantities of food I need?

Fast Fact
Your steps in defining the quantities of foods you eat should be:
1. calculate your TDEE (there are a lot of TDEE calculators out there)
2. choose your macro
3. take your TDEE number and your macro and calculate the quantities of carbs, protein and fat

Here is an example:

  1. your estimated TDEE is 1500 kcal daily
  2. your chosen macro is 5:20:75 (carbs, protein, fats)
  3. calculate quantities:
  • 5% of carbs: 5% of 1500 kcal is 75 kcal. Every gram of carbs has 4 kcal, so 75 kcal means 19 g of carbs.
  • 20% of protein: 20% of 1500 kcal is 300 kcal. Every gram of protein has 4 kcal, so 300 kcal means 75 g of protein.
  • 75% of fats: 75% of 1500 kcal is 1125 kcal. Every gram of fat has 9 kcal, so 1125 kcal means 125 g of fat.

Here is a simple chart where you can find corresponding amounts of macronutrients depending on you baseline energy needs for 5:20:75 LCHF macro.

LCHF ratio:5 %20 %75 %
TDEE (MJ)TDEE (kcal)C (g)P (g)F (g)
6,315001975125
7,117002185142
8,4200025100167
9,6230029115192
10,5250031125208
12,5300038150250

Most likely you will spontaneously eat less than target energy quantities. However, the assumption that you can eat 3000 kcal in the ratio 5:20:75 and get the benefits of eating LCHF, is one of the misconceptions about LCHF.

Do I need to measure and weigh the foods I eat?

Fast Fact
If you are very unfamiliar with macronutrient structure of the foods, you should either invest time in weighing and calculating your meals macronutrient and energy structure or hire a LCHF coach to do it for you.

The good news is, you will learn very fast. LCHF nutrition is not popular just because it works so well, but also because it is extremely easy to manage in terms of knowing what to eat and how much to eat. That’s a promise!

But at least in the beginning you should get acquainted with the macronutrient structure of the foods you eat and do some weighing (of the food). It will help you prevent mistakes that might take your motivation down the drain.

LCHF foods to eat / LCHF not to eat

Fast Fact
On LCHF diet you should eat a lot of high fat content food, moderate protein, and you should limit your carb intake to eating green, leafy vegetables. Bread, pasta, rice, regular sweets and most of processed snacks are not to be eaten at all.
Always remember: eat real food – meat and dairy from grass-fed animals, eggs from pasture-raised hens and organic vegetables.

If you are a woman of a regular build, your typical meal will look something like that: 2–3 eggs with a stick of butter, a cup of green vegetables. 3–5 eggs for guys.

On LCHF diet you should eat a lot of high fat content food, moderate protein, and you should limit your carb intake to eating green, leafy vegetables. Bread, pasta, rice, regular sweets and most of processed food should not be part of your nutrition plan.

Here is a simple helper chart of foods and how often you should include them in your meals. This is not penultimate foods chart, but a guide for you to get around the foods and pick ones that will help you with your goals.

LCHF: what to eat and what NOT to eat

Keto flu and initiation problems

Fast Fact
When changing your dietary patterns it is quite common to experience some mild side-effects, no matter what the changes. If you haven’t eaten beans for a long time, introducing them back to your meals will most probably give you some bloating. Some might experience adaptation discomfort when switching to LCHF. If it happens, it won’t last long!

Switching to very low carb and high fat diet might be accompanied by some transient discomfort. Symptoms might be similar to flu (headache, nausea plus constipation or diarrhea …) but it’s actually just a reaction to carbohydrate withdrawal and adaptation to using fats and ketones as primary source of energy. Not everyone gets the keto flu, but if you experience these symptoms in the first week or two, don’t worry, they will pass.

Typical keto flu symptoms and how to fight them:

  • episodes of hypoglycaemia: they occur more often with people who are insulin resistant (they might not know that). If these episodes are too frequent, go back to a bit higher carb ratio and decrease it slowly;
  • nausea, headache, light-headedness, unexplained anxiety, feeling tired and muscle cramps: these are normal, but they usually mean lack of vitamins and minerals. Due to physiological processes when changing to fat as primary fuel, we can lose a lot of water and with it, a lot of electrolytes. Stack on vitamins (A, B1, folate, C and E) and minerals (iron and zinc). Above all: add magnesium and even extra salt. Salt alone will usually help in these cases;
  • frequent urination: due to decreased carb intake you will be losing a lot of water, part of it through urination. Another factor contributing to this is decreased level of insulin;
  • constipation or diarrhea: if you were a heavy carb eater, it is very likely you will have constipation. Drink more water, add more MCT or coconut oil and or some ground seeds to your meals. Physical activity also helps – especially running, jumping or high intensity walking. Constipation should not last for extended period of time. If it does, you need to identify what foods might cause it. Constipation doesn’t always mean we are lacking something, often some particular food will cause it. But bear in mind that when eating LCHF volume of food will decrease and with decreased volume of food the stool volume will decrease as well. If you experience diarrhea however, it might be due to too much protein. Drink enough and make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals. Diarrhea should not last too long. If it does you need to find the reason and make it stop.
  • acetone breath: almost everyone who experiences ketosis, will have a short period of fruity breath. With healthy individuals this is not a medical situation and will pass in a few days. If you have diabetes, especially diabetes type 1, you should be switching to LCHF under doctor’s supervision.

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