Can You Eat an Intuitive Keto Diet?

When you initially begin following a keto diet plan, overthinking is basically part of the bundle. For much better or even worse, keto newbies invest a great deal of time discovering what they can and can’t consume, carefully weighing and determining food, and tracking whatever that enters their mouths.

Weighing, tracking, and limiting ended up being not surprisingly laborious after a while. I do understand some individuals who more than happy to keep this level of dietary watchfulness for months and even years, however the majority of people die. Those who don’t wish to go back to a more unwinded method of consuming like Primal search for a compromise position—a keto diet plan without all the hassle.

This raises the concern: is keeping track of and cautious control of your food consumption just part and parcel of keto, or is it possible to follow a keto diet plan intuitively?

What Does Instinctive Keto Even Mean?

There’s an evident contradiction in between consuming intuitively and keto dieting. Consuming intuitively implies listening to your body, honoring the signals it sends you, and not managing or limiting your food consumption based upon external guidelines. Keto diets come with a fundamental set of guidelines and constraints.

At the minimum, keto diet plans need to be low-carb by meaning. In practice, this implies there are lots of high-carb foods that you can’t consume in any considerable quantity. Even a little serving might interfere with ketosis. Numerous folks likewise set criteria around their keto diet plans, like they need to be gluten-free or sugar-free. As I have actually described formerly, that’s not technically real, however those prevail worths in the keto neighborhood.

If your inner guide advises you to consume a couple sweet bars, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, and even a big bowl of mango, you can’t comply and still be ketogenic. You can’t listen to your instinct. Therefore, if such a thing as an instinctive keto exists, it needs to include some sort of compromise.

That stated, I think when individuals state “intuitive keto diet,” they indicate keto without all the hassle and micromanaging. That is possible. Great deals of individuals do it by:

  • Consuming mainly animal items, veggies, nuts and seeds, and fats (all low-carb foods)
  • Consuming when they are starving, not strictly sticking to a set consuming window
  • Permitting appetite to assist just how much and how frequently they consume in any provided day
  • Not tracking macros

That’s how I would specify an instinctive keto diet plan, anyhow, and the meaning I’ll utilize for the rest of this post. One might argue, however, that that’s neither keto nor user-friendly, not truly.

Consuming Intuitively Versus Instinctive Consuming

It’s difficult to discuss user-friendly keto without clarifying the distinction in between eating intuitively and Instinctive Consuming (with a capital I-E for clearness). The previous is loosely specified as consuming according to your body’s appetite hints and desires for various foods. The latter is a particular consuming approach established in the mid-1990s by 2 signed up dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, that is still popular today.

Any type of purposeful keto diet plan, no matter how unwinded, is antithetical to an User-friendly Consuming method. Instinctive Consuming particularly declines dieting, especially that which concentrates on dieting for deliberate weight reduction. Furthermore, among Instinctive Consuming’s core concepts is providing yourself genuine authorization to consume any foods in any quantity your body desires.

Theoretically, someone could practice Instinctive Consuming and naturally arrive at a keto diet over time if their body feels best eating low-carb foods. However, it’s impossible to be Intuitive-with-a-capital-I if you start with keto macros. So it’s crystal clear, any version of intuitive keto I discuss here is entirely separate from an Intuitive Eating approach.

Does Intuitive Keto Work?

It depends on your goals. Intuitive keto can work for people who want to follow a low-carb diet, don’t want to overthink it, and don’t necessarily care about being in ketosis all the time.

That’s not to say that it’s impossible to stay in ketosis and consume intuitively. You could very well stay in ketosis without monitoring your macros if you eat mostly animal products and low-carb veggies. However, if you include a greater variety of vegetables, fruits, and nuts, plus maybe some dark chocolate and wine, you’ll have to be ok with living in what Mark calls the “keto zone”—moving fluidly in and out of ketosis depending on your daily carb intake, meal timing, and exercise.

Can You Lose Weight on an Intuitive Keto Diet?

Maybe. If you naturally eat in an energy deficit without tracking your food, then yes.

Realistically, though, weight loss isn’t the best use case for intuitive eating. With intuitive eating, the goal is to let your body be in charge. Intentional weight-loss efforts usually involve overriding your body’s cues and eating set amounts instead of eating according to hunger. You can simultaneously work on eating more intuitively and also hope to lose weight, but trying to lose weight with intuitive eating is paradoxical.

Side note: I’ve also known people who consistently undereat on keto because they simply aren’t hungry. That’s not good either. Intuitive keto also wouldn’t be ideal for these folks. They’re better off at least loosely tracking food intake and making sure to eat enough.

Can You Eat Intuitively and Get the Cognitive Benefits of Keto?

Again, maybe.

Some people enjoy noticeable boosts in focus and mental clarity on a keto diet. Those benefits depend on being in ketosis, and they might only be noticeable above a certain ketone level (which differs from person to person). If you want to guarantee ketosis, you’ll either have to track your carb intake or strictly limit yourself to very low-carb foods.

A possible workaround is eating a more relaxed, intuitive keto diet but supplementing with MCT oil or exogenous ketones.

Can You Eat Intuitively and Still Be Fat-Adapted?

Yes. Ketosis isn’t a prerequisite of being fat-adapted. A low-ish-carb Primal diet is all it takes to become a fat-burning beast. There’s no need for diligent macro tracking or keto-level carb restriction.

Pros and Cons of Intuitive Keto Compared to Typical Ketogenic Diets

Pros:

  • No food tracking means intuitive keto is less time consuming
  • Eating more mindfully can help you reconnect with your internal wisdom around food and learn to trust your body’s signals
  • “Dieting” isn’t for everyone, especially people who have struggled with unhealthy eating behaviors in the past
  • Thinking less about food frees up mental space for other activities and interests

Cons

  • May move in and out of ketosis if carb intake doesn’t stay low enough
  • Doesn’t allow you to control food intake or manipulate macros, which may be desirable for weight loss, certain health conditions, or self-experimentation (as my friends Tyler Cartwright and Luis Villasenor from KetoGains say, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”)

How to Eat an Intuitive Keto Diet

Even if intuitive keto is your ultimate goal, I’d suggest starting with the Keto Reset approach: Start by eating Primally. Decrease carb intake gradually and intentionally until you are consuming less than 50 grams of carbs per day. Then, spend at least three weeks monitoring what you eat, ensuring that you stay below this threshold. This gives you some time to become keto-adapted.

During this time, pay attention to what you’re eating. Note which foods in your repertoire have the most and fewest carbs and which are the most satisfying. Practice eating more mindfully.

Once you have a good handle on what a typical day of ketogenic eating looks like, you can start to loosen up on the food tracking. See how you feel and whether you’re still making progress toward your goals, whatever they might be.

As a compromise position, you could consider a period of lazy keto. Ignore how derisive the term is; lazy keto simply means that you only track carb intake. Otherwise, you let food intake vary from day to day based on hunger and what sounds good. It’s not truly intuitive since you’re enforcing a carb limit still, but it’s more relaxed than a keto diet where you adhere to set macros (carbs, fat, and protein).

Is Intuitive Keto an Oxymoron?

Having said all this, one could argue that intuitive keto is an oxymoron. On one side, strict keto dieters might say that your diet isn’t really ketogenic if you aren’t making sure to keep your carbs down. On the other, intuitive eating proponents will probably point out that there’s nothing intuitive about any way of eating that starts with enforced carb restriction. There’s certainly no such thing as intuitive keto in the way Tribole and Resch use the word intuitive.

This is both a semantic and a philosophical argument. If you eat only certain foods or food groups, but you eat as much of them as you want whenever you want, is that still eating intuitively? I can’t answer that definitively. (By the same token, could somebody ever eat an intuitive carnivore or an intuitive vegetarian diet plan?)

Although keto purists might disagree, I do think it’s possible to eat a more chilled-out version of keto that:

  • Doesn’t involve meticulously weighing and tracking your food
  • Doesn’t restrict calories or overall food intake, but allows you to listen to your body’s hunger cues and respond accordingly
  • Makes room for occasional excursions into higher-carb eating if constant ketosis isn’t important to you (there aren’t any keto police to confiscate your keto card)

Ultimately, intuitive keto probably isn’t the finest term for it since both words already come with strong connotations. Flexible low-carb that doesn’t involve micromanaging but still gets the job done is too wordy. We’ll stick with “keto zone” around here for now, but I’m open to suggestions for what to call this. Let me know in the comments.

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About the Author

Lindsay Taylor, Ph.D., is a senior writer and community manager for Primal Nutrition, a certified Primal Health Coach, and the co-author of three keto cookbooks.

As a writer for Mark’s Daily Apple and the leader of the thriving Keto Reset and Primal Endurance communities, Lindsay’s job is to help individuals learn the whats, whys, and hows of leading a health-focused life. Before joining the Primal team, she earned her master’s and Ph.D. in Social and Personality Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, where she likewise worked as a researcher and instructor.

Lindsay lives in Northern California with her husband and two sports-obsessed sons. In her free time, she enjoys ultra running, triathlon, camping, and game nights. Follow along on Instagram @theusefuldish as Lindsay attempts to juggle work, family, and endurance training, all while maintaining a healthy balance and, most of all, having fun in life. For more info, visit lindsaytaylor.co.

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.