My Paleo Ketogenic Experiment And Meal Plan

Coconut butter, my new best friend.

I’m in my second day of very low carb, moderate protein, very high fat eating. I’m trying to make my way into nutritional ketosis.

Why I’m Doing It
First of all, for more info on what nutritional ketosis is, go here. You can make fun of me for jumping on the Jimmy Moore ketogenic bandwagon, but it’s in the name of science. I’m thinking about writing an ebook on the topic, so I’ll need to know it inside and out. This is a good motivator to research it.

I’ve wanted to try doing nutritional ketosis for years, as I mentioned in my “What Does A Paleo Ketogenic Diet Look Like?” post, but I thought my climbing might suffer. But now that I’m on a self-imposed 2-month hiatus from climbing, I’m ready to try it.

I’m already feeling the low-carb suck-fest I was dreading. I didn’t sleep at all last night and I feel hungry and weak. Hopefully this’ll only last a few days because I’m still planning on working out hard a few times a week.

Let’s be real: I’m not just doing this for science. I’m a vain person and I want to see how lean I can get. I’m hoping it might make me stronger, too. I’d love it if it helped with some of the health things I’ve been working on. But I’m curious to see if it’ll actually make me weaker and more tired, worse at recovering from workouts, and bitchy like I think it might. I want to see what it will do, good or bad.

How Long I’ll Do This Experiment
I’m going to commit to trying to be in nutritional ketosis for the next month. If I like it, I might keep doing it. And if I don’t like it, there’s a chance I’ll give up in 3 days, at which point I’ll let you know and you can chide me for being a worthless failure.

But Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming! you might be saying to yourself in exasperation. Yes, and that same horror struck me yesterday. I should probably wait until after Thanksgiving and Christmas so I can eat whatever I want for the rest of the year, I bartered (with myself). Until I realized that’s the kind of behavior and attitude I can’t stand… the kind of rationalization that keeps people from achieving their goals every single year.

Which made my resolve even stronger.

Why not make Thanksgiving less about gorging myself on leftovers for 2 weeks and more about NOT gorging myself? What a novel idea. Maybe on Thanksgiving we could make enough food for the 5 people we actually need to feed, instead of 25 people so we won’t have so much leftover Paleo pie. Hmmm.

Plus, it’ll be good for me to find out how long it takes my ketone levels to even out after my Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner binges. Like I said, for the sake of science.

How I’ll Test Myself
Speaking of ketone levels, I’ll be testing my blood ketone levels daily with the Precision Advanced Diabetes Management System ketone/glucose meter and the Precision Xtra Blood Ketone Strips. Even though they’re expensive as hell.

What I’ll Eat
I laid out a 2,000-calorie Paleo ketogenic diet in that post about what a ketogenic diet would look like if it were actually Paleo, as opposed to Atkins (with tons of dairy and fake sugars), and it didn’t honestly look too appetizing.

I’m not the biggest fan of vegetables, but I do like to have some every daySo I’ll have to change that meal plan for myself if I’m going to do it. I decided I’m going to add in as many leafy and crunchy vegetables as I can because they’re mostly fiber, instead of eschewing them all. Girl needs her nutrients. I’ll try to put some liver, heart, and other organs in there for the nutrients, as well. But for the record, I hate liver.

Also, I need to cut the calorie content because I only eat around 1,500 calories a day, as an active person bordering on midget status.

Macronutrient Breakdown
I’ve done some research on what the proper macronutrient ratio should be to get into a good, deep state of ketosis, but they vary a lot. I’ll start with my carbs at around 30 net grams a day and see how my ketones start looking. I’ll start with about 75% of my lean body mass in grams of protein a day, because somewhere I read that’s a good rule of thumb. And I’ll make up the rest of my calories with fat. So my numbers will look like this on approximately 1500 calories a day.

By the way, I know I may not end up eating this much, as ketosis generally inhibits your appetite. All of this is just a starting point.

Goals To Start Out

  • Carbs – 30 grams (net) = 120 calories = 8%
  • Protein – 61.5 grams = 246 calories = 16%
  • Fat – 126 grams = 1,134 calories = 76%

On My Plate
But what does that actually look like on my plate? This is a mock day, but one I would gladly partake in…

Breakfast Scramble
3 slices bacon
1 egg
1 cup chopped kale
1/4 of an onion
1/2 avocado
2 tsp bacon grease to fry it up in

Lunch (Coconut Curry Salmon)
3 oz baked salmon
1 tsp curry paste
1/3 cup canned coconut milk
2 tbs coconut butter/manna melted on top
1 cup mushrooms
1 cup cabbage

Dinner (Steak and Carrots)
3 oz eye of round steak with some fat left on it
1 large carrot sliced up, sautéed
2 tbs beef tallow to cook it all in and/or drizzle over
1/2 avocado

Calories: 1,570
Carbs: 13% = 49 grams (much of which is fiber, so the net would be lower)
Fat: 74% = 129 grams
Protein: 15% = 60 grams

I know that equals 102%. I don’t know why can never get it exactly right…

So here I go! Wish me luck! And please let me know about your own experiences with this. I want all the info I can possibly get my hands on.


  1. Please be certain to measure body composition before and after, preferably by DEXA, not BIA. Methinks dropping protein intake in order to get enough ketones might not be optimal.

  2. I wish you a ton of luck!! This looks totally do-able. And actually for me would take the stress out of the holidays. I sometimes think I “should” eat things because its thanksgiving etc, and end up not enjoying them because I’m so stressed about eating them. I’m sure you will be a rock star.
    Question about organ meat (which I do not care for, but am thinking about…): do we need to be extra-special careful about where organ meat comes from? I already go to my local butcher, buy meat and poultry from farmers markets – sometimes from illeagal white vans – and in times of desperation go to whole foods (which I don’t trust). Is organ meat even MORE under scrutiny? I’d love your take – I love your honest application to everything.

    1. mlou – Thank you for the encouragement! I’ll need all I can get. I’m definitely going through the low-carb flu – or should I say lower carb flu – right now. Jeez. As for the organ meat, I’m no expert on these parts myself (since I only ever give organs to my dog at this point), but when we do get them, we only get them from grass-fed sources and that’s the only source I’d feel comfortable eating them from. I don’t know if they’re to be more scrutinized than regular old muscle meat, but I sure don’t want extra pesticides and antibiotics in my liver from conventional cattle. I’ll have to do some more research on that one…

  3. I’ve been in nutrional ketosis off and on since early July. I say off and on because somehow I have a hard time getting and staying in ketosis. The slightest increase in carb or protein intake throws me out, as does a lack of exercise. Regardless, I like not having carb cravings and not feeling like I want to take someone’s head off from being STARVING if I a meal gets delayed by a couple of hours. And, I lost 11 lbs and counting since July. I did have a few days of feeling weak but didn’t experience the hunger you’re describing. If you are hungry, eat more fat. A spoonful of coconut butter will probably help. My nutrient ratios initially were more like 80% fat, 12% protein, 8% carbs but over time look more like yours. I tested daily using a Nova Max Plus ketone monitor up until about 2 weeks ago. I figured my fingertips needed a rest and so did my wallet — the test strips are EXPENSIVE!! Plus, by now I think I have the diet dialed in pretty well. I do track everything on MyFitnessPal just to make sure I keep carbs and protein moderate. So far, I’ve been really happy with my experience. I should mention that I’m a 57 yo menopausal woman who really, really struggled to lose any weight before this.

  4. Neely — Also, if you’re squeamish about organ meats, add more seafood and especially shellfish to your diet. You’ll get lots of Omega 3s, especially DHA which is critical for brain function, plus a healthy dose of iodine and other minerals.

  5. It’s me, again! :-) The other issue you might run into is leg cramps. After a couple of weeks of a very low carb diet, I developed these severe leg cramps that would send me leaping out of bed several times in the middle of the night! If you develop these, increase your magnesium intake. I found that I need 800 mg. of magnesium daily to keep the cramps at bay, but your mileage may vary.

    1. Debbie H. – Thanks so much for all this advice! Yesterday that’s what I tried to do – eat more fat. I’m going to make some bone broth today to help keep my electrolytes up.

  6. Hey, thanks for the very informative article! I wish you luck. I think i’m going to try this soon, too.

    But I have a question: is their some reason why you went with the Precision products? . . . The strips are so expensive . . . I’m wondering what the reason to choose those is. Any thoughts? Thanks much.

  7. Hey again, sorry for the additional questions, but I was wondering: how much of a caloritic deficit are you going to aim for on a daily basis? (You do need a deficit on ketogenic diet, right?)

  8. Good luck, Neely! The longer I eat Paleo, the larger my percentage of fat intake gets, so I’ve also been curious about the ketogenic diet. I’m definitely not this low, carb-wise, currently, more like between 60-80g/day, so I’m really interested in your experiment.

  9. check-out The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Volek and Phinney

    It has all the science you need to know about nutritional ketosis.

  10. Hi, everyone! Thanks for all the feedback and comments. I wanted you to know that I stopped the “experiment” yesterday, as I was feeling like death. I was eating enough calories and about 70% fat or more, but I was so fatigued, my legs were cramping, I was losing too much weight, and I was not doing well – to put it lightly – emotionally (as my husband will attest to). Maybe it would’ve gotten better with time, but I wasn’t willing to find out. Guess it doesn’t work for everyone :) I’ll write up a post on it very soon!

  11. Hi Neely,

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve dropped the experiment. I’m a 5’3″, 127lb (currently) woman who has been on a ketogenic diet since the beginning of the summer. I don’t test my blood ketones everyday anymore, but probably avg. at 1.2, depending on my carb, protein & exercise.

    I can attest to a ketogenic diet not necessarily being calorie deficient. I find that certain foods make me get the munchies more than others. I discovered coconut manna a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, although it fills me up & is tasty, it seemed to throw me off… I think the carb content was too high for the quantity I was eating. I had been off dairy for a few weeks (to see if I reacted to it, which I don’t seem to) and have dropped the manna and added cream, butter and cheese back in (along with Lindt 90% cacao chocolate) which has reduced my cravings. I also find nuts are something I can’t eat very often.

    I do endurance sports (biking, sprint triathlon) and don’t eat during events, except olives for the salt content.

    With regards to fatigue and cramping… do up your salt intake as recommended by Phinney/Volek along with taking a magnesium supplement. Lately, I had gotten lax about my magnesium and started getting leg cramps.

    Think about giving it another shot when you are ready, but don’t limit your fat intake (I’ve snacked on bacon fat & butter, I must confess), do the salt, and don’t do any serious exercise until you are feeling well. Good luck, if you try again.

  12. Like you, I also decided to start my run with the ketogenic diet right before the holidays, October to be exact. I love how I feel, but during really tough workouts or on days when I workout an then follow up with tennis, I am gassed! I have found that a tablespoon (or more) of organic coconut oil really helps. I’m assuming peanut butter (or a paleo approved, sugarless nut butter) would do the same, although I have not tried it. I fall out of ketosis really easily, so I think it’s important to keep a food journal and record your testing results so you can see which foods inhibit ketosis.

  13. I just saw that you stopped- I’d encourage you to try it again, only up your fat intake and drink lots of broth to help those “Keto-flu” symptoms. I had them for about two weeks (still get them if I don’t have enough fat). Is there any way you could include cheese or full fat cottage cheese? That also is helpful for fat intake. I never count calories and as long as I avoid all grains and all sugar (fake, natural, whatever– I also avoid stevia) I continue to get leaner. I hope you’ll try it again!

  14. Something to keep in mind:

    “…remember that prolonged dieting (this one [meaning the Atkins diet], low-fat, low-calorie, or a combination) tends to shut down thyroid function. This is usually not a problem with the thyroid gland (therefore blood tests are likely to be normal) but with the liver, which fails to convert T4 into the more active thyroid principle, T3. The diagnosis is made on clinical ground with the presence of fatigue, sluggishness, dry skin, coarse or falling hair, an elevation in cholesterol, or a low body temperature. I ask my patients to take four temperature readings daily before the three meals and near bedtime. If the average of all these temperatures, taken for at least three days, is below 97.8 degrees F (36.5 C), that is usually low enough to point to this form of thyroid problem; lower readings than that are even more convincing.” – Dr. Atkins

  15. Most people MUST eat a LOT of fat (85% of calories), only moderate protein (10-15%) and VERY low carb (0-5%) for nutritional ketosis to work well and feel good. That means NO fruit, a very minimal amount, if any, of non-starchy vegies (or just skip vegies for the time being – you’ll be fine), and very little, if any, avocado or nuts or coconut butter, due to carb content. Dana Carpender is coming out with a Fat Fast cookbook in January – 50 recipes for getting and staying in nutritional ketosis. I can’t wait to get it and check it out!

    Also, supplementing daily with electrolytes (EmergenC brand makes a good, unsweetened electrolyte powder), and/or plenty of sea salt, and/or homemade bone broth, is essential.

    For those of you who are interested in testing for nutritional ketosis, here’s the best price ($2/strip) that I’ve found anywhere for ketone testing strips for the Abbott Precision Xtra testing machine:

  16. In my own journey with low carb I find that I do not do well with plant fats in any substantial quantity. That means coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, nuts, etc. Same with fish oil. My body doesn’t seem to have much use for these at all. Ketosis feels best to me with only animal fats like egg yolks, lard, and the *vast majority* coming from beef/lamb/bison. Just something to consider if you ever try it again. Ketogenic diets are very hard but very worth it. I won’t go back to carbs.

  17. I started being paleo about a month ago and love it! I’ve done a ketogenic diet in the past and found it difficult to stay on but I loved the results. I want to try it again and do a ketogenic paleo diet (like you have done) but am still a little confused about the grams. I eat about 1450 net calories per day, so maybe around 1800 calories total to account for my workouts. I want to limit my carb intake to about 25 grams. I read online somewhere that you should eat one gram of protein for each pound of muscle, so I figured I should eat 100 grams of protein. I do not want to eat more than that because I am worried about gaining TOO much muscle. But does this mean I should be eating 145 ish grams of fat each day?

    I am having a hard time working out the distributions of grams of each carb, protein, and fat.

    I am sorry that you didn’t like your “experiment”, I hope you try it again and have better luck with it in the future! I’ve read that the first time you go into ketosis is the hardest on your body and that after the first time you are unlikely to go through bad keto-flu symptoms. Thanks for the awesome articles!

  18. I commented on your other article about simply being wheat free including wheat gluten free and really no other real rule except to try to eat as good and fresh food when I can. After looking over your suggested meal plan I thought I’d tell you my typical meal plan using a few average days I don’t ever need to count calories so your guess is as good as mine but yesterday I had for breakfast 5 breakfast sausages cooked on a ‘Foreman’ style electric with pan fried in canola spray a 3 jumbo egg omelet with loaded homemade marinara sauce and a slice of provolone, I use water not milk for making omelets, they’re better. and a half a pot of coffee, that was breakfast. I didn’t get hungry all day but did eat 4 dark chocolate covered cherries arriving home from work about 5 p.m. My wife and I ate dinner about 9 p.m. she brought take out taco bell I had both a Cantina Rice bowl with chicken and a regular Nachos Belle Grande with steak. and of course several 12 oz beers. High gravity I.P.A. ‘s Today I had a similar breakfast at 7 a.m. 2 sausages and 2 eggs scrambled with taco cheese and coffee lots of coffee I haven’t eaten anything else still not hungry it’s 7:30 ish my plans for dinner are a take out of braciole from a great local restaurant with some side usually fries (for my salad and my wife steals some) in that dinner salad I’ll add dried cherries, nuts, olives, cheese, berries and all the dressing I need maybe balsamic, honey and olive oil equals parts (most excellent dressing, a must try) and several good beers. Remember I drink water too! That’s a couple of typical days of eating for me but as you see I am unconcerned about calories or portions or carbs and I have been eating almost exactly like this for at least 1 year like this and I never worry about my weight anymore and my wife is a hospital lab director so my blood work is regular and it’s like the perfect textbook scores. I’m 6’ 163-168 on any given day or moment, I wear 30″ inch waist with a belt at the last hole I’m in oddly a smaller shoe size from 12’s to 11’s (weird) but that’s what I wore when I married 34 yrs ago at 26 and can wear 39 or 40 long jacket again. I’m a working general contractor so many days are active and long, I’m on no medications except that 80mg aspirin along with my vitamins and supplements nothing exotic a daily and an extra 5000mg D3, resveratrol 250, good fish oil, saw palmetto extract, and my probiotics with meals. I feel better then before I quit wheat by a considerable amount although all my health issues in life are typically self inflicted work. play, and life wounds! lol! The above eating style is now mimicked by many friends and acquaintances including 2 doctors and women and the results are dramatic. They all tend to return to their ‘real’ weight quickly and easily and even faster with the energy they gain they tend to become more active and that helps speed things up. They all say now they never get hungry like before. They just eat what they want when they’re hungry and they all start off like me with that style breakfast most days if they eat. They look great too! It’s the wheat! Don’t doubt me. Read the book ‘Wheat Belly” by William Davis M.D. you’ll be throwing the bread out after the intro. It takes some planning, try to bring something for yourself to family events so they don’t get freaked out, I take a dozen hot barbecue butter garlic wings!

    1. Rosie – You can find a round-up of my posts on my experiment at the top of this post: and that post also explains how I did with it. In short, not well, but that does not mean in any way that you won’t have great success with it. Also, here’s an article that wrote about why it didn’t work for my particular body type and why it does work for others. Interesting stuff.

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