WHAT IS KETOSIS?
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body uses fat as primary fuel. Since the brain cannot use fat in its original form as fuel, the fat is converted into ketone bodies. This happens in the liver. The brain as well as all other cells in the body functions very well on ketone bodies instead of glucose.
However, the brain still needs 20 g of glucose every day. Since we still eat carbohydrates on LCHF/keto, this is no problem. Should we chose to eat NO CARBS whatsoever, the body will provide these 20 g of glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.
Ketosis is also a metabolic state that naturally decreases your appetite and makes weight loss almost effortless. But being in ketosis is no guarantee for weight loss and you can also lose weight without being in ketosis.
Confused? Intrigued? Let’s take a closer look!
HOW TO GET IN TO KETOSIS?
The way to get your body to go into ketosis is by eating very few carbohydrates, moderate amounts of protein and lots of fat. Ketosis occurs when insulin levels are low which is why carbs but also protein must be limited. Remember that protein can also spike insulin!
My personal experience is that I need to keep my diet pretty strict for a couple of days or maybe a week to get into ketosis. Once in ketosis, I don’t need to watch my diet as closely and that allows for more carbs. I’ve been eating a low carb diet for many years so maybe my body is just very well adapted but I have eaten up to 100 g of carbs (even from dates and rice) and stayed in optimal ketosis (see below). I can also drink a glass of wine or two. But this is my experience, you need to find the way your body responds.
Most people will need to lower their carb intake to 20-30 g to get into deep ketosis. That may sound very strict but if you chose wisely, it can still give you quite a lot of vegetables – especially if you go for leafy greens and cabbage. Aim for 0,8-1 g of protein per kilo of body weight and eat natural fats until satiety. This is not an ever valid recipe but just a starting point if you’re new to the low carbohydrate way of living.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF KETOSIS?
For many, being in ketosis simply feels good. It is a state of almost endless energy, stabil blood sugar, no cravings etc. Especially for people who feel addicted to sugar or carbs, this state offers a sense of peace.
Other signs of ketosis are these:
¤ Lack of appetite (the ketone bodies are natural appetite suppressants)
¤ Metallic taste in the mouth or bad breath (don’t worry, it won’t last forever)
¤ Fatigue and heavy legs
¤ Endless energy (yes, we all react differently)
¤ Head aches
¤ Constipation (or diarrhea)
¤ Solid sleep or even a feeling of being too speedy to sleep
As you see some of the signs are directly opposed to one another. We all react differently but I think it’s more a sign of beginner’s difficulties vs. the truly fat/keto adapted body.
The first days or even weeks on a low carb diet can cause fatigue, headaches, heavy legs etc. So hang in there! it will get better soon!
HOW TO MEASURE KETOSIS?
You can buy ketostix in the pharmacy. They show excess ketones excreted in the urine. Ketostix are a cheap way to determine if you’re on the right path which can be motivating for the beginner. Unfortunately they’re not very accurate and can only really be used for a yes or no answer. If you want to measure ketone levels seriously, you’ll need to get a blood ketone meter. It’s quite pricey, or the strips you use for it are quite pricey but it can give you valuable insight into what your body can and cannot tolerate to stay in a state of ketosis.
If you decide to measure ketones using a blood ketone meter, here’s how to interpret the results:
Less than 0,5 mmol/L: You’re not in ketosis
0,5-1,5 mmol/L: Light ketosis
1,5-3 mmol/L: Optimal ketosis (this is the zone for effortless weigh loss)
Over 3 mmol/L: Neither better nor worse. Often seen during fasting or with very low calorie intake (often seen in anorectics)
IS KETOSIS SAFE?
Ketosis is a natural state for the body and is completely safe. However, are you a type 1 diabetic, you have to be a bit more careful here or may even need to abort completely.
Some people still confuse the state of ketosis with ketoacidosis which is as a metabolic state associated with high concentrations of ketone bodies at the same time as high glucose levels. This state is seen in untreated type 1 diabetics and it can be fatal. In nutritional ketosis, meaning the ketosis that happens when you eat little carbohydrates, moderate protein and more fat, you will not be able to have high ketone bodies and high blood glucose at the same time so you’re at no risk for ketoacidosis.
Also, there are some evidence that this very restricted ketogenic diet may not be suited for athletes but it’s very debated with both pros and cons. Just thought I would mention it. People doing regular exercise will have no problems as soon as the adaption fase is over. If you lack energy during your training, you can look into things like carb backloading or carb cycling.