Why ‘Get into Ketosis’?
Answer: Because ketosis provides benefits beyond caloric restriction … way, way beyond!
Ketogenic diets can lead to benefits that reach much further than simply lowering your caloric intake:
The Ketogenic Diet Accelerates Weight Loss
It takes more work to turn fat into energy than it takes to turn carbs into energy. Because of this, a ketogenic diet can really help speed up weight loss.
And since fat is so satiating, and the ketogenic diet has adequate protein, it doesn’t leave you hungry like other diets do (and if you’ve ever dieted, you know that appetite control is key to successful weight loss).
A British Journal of Nutrition meta-analysis of a number of randomized controlled trials revealed significant weight loss from a ketogenic diet, and found that:
“In the overall analysis, … individuals assigned to a VLCKD achieve a greater weight loss than those assigned to a LFD in the longterm; hence, a VLCKD may be an alternative tool against obesity.”
*VLCKD – very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet
*LFD – low fat diet
Bonus: A Boosted Metabolism
Ketosis is also a natural metabolic booster, so don’t be afraid of the “fat calories.” You’ll convert healthy fat to brain- and heart-healthy ketones and use them for fuel, while the excess is excreted in your urine.
Metabolism is generally calculated in clinical studies with measurements of what is called a respiratory exchange ratio.
On average, men burn an extra 450 kcals per day while women burn an extra 150 kcals/day in ketosis. This might not seem like much, but it adds up.
Remember, don’t get obsessed with the amount of fat you’re eating. The fat turns into ketones, which are a nice, high-octane fuel for your body.
Ketosis Kills Your Appetite
Hunger is the single worst side effect of dieting, and it’s one of the main reasons people feel miserable and eventually give up on their diets.
One of the most exciting thing about being in ketosis is that it leads to an automatic reduction in appetite.
If you are eating a standard (high-carb) American diet, you have blood sugar swings that can cause bouts of intense hunger—sometimes within as little as two hours of eating a meal!
When you enter ketosis and start burning fat for fuel, your blood sugar will stabilize at a lower, healthier level. The healthy fat will be metabolized into ketones by your liver, and that will suppress your hunger via several metabolic pathways.
When it comes to most hunger pangs, we’re talking about the hormone ghrelin, which is the main hunger hormone and increases appetite.
When you eat, ghrelin levels drop, but if you are overweight they won’t drop as much as they should. When you start to lose weight on a non-ketotic diet, your body senses that it’s being starved and ghrelin levels increase. This is one reason regular diets often fail.
But when you’re on a ketogenic diet, ghrelin levels do not increase as you lose weight.
Studies consistently show that when people cut carbs and eat more protein and fat, they end up eating much fewer calories.
In fact, when researchers compare low-carb and low-fat diets in studies, they need to actively restrict calories in the low-fat groups to make the results comparable.
Ketosis Burns Visceral Fat (Belly Fat!)
Not all fat in the body is the same. We have subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and visceral fat (in the abdominal cavity).
Visceral fat is tends to lodge around the organs, and can drive inflammation, insulin resistance, and is believed to be a leading driver of the metabolic dysfunction that is so common in Western countries today.
Low-carb diets are very effective at reducing the harmful abdominal fat. Not only do they cause more fat loss than low-fat diets, an even greater proportion of that fat is coming from the abdominal cavity.
Over time, this should lead to a drastically reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Triglycerides Go Down and Good Cholesterol Goes Up
LDL (Bad Cholesterol) Goes Down on a Ketogenic Diet
Scientists have learned recently, however, that the type of LDL matters; not all of them are equal.
In this regard, the size of the LDL particles is important. People who have mostly small particles have a high risk of heart disease, while people who have mostly large particles have a low risk .
It turns out that low-carb diets actually turn the LDL particles from small to large, while also reducing the number of LDL particles floating around in the bloodstream.
And this leads to more positive news: by reducing LDL cholesterol, the ketogenic diet also benefits your heart health.
Ketosis Helps Clear up Acne
There are a number of different causes of acne, and one is related to diet and blood sugar.
American teenagers (and adults alike) tend to see higher rates of acne than people in other parts of the world because we love our refined carbs and sugars.
But people who live in regions of the world with diets full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, have significantly lower prevalence of acne.
It makes sense then, that by decreasing carb intake, a ketogenic diet can reduce some cases of acne.
The Ketogenic Diet is Good For Your Liver
Fat accumulation in the liver is commonly associated with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. In serious cases, fatty liver disease can damage the liver. Doctors test for the condition by measuring levels of liver enzymes using blood tests.
So, if you’ve been told you’re at risk for fatty liver, you’ll want to consider the ketogenic diet.
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The Ketogenic Diet May Reduce Cancer Risk
The ketogenic diet has recently been investigated a great deal for how it may help prevent or even treat certain cancers.
A 2014 study published in the medical journal Redox Biology concluded that the ketogenic diet may be a suitable complementary treatment to chemotherapy and radiation in people with cancer, as “ketogenic diets may enhance cancer cell therapeutic responses”.
Other theories suggest that because the ketogenic diet reduces high blood sugar, it could reduce insulin complications, which may be associated with some cancers.
An important 2017 meta analysis of 13 studies, published in International Journal of Preventive Medicine, stated that the studies they analyzed-
“demonstrated that KD [ketogenic diets] significantly show increase in survival time mean and a clear trend of slower tumor growth in pancreatic, prostate, gastric, brain, lung cancer”.
Ketosis May Protect Your Brain
Studies suggest that the keto diet offers neuroprotective benefits, which may may help treat or prevent conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even some sleep disorders.
During metabolic stress, ketones serve as an alternative energy source to maintain normal brain cell metabolism. In fact, BHB (a major ketone) may be an even more efficient fuel than glucose, providing more energy per unit oxygen used.
A ketogenic diet also increases the number of mitochondria, so called “energy factories” in brain cells.
A recent study found enhanced expression of genes encoding for mitochondrial enzymes and energy metabolism in the hippocampus, a part of the brain important for learning and memory. Hippocampal cells often degenerate in age-related brain diseases, leading to cognitive dysfunction and memory loss.
With increased energy reserve, neurons may be able to ward off disease stressors that would usually exhaust and kill the cell.
Ketones also increase GABA in the synapses (where neurotransmitters are released) of rats and in the brains of some epileptic humans subjects. This increase in inhibition may indicate both anti-seizure effects and neuroprotection.
*GABA is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain. Low levels of GABA may be linked to:
- Anxiety or mood disorders
- Chronic pain
Breakthrough Evidence of Neuroprotection
Studies suggest that a ketogenic diet is protective against brain injury.
A study with 23 elderly with mild cognitive impairment showed that a ketogenic diet improved verbal memory performance after 6 weeks compared to a standard high carbohydrate diet.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 152 patients with mild- to moderate Alzheimer’s disease were given either a ketogenic agent or a placebo, while maintaining a normal diet. 90 days later, those receiving the drug showed marked cognitive improvement compared to placebo, which was correlated with the level of ketones in the blood.
In a pilot study in patients with Parkinson’s disease, the patients that stuck to the diet for 28 days showed marked reduction in their physical symptoms.
In a study of Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a ketogenic diet also led to delayed motor neuron death and histological and functional improvements.
Ketosis Improves Type 2 Diabetes
In 2008, researchers conducted a 24-week study to determine the effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on people with type 2 diabetes and obesity.
At the end of the study, participants who followed the ketogenic diet saw greater improvements in glycemic control and medication reduction compared to those who followed a low-glycemic diet.
A study from 2017 found the ketogenic diet outperformed a conventional, low-fat diabetes diet over 32 weeks in regards to weight loss and A1c.
And a 2013 review reports again that a ketogenic diet can lead to more significant improvements in blood sugar control, A1c, weight loss, and discontinued insulin requirements than other diets.
Ketosis Lowers Blood Pressure
Having elevated blood pressure (hypertension) is an important risk factor for many diseases, including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and many others.
Ketosis Helps PCOS Sufferers
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts. A high-carbohydrate diet can negatively affect those with PCOS.
There aren’t many clinical studies on the ketogenic diet and PCOS but a very promising pilot study that involved 5 women over a 24-week period found that the ketogenic diet:
- increased weight loss
- aided hormone balance
- improved luteinizing hormone (LH)/follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) ratios
- improved fasting insulin
It’s The Best Diet to Treat Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a medical condition that is highly associated with the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
It is actually a collection of symptoms:
- Abdominal obesity
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated fasting blood sugar levels
- High triglycerides
- Low HDL levels
Ketosis Can Reduce Epileptic Seizures
Ketosis can lead to a reduction in seizures in people with epilepsy. The jury is still out on how effective this actually is, though it seems to be most effective on children who have focal seizures.
How Long Does it Take to Get Into Ketosis?
How Fast Can You Be in Ketosis?
You can’t simply jump into ketosis in a 24-hour timespan.
Your body has been burning sugar for fuel your entire life, and it will need time to become fat adapted, and begin burning ketones for fuel.
So how long does it take to get into ketosis?
This transition could take anywhere from 48 hours to one week. The length in time will vary depending upon your activity level, lifestyle, body type and carbohydrate intake.
But there are several ways you can speed up this process, like intermittent fasting, drastically decreasing your carb intake, and supplementing with exogenous ketones.
Remember: Once you get into ketosis, there is no guarantee you will remain in ketosis. If you eat a carb-laden meal, practice carb cycling, or increase your carb intake for athletic performance, your body may start burning glucose.
To get back into a fat-burning state, follow the same methods you did to get into ketosis initially.
The Fastest Method to Launch into Ketosis
First, Cut Your Carbs Like Crazy!
The general carb limit for the keto diet is around 30 grams per day. If you’re an athlete, this may increase to 100 grams.
However, if you want to get into ketosis fast, drastically reducing your carb intake is a necessary step. Track your carbohydrate intake during this time, not letting any hidden carbs slip under the radar.
Don’t worry though; going low carb is easier than you think, even when you’re eating out or traveling. For guidance, pick up the bestseller, The Keto Diet, by Leanne Vogel.
Up Your Fats
Healthy fats make up a large component of any keto meal plan. If you’re new to keto, it may take time to transition to this way of eating.
Make sure your fat intake accounts for 70-80% of your total calories. This will help your body transition to using fat as its primary fuel source.
Consume these healthy fats to get into ketosis quickly:
- Oils like coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, MCT oil or powder, avocado oil or macadamia nut oil
- Fatty meats, egg yolks, butter or ghee
- Fatty nuts and nut butters
- Plant fats like avocados, olives or coconut butter
Take Exogenous Ketones
Exogenous ketones are supplements to help you get into ketosis faster. The most effective exogenous ketones are those made with beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB ketones).
BHB is the most abundant ketone in the body, making up to 78% of total ketone bodies in the blood. It’s also a more efficient fuel source than glucose.
Taking exogenous ketones helps your body get into ketosis faster (sometimes in as little as 24 hours).
You still need to eat a low carb, ketogenic diet, but supplementation can decrease the amount of time it takes and decrease unpleasant side effects.
Consider Intermittent Fasting
Fasting is often used in conjunction with keto. It poses a number of health benefits, including improved concentration and reduced blood sugar levels. It has also been associated with decreasing symptoms of various diseases.
When used in combination with a ketogenic diet, it can help you get into ketosis faster, and aids weight and fat loss.
If the thought of intermittent fasting intimidates you, try these other two approaches:
- Fat fasting involves eating low-calorie (usually around 1,000 calories), with roughly 85-90% of those calories coming from fat, for a few days.
- Fast mimicking mimics the effects of fasting within a short time frame. During this brief time span, you still eat high-fat foods.
Increase Your Exercise
Exercise helps deplete the body of glycogen stores (stored glucose). When glycogen reserves are low, and not being refilled with carbohydrates, the body turns to burning fat for energy. Therefore, increasing your exercise intensity can help you enter ketosis faster.
Troubleshooting: Why Aren’t You in Ketosis?
If you tried all of the above methods and still haven’t entered ketosis, there might be an underlying cause.
It’s important to take a hard look at your diet and daily habits that might prevent you from entering ketosis.
You’re Not Eating Enough Fat
By now, surely you understand a ketogenic diet requires a high-fat intake. However, many people underestimate just how much fat they need to consume.
If you want fat stores to be your body’s new, preferred energy source, that energy source must first be available. Make sense?
To enter ketosis, up to 80% of your daily calories should come from fat.
To put this into a frame of reference, if you eat 2,000 calories a day, 1,600 of those calories should come from fat sources. This comes out to roughly 144-170 grams of fat.
Both quantity and quality are equally important, so consume fats from high-quality sources, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
You’re Under Eating
When you transition to a ketogenic diet, sometimes it’s difficult to eat enough calories. Fat is incredibly satiating and acts as an appetite suppressant.
When your body doesn’t get enough calories, it will go into starvation mode. This causes it to “hoard” body fat, rather than use it for energy. This can also cause several metabolic and thyroid problems.
As a beginner to the keto diet, track your calories to ensure you’re eating enough. This might sound counterintuitive, especially if you’re following keto for weight loss, but it’s much more common among those following keto to not eat enough than to eat too much.
How to Avoid ‘Keto Flu’
When your body enters ketosis for the first time, it’s switching its preferred fuel source. This transition can cause flu-like side effects in some people, including fatigue, headaches, dizziness, sugar cravings, brain fog and stomach trouble. This is often called the “keto flu.”
Supplementing with exogenous ketones can help negate these unwanted symptoms. When supplements aren’t enough, try these tips:
Drink Plenty of Water
Many people experience a flush of water weight when they switch from eating a standard, high carb diet to keto. Therefore, it’s important to stay hydrated.
Plus, hunger is often confused for dehydration. Avoid this by drinking water often, especially when you experience cravings or hunger.
Proper sleep is important for hormone function and repair of the body. Not getting enough sleep is tough on the adrenals and blood sugar regulation. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep per night.
If you struggle with quality sleep, create an environment that is conducive for rest. This could be keeping your room cooler, turning off all electronic devices one to two hours before bedtime or using a sleep mask.
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How to Test Yourself for Ketosis
If your goal is to get into ketosis as fast as possible, you have to test your ketone levels. Why? Because testing will help you recognize what foods or habits kick you out of ketosis.
There are three primary methods to test your ketone levels:
This is the most highly-recommended, most accurate way to test your ketone levels. With a small prick of a finger, you can measure the level of BHB ketones in the blood.
Blood ketone testing is the most accurate method for measuring your BHB ketone bodies – a critical ketone your body makes and ultimately converts to energy.
The testing method is similar to how people with diabetes test their blood glucose levels for high blood sugar. Prick your finger, squeeze a drop of blood out, tap it on a testing strip and the blood meter detects your blood ketone levels.
Measuring ketone levels in your bloodstream provides the most reliable test results because it removes factors that can distort the results, such as how drinking water can dilute urine results. Your blood composition is highly regulated and shouldn’t be affected by factors such as hydration, food consumption or becoming keto-adapted when you’ve been in ketosis for an extended period of time.
Reading Your Blood Ketone Numbers
Purchase a high-quality blood meter for measuring blood ketone levels. Before you draw blood, use an alcohol swab to cleanse your finger and minimize the chance of infection. Use a fresh lancet every time and the included spring-loaded mechanism to draw a drop of blood. Place blood onto the test strip and wait 10 seconds for a reading.
This is the same type of meter people with diabetes use, so you can also test your blood glucose or blood sugar levels with different test strips to measure your Glucose–Ketone Index (GKI). It combines your blood glucose and blood ketone levels for a precise measurement of your metabolic health.
If you are following a ketogenic diet for weight loss or to reach fitness goals, measuring your GKI can help you reach your goals faster. For example, many competitive athletes track their GKI test results for optimal performance.
Blood ketone levels are measured in mmol/L. For most people, optimal ranges of BHB levels are between 1.5-3.0 mmol/L.
Blood glucose levels are measured in mg/dl. To get your GKI number, divide your glucose level number by 18 to convert it to mmol/L. Then, divide your blood glucose level number by your blood ketone level. A GKI number between three and eight is ideal, depending on your goals.
Using a highly sensitive meter, such as the Keto Mojo Ketosis Blood Test and Glucose Meter, set to the correct reader code for ketosis detection (832) and using quality ketone specific testing strips, ketonians can feel confident that the measure is accurate.
Results on the keto-mojo test meter are displayed in millimoles of ketone per liter of blood, or “mmol/L.” The ketone-zone is between 0.0 and 0.6 mmol/L.
Because ketone levels are affected by glucose levels in the blood, a reading above 0.6 mmol/L not only highlights that ketosis is not occurring, but could indicate a more serious medical condition the closer the reading is to the upper threshold of the measure (1.5 mmol/L). In the process of maintaining ketosis and monitoring one’s health, it is so important that the ketone testing strips and meter give a precise measurement, every time.
Acetone or Acetate is another ketone body that is produced when your body metabolizes BHB. While not directly responsible for ketone metabolism, acetate correlates closely with ketone levels in your bloodstream. Some people use a breath meter to help compare and confirm urine or blood test results.
Acetone is measured through your breath with a device by breath acetone. Typically, the more acetone detected in your breath, the further you are into ketosis. You can measure acetone on your breath using breath monitor, such as a Ketonix meter, which measures how much of the ketone is exhaled on your breath.
Reading Your Breath Ketone Levels
Plug the meter into a USB port or into the included battery pack. Once the unit is warmed up, blow your breath into it until it starts flashing. This indicates it is measuring your breath acetone levels. Typically, a reading of between 40 and 80 indicates you are in ketosis.
The high cost is one disadvantage to monitoring ketone levels with a breath meter. But, they are reusable so it’s a one-time investment. Breath testing is considered less accurate than blood or urine testing, but it can be an option if you don’t want to deal with bodily fluids or repeat testing strip purchases.
Urine Testing (With Keto Strips)
While this is one of the most affordable and accessible methods, but it’s not the most accurate.
Luckily, there are tricks to getting the most accurate reading from your keto strips.
How to Use Keto Strips
In order to test your urine, you will need ketone urine testing strips. There are many brands available. The name Ketostix is often used to refer to any ketone testing strip, no matter the manufacturer.
Whichever you buy, read the product insert in detail to see if their recommendations vary from generic instructions. Also, note that the test will be difficult to interpret if you are colorblind. You may need to ask a friend or family member to check your reading.
A study found the most reliable time of day to test the urine during a ketogenic diet is in the early morning or post-dinner urine.
When you’re ready to test, follow these steps:
- You can either pass the test end of the strip through your urine as you urinate (be sure to wet it entirely), or collect urine in a clean, dry container and dip the test strip in.
- Shake off excess drops of urine.
- Wait for 15 seconds or whatever time is stated on the brand of test strips you are using.
- Compare the color on your strip to the color array on the side of the bottle.
Any color other than the original beige means there are some ketones in your urine. The closer the color is towards deep purple, the more ketones there are in your body. This does not necessarily mean that the darker the better.
Some people find that a low-to-mid level of ketosis is the “sweet spot” for weight loss and feeling good.
Tips to Maximize Keto Strips Accuracy
While they are not entirely accurate, you can improve the results of your ketone urine tests by keeping a few things in mind.
- Check the expiration date on the testing kit. An expired kit can give you false results.
- Be sure to store your test strips with the lid tightly closed. Any moisture or long exposure to air will cause the strips to work improperly.
- If you are dehydrated, the urine ketone concentration will obviously higher and give you a “false positive.” This often happens to a mild degree in the morning. Likewise, if you are drinking a lot of fluids, the ketone concentration will be lower and give you a “false negative.”
- If you find yourself frustrated with urine testing because of inconsistencies, consider either not testing or trying a blood ketone test instead.
Bodily Symptoms of Ketosis
Listen to your body to estimate your level of ketosis. There are several signs and symptoms you should pay attention to.
While not accurate enough to determine your specific ketone levels, they are a good gauge if you don’t have access to a blood, urine or breath ketone test.
- Clear Mental State: Your brain constantly uses a significant amount of energy. When you are eating carbs, you may notice energy dips, causing mental performance swings. When you are in ketosis, your brain rapidly uses ketones for fuel by utilizing your fat stores. If you are following the ketogenic diet properly, you’ll be consuming plenty of healthy, high-fat foods, keeping your fat stores full.
- Decreased Hunger: When your body becomes used to increased ketone levels, you begin using fat to break down ketones to use for energy. Because your body has a constant supply of energy, you won’t crave food the way you do when your energy relies on carbohydrate stores.
- Increased Energy: Approximately 90-120 minutes after you eat carbohydrates, your body has used up the available energy from the mitochondria in your cells. You start crashing, or losing energy quickly. When you are in ketosis, your body can perform well off your body fat, which is essentially a limitless source of fuel. This prevents a crash in your energy levels.
- Increased Thirst and Dry Tissues: When you’re adapting to a ketogenic diet, your body will be using up excess glycogen and you’ll be urinating more. If you’re not adding salt or electrolytes to your diet, you will probably experience some excess thirst and drier mucous membranes due to lower hydration levels.
If you test your ketone levels regularly, follow the steps outlined above and supplement when necessary, you’ll no longer be wondering how long it takes to get into ketosis. You’ll be in it, burning fat and energetically reaching your health goals in no time.
By following these tips, you should be able to launch yourself into a healthy, fat-burning state of ketosis as soon as biologically possible.
I’ll leave you with one last bit of motivation to get yourself into ketosis; a 2017 study published in the Journal of Post Grad Medicine concluded that:
“KD [ketogenic diet] … [benefits] cardiac ischemic preconditioning, improves oxygenation in patients with respiratory failure, improves glycemic control in diabetics, is associated with significant weight loss, and has a beneficial impact on polycystic ovarian syndrome. Recently, ketones are being proposed as super-metabolic fuel; and KD is currently regarded as apt dietary therapy for ‘diabesity’.”
Let me know if you have any keto-boosting tips, and how following a ketogenic diet works out for you.
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