WHAT IS KETOSIS?
The “keto” in a ketogenic diet comes from the fact that it makes the body produce small fuel molecules called “ketones” This is an alternative fuel for the body, used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply.
Ketones are produced if you eat very few carbs (that are quickly broken down into blood sugar) and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can also be converted to blood sugar).
Ketones are produced in the liver, from fat. They are then used as fuel throughout the body, including the brain. The brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day, and it can’t run on fat directly. It can only run on glucose… or ketones.
On a ketogenic diet your entire body switches its’ fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat. Insulin levels become very low and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is obviously great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, like less hunger and a steady supply of energy.
When the body produces ketones it is said to be in ketosis. The fastest way to get there is by fasting – not eating anything – but we obviously can not fast forever.
A ketogenic diet, on the other hand, can be eaten indefinitely and also results in ketosis. It has many of the benefits of fasting – including weight loss.
To get into ketosis you need low levels of the fat-storing hormone, insulin. The most important way to do that is to eat a strict low-carb diet, also called a ketogenic diet. See my top tips for following a ketogenic diet.
On top of the necessary ketogenic diet there are many ways to increase ketosis further. The most powerful is adding intermittent fasting, which is something I highly recommend.
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN KETOSIS?
It is possible to measure by testing urine, blood or breath samples. However, there are also telltale signs that you can see without any testing:
- Dry mouth and increased thirst. Unless you drink plenty and get enough electrolytes, like salt, you may feel a dry mouth. Try a cup of bouillon or two daily, and drink as much water as you need.
- Increased urination – another ketone body, acetoacetate, can end up in the urine. This makes it possible to test for ketosis using urine strips. It also can result in having to go to the bathroom more often, especially in the beginning. This is the main cause of the increased thirst we talked about.
- Keto breath – this is due to a ketone body called acetone escaping via our breath. It can make a person’s breath smell “fruity”, or similar to nail polish remover. This smell can also be emitted from your sweat and is usually temporary.
Other, less specific but more positive signs include:
- Reduced hunger – many people experience a marked reduction in hunger. This may be caused by an increased ability of the body to be fueled by its’ fat stores. When you are eating enough healthy fats, your brain
- Many people feel great while eating just once or twice a day and automatically end up doing a form of intermittent fasting. This saves both time and money, while also speeding up weight loss.
- Increased energy – Aside from the first few days of feeling sluggish (the “keto flu“) many people experience a marked increase in energy levels. This can also be experienced as clear thinking, a lack of “brain fog” or even as a sense of euphoria.
HOW CAN YOU ACHIEVE KETOSIS:
The most obvious, and most important, way to achieve ketosis is to change your diet.
Restrict to 30 digestible/net grams per day or less – a strict low-carb diet. Fiber does not have to be restricted, it might even be beneficial.
Restrict protein to moderate levels.
If possible stay at or below 1 gram of protein per day, per kg of body weight. It might be beneficial to lower protein intake even more, especially when overweight, and then aim for 1 gram of protein per kg of desired weight. The most common mistake that stops people from reaching optimal ketosis is too much protein.
Eat enough fat to feel satisfied.
This is the big difference between a ketogenic diet and starvation, that also results in ketosis. A ketogenic diet is sustainable, starvation is not. The majority of your diet should be healthy fats.
Avoid snacking when not hungry. Unnecessary snacking slows weight loss and reduces ketosis. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t snack, just don’t snack mindlessly.
If necessary add intermittent fasting, like 16:8 (16 hours fasting, 8 hour food period). This is very effective at boosting ketone levels, as well as accelerating weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal.
TESTING FOR KETONES
Urine strips are the most simple and most cost effective way to measure ketosis. It is the first option for most beginners.
You dip the stick in your urine, and 15 seconds later the color change will tell you the presence of ketones. If you get a high reading (a dark purple color) you’ll know that you’re in ketosis.
Pro: Ketone strips are available in regular pharmacies or via Amazon and they’re very cheap. A strong positive test reliably proves that you’re in ketosis.
Con: Results can vary depending on how much fluid you drink. The strips don’t show a precise ketone level. Most importantly, as you become increasingly keto-adapted and your body reabsorbs ketones from the urine, urine strips may become unreliable even if you’re in ketosis. Thus the test may sometimes stop working – always showing a negative result – when you’re been in ketosis for several weeks.
Have you started following a Keto Diet yet? I would love to hear your experience!
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