How To Ketosis For Weight Loss! Those of you who follow my blog know that I’m a big fan of the ketogenic diet. Ketosis is an incredibly effective way to lose weight and there are many reasons why it can be the best choice for you. One of those reasons is how much better your body will become at burning fat for fuel instead of sugar.
What Is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a process that happens when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat and makes things called ketones, which it can use for fuel.
Ketosis is a word you’ll probably see when you’re looking for information on diabetes or weight loss. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? That depends.
What is it?
The ketogenic or “keto” diet is a low-carbohydrate, fat-rich eating plan that has been used for centuries to treat specific medical conditions. In the 19th century, the ketogenic diet was commonly used to help control diabetes. In 1920 it was introduced as an effective treatment for epilepsy in children in whom medication was ineffective. The ketogenic diet has also been tested and used in closely monitored settings for cancer, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, this diet is gaining considerable attention as a potential weight-loss strategy due to the low-carb diet craze, which started in the 1970s with the Atkins diet (a very low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet, which was a commercial success and popularized low-carb diets to a new level). Today, other low-carb diets including the Paleo, South Beach, and Dukan diets are all high in protein but moderate in fat. In contrast, the ketogenic diet is distinctive for its exceptionally high-fat content, typically 70% to 80%, though with only a moderate intake of protein.
How It Works
The premise of the ketogenic diet for weight loss is that if you deprive the body of glucose—the main source of energy for all cells in the body, which is obtained by eating carbohydrate foods—an alternative fuel called ketones is produced from stored fat (thus, the term “keto”-genic). The brain demands the most glucose in a steady supply, about 120 grams daily, because it cannot store glucose. During fasting, or when very little carbohydrate is eaten, the body first pulls stored glucose from the liver and temporarily breaks down muscle to release glucose. If this continues for 3-4 days and stored glucose is fully depleted, blood levels of a hormone called insulin decrease, and the body begins to use fat as its primary fuel. The liver produces ketone bodies from fat, which can be used in the absence of glucose.
When ketone bodies accumulate in the blood, this is called ketosis. Healthy individuals naturally experience mild ketosis during periods of fasting (e.g., sleeping overnight) and very strenuous exercise. Proponents of the ketogenic diet state that if the diet is carefully followed, blood levels of ketones should not reach a harmful level (known as “ketoacidosis”) as the brain will use ketones for fuel, and healthy individuals will typically produce enough insulin to prevent excessive ketones from forming. How soon ketosis happens and the number of ketone bodies that accumulate in the blood is variable from person to person and depends on factors such as body fat percentage and resting metabolic rate.
Ketosis Health Benefits
Ketosis can have some benefits beyond weight loss. Doctors may put children who have epilepsy on a keto diet because it can help prevent seizures. Adults who have epilepsy sometimes eat modified Atkins diets.
Some research suggests that ketogenic diets might help lower your risk of heart disease. Other studies show that specific diets very low in carbs help people who have diseases such as:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Insulin resistance
- Type 2 diabetes
Researchers are also studying the effects of these diets on conditions including:
Tips to Get Into Ketosis
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Ketosis is a normal metabolic process that provides several health benefits.
During nutritional ketosis, your body converts fat into compounds known as ketones and begins using them as its main source of energy. Ketones are also known as ketone bodies.
Studies have found that diets that promote ketosis are highly beneficial for weight loss, partly due to their appetite-suppressing effects
Research also suggests that ketosis may be helpful for type 2 diabetes and neurological disorders, among other conditions
That said, achieving a state of ketosis can take some work and planning. It’s not just as simple as cutting carbs.
1. Minimize your carb consumption
Eating a very low carb diet is by far the most important factor in achieving ketosis.
Your cells normally use glucose, or sugar, as their main source of fuel. However, most of your cells can also use other fuel sources, including fatty acids and ketones.
Your body stores glucose, in the form of glycogen, in your liver and muscles.
When your carb intake is very low, glycogen stores are reduced and levels of the hormone insulin decline. This allows fatty acids to be released from fat stores in your body.
Your liver converts some of these fatty acids into the ketones acetone, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate. These ketones can be used as fuel by portions of your brain
The degree of carb restriction needed to induce ketosis varies by individual and can be affected by various factors, such as the types of exercise you do.
Some people need to limit their net carb intake to 20 grams per day, while others can achieve ketosis while eating twice this amount or more.
For this reason, the induction phase of the Atkins diet requires that carbs be restricted to 20 or fewer grams per day for 2 weeks to guarantee that ketosis is achieved.
After this point, small amounts of carbs can be added back to your diet very gradually, as long as ketosis is maintained.
Each individual will potentially have a different carb intake limit to achieve and maintain ketosis, depending on the total number of calories they eat and their daily activity levels. Generally, eating 5–10% of total calories from carbs will produce ketosis.
In one study, adults with type 2 diabetes were allowed 20–50 grams of digestible carbs per day, depending on the number of grams that allowed them to maintain blood ketone levels within a certain target range
These carb and ketone ranges are advised for people who want to get into ketosis to promote weight loss, control their blood sugar levels, or reduce their heart disease risk factors.
Ketogenic diets used for managing epilepsy and as experimental cancer therapy may restrict carbs to only 2–5% of total calories
However, anyone using the diet for therapeutic purposes should only do so under the supervision of a medical professional.
Limiting your carb intake to 20–50 net grams per day lowers your blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to the release of stored fatty acids that your liver converts into ketones.
2. Include coconut oil in your diet
Eating coconut oil can help you achieve ketosis.
It contains fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Unlike most fats, MCTs are rapidly absorbed and taken directly to the liver, where they can be used immediately for energy or converted into ketones.
In fact, it has been suggested that consuming coconut oil may be one of the best ways to increase ketone levels in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other nervous system disorders
Although coconut oil contains four types of MCTs, around 50% of its fat comes from the kind known as lauric acid
Some research suggests that fat sources with a higher percentage of lauric acid may produce a more sustained level of ketosis. This is because it’s metabolized more gradually than other MCTs
MCTs have been used to induce ketosis in children who have epilepsy. In a high MCT diet, ketosis occurs without restricting carbs as drastically as the classic ketogenic diet.
In fact, several studies have found that a high MCT diet containing around 20% of calories from carbs produces effects similar to those of the classic ketogenic diet. The classic ketogenic provides fewer than 5% of calories from carbs
When adding coconut oil to your diet, it’s a good idea to do so slowly to minimize digestive side effects like stomach cramping or diarrhea.
Consuming coconut oil provides your body with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are quickly absorbed and converted into ketones by your liver.
3. Ramp up your physical activity
A growing number of studies have found that being in ketosis may be beneficial for some types of athletic performance
In addition, being more active can help you get into ketosis.
When you exercise, you deplete your body’s glycogen stores. These are normally replenished when you eat carbs, which are broken down into glucose. The glucose that isn’t needed immediately is stored as glycogen.
However, if carb intake is minimized, glycogen stores remain low. In response, your liver increases its production of ketones, which can be used as an alternative fuel source for your muscles
Working out in a fasted state has been shown to drive up ketone levels
In a small 2009 study, 9 postmenopausal women exercised either before or after a meal. Their blood ketone levels were 137–314% higher when they exercised before a meal than when they exercised after a meal
Keep in mind that although exercise increases ketone production, it may take 1–4 weeks for your body to adapt to using ketones and fatty acids as primary fuels. During this time, physical performance may be reduced temporarily
Engaging in physical activity can increase ketone levels during carb restriction. This effect may be enhanced by working out in a fasted state.
4. Increase your healthy fat intake
Consuming plenty of healthy fats can boost your ketone levels and help you reach ketosis.
Indeed, a very low carb ketogenic diet not only minimizes carbs but also calls for a high fat intake.
Ketogenic diets for weight loss, exercise performance, and metabolic health usually provide 60–80% of calories from fat
The classic ketogenic diet used for epilepsy is even higher in fat. Typically 85–90% of calories come from fat
However, extremely high fat intake doesn’t necessarily translate into higher ketone levels.
A 3-week study including 11 healthy people compared the effects of fasting on breath ketone levels. Overall, ketone levels were found to be similar in people consuming 79% of calories from fat and people consuming 90% of calories from fat
Because fat comprises such a large percentage of a ketogenic diet, it’s important to choose high quality fat sources.
Healthy fats include fatty fish, olive oil, and avocado oil. In addition, many healthy and high fat foods are also very low in carbs.
However, if weight loss is your goal, it’s important to make sure you’re not consuming too many calories in total, as this can cause your weight loss to stall.
Consuming at least 60% of calories from fat will help boost your ketone levels. Choose a variety of healthy fats from both animal and plant sources.
5. Try a short fast or a fat fast
Another way to get into ketosis is to go without eating for several hours.
In fact, many people go into mild ketosis between dinner and breakfast.
Children with epilepsy have traditionally fasted for 12–72 hours before they started a ketogenic diet. This approach often required supervision in a hospital
Nonfasting protocols are more commonplace now. However, fasting can help ensure some children get into ketosis quickly so that seizures can be reduced sooner
Intermittent fasting, a dietary approach that involves regular short-term fasts, may also induce ketosis
Moreover, “fat fasting” is another ketone-boosting approach that mimics the effects of fasting.
It involves consuming approximately 700–1,100 calories per day, around 80% of which come from fat. This combination of low calorie intake and very high fat intake may help you achieve ketosis quickly (26Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).
Because a fat fast is inadequate in protein and most vitamins and minerals, it should be followed for a maximum of 3–5 days. In fact, it may be difficult to adhere to for more than a couple of days.
Fasting, intermittent fasting, and a “fat fast” can all help you get into ketosis relatively quickly.
Ketosis Symptoms and Side Effects
During the first week of a keto diet, you might start to feel bad. Some people call this the “keto flu,” but it isn’t an official medical condition. Some doctors think this is due to sugar and carbohydrate withdrawal. Or it could be because of changes to your gut bacteria or an immune system reaction. You might notice temporary side effects such as:
- Brain fog
- Trouble sleeping
- Sugar cravings
- Sore muscles
- Bad breath, also known as ketosis breath