Ketosis, the process that underpins the Keto diet, is a result of your food choices. It happens when you force your body to bypass the glucose supplied by carbohydrates it normally uses for fuel, and instead break down stored fat for its energy needs. The goal of the Keto diet is to stay in Ketosis, meaning your body keeps burning fat around the clock, helping you lose weight (and maintain it).
One way to get into Ketosis would be to go on a fast, but since no one can fast forever, the Keto diet is the most effective way to stay in Ketosis – a diet that’s sustainable over the long term.
Adapting to Ketosis – 101
Q: How does it work?
Normally the body uses glucose for fuel. The most important feature of the Keto diet is that carbohydrates are restricted, which means the body won’t have access to glucose (also known as blood sugar) for fuel. Glucose is stored in the liver and released as needed, but after one or two days of very low carbohydrate intake, that glucose supply becomes empty. That pushes the body into Ketosis, where it accesses an alternative energy source: Ketones, made by the liver from the fat you eat as well as your own body fat.
Q: How long does it take, and are there side effects?
It usually takes two to four days – and sometimes up to four weeks – for the body to switch from relying on glucose to producing Ketones for fuel, a process called Keto-adaptation. This stage can be difficult for the body, and can result in mild physical symptoms. Sometimes known as ‘Keto-flu’, this may involve symptoms such as dizziness, insomnia and fatigue. For more information on overcoming Keto flu, click here [LINK TO ‘BEGINNER’S GUIDE’ ARTICLE].
Q: How do I maximise my efforts?
Protein intake is limited to moderate amounts on the diet is because the body converts excess amounts of protein to fuel, which would take you out of Ketosis. It’s also worth noting that the better you are at avoiding carbohydrates in the first few weeks, the better your body will move through Keto-adaptation and into Ketosis. Being active can also help – you may not have enough energy for intensive exercise, but a brisk walk is enough to have an impact.
Getting into Ketosis
The idea of a new eating regimen might seem overwhelming at first, but if you set yourself up well, it’ll be easier to get into the swing of it.
These tips might help:
- Clear out your fridge and pantry, removing any carb-heavy foods including honey, jams, breads, grains, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, and processed foods such as biscuits
- Stock up on fresh Keto-friendly produce, such as capsicums, mushrooms, spinach and avocadoes, as well as protein and dairy. Great pantry staples to have on hand include coconut oil, soy sauce, cinnamon and avocado oil.
- Preparation is key. Plan out your meals in advance. It’s a good idea to cook twice a day (breakfast and dinner) and have leftovers for lunch. That means you’ll always know what you’re eating, decreasing your chances of reaching for banned foods at meal times (or for snacks).
As well as restricting carbohydrates and keeping your protein to a moderate amount, here are other ways to help your body get into Ketosis:
- Up your intake of coconut oil – this can be used immediately by the body for energy or converted to Ketones
- Exercise – being active encourages the body to get into Ketosis
- Increase healthy fats – to raise your Ketone levels, boost your intake of healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado oil.
Watch out for these signs of Ketosis:
- Keto breath – a fruity, metallic taste or dryness in the mouth
- A decrease in appetite
- An increase in thirst (and urination)
- An increase in energy (after the initial fatigue subsides)
- A sense of mental sharpness.
The only way to be completely sure you’re (truly) in Ketosis is to measure the Ketones in your body. Your options for doing this include using blood Ketone meters, breath Ketone analysers and urine Ketone strips. These have varying levels of accuracy – so do your research first.