You’ve probably heard about the keto diet, and heard reasons why consuming a diet that’s low in carbs can be beneficial for your health. Reportedly, the keto diet is one of the most useful tools when it comes to losing weight and keeping that weight off. The whole purpose behind this special diet is to put your body into a state of “ketosis”. What is ketosis, and why is it so important?
This is the ultimate guide to ketosis and provides every detail that’s necessary to be able to understand how ketosis works and what the process is like for your body. Most important, you’ll discover how it’s possible for you to apply ketosis to your personal lifestyle.
What Exactly is the State of Ketosis?
In order to understand ketosis completely, you should know a few basic facts concerning energy and your body. Your body’s first source for energy, which usually provides fuel to every single aspect of your body’s functioning, from exercising to brain performance and cognition–is glucose, which is also known as blood sugar, or insulin. Usually, your diet naturally incorporates glucose as you consume carbs, from foods such as:
- Natural and artificial sugar
- Vegetables that are starchy
- Legumes and beans
When you eat these foods, the carbs either transform into glucose right away within your body, or the carbs are stored in the form of glycogen, so your body can use it in the form of glucose later. Sometimes, however, the amount of glucose in your body is very low. This typically is due to consuming a diet that’s low in carbs.
When the amount of glucose is so low, and there isn’t enough for the body to use as fuel, your body will resort to a different energy source in order to function; it turns to the stores of fat you have. Your body takes this fat, and it’s broken down into glucose within the liver. When this process is occuring, ketone elements are created as a byproduct, and your liver produces ketones as well. Your body can use these ketones for fuel once they’re formed. This entire process–of your body turning to an alternative source for fuel–is ketosis.
Ketone bodies will form in three different types within your body, as ketosis occurs:
- Acetate ketones
- Beta-hydroxybutryate (BHB) ketones
- Acetoacetate ketones
How is Ketosis Used to Lose Weight?
One of the most common things the keto diet, and ketosis, is known for is its ability to aid in weight loss. The ketogenic diet entirely concerns forcing your body to enter ketosis, and getting your liver to produce ketones. When this happens and you are in ketosis, you might experience several different benefits, including:
- A breakdown of fat that’s been stored within your body. A diet that’s low in carbs is used to create ketosis, and it’s the preferred method for losing weight since it encourages your body to turn to its own stores of fat to create energy–which means that all the fat you have will break down.
- Reduced hunger. Besides enabling your body to become a fat-burning machine, entering ketosis can also help you feel hungry less often. As this happens, it’ll be easier to keep with your keto diet, and you won’t have to count your calories in order to lose weight. You’ll be able to follow your natural hunger instincts, and can eat what you want when you want, which can reduce your hunger.
- Better regulation of the sugar within your blood. Typical diets will end up having you consume an abundance of sugars and refined carbs that only will lead to increases of the levels of sugar in your blood. This will make you feel hungry, even if you actually aren’t, and any leftover sugar will be stored as fat, which leads to weight gain in the long run. Ketosis, on the other hand, stabilizes the sugar in your blood, and if you concentrate on consuming vegetables, protein, and good fat, you can regulate your sugar and lose weight without the need to starve yourself.
How Does Someone Know if They’ve Entered Ketosis?
If you want to enter ketosis, you’ll have to be on the ketogenic diet and be consuming 20-50 grams of carbohydrates each day. The number will change according to each individual. To eat this low amount of carbs, you’ll have to get rid of foods that contain a lot of carbs from your everyday diet. This means giving up foods such as:
- Sodas and other soft drinks that are loaded with sugar
- Grains that are processed
- Anything else that contains sugar that’s refined
You’ll also need to decrease your intake of carbohydrates from whole foods, including:
- Whole grains
- Starchy veggies, such as potatoes
Once you’ve altered your diet to this, and you’re eating foods that are low in carbs but high in fat, you may feel the difference when your body enters ketosis. Some people can tell, but if you’re unsure, there are ways to measure the amount of ketones in your body so you can be sure. The best thing about these measurements is that they’re accessible, and can be done yourself at home.
When the body produces ketones, there’s often an excess, so you don’t end up using all of them. The excess ketones spill over and enter other areas of your body. There are three areas where these bodies of ketone tend to reside, and where measurements of them can be taken: in your breath, urine, and blood. This explains testing for ketones in each one:
- Measuring the levels of ketone within urine. For this test, you’ll need a urine strip. You should follow the instructions on the package, which can vary, but in general, you will urinate on the strip and then wait. After about an hour, the strip will change color and these colors correspond to how many ketones are in your urine. This method is very cheap, so it’s accessible for most people, and you can purchase urine strips at Walgreens or CVS. However, this method is not very reliable. The strips could end up showing a level of ketones that’s actually lower than what’s true, because when your body has adapted to ketosis, it begins to use ketones very efficiently. There are other variables, such as your number of electrolytes and hydration level, which can impact how the strip reads. If you’re new to the keto diet and ketosis, this method is recommended.
- Measuring the levels of ketone within your blood. There are blood glucose meters that are available that you can use to test your ketone BHB levels. There aren’t very many factors that can impact the results that this method produces, so it’s a very accurate method. However, it is more expensive, and it’ll run you $5-10 each time you perform a test. Given this, it’s recommended for people who are a little more invested in the keto diet and who aren’t entering ketosis for the first time.
- Measuring the level of ketones on your breath. For this method, you simply need a breath meter to make a measurement of ketones. However, it should be used in supplementation to a urine test or blood test, to help confirm what your levels of ketone are. To test the presence of your BrAce, or breath acetone, levels, you can use a Ketonix meter. A good advantage of this is that you only need to get one meter, then you can reuse it as many times as you want.
What Are Some of the Misconceptions Surrounding Ketosis?
It’s good for people who are considering to take on the keto diet to understand that ketosis is often unfairly associated with starving. This makes a lot of people assume that ketosis is bad and unhealthy, however, you are not starving your body and there is a difference. When you’re truly starving, your muscle mass reduces because the body turns to muscle to find fuel for your body. Some earlier diets that featured a low amount of carbs, such as the Atkins diet, have faults for this reason, as it asks for a very low intake of carbs at no more than 20 grams each day.
As you take on ketosis, your intake of carbs is still reduced, however you still are allowed to consume carbs at an adequate level, which is 20-50 grams each day. The keto diet also ensures that you’re still getting enough protein, and the point is that your body still gets the fuel it needs, just from fat and not sugar. With the keto diet, you still get all of the fiber and nutrition you need from food, even as you’re in ketosis, all while you stay in a low level of carb intake. Ketosis is a state that allows the body to continue all of its proper functions, mentally and physically, even as there’s an absence of abundant carbs and calories as you continue to consume food.
This is one of the ways our body is greatly versatile and can adapt to many ways of living. Our ancestors didn’t have the kinds of food we do currently, and they had to live for long periods of time on a low amount of carbs or glucose, in order to survive. Today, we can use those features of our bodies to improve our health and to burn fat.
What Is Ketoacidosis?
Ketosis can very often be confused with DKA, or diabetic ketoacidosis. For anyone who’s embarking on the keto diet, the difference is essential to understand. DKA happens when the ketone levels within the blood are very high, and the blood becomes acidic. People who are diabetic may get DKA, if they’re not receiving an adequate amount of insulin, they’re dehydrated because they don’t have enough fluids, or they are very sick or are hurt. DKA is also caused by alcoholism, starvation, or overactive thyroid.
- A normal bodily process
- A safe function of the keto diet
- Indicates a low level of ketones within your blood
- Very high levels of ketones within your blood
- Turns the blood acidic
- Happens in people who are diabetic
- Deadly, if it goes untreated
You’ll know if you are experiencing ketoacidosis versus a state of ketosis. DKA symptoms include:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Excessive thirst or urination
- Breath that smells like fruit
While ketosis is a nutritional, natural state that’s safe and achieved through a healthy diet, ketoacidosis is a dangerous condition that can become deadly. Ketosis involves normal metabolism, and during it, your ketones are safely and efficiently used.
What Are Some Ketosis Health Benefits?
Beyond contributing to weight loss, ketosis may be beneficial for other reasons, such as physical and mental performance. Other benefits are:
- Brain energy and health. Glucose might be the preferred source of energy for the body, but our brains are also wired to be able to use fuel from ketones for mental performance as you’re on the keto diet. Your body also has glucose that’s internally made, which can be provided to your brain by gluconeogenesis, as you’re in a ketosis state. Ketosis also has been proven to be beneficial for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and seizures.
- Athletic performance. As people exercise for a long time, the body turns to both glycogen that’s been stored, and the food you consumed recently, to find fuel so you can power through. When the stores of glycogen are gone, but you still require fuel, the body then turns to fat or protein in order to get energy. This won’t be efficient–unless your body is used to ketosis, in which it burns fat for fuel anyways. People who work out a lot or who are athletes can see an improved performance if their body is used to ketosis, and they can burn fat more quickly when they need to.
There are many benefits to trying ketosis, especially for your overall health. It’s also a great method to regulate your blood sugar, metabolism, and weight. If you’d like to try ketosis for yourself, follow this guide, and understand that your body will need time to get used to its new fuel burning state.