Ketosis is a natural metabolic state that occurs when your body does not have the carbohydrates it needs for energy. With those carbohydrates missing, your body begins to burn fat to get the energy it needs. When your body utilizes fat for energy it releases ketones which organs, including the brain, then use for fuel. Because stored fat is being utilized, there’s a constant source of energy – often reflected in how you feel.
Usually, an individual’s body prefers to burn glucose for energy. The term glucose comes from the Greek word for “sweet.” Individuals get glucose from the foods they consume, and the human body uses that glucose for energy. The human body produces a hormone called insulin, and insulin is responsible for removing glucose from the blood and utilizing it for energy and storage.
Glucose primarily comes from carbohydrates like sugar, bread and potatoes, and when these food items are processed through the digestive tract, acids and enzymes break them down. During this process, glucose is released and is absorbed by the intestines and passes into the bloodstream.
The human body can keep the glucose level in the blood constant so it can provide energy for the human body to function, and any glucose that is not used is stored in the liver for use later.
For an individual to reach ketosis, they must trick their body into turning fat into ketones to use as energy by depleting their system of carbohydrates so they cannot be converted to glucose for energy via a ketogenic diet.
When an individual reaches ketosis, it can provide several health benefits that include:
Weight Loss– Ketosis for weight loss is an excellent plan because, during ketosis, an individual’s body converts fat stored in the body into fuel, it helps hormone regulation, suppresses the appetite, and helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
Exercise– Ketosis provides benefits during exercise by helping the body use oxygen more efficiently, preventing the crash that often occurs when an individual is engaged in prolonged exercise. The process also helps the body burn fat more efficiently, and improves the function of mitochondria, enzymes, and fat, which helps individuals long-term perform and can overall health.
Mental Focus– A healthy diet is essential for proper body and brain function. During ketosis, the efficiency and energy levels of mitochondria are working at optimum levels to provide energy for the cells of an individual’s body and brain.
Why is Ketosis Used for Weight Loss?
Many people struggle with how to lose weight, and with all the different diets out there, they often inquire about what ketosis diet is and can they use it to lose weight. A ketosis diet is a strict, low-carb diet that causes the body to use ketones for energy production.
When an individual follows a ketosis meal plan their body will process fats into ketones for weight loss. Using ketosis for weight loss is a natural way to lose weight because the source of this energy is in stored fat. Ketosis is a normal metabolic state that an individual’s body will go through at times no matter how many carbohydrates they consume. The human body is resourceful and will ensure it has enough energy and will use ketones for energy when sugar is not immediately available.
Because the process of ketosis involves the breakdown of stored fat, it is a way individuals can lose weight when they follow a ketogenic diet.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic or keto diet as it is more commonly referred to is a diet that focuses on reducing the number of carbohydrates an individual consumes and increasing the amount of fat intake. This facilitates a natural change in energy production – the individual’s body starts burning fats instead of carbohydrates for energy, which works to help facilitate weight loss.
The typical keto diet consists of 60-75% fat, 15-30% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrates to reach ketosis. The most popular keto diets today tend to lean toward a 75/20/5 ratio. That’s 75% of calories from fat, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbohydrates.
Types of Ketogenic Diet
There are four types of ketogenic or keto diets. These include:
The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)– best for fat loss and therapeutic purposes. This is the most common version and is the best one to use when you first decide to follow a ketogenic diet. On this diet, an individual will need only to consume 20-50 grams of net carbohydrates a day while consuming a moderate amount of protein and a high amount of fat.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)– best for workout performance. This type of keto diet is best for individuals who know and understand their body’s limits and to enter and exit ketosis while using the diet to increase exercise performance. Individuals who follow this diet typically do not need to be in ketosis for long periods and need to consume more carbohydrates before exercise to perform properly with a target goal of 25-50 grams of net carbohydrates approximately 30 minutes to an hour before they begin exercising.
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)– best for bodybuilders and athletes. This diet is similar to intermittent fasting and follows a cycle of consuming low-carbohydrate foods for a period followed by a short period of consuming foods high in carbohydrates with is often referred to as “carb-loading.” Individuals following this diet will typically consume 50 grams of carbs per day during the low-carb phase and then consume about 450-600 grams of carbs during the “carb-loading” phase of the diet. CKD is best for individuals who are bodybuilders as they need to maximize fat loss at the same time they are gaining lean muscle mass. The diet is also beneficial for athletes who are required to perform at high volume and high intensity.
High-Protein Ketogenic Diet (HPKD)– best for individuals who require high protein.
This diet is similar to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD) but allows individuals to consume more protein and is best for individuals who lift weights at least four days a week so that they have enough protein to build and repair muscle. This diet slightly decreases fat intake and slightly increases protein intake to the following breakdown of 60% fats, 35% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.
Getting into Ketosis – Traditional
It is important to understand that ketosis is a normal metabolic process, and it occurs when an individual’s body does not have enough carbohydrates to turn into energy. Hence, it converts fat into ketones to use them as a source of energy. How long it takes to get into ketosis varies from individual to individual, and how to get your body into ketosis will depend on factors that can include age, weight, health issues, or activity level, to name a few. By adhering to a ketosis lifestyle and strict keto eating, an individual can reach ketosis. Below are tips on how to get into ketosis.
Reduce the Number of Carbohydrates Consumed– Since the reason an individual enters ketosis is that they do not have enough carbohydrates to convert into energy, it only seems logical that to reach ketosis, an individual should reduce the number of carbs they consume. The reason this is effective is once the human body has reduced carbs and therefore less glycogen, fats are then converted into energy. The total number of carbs consumed will vary among individuals, so it is important for those wanting to reach ketosis to test their ketone levels to find the optimum carbs needed to maintain ketosis.
Coconut Oil– Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are quickly absorbed and reach the liver rapidly where they are immediately turned into ketones for energy. If an individual consumes coconut oil they will have increased ketone levels which will help their bodies reach ketosis. Individuals only need to consume one-three teaspoons of coconut oil a day.
Increase Physical Activity– When an individual exercises they can deplete their body’s glycogen stores, which is usually replaced when the individual consumes more carbs. The carbs are converted into glycogen, but if an individual is on a ketogenic diet and have reduced their consumption of carbs the body will have to produce ketones to have energy and this will allow them to achieve ketosis.
Eat More Healthy Fats– An individual can reach ketosis not only by limiting their consumption of carbs, but they can also increase the number of healthy fats they consume. It is important to note that not all fat consumption is going to help an individual attain ketosis, and it is important to choose and consume the right fats like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and butter.
Consume the Proper Amount of Protein– It is important that while an individual is reducing the number of carbs they consume that they maintain the proper levels of protein to make sure their liver is working properly and producing enough glucose for cells that cannot use ketones for energy. Eating enough protein also helps the body to maintain and preserve muscle mass. You need the proper amount of protein, and this can easily be calculated by multiplying the individual’s body weight by 0.36 to calculate the number of protein grams they need to consume.
Test Ketone Levels– When an individual is trying to reach ketosis, it is important to maintain the right level of ketones in their body, and by testing for ketones, the individual will know if they need to adjust their diet to achieve ketosis. Ketones can be measured through urine, breath, and blood for the individual to check if they are on track and maintaining the right level of ketones.
Getting into Ketosis
Fat Fast-One way for an individual to reach ketosis is to do what is referred to as a “fat fast.” A fat fast requires an individual consume approximately 1000 calories a day, and 85%-90% of those calories need to be derived from fat. This combination of a low-calorie diet and high fat intake will allow an individual to reach ketosis faster.
Fasting-Since the purpose of ketosis for dieting purposes is to deplete the body’s glycogen so the body will enter ketosis and start burning fat for fuel, one of the most effective ways to enter ketosis is through fasting. It is important to understand that fasting is not starvation; starvation is the involuntary removal of food and is not controlled; fasting is the voluntary removal of food (period of fasting). It is done for health, spiritual, or other reasons.
When an individual chooses to fast to reach ketosis, their body will go through 3 stages:
Glycogen Depletion Phase– During the first stage of fasting, energy that the body needs is being provided by glycogen and will last approximately 6-24 hours.
Gluconeogenic Phase– During the second stage of fasting, glycogen has been depleted, and the human body turns to gluconeogenesis to get the energy it needs. The individual going through this phase will notice that their breath may smell (ketosis breath), and they have to urinate more than usual due to the increased levels of acetone in their blood and their body expelling the acetone as waste. The amount of time spent in this stage will vary widely among individuals and can last anywhere from two to 10 days.
Ketogenic Phase– During the third stage of fasting, an individual has reached ketosis and their body is now increasing its use of fats and ketones for energy. Individuals in this stage will stay in ketosis so long as they do not consume carbohydrates and excessive amounts of protein. The phase can last from two weeks to indefinitely (Ketosis, Ketones, and How It All Works).
Proper fasting can have positive effects on an individual’s health and can include:
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Weight Loss
- Lower Blood Cholesterol
- Lower Blood Insulin Levels
- Balanced Blood Sugar Levels
- Reduced Inflammation
- Increased Energy
- Improved Fat Burning
While fasting can have positive effects on an individual’s health, it can also have negative effects that can include:
- Muscle Cramps
- Orthostatic Hypotension
- Muscle Loss
For an individual choosing to be on a ketogenic diet, fasting can be a way to help them reach ketosis faster by helping to deplete the body’s glycogen stores and forcing it to burn fat instead. But, it is important to make sure ketosis fasting is done as healthily and safely as possible. You can focus on a specific, short period of fasting to avoid causing any detrimental effects to health.
Foods for Ketosis
Eggs– Eggs are one of the best foods to eat when following a ketogenic diet because they not only increase the feeling of being full, it contains less than one gram of carbohydrates and less than six grams of protein, making it a perfect keto-friendly food. The best eggs to consume come from free-range chickens as they tend to lay eggs that are filled with omega 3’s, vitamins, and minerals.
Olives and Olive Oil– Extra virgin olive oil and olives contain many health-promoting compounds including those similar to anti-inflammatory medications. This is excellent for individuals wanting to reduce pain and olives, and olive oil are keto-friendly because a serving of seven-10 olives contain only one gram of carbohydrates and olive oil contains healthy fats which are perfect for a ketogenic diet.
Meat, Poultry, Seafood– While it’s common knowledge that meat, poultry, and seafood are great sources of protein, it is less known that they also provide other beneficial and essential nutrients. One of the nutrients these foods provide is vitamin B12 which the human body does not produce naturally. These foods also provide B vitamins and minerals that include potassium, selenium, zinc, creatine, taurine, carnosine, and iron.
To ensure that individuals are eating the most beneficial meats, it is important to choose 100% grass-fed red meat and pasture-raised poultry as they have been found to contain higher levels of omega 3 and omega 6 fats as well as more antioxidants than grain-fed animals. Fish and shellfish are also extremely beneficial and provide zinc, copper, vitamin B12 as well as omega 3 fats that can improve health. They are also low in carbohydrates, making them perfect for a ketogenic diet.
Cheese, Butter, and Cream– Dairy that is high in fat provide proteins, vitamins, minerals, and linoleic acid which are essential for helping the human body maintain strength and function as individuals grow older, and since cheese, cream, and butter are low in carbohydrates they are perfect for the ketogenic diet. It helps that individuals can consume reasonable amounts with each meal and high-fat dairy, which is packed with calcium, have been shown to promote weight loss.
Dark Chocolate– Yes, you read that correctly, dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains flavanols that help to decrease blood pressure, risk of heart disease, and insulin resistance while also providing excellent antioxidants. While dark chocolate does contain many health beneficial properties, it also contains carbohydrates which are bad for individuals following a ketogenic diet, so it is important to eat at a minimum and also check the ingredients carefully – you want to consume dark chocolate that is low in carbohydrates and contains no added sugars.
Cruciferous Vegetables– Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower are low in carbohydrates and provide minerals, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants that can help with an individual’s health as well as containing more vitamin A and vitamin K than any other vegetables.
Cruciferous vegetables also release a compound called sulforaphane when they are chewed and once this compound is digested, it activates cell-protecting properties that help an individual’s cells remove toxins and protect against oxidative stress. These vegetables have also been found to improve cognitive function as well as decrease the risk for developing cancer and heart disease.
Coconut Oil– Although coconut oil is high in saturated fats, researchers have found that consuming coconut oil promoted a reduction in abdominal fat while also keeping blood pressure levels under control. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides that help promote good health because they are absorbed directly by the liver and converted into ketones, which are also a benefit for individuals following a ketogenic diet as the medium-chain triglycerides are a rapid source of energy.
Coconut oil and the medium-chain triglycerides they contain also have the added benefits of helping decrease calorie consumption, increase energy levels, improve brain function, and also have been linked to improving the quality of life in individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy.
Nuts and Seeds– Nuts and seeds have many benefits and make an excellent addition to any diet. As studies have shown, these foods can help reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, obesity, and certain cancers as well as providing individuals with the feeling of being full.
Individuals following a ketogenic diet will find that many recipes call for almond flour and flax meal, which are much lower in carbohydrates than wheat-based flour. When consuming nuts and seeds it is important to understand that the amounts of net carbohydrates will vary.
Am I in Ketosis?
During the process of Ketosis, the human body goes through many adaptations to produce the energy it needs, and during those processes, you will notice certain signs and symptoms that include:
Bad Breath– Often, while following a ketogenic diet, you may have bad (or sweet-smelling) breath caused by the release of acetone during the process of breaking down fat to produce energy.
Acetones are a type of ketone and are released from the human body through urine and breath. Fortunately, bad breath (or ketosis breath) is not permanent, but it is a sign that the human body is in ketosis. Individuals can test their breath with an acetone breath analyzer to find out the level of acetones.
Weight Loss– Since the goal of the ketogenic diet is to lose weight, this is a welcome sign that the human body is burning fat. Dieters will notice a significant amount of weight loss during the first week of their ketogenic diet, and this weight loss will stabilize and become consistent so long as the diet is strictly followed.
Ketones in the Blood– A significant sign that the human body is in ketosis is, not surprisingly, increased levels of ketones in the blood. While on a ketogenic diet, an individual should have between 0.5-3.0 mmol/L.
Ketones in Urine– Another sign that the human body is in ketosis is that there are elevated levels of ketones in an individual’s urine, which can be tested quickly and easily using indicator strips.
Suppressed Appetite– This is another welcome sign of ketosis in an individual following the ketogenic diet to lose weight. At the same time, more studies need to be conducted to find out exactly why an individual’s appetite is reduced during ketosis. There is some evidence that suggests the state of ketosis affects ghrelin levels. As levels are reduced, hunger is also dampened.
Elevated Energy and Improved Focus– Individuals in ketosis report increased energy and focus, which is due to the process of burning ketones for fuel, and ketones are an excellent source of energy for the brain. Individuals who are committed and strictly follow the ketogenic diet report having improved brain function and also increased clarity and better focus.
Fatigue– One symptom that causes many individuals to stop their ketogenic diet is fatigue. While the fatigue is temporary, many individuals stop the diet before they reach full ketosis. This increased fatigue is because the human body is adjusting to a new way of creating energy and will obviously take time to adjust.
Decreased Performance– Not surprisingly, as the body is adjusting to a new way to produce energy, and an individual is experiencing fatigue, they will also experience a temporary decrease in performance. When an individual exercises or requires athletic endurance, the human body usually obtains this energy through stored glycogen in the muscles. When an individual is on a ketogenic diet, the body needs time to adjust to obtaining a new source of energy. This decreased performance is only temporary, and some athletes who follow the ketogenic diet have been shown to actually burn more fat during exercise than athletes who were on a normal diet.
Digestive Problems– One unwelcome sign of ketosis is digestive problems like constipation (or ketosis constipation) and diarrhea (or ketosis diarrhea). The change in bowel habits is because they have significantly changed their food intake and it will take time for the human body to adjust and this side effect is usually only temporary.
Insomnia– A common symptom and side effect of following a ketogenic diet is insomnia and poor sleep. While this is an unwanted side effect of the diet. It is usually only temporary as the individual’s body is adjusting to the reduced number of carbs. Individuals who maintain a long-term ketogenic diet often report improved sleep.
While the above signs and symptoms may indicate that an individual is in ketosis, there are specific ways to find ketosis results and test for the number of ketones.
Testing methods for ketosis include:
Urine Strips– One way to test for ketosis is by using urine strips. Urine strips (or ketosis strips/ ketosis test strips) are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to test for ketosis and will give individual results in as little as 15 seconds. If the test strip turns a dark purple color, then an individual is most likely in ketosis.
Breath Analyzer– Another way to test for ketones is by using a breath-ketone analyzer (ketosis breath meter). A breath analyzer is reusable. While breath analyzers do not always provide the most accurate ketone level on their own as they only provide a color code much like the urine strips, they can be used in conjunction with an app connected to your computer or smartphone that will provide the user with a more accurate number of ketones.
Ketone Meters– The third type of ketosis test is a blood-ketone meter (ketosis blood test). Ketone meters measure the level of ketones in the blood by pricking your finger with a lancing device and applying a drop of blood to the fresh ketone strip in the meter, and the meter will display the result. Because ketone meters test the blood, they are an exact and reliable way to test for ketones.
Ideal Macros for Ketosis
The term macros is short for macronutrients, which are molecules (fuel molecules) that are found in foods in varying amounts, and the human body uses them to produce energy. Three primary macros are fat, protein, and carbohydrates and provide the following amount of energy per gram.
- Fat- 9 calories per gram
- Protein- 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrates- 4 calories per gram
On a ketogenic diet, individuals are basically turning their bodies into fat burners instead of sugar burners, and this requires a diet change. It is important to understand how macros work and how to utilize the proper number of macros to reach the optimal ketogenic diet. Most commonly, individuals on a ketogenic diet consume macros in the following percent- 75% fats, 20% proteins, and 5% carbohydrates.
To get into and stay in ketosis, it is important to make sure the number of net carbs stays within 20 grams to 100 grams per day, with most people finding that 20 grams to 50 grams of net carbs are ideal (Slajerova, 2013). The number of net carbs needed will vary depending on an individual’s age, weight, gender, activity level, and other factors.
Hence, it is important to keep track of macros to ensure that ketosis is attained and maintained. A great way to help find the right amount of macros an individual can use a ketosis calculator. A ketosis calculator will ask an individual to input important factors like gender, age, height, weight, activity level, etc., to create a keto nutrition profile to break down what foods should be consumed while following a ketosis diet plan.
Ketosis and Physical Performance
Ketosis can have positive effects on physical performance, and athletes who follow the diet have the ability to reduce body fat, maintain muscle mass, control body weight, and have more endurance.
For many years individuals thought that a high carbohydrate diet was best for athletic performance because it was thought that glycogen was necessary for muscles to reach peak performance. This is only true for short high-intensity exercise.
Studies have also shown that endurance athletes who followed a ketogenic diet burned 2.3 times the amount of fat compared to their counterparts who were on a high carbohydrate diet and that glycogen use was actually similar between the two groups demonstrating that ketogenic diets are not a detriment to athletes.
Below is a list of some benefits for athletes who follow a ketogenic diet:
- Ketogenic diets rely on fewer carbs for energy, so athletes who are competing in endurance events with limited food can rely on ketones for energy instead of glucose, allowing for a longer and more sustained energy source.
- Ketogenic diets help athletes who need to maintain a specific ratio of muscle to fat, allowing them to meet and maintain specific weight goals that are essential for sports like boxing, wrestling, and weightlifting.
- Ketogenic diets are helpful for athletes during their off-season when they are resting so they can maintain a good diet even though they are not performing.
- Ketogenic diets are perfect for athletes who like to train when their glycogen stores are low because they can help improve the function of enzymes, fat usage, and mitochondria to improve their physical performance.
- Ketogenic diets can help prevent athletes from suffering fatigue when they have depleted their glucose sources, reducing performance. At the same time, athletes who are on ketogenic diets are used to relying on alternative fuel sources, so when the glucose is gone, they will start burning ketones allowing them to keep performing and not suffer the same fatigue.
Benefits of Ketosis
An individual is in the metabolic state of ketosis when their body no longer has enough carbohydrates to convert into energy, and it begins to start breaking down and converting fat into ketones, which can be used for energy.
Along with burning fat for energy, there are other benefits to being in ketosis, and they include:
Mental Focus– Individuals who have reached the metabolic state of ketosis have better focus because ketones are a consistent source of fuel for the body and brain, unlike carbohydrates, which tend to go through inconsistent spikes.
Physical Endurance– Individuals who have reached the metabolic state of ketosis have a constant source of energy, giving them the ability to perform physical activities that require endurance easier than individuals who are relying on glycogen that needs to be replenished more often.
Epilepsy– Individuals who suffer from epilepsy have been shown to need less medication if they can reach and maintain ketosis.
Cancer– Individuals who have cancer can benefit from the metabolic state of ketosis because cancer cells feed off sugar and in ketosis cancer cells are unable to get the energy they need from ketones so it can reduce and even stop the growth of cancerous cells.
Dangers of Ketosis
While there are many health benefits to following a ketogenic diet and reaching the metabolic state of ketosis, there are also potential dangers, these include:
Dehydration– One danger of the ketogenic diet is that individuals are prone to dehydration, and it is recommended that those following the keto diet consume at least 64 oz of water per day and limit their consumption of caffeine and alcohol as they are not hydrating. Dehydration can also lead to a ketosis headache; this is most likely because of an electrolyte imbalance, so it is important to stay hydrated to avoid the dreaded ketosis headache.
Low Blood Sugar– Once an individual has reached ketosis, they may have problems with low blood sugar levels as their carbohydrate consumption has been significantly lowered. It is important to monitor blood sugar levels, especially individuals who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Electrolyte Loss– Individuals who have reached ketosis are at risk for loss of electrolytes due to increased urination as their body is getting rid of its stores of glycogen. Electrolytes are essential for proper cardiac function.
Constipation– Individuals on a ketogenic diet will often experience changes in bowel movements and constipation (or ketosis constipation) as they are no longer eating fiber-rich foods because these foods are often high in carbohydrates. It is important for followers of this diet to drink plenty of water and consume fibrous vegetables like asparagus and broccoli.
Nutritional Deficits– Those who choose to follow a ketogenic diet can experience nutritional deficiencies because of the number of foods they have eliminated from their diets, including many fruits, vegetables, and beans.
Kidney Stones– Individuals who have reached ketosis are at risk for kidney stones and kidney damage due to dehydration and excess protein, which can raise nitrogen levels and lead to kidney stone formation and increased pressure on the kidneys which can cause damage.
Decreased Serum Sodium– While many individuals struggle with too much salt in their diet, those on a ketogenic diet often struggle to get enough salt in their diet. Low levels of salt can cause cramping, loss of energy, confusion, and vomiting, so it is recommended that individuals following a keto diet add a little pinch of salt to their meals to avoid the side effects of low salt levels.
Loss of Muscle– One potential danger to individuals in ketosis is that they will experience muscle loss because as an individual’s body runs out of carbohydrates to use for energy, it may begin breaking down muscle as well as the fact that with their change in diet they may not be consuming enough protein that is needed to build and maintain muscle.
Heart Problems– Individuals who have reached ketosis are at risk for heart problems because the heart is a muscle. If an individual’s body is looking for energy, it may begin to break down the heart muscle for energy (Holland).
Diarrhea– Individuals following a ketosis meal plan may experience diarrhea (or ketosis diarrhea) since they have completely changed the way they eat. Fortunately, this ketosis symptom should go away once the individual’s body has had time to adjust to the new ketosis eating.
Frequent Ketosis Side Effects and How to Remedy Them
When an individual has reached the ketosis, there are often side effects that include:
Frequent Urination– When an individual is in the state of ketosis, they may experience frequent urination because water is released when an individual’s body uses up its stored glucose. There is no need to worry. This will clear up once an individual’s body adjusts to burning ketones instead of glycogen.
Drowsiness and Dizziness– During the state of ketosis, an individual is not only getting rid of excess water. They are also losing important minerals like sodium, magnesium, and potassium, which can lead to the individual feeling dizzy and fatigued. To help with this, an individual can consume foods that contain potassium like avocados, broccoli, and dairy.
Low Blood Sugar– During ketosis an individual may experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) because their bodies are used to having more carbohydrates. It will produce a certain amount of insulin and when that carbohydrate level drops the amount of insulin may take time to adjust causing low blood sugar levels (which can be measured with a blood glucose meter).
Fortunately, this will pass once an individual’s body has had the chance to adjust to the new sugar levels.
Sugar Cravings– While an individual is transitioning into ketosis and becoming accustomed to consuming fewer carbohydrates and sugars, they may crave sugar, but once their bodies become used to the lower amounts of carbohydrates, the cravings will subside. This can last for a couple of weeks, and once you are through this stage, the cravings will be eliminated.
Constipation– During ketosis, an individual may experience constipation because their bodies are eliminating water, and their intake of high fiber foods has been reduced. To help with this side effect, it is important to drink plenty of water while also consuming foods higher in fiber like non-starchy vegetables.
Diarrhea– Keto followers may experience diarrhea as the body is trying to adjust to a change in the macronutrient level. As well as individuals new to the keto diet may consume an imbalance of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins leading to high protein levels which can cause diarrhea. To help counteract this side effect, an individual can take sugar-free fiber powder or supplements before eating to help with diarrhea.
Muscle Cramping– When an individual first starts a keto diet, they may experience a loss of important minerals like potassium, which can cause muscle cramping. To help counteract this side effect, an individual can take a supplement to help replace the minerals that are lost during the process of ketosis.
Insomnia– Sometimes, during ketosis, an individual’s serotonin and insulin levels can become low, leading to an individual having problems sleeping. To help counteract this, individuals can have a snack that contains protein before trying to sleep.
Ketosis Rash– A Ketosis rash is a condition in which an individual develops itchy skin lesions that are brown, pink, or red. While it is uncomfortable, it is not dangerous. It can be caused by allergens, nutrient deficiency, excessive fasting, low carbohydrate diets, and ketones.
Luckily for most individuals, a keto rash will go away in a few weeks, but since it is associated with a ketosis diet it can also be helped to go away faster by eating more carbs.
Can I Eat Too Much Protein?
In a word, yes. While protein is an important part of a healthy diet and it is vital for building and repairing muscles and organs, it is important not to consume too much protein as it can have negative effects on an individual’s health.
The normal amount of protein that should be consumed by individuals is approximately 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women, but this number will fluctuate based on an individual’s body weight and how much they exercise. These numbers are just an example of how much protein the average individual needs (Cronkleton, 2017).
Monitoring the number of protein individuals consume is especially important if they are on a high-protein diet as consuming too much protein can have negative effects on an individual’s health and can include:
- Kidney Damage
- Increased Cancer Risk
- Heart Disease
- Calcium Loss
Protein is an important part of an individual’s diet, but to avoid the adverse health consequences of consuming too much protein, it is important the individuals closely track the protein they consume, especially if they are on a diet.
Consuming too much protein is especially bad for individuals following a ketogenic diet because excess protein will be converted into glucose, preventing an individual from reaching ketosis.
The human body prefers to use glucose for energy, and when it is deprived of this, it will seek out other ways to get energy. If an individual consumes too much protein, then their body will begin breaking down the amino acids from protein in the body’s muscles, and through the process of gluconeogenesis, it will turn the protein into glycogen. This obviously defeats the purpose for an individual to be on a keto diet as they have restricted carbohydrates to trigger their body into burning fat instead of glucose.
By consuming too much protein they will never be able to reach ketosis because their body is still using sugar for energy instead of converting fat into ketones for energy. This is why it is essential for individuals on a keto diet to make sure they track their protein consumption.
Common Issues with a Ketosis-Based Diet
The ketogenic plan is not easy as it requires a complete change of diet and lifestyle and it will take time for an individual’s body to adjust to a new way of eating and processing food. The commitment it takes to start and stay on a strict diet like the ketogenic diet is also important.
When individuals start the keto diet, they may experience some common mistakes that may affect their results, so it’s important to take the time to do some research before deciding to take on such an eating plan.
Some of the most common mistakes individuals make when on the keto diet include:
Not Enough Calories– One of the reasons individuals choose to go on a ketogenic diet is to lose weight, so sometimes they fail to eat enough calories. Because the keto diet cuts carbohydrates from an individual’s diet, it is important that they still eat enough calories especially those from fats.
This may seem counterproductive when trying to lose weight, but if an individual does not consume enough calories, their bodies will turn to starvation mode and will begin to hold on to fats instead of burning them for energy as this diet was designed to do. To avoid not consuming enough calories, individuals who choose this diet should track their caloric intake just as they do with carbohydrates and protein.
Quick Fix– Individuals sometimes turn to diets as a quick fix to their weight and health problems, and unfortunately the keto diet is not a quick fix diet., It requires strict monitoring and a complete lifestyle change. Sometimes individuals on this diet will see drastic changes fairly quickly and then slip back into their old eating habits, and it won’t take long before they are right back where they started before the keto diet. Individuals need to be prepared to commit, and if they slip, which everyone does, it is important to get back on track quickly before their hard work is for nothing.
Failing To Track Carbohydrates– The ketogenic diet is designed to eliminate carbohydrates to cause the human body to burn fat instead, so it would only seem logical that individuals would need to track their carbohydrate intake. While an individual may want to cut out carbohydrates completely, it is nearly impossible to do so if they do not track the carbohydrates they are consuming.
Unfortunately, carbohydrates are everywhere, and tracking them can be tedious, but it is necessary if an individual on a ketogenic diet wants to see sustainable results. Not all individuals burn fat the same way and achieving ketosis and maintaining ketosis may require different carbohydrate levels so tracking them is imperative to find out not only how many carbohydrates the individual is consuming but also at what levels they can achieve and maintain ketosis.
Not Enough Water– One of the most common mistakes individuals make while on a ketogenic diet is that they do not consume enough water. Individuals will lose a lot of fluids and electrolytes as their bodies are switching from burning glucose for energy to burning fat for energy. If an individual does not stay properly hydrated instead of burning fat their bodies will instead store fat, and this is the complete opposite of what they are trying to accomplish.
While on a keto diet, it is recommended that individuals consume as much as a gallon of water a day and while that may seem like a lot of it is consumed throughout the day it really is only drinking eight ounces of water an hour.
Failing To Track Protein– One common mistake individuals make while on a ketogenic diet is that they fail to track their protein intake, and it is important to make sure individuals are consuming enough protein, but not too much protein as either can cause the keto diet to be unsuccessful. If an individual following a ketogenic diet consumes too much protein, they can trigger a process called gluconeogenesis causing their body to break down the excess protein into glucose.
This can lower the ketone levels in the body as well as cause insulin levels to spike leading to high levels of fatigue as well as the “keto flu.” A ketogenic diet is not easy, and there is a lot of tracking of foods that individuals need to do to be successful, and failure to track and consume the proper amounts of certain foods can lead an individual to fail to lose weight but cause themselves to feel worse than they did before starting the diet.
Consuming the Wrong Fats– While a ketogenic diet does require individuals to consume more fatty foods in their diet; it is not a free for all on high-fat foods. Individuals on this diet need to consume the right fats, which include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. This is a struggle for some individuals to understand, and the most common fat that they struggle to remove from their diets is processed fats like those in processed vegetable oils, which many people use when cooking. Good fats can be found in a variety of foods that include avocados, walnuts, butter, fish oils, and eggs, to name just a few. Individuals on a ketogenic diet can add good fats to each meal to make sure they are consuming enough of the right types of fat to trigger and maintain ketosis.
Failing to Consider Nutrition– Individuals starting a ketogenic diet often can be overwhelmed with the amount of food tracking that needs to be done and what foods they are and are not able to consume. They sometimes fail to consider how nutritious their diet is. While certain carbohydrate-rich fruits and vegetables should be avoided, individuals need to make sure they are not avoiding all carb-based foods. To ensure that individuals on the keto diet are consuming enough nutritious foods they must take in only quality fats from sources like fish, nuts, and avocado which are needed for proper brain and hormone functions. Followers of the ketogenic diet need to make sure they are still consuming the right foods for nutrition because so many foods are removed leaving potential gaps in nutrition along the way. The right foods provide not only the proper nutrients their bodies need, but also are beneficial to ketosis and their diet goals.
Obsessing Over Weight– One of the reasons individuals choose to start following the keto diet is because they want to lose weight, so they often fall into the trap of obsessing over what the scale says and what their weight is. While the keto diet does help with weight loss, individuals need to understand that this process can take time. If they are running to the scale too often, they may find themselves feeling defeated because their weight is not where they want it to be. But, if they just stay the course and do not obsess over what the scale says they will not only lose weight, but they will also find themselves feeling better and making healthier lifestyle choices.
Lack of Sleep– One of the problems individuals face when starting on the keto diet is that while trying to attain ketosis, their bodies are burning fat for energy. This can cause them not to get the proper amount of sleep. If individuals do not get enough sleep, it will cause their bodies not to function the way they should, so individuals on keto need to make sure they get enough sleep to ensure they get the best results from their diet.
Comparing Results With Others– Many individuals, who go on diets, including ketogenic diets, often find themselves comparing their achievements to others on a diet. This is part of human nature but can cause them to be down on themselves if they do not see the same results. As with all things, individuals are different, and their bodies respond differently, and just because an individual cannot see results immediately does not mean they are not happening.
Ketogenic diets require lifestyle and body changes that may take time to accomplish depending on an individual’s body makeup, and comparing results to other people can cause them to become discouraged, so stick with your diet and be patient.
Failure to Mix Up Meals- One pitfall that individuals make while on a ketogenic diet is that they fail to change up their meals and try new ways to prepare and utilize the foods on the keto list. Unfortunately, we live in a society that is obsessed with carbohydrates, so the keto diet can be limiting when it comes to the foods an individual can consume.
There may be a limited amount of recipes out there, but failure to experiment and try new foods and ways of cooking them can lead to boredom and cause someone to fall off of their diet. It is important to not fall into the trap of eating the same food over and over again until you can’t stand the sight of it, be adventurous and experiment a little so your taste buds don’t go dormant.
Fear of Fat– For many individuals, it has been drilled into their heads since childhood that fats are bad and need to be avoided, so when starting a ketogenic diet it may be hard to break from that old mindset. On a ketogenic diet, 75% of the food an individual consumes comes from fat, so being afraid of fat will not work.
It almost seems counterproductive that you need to eat fat to lose fat, but numbers don’t lie, and many individuals have successfully lost weight following a keto diet. Hence, it is important to put the old school way of thinking to the side and concentrate on eating healthy fats so your body can reach ketosis, and your weight goals will soon follow.
Research and Studies on Ketosis
Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet on obese patients (Experimental and Clinical Cardiology)
This was a 24-week study to determine the effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. The study concluded that a ketogenic diet is a natural therapy and a safe way to reduce weight in obese patients. Along with weight loss, the study showed that test subjects also had significant decreases in triglycerides and cholesterol.
Ketogenic Diet for Obesity: Friend or Foe? (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)
With obesity becoming a worldwide epidemic and presenting obese individuals with a greater risk for developing various health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer, this study is a review of ketogenic diets to see if they would be beneficial for obese patients. The study concluded that ketogenic diets could effectively treat obesity when handled by the patient’s physician.
Impact of a 6-week non-energy-restricted ketogenic diet on physical fitness, body composition and biochemical parameters in healthy adults. (Nutrition and Metabolism)
This was a study of 32 subjects who were on an energy-restricted ketogenic diet for six weeks to see the effects it would have on healthy adults. Results concluded that an energy-restricted ketogenic diet did not impact physical fitness in any clinically relevant manner and did impair the activities of healthy adults.
Questions and Answers (QA)
Q: Is it good for your body to be in ketosis?
A: Ketosis is a natural state of energy production. If you’re following a ketogenic diet for weight loss, it is perfect for your body to be in ketosis as this means your body is using fat stores for energy and you’re likely losing weight.
Q: How long is it safe to be in ketosis?
A: Long-term medical studies into the effects of ketosis on disease processes, including epilepsy, have been studied for years. There’s no indication that ketosis causes negative effects over the long-term, when adopted with healthy carbohydrates in mind.
Q: Is keto diet bad for you?
A: A keto diet is not bad, but it’s not the right diet for everyone. Due to the restrictive nature of the diet, those with medical conditions of any kind should seek health advice from a professional before starting keto.
Q: Can you drink alcohol on keto?
A: Believe it or not, yes, you can drink alcohol on a keto diet. Alcohol is burned first, before fat, but it does not spark a carbohydrate-burning mode. You may not gain weight when drinking in moderation, but in excess the calories may catch up with you.
Q: Can you feel when you are in ketosis?
A: For the few few days to two weeks, you may notice changes in your body so yes, you can feel ketosis. Some people experience changes in bowel habits, which can cause gas and bloating. Others notice changes in sleeping habits, energy levels, and the odor of breath and urine.
Q: What do I eat for breakfast on the keto diet?
A: As long as the food is natural, unprocessed, low-carb and high fat, you can eat it any time of day. There are no prescribed foods to eat at specific meals. A common “treat” breakfast may include toasted low-carb bread, bacon and scrambled eggs.
Q: Are eggs allowed on a keto diet?
A: Yes, eggs are encouraged on a keto diet. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and fat. Each egg contains about ½ g of carbs.
Q: Can you eat carrots on a ketogenic diet?
A: While higher in carbohydrates, you can eat carrots on a ketogenic diet. One medium carrot contains about 6 g of carbohydrates. Add a protein and fat source and you are good
Q: What can you not eat on keto?
A: Any foods based on wheat flour (white flour), foods with high natural or added sugars, and starchy vegetables are discouraged on keto.
Q: Can you drink coffee on keto?
A: You can drink coffee on keto. Butter coffee is one option that’s grown quite popular. Mix butter made from grass-fed cows with coffee. Add a non-nutritive sweetener of your choice, if desired. Heavy cream is a low-carb alternative to coffee creamer.
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