Common to this type of diet is that you eat very few carbohydrates, but to a greater extent eat more fat than what would normally be in your diet. But what exactly is ketosis?
Ketosis is a condition in which the body gets its energy from the fat depots instead of the glycogen stores in the muscles. Usually, the body’s primary fuel comes from carbohydrates, which are stored in the muscles as glycogen. When you consume more carbohydrates than your body can burn, it is stored in the body as fat.
The body stores the energy for a day when it needs it. When you limit your carbohydrate intake, you force your body to find an alternative energy source – and it is found in stored fat stores. When the body starts using your fat stores as fuel, the fat is converted to ketone bodies. The ketone bodies use the body as an energy source instead of glycogen – it is this condition called ketosis.
There are a number of theories about how many grams of carbohydrates you may or may not consume to get into a ketosis state. It is very different from person to person how much carbohydrate intake must be limited in order to achieve ketosis. You can buy ketosis tests to measure ketone bodies in your urine, which can show if you are in ketosis.
Low-Carb and Ketosis. How does it work?
Here is our experience!
Ketosis is an expression that the body uses fat as its primary fuel, including to supply the brain with energy. This is done by the liver producing so-called ketone bodies, which are a by-product of fat burning. These ketone bodies work excellently as energy.
Ketosis can be very effective for weight loss, mostly due to the appetite suppressant effect of ketone bodies, but you can easily lose weight without being in ketosis.
How do I get into ketosis?
The most important thing to get into ketosis is that you eat few carbohydrates. About max 50 grams, but our experience is that 20-30 grams a day is far more effective.
If you put together your diet primarily of vegetables that grow above ground, meat, fish, poultry and eggs and healthy fats from butter, olive oil, coconut oil, mayonnaise and fatty dairy products, you will be able to stay fairly within the limits.
When you stick to above-ground vegetables and do not eat too many nuts, berries and yogurt products, you land in the vicinity of 30 grams of carbohydrate a day. Then you can aim for approx. 1-1.5 grams of protein per. kilos of body weight and then eat fat for the rest.
This is only a rule of thumb that you can set against if you are very much in doubt about how to approach it.
Also read: What is KETO?
How do I know if I am in ketosis?
If you want to measure if your body has switched to fat burning, you can buy a small blood meter that measures for ketone bodies in your blood.
It can be fun, educational and motivating, but unfortunately the test strips for it are very expensive. Therefore, I recommend you to know what it is you really want with the measurement and what it is you expect it to do for you.
A cheaper solution may be to use the so-called “ketosis sticks”, which are small strips of paper that measure ketone bodies in the urine. They are not nearly as accurate, but can give you an indication of when your body is transitioning to ketosis.
For some, it may also seem motivating to see the small strip of paper turn purple and thereby know that now the body has switched to fat burning. As the body gets used to the ketosis state, it will excrete fewer ketone bodies in the urine, which is why you may find that the sticks lose color without it meaning that you are not in ketosis.
Signs that you are in ketosis
An even cheaper solution is to feel in your body. It probably gives you some signs that something is happening now. Ketosis usually occurs between days 2 and 7 on strict LCHF.
Also read: What is LCHF?
Watch out for these signs:
Ecreased appetite and decreased food focus
Strange taste in the mouth and acetone-like breath (don’t worry, it will go away again)
Fatigue and heavy legs
Some of the signs are related to the fact that your body is adjusting to fat burning. It can be something of an upheaval if your body has been used to running on sugar all its life and it can give a little transition difficulty in the beginning.
Remember to eat extra salt when eating so few carbs. It will help you through the transition phase with fewer unpleasant symptoms.
Is ketosis dangerous?
Evolutionarily, ketosis has been a common condition of the human body. Both in that there has been limited access to food for periods but also in that there has been limited access to carbohydrates.
Ketosis has two significant benefits in a weight loss context:
- you supply your brain with energy from ketone bodies, which means that the brain does not experience a lack of energy and starts screaming for more energy
- The ketosis state protects your muscle mass, as the need for glucose is reduced and the body therefore does not need to break down protein (including muscle mass) to get energy.
Whether ketosis is recommendable in the long run, there are different opinions.
On the one hand, we love the energy and mental clarity we experience, ketosis gives us, but on the other hand, we experience it as a bit boring and limiting in the long run.
We use ketosis periodically instead and take a period of time a year where we eat strictly to boost my fat burning.
Here are a few things we experience in ketosis:
- Weight loss
- Flat stomach
- Better sleep
- Stable blood sugar
- More energy
Cheers Nat and Mike