Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body transitions from consuming glucose for energy, to consuming fat for energy. Most people have heard of it in the context of a diet such as the Keto diet. It is known to be one of the most effective ways to burn fat.
I imagine that since you are here, you were researching ketosis, ketogenic, or keto diet and are not exactly sure what or how to do it successfully. You can refer to my Keto Diet Guide for a much broader overview.
Here are some of the most important facts that you need to know about Ketosis and why you should start your Ketogenic diet plan.
What is it?
The term “ketosis” is usually encountered on the internet when googling weight loss programs, burning fat, or diabetes. Ketosis is a normal metabolic process undergone by the body. This process keeps your body working when you run out of glucose to consume.
Typically, the body uses glucose as its source of energy from carbohydrates such as fruits, milk, yogurt, bread, and pasta. The body breaks these carbohydrates into simple sugars. These simple sugars are either used for energy or used as glycogen which is stored up in the muscles and liver for later use.
If the body gets an inadequate amount of glucose to be used for energy, it then adopts an alternative way to supply energy. This new energy is from fat and is the process of ketosis. The body breaks down your stored fats to supply glucose from triglycerides.
With these, acids called ketones are produced. These ketones are what the body uses to convert the fat to ATP, which is then used for energy by your brain and the rest of your body. Ketones are the by-products of Ketosis which develops in the blood and are eliminated by the body as urine. These by-products are an indication that fats inside the body are breaking down.
Is it Safe?
In short, the answer is yes. If you are maintaining a healthy and balanced diet of fats, protein, and essential nutrients, your body will function properly. You will also be getting some glucose from the foods you consume. It is very difficult to eliminate them completely. This is okay because as soon as that glucose is gone, it is back to the fat burning.
By the way, do not overdo the protein, protein can through you out of ketosis.
High levels of ketones can also be poisonous to the body, leading to ketoacidosis.
Benefits of Ketosis
The primary reason why most people follow the ketogenic diet is to lose weight. People who practice the ketogenic diet have less appetite leading to less eating. This combined with a reduction in glucose intake results in fat burning and if you are managing your calories well, weight loss.
The ketogenic diet was first used in the 1920s in treating children with epilepsy. Although its contribution to seizure prevention remains a mystery, many scientists believed that it has something to do with the improved stability of neurons and better functioning of the brain’s mitochondria. The ketogenic diet has also been discovered to help with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. This is after scientists discovered that it contributes to increased cognition and improved memory in adults with these diseases. For most dieters, Ketogenic diet is shown to have increased mental focus and clarity and fewer migraines.
Aside from its contribution to decreasing levels of dementia, it has also been discovered that the Ketogenic diet may help fight certain types of cancer. This is according to a 2014 article from Dom D’Agostino’s lab entitled “Ketone supplementation decrease tumor cell viability and prolongs survival of mice with metastatic cancer.”
Also, since it keeps blood glucose stable and low, it can prevent heart diseases. This diet is also known to be anti-inflammatory, preventing acne, psoriasis, eczema, pain, and the like.
Studies also show that the Ketogenic diet may aid people that usually experience some types of metabolic syndrome which also increases the possibility of having diabetes and even heart disease.
Aside from that, keto also improves energy levels and sleep, it keeps uric acid levels stable, prevents gout, lessens heartburn and acid reflux, and improves digestion. It even increases fertility and stabilizes hormones in women, lessens the risk of cataracts, and improves endurance.
People who are engaged in this diet plan insist that it is very beneficial. Other people consider it dangerous because it “hacks” the natural state of the body’s metabolic system.
I say hogwash, all it does is takes the unnecessary glucose from processed foods and enriched grains, and has us eating more natural and healthier foods. Doesn’t seem like a hack to me, it actually seems smart.
Side Effects and How to Prevent Them
If you practice this diet, during the first few days, you may catch the so-called “keto flu.” You will experience a headache, fatigue, brain fog, increased hunger, poor sleep, nausea, and low physical performance. This is often the main reason why most people stop their diet just before they start getting the benefits. This flu only lasts for a couple of days. This is likely your body going through withdrawals from sugar, much like it does for drug addicts that quit a drug cold turkey.
Another common effect is bad breath, described as slightly sweet and fruity. This is caused by acetone, a byproduct of the fat metabolism. This usually goes away in a few weeks.
Some people may also experience leg cramps due to mineral loss and dehydration. One may also experience digestive problems such as constipation. This is due to fewer intakes of fiber and fluids. One may also experience diarrhea, but it is less common, and these digestive problems can be over in a few weeks.
To minimize these side effects, one must make sure to drink at least 2 liters of water every day since an increased amount of water is lost in the body especially at the start of the diet.
Increase your salt intake too, to refill the lost salt in the body. You can add salt to your foods, or you can also drink broth.
Consume foods that are rich in magnesium and potassium to reduce leg cramps. Don’t push yourself to do intense exercises while your body is adapting to the diet. You can stick to the standard levels of exercise during the first two weeks.
Lastly, don’t forget to eat more fiber-enriched foods and to lessen more side effects. What I see people do the most on this is increase their intake of meat and greasy foods and forget that veggies and beans should be your primary source of nutrients and protein, not a shit ton more meat.
Ketosis vs. Ketoacidosis
Ketoacidosis is a pathological metabolic state wherein the body undergoes extreme, uncontrolled ketosis. In this case, the body falls short of its ketone production which causes severe accumulation of keto acids resulting in the decrease of blood pH.
Ketoacidosis may be fatal in some cases. This is most common with people who have untreated type 1 diabetes mellitus wherein the liver breaks down proteins and fats as a response to a recognized need for a respiratory substrate. Alcoholism may also lead to alcoholic ketoacidosis.
Distinguishing people with ketoacidosis may be done through their breath. Since there is decomposition of acetoacetic acid, acetone is considered a by-product. A person’s smell may be like that of a nail polish remover or a fruity, subtle odor due to acetone.
Food for the Ketogenic Diet
Before starting the meal plan, one can add these foods to the shopping list to start the ketogenic diet:
- Fatty nuts and seeds: cashews, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds
- Whole eggs
- Full-fat cheese
- Beef: ground chuck (80/20), filet mignon, porterhouse, ribeye
- Chicken: Thighs and legs
- Vegetables: spinach and other greens, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, mushrooms, bell pepper
- Pork rinds
- Olive oil
- Salted butter
- Heavy cream
- Sour cream
- Cream cheese
- Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies
- Chicken broth or bouillon cubes with at least 1 gram sodium
Chicken broth may come as a surprise for some. This is because as the body’s supplies of carbs are cut, there is also depletion in glycogen, a stored form of carbohydrate. A gram of glycogen lost is equivalent to 3 grams of water. With the chicken broth or bouillon cubes, dehydration can be prevented. Aside from water, there should also be enough sodium in the body.
Restaurants to Check out for Ketogenic Diet
Some people have so little free time that they can’t do anything but turn to fast food chains to get something to eat. In this case, following one’s ketogenic diet may seem impossible. But now, several fast food restaurants also offer foods that can meet your dietary needs. You may just need to get creative.
One quick example is Five Guys Burgers. With their name, you might think that they have those fries loaded with so many carbs. In this restaurant, you can order a burger wrapped in lettuce replace the usual burger bun, and you can take a pass on the fries.
More Snack Treats
There are also some Keto friendly snacks that can be helpful especially for those who still have snack cravings. For those people who are always on the go and who don’t have time to prepare some snacks for themselves, they can go for some grab-and-go snack such as:
- Beef jerky
- String cheese
- Nuts, nut butter, or seeds
- Stevia-sweetened dark chocolate
- Seaweed snacks
- Laughing cow cheese
- Pepperoni slices
- Iced coffee
- Sugar-free jello or popsicles
- Macadamia nuts
Another snack you can make are Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting which will fit any occasion. There is also the Keto Cream Cheese Truffles. Since these do not need any cooking, they are even more amazingly quick and easy to make.
I know some people may find it hard to understand the different food groups that they can consume during their diet and how much of each to eat. With the Keto Food Pyramid, you can easily distinguish the various food groups. Here is a list of the foods on the Keto Food Pyramid starting from the very top.
- Safe starches such as yams
- Berries and Oily seed like almonds and cashews
- Fats and oils and nightshades
You can drink water and unsweetened tea freely, moderate coffee, and dry wine and spirits rarely.
How to Maintain a Ketosis Diet?
It might be very tough to maintain a ketogenic state, but there are a few ways to achieve this.
First, you should monitor the levels of your protein. If you overeat steak, for example, you’ll just lead yourself out of your planned diet. If the level of your protein increases too much and your carbs too low, the protein that you have will be burned and turned to fuel to be used by your body. Therefore, to prevent this state, you have to turn to healthy fats and vegetables just so your body will make use of it for energy.
Second, you have to monitor your carb intake. You may consider this as the most crucial thing to consider to stay in ketosis. Make sure you are maintaining your carb intake at levels low enough to not drop you completely out of ketosis. This will allow the body to naturally burn fat to turn it into energy.
Lastly, you have to test the levels of your ketones. This is much easier than monitoring your carbs intake. There are test strips for that.
Can You Permanently Stay in a Ketosis?
A lot of arguments have been made on whether staying in ketosis for a long time is advisable and safe. There is the fact that carbs are the natural way to get energy for the body.
However, is it safe to stay on such diet?
Some studies have shown that there are people and tribes engaged in a long-term ketogenic diet if not permanently.
According to medical experts, staying on a low-carb diet can cause health complications. They recommend for people to eat 80% veggies, grains and fruits, and 20% protein. Also, they suggest that people engaging in such diet take in high carbohydrates sometimes.
I personally recommend a nice cheat day once per week. Maybe on Saturday while watching college ball and having some drinks with your buddies, or Sunday during the family get together.
I think this diet is pretty much the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am hungry less, I have lost fat and gained muscle, and best of all my blood work is as good as it was when I was 22 years old. What more can you possibly ask for?