7 Tips to Get into Ketosis
The human body uses glucose as a source of energy. Glucose comes from foods that contain carbohydrates, including bread, pasta, and sweets. The body converts those carbs into simple sugars.
What glucose the body does not use as fuel goes to the liver and muscles as glycogen. When the body runs out of glucose, it has to compensate through another process known as ketosis.
There are different reasons why someone chooses to go into ketosis: weight loss, diabetes management, fat reduction, or overall health improvement.
This article will teach you about ketosis, what ketones are, how to measure them, what foods make up a ketogenic diet, and the signs of ketosis.
What is Ketosis
In ketosis, the body burns fat into ketones to use as energy. When there are not enough carbohydrates for the body to use, the body’s cells break down the stored fat, and ketones take over.
Why would you want to be in ketosis? Ketones provide a better fuel source for your body by using fewer carbs and more fat. There are several health benefits to reaching ketosis.
One benefit is how ketones help control hunger and make you lose weight. They control seizures, decrease inflammation, increase physical performance, and stabilize blood sugar.
Although it may sound easy, attaining ketosis takes time. Knowing how to get there is the first step. Modifying your diet and exercise routine are two crucial steps to get into ketosis.
Macronutrient Ratios to Reach Ketosis
Carbohydrates, protein, and fat make up macronutrients. The ratio you need to reach ketosis is 5% calories of carbohydrates, 25% calories of protein, and 70% calories of fats.
There is a calorie to carb ratio that you can follow to help determine what your carb needs are:
- Consuming less than 2,000 calories per day equals approximately 20 grams of carbohydrates a day.
- 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day is about 25-30 grams of carbohydrates a day.
- 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day is equivalent to around 30-35 grams of carbohydrates a day.
- More than 3,000 calories per day is roughly 35-50 grams of carbohydrates a day.
Foods to Eat; Foods to Avoid
A ketogenic diet consists of very few carbs. The amount of carbs you restrict depends on your physical activity. Reducing your carbs to 20-50 net grams per day lowers blood sugar and insulin and leads to the build-up of ketones. Ketosis can happen between meals.
Foods to Eat
Foods high in protein and low in carbohydrates will assist the body in reaching ketosis.
- Fish and seafood: These are high in protein with no carbs. They include healthy fats that help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Veggies low in carbs: They are high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Examples of vegetables that contain less than eight grams of net carbs include spinach, zucchini, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, and bell peppers.
- Cheese: It is high in fat and protein, with no carbs.
- Greek yogurt and cottage cheese: They are high in protein and low in carbs.
- Avocados: These are high in good fats. They contain 9 grams of carbs and 7 grams of fiber.
- Meat and poultry: These are lean proteins with no carbs that are high in B vitamins.
- Eggs: They are high in protein and antioxidants and are carbohydrate-free. They make you feel full and level out blood sugar.
- Nuts, seeds, and oils low in saturated fat: Nuts and seeds are high in protein and low in carbs.
- Berries: They are low in carbs, high in fiber and antioxidants to help fight infections.
- Coffee and tea without sugar: These have no carbs, fat, or protein. Tea is high in antioxidants and does not contain as much caffeine as coffee.
- Low-carb fruits: Low glycemic fruits like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and tomatoes are good choices.
- Hummus: This contains roughly three grams of carbs per two tablespoons.
Foods to Avoid
Foods to avoid include those high in carbs. The body will not reach ketosis when carb counts are too high.
- Grains: These are high in carbohydrates. Different types of grains vary in carbs. It is best to avoid all of them just in case. Quinoa and brown rice fit into this category.
- Fruits: Frozen fruits may contain more carbs due to the sweetener. Apples contain around 20 grams of carbs. Oranges have 13 grams of carbohydrates.
- Veggies high in carbs: Anything that grows under the ground, such as potatoes, corn, artichoke, peas, parsnips, and yuca, is high in carbs. Sweet potatoes alone contain 23 grams of carbs. Acorn squash contains 20 grams of carbs.
- Legumes: They are high in protein yet high in carbs. Canned or bagged beans and peas are examples. Black beans contain approximately 12 grams of carbs.
- Dairy: Limit this to three to four ounces per day. Examples of dairy to avoid include regular and condensed milk, creamed cottage cheese, and low-fat and no-fat yogurts.
Eight ounces of yogurt made with whole milk can contain 10 grams of carbs.
- Processed meats: Bacon, luncheon meat, breaded meats, and ham are high in carbs and sodium.
- Sweetened beverages: Avoid soft drinks, lemonade, beer, cocktails, juice, vitamin water, energy drinks, and sports drinks that contain sugar.
- Dark chocolate: A small portion of dark chocolate (one ounce) equals 10 grams of carbs.
What Are Ketones
Ketones are chemicals that your liver produces to take over when your body runs out of carbohydrates as energy. This process is gluconeogenesis. Ketone levels automatically increase during heavy exercise and fasting.
There are three types of ketones—acetone, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate, which start in the blood and dump into the urine. The two main ones are acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate.
The breakdown of fatty acids forms acetoacetate. Its role is to transport energy from the liver to other tissues in your body. It can change into acetone and beta-hydroxybutyrate.
Beta-Hydroxybutyrate is the most abundant ketone body. Acetoacetate forms it, which also helps transport energy from the liver throughout all the body’s tissues.
Acetone is a side product of acetoacetate. It does not help regulate metabolism. Instead, it breaks down quickly and excretes through your breath or urine.
How to Measure Ketone Levels
It is crucial to check ketone levels while on a ketogenic diet. Each has its way of measurement. Therapeutic ketone levels are 1.5 to 3 mmol/L to achieve ketosis. There are three ways to measure weekly ketone levels.
- Acetone: Acetone is present in your breath. To measure the level, you would need to use a Ketonix meter. A flashing color will reveal your readings.
- Acetoacetate: This is present in your urine. Dip the ketone urine strip in the urine and watch for a color change. Pink or purple will tell you what your levels are. Darker colors reveal higher ketone levels. Urine testing is cheap but not very reliable.
- Beta-hydroxybutyrate: This is the primary ketone. The most reliable way of testing is through a blood sample. The technique is very similar to blood glucose testing. Using a blood ketone meter, prick your finger, place a drop of blood onto the strip and insert it into the meter. Your beta-hydroxybutyrate level will appear. Blood testing is the most expensive form because of the cost of the testing strips.
Tips to Get into Ketosis
- Reduce your carbohydrates: About 5%-10% of the calories from carbohydrates will lead to ketosis. Eat less than 20 grams of net carbs each day.
- Incorporate coconut oil into your diet: Coconut oil contains MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) that quickly go to the liver to transform into ketones.
- Increase your physical activity: Exercise causes glycogen levels to deplete. In time, your body raises your ketone levels to compensate for the lack of glycogen. Walking before a meal is an example of an activity you can do to increase ketones.
- Eat more healthy fats such as fatty fish, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil: High-fat foods are usually lower in carbs. If you eat at least 60% of calories from fat, your ketones will rise to make up for lost carbs. Consider eating fats from animal and fat sources.
- Fast: Fasting is another way of reducing your carb output, which may kick the body into releasing ketones. Try not to eat for several hours (16-18) or fat-fast, meaning you eat about 700-1100 calories per day. Approximately 80% of those calories are from fat. The fat-fast, along with intermittent fasting, can place you in ketosis quickly.
- Consume enough protein to maintain muscle mass while decreasing your carb intake: 0.55-0.77 grams per pound or 20% is the therapeutic range of protein per day. It varies for everyone. To find your level of protein intake while on a ketogenic diet, multiply your ideal body weight (pounds) by 0.55-0.77. Try to keep a healthy balance. Too much protein can decrease ketone production, whereas too little protein may lead to the loss of muscle mass.
- Test your ketone levels and adjust your diet accordingly. Three ways to test ketone levels are through blood, urine, and breath tests. Blood testing is more accurate. All it takes is a simple finger stick and a drop of blood.
Signs You Have Reached Ketosis
It can take anywhere from a week to a month before your body reaches full ketosis. Some signs may indicate when you are in Ketosis. While side effects may seem unpleasant, they are temporary.
You Have Unpleasant Breath
Full ketosis may produce a fruity or foul smell on your breath. To disguise the odor, you can brush your teeth often or use breath mints.
You Lost Weight
Part of changing to a ketogenic diet is experiencing short-term and long-term weight loss. The first week you may notice losing weight faster, probably due to carbs and water reduction. After the first week, your weight loss will slow down and become more consistent.
Your Blood Ketone Levels are Higher
Ketosis is evident when your blood ketone levels are therapeutic. Blood ketones range between 0.5-3.0 mmol/L. Here is the part where the blood sample testing takes place.
Your Breath and Urine Ketone Levels are Higher
Use a breath meter to check ketone levels in the breath and urine strips to check levels in the urine. Therapeutic ranges are 1.5-3.0 mmol/L.
You Are Not Hungry, or You Feel Full
You may be eating enough protein and vegetables to satisfy your body’s needs. The ketones can alert your brain that you are in ketosis.
You May Feel Energetic and Focused
After being on a keto diet for a few weeks, you may have more energy and be able to think more clearly. The brain uses ketones to level out blood sugar, which helps you focus better, and the increased ketones give you more energy.
You May Experience Short-Term Fatigue
When you first change to a keto diet, you will probably feel tired because of the decrease in carbs. As mentioned above, it can take up to 30 days to reach full ketosis, so your body is adjusting to the changes.
Electrolytes can fall due to the decrease in carbs and water in your body. To boost your energy while your body adapts, consider taking electrolyte supplements in the form of beverages or pills.
Your Physical Performance May Be Temporarily Lower
The glycogen in your muscles is lower at first, which might make you feel tired. The desire to exercise may be temporarily gone. Once your body has adjusted to the keto diet, your energy level will increase, and your ability to perform will be back to normal.
You May Experience Gastrointestinal Symptoms
Constipation and diarrhea commonly happen when making changes to your diet. Be sure to eat plenty of vegetables that are rich in fiber, such as dark green vegetables, to help regulate your gut.
You May Have Insomnia
While your body adjusts to the decrease in carbs, you may have trouble sleeping. Your sleep patterns should improve within a few weeks.