The Ketogenic Diet is used to promote the metabolic formation of ketone bodies by causing the body to use fat, rather than carbohydrates, as its principal energy source. All Ketogenic Diets are high in fat, adequate in protein and low in carbohydrates. This combination changes the way energy is used in the body, converting fat into fatty acids and ketones in the liver. When there is an elevated level of ketones in the blood, one is in a state of ketosis, which has a variety of therapeutic benefits for the sick and healthy alike. In addition to the macronutrient ratio, the frequency of eating can influence ketosis. More specifically, a practice called intermittent fasting, which reduces the window of time a person eats throughout the day, can help in obtaining and sustaining ketosis. When the eating window is shortened, the body is forced to access energy from its own fat stores rather than calories directly from the diet.
Achieving a state of ketosis can have many benefits from treating chronic illnesses to optimizing performance. While the benefits are well documented, the underlying mechanism of action is not entirely known. The diet enhances the ability of mitochondria, the power plants of our cells, to deliver our bodies’ energy needs in a manner that reduces inflammation and oxidative stress. Through optimizing the way our body uses energy, we fortify our bodies’ ability to combat several diseases as well as take no the stressors of our modern way of living.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET INTO KETOSIS?
The time it takes to enter ketosis varies from one person to the next. You can enter ketosis quicker or later depending on your body composition, diet, and activity levels. However, there are averages and limits you should know about. If you remain under your optimal net carbs limit, then you should enter ketosis within 2 to 3 days. But it can take up to 7 days. The fastest way to get into ketosis is to exercise on an empty stomach, in order to accelerate the depletion of glycogen in your body. You can also do a Fat Fast for a few days (eating more fat) to speed up the rate at which you enter ketosis AND start to cut out refined carbs (like sugar) before you go for full ketosis. Another option is to do a water fast, (only drinking water) which also speeds up getting into ketosis.
HOW DO I KNOW I’M IN KETOSIS?
- Bad Breath
This is caused by elevated ketone levels. The specific culprit is acetone, a ketone that exits the body in your urine and breath.
While this breath may be less than ideal for your social life, it can be a positive sign for your diet. Many ketogenic dieters brush their teeth several times per day or use sugar-free gum to solve the issue.
- Weight Loss
Fast weight loss can occur during the first week. While some people believe this to be fat loss, it’s primarily stored carbs and water being used up (8).
After the initial rapid drop in water weight, you should continue to lose body fat consistently as long as you stick to the diet and remain in a calorie deficit.
- Increased Ketones in the Blood
Measuring ketones in your blood is the most accurate way of testing and is used in most research studies. However, the main downside is that it requires a small pinprick to draw blood from your finger.
What’s more, test kits can be expensive. For this reason, most people will just perform one test per week or every other week.
- Increased Ketones in Breath or Urine
Another way to measure blood ketone levels is a breath analyzer.
It monitors acetone, one of the three main ketones present in your blood during ketosis.
Another good technique is to measure the presence of ketones in your urine on a daily basis with special indicator strips.
These also measure ketone excretion through the urine and can be a quick and cheap method to assess your ketone levels each day. However, they’re not considered very reliable.
- Decreased Appetite
A ketogenic diet can significantly reduce appetite and hunger. If you feel full and don’t need to eat as often as before, then you may be in ketosis.
- Increase in Focus and Energy
Many long-term ketogenic dieters report improved brain function and more stable energy levels, likely due to the rise in ketones and more stable blood sugar levels.
Not everyone experiences side effects when starting a ketogenic diet, and thankfully, those who do don’t usually experience them for very long. It varies with the individual, but just to make sure all your bases are covered, we’re going to breaking down each possible side effect and go over ways to manage and alleviate them if needed.
- FREQUENT URINATION
As your body burns through the stored glucose in your liver and muscles within the first day or two of starting a ketogenic diet, you’ll be releasing a lot of water in the process. Plus, your kidneys will start excreting excess sodium as the levels of your circulating insulin drop.
- DIZZINESS AND DROWSINESS
As the body is getting rid of this excess water, it will also be eliminating minerals like potassium, magnesium, and sodium too. This can make you feel dizzy, lightheaded, and fatigued.
Thankfully, this is also very avoidable; all it takes is a little preparation beforehand. Focus on eating foods that are rich in potassium. Add salt to your foods or use salty broth when cooking too. You can also dissolve about a teaspoon of regular salt in a glass of water and increase your hydration at the same time. Additionally, you might also want to supplement with 400 mg of magnesium citrate before going to bed each night.
As your digestive system adapts, you might initially experience some constipation when new to the keto diet. This is often caused by dehydration as you release more fluids. Remedy constipation by making sure your intake of fiber is high, eating tons of non-starchy vegetables, getting enough salt, and drink tons of water each day to moisten the contents of the colon.
If that doesn’t help completely, try cutting back on your nut and dairy consumption. You might also consider taking 400 mg of magnesium citrate.
- MUSCLE CRAMPS
Loss of minerals when first starting the keto diet can cause muscle cramps, especially leg cramps, in some people. Like with other side effects we’ve mentioned, drinking lots of water and eating salt can help by preventing cramps and reducing mineral loss.
- FLU-LIKE SYMPTOMS
Within the first 2-4 days of beginning a keto diet, a common side effect is known as the “ketosis flu” or “induction flu” because it mimics the symptoms of an actual flu. This means you might experience:
- Tiredness or lack of motivation
- Brain fog or confusion
Although these symptoms typically go away completely within a few days, they are also completely avoidable if you stay very hydrated and increase your salt intake. And like always, be sure you’re eating enough fat.
- SMELLY BREATH
Some people experience the smell of acetone on their breath when eating very low carb. Acetone is one of the ketone bodies created during ketosis, and it has a characteristically fruity smell similar to nail polish remover. This is a sign your body is in ketosis, burning lots of fats and converting them to ketones for energy. That’s great news!
Keep good oral hygiene. Keep your breath fresh by brushing your teeth well at least twice day. Increase water intake. Bad breath can be caused by less saliva from dry mouth as your body releases water in a low-carb state. Drinking plenty of water will help counteract this.