In this article we will be talking about ketosis, what it is, how you do it, what it can do and what it does not do. There’s a good chance that you’ve heard about the keto diet or at least you’ve heard about the many different types of keto products, keto guides, keto recipe books, keto books themselves. It’s kind of a big deal. But just like anything in nutrition, there is a huge amount of misinformation about keto diets out there. So hopefully in this article we want to dispel any of those myths that you might have heard.
First off, what does the keto diet even mean? Well, keto is short for ketogenic, and ketogenic diet is a diet that causes your body to generate or make ketones. One of the main fuels of our body is glucose and carbohydrate, and a healthy person is able to maintain their blood glucose levels really well because that helps our body to supply all of our systems, all of our muscles, our brain, our organs with glucose.
If our glucose levels drop too low our body can just get more glucose from our muscles where we store glycogen or it can also make glucose from non carbohydrate sources, so it can actually use amino acids or fats to make glucose. That’s called gluconeogenesis. Problem with gluconeogenesis is it takes a lot of energy to make that glucose, but if you don’t eat carbohydrates your body is missing one of its major fuel sources, so your body tries to make an alternative fuel and that alternative fuel is ketones.
When you avoid consuming glucose or sugar for 11 to 12 hours, your body will then start to make ketones. Ketones are basically the byproduct of fat burning and you can even test yourself on ketones. There’s these strips you can get at the drugstore called ketone strips and you check your urine, it’ll be like a different shade of purple, so if it’s really dark purple it’s major ketosis, if it’s light purple it’s minor ketosis.
The thing that you need to know, is when we convert our body from sugar to fat, it takes between three days to two weeks, up to six weeks depending how long you’ve been running your body in sugar. In other words, your body has to create new machinery in the cells.
When your blood ketone levels get high enough, somebody is officially in ketosis. At this point it’s really important to say that ketosis and ketoacidosis are not the same thing. Ketoacidosis is a very serious condition that can happen to some people who have type one diabetes and it happens when their blood sugar gets too high, they start to produce a lot of ketones, their blood starts to become acidic, they can pass out and they can even die. But that is definitely not the same thing as ketosis. They are very different and ketosis is perfectly safe, ketoacidosis is not.
So how does somebody get into ketosis? One of the easiest ways to do it is to reduce the amount of carbs that you eat. A lot of guides recommend that you eat fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates. So where do you get carbohydrates? Think of all the foods that you love-pasta, rice, potatoes, crisps, cake, sweets, chocolate. If it’s absolutely delicious, there’s a really good chance that it contains carbohydrates. Just to give you a little bit of context, one single medium banana can contain as many as 27 grams of carbs, so that means eating two bananas is enough to put somebody out of ketosis.
So if you can’t eat carbs, what can you eat on the ketogenic diet? There is actually a wide variety of foods that you can eat and enjoy on a ketogenic diet. Foods like meat, eggs, fish, and some high fat dairy products like cheese are virtually free of carbohydrates and make up the majority of many ketogenic diets. But on top of that you can also eat a huge amount of low carbohydrate fruit and vegetables, low sugar fruit like berries, and then non-starchy vegetables or salad veggies, things like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower.
When we run our body out of ketones, it’s much more stable with your blood sugars, you won’t have the highs and lows anymore, so you’re going to be very level headed, your brain’s going to love it. Your memory is going to be sharper, better focus, more efficient fuel, less complications.
Ketones are the original fuel source, it’s the original fuel of the brain. Our bodies long ago ran in ketones, because we couldn’t necessarily eat all the sugar that we had, we didn’t eat three meals a day or six meals a day, we didn’t eat the junk food. So our bodies originally were designed to run on ketones, not sugar. It’s only until very recently that we’ve been eating sugar.
We’re going to go back to what your body is designed to run on and it’s it’s much better. Once you feel the benefits, you won’t go back. The other thing is that ketosis protects protein. In other words, when you go on this eating plan, you’re not going to have to worry about your body eating up your own protein, that’s only when you have insulin. So your body is not going to convert protein into fat.
So why would somebody even want to do a keto diet? For the majority of people, they do it for fat loss. The thing is, when somebody makes ketones, you make them from fatty acids and fats in your body, so that leads a lot of people to automatically assume that if somebody is on a ketogenic diet or somebody is in ketosis, they are burning a lot of body fat. That’s not always necessarily the case.
Another reason people tend to use ketogenic diets is because of rapid weight loss and that’s because at the start of a ketogenic diet, people tend to lose a lot of body weight quickly. The only thing is most of that body weight, at least initially, is not body weight, it’s actually body water. Think of it like this, in our muscles we should store some carbohydrates, we can actually store up to 500 grams of carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, and each gram of carbohydrates can hold on to up to 4 grams of water.
So if you’ve got 500 grams of carbohydrates in your muscles, that means you’re also holding on to almost 2 kilograms of water in your body. If you reduce the amount of carbohydrates that you’re eating, you may reduce some of the carbohydrates in your muscles, and then you lose a lot of water from your muscles too. That also means that your muscles can look less full on a ketogenic diet, just because you don’t have as much carbohydrates, you don’t have as much water filling the muscles.