All about the state of ketosis

I used to be super obsessed with being in ketosis in the summertime because I was convinced I needed to be in order to lose weight. So I will give you a small overview of what ketosis is and how it works, how it doesn’t work etc.

NB! Don’t mix up ketoacidosis and ketosis. These two are completely different conditions and ketosis isn’t dangerous like ketoacidosis. Also don’t try ketosis if you have type I diabetes, do a really thourough research before and contact your doctor.

Ketosis is a state of elevated levels of ketone bodies in the body. Ketone bodies are formed by ketogenesis when liver glycogen stores are depleted. So in order to get into ketosis, you have to be strict and precise with your carb intake (because glycogen in formed from carbs). When there is no more glycogen, your liver starts to make ketones instead. Now instead of carbs (glucose), your body will start using fatty acids aka burn fat. Fast.

When the ketone bodies are in your system, you probably will experience a funny taste and smell in your mouth (sometimes also urine changed smell). The weird taste in your mouth is usually described as metallic or acetone. That’s what I know I’m in ketosis from: the taste in mouth won’t go away no matter how much I brush my teeth during the day. Another way to know you’re in ketosis, are ketosticks (or Ketostix). They are little strips with a small pad in the end that you have to dip in fresh urine. Then they change colour and tell you if you are in ketosis (if ketone bodies are present in urine, it’s called the state of ketonuria) and how strong of a ketosis you’re experiencing. There are also products that can measure ketone bodies from the blood. Ketostix and other measurement tools should be available at farmacies, I personally haven’t used them yet. Some people say that the urine based sticks sometimes also don’t work.

I find that for me the best formula to get into ketosis is to keep my total carb intake around 20–30 grams and my protein below 25% of energy intake (20% is even better), carbs around 5–7% and fat really high: about 70% of energy intake. That’s a formula that works good for me and doesn’t affect my mood or energy levels or athletic performance. The carbs have to come from vegetables, if I the carbs from dairy or something else, ketosis won’t happen for me.

I have also tried different ratios: eating 10 grams of carbs or 5 grams of carbs. If 10 grams of carbs worked for me and I was in ketosis, the 5 gram limit was pushing it too far. Maybe my protein intake was too high and fat too low but I didn’t fall into ketosis. Also, at 5 grams, my energy was gone and I couldn’t really do sports. I pushed myself but my legs and muscles overall just didn’t function properly.

The overall guides to do a ketogenic diet can vary. There is the 4:1 rule (get 4 time more energy from fat than from protein and carbs combined, for example get 80% from fat and 20% from carbs and protein), 3:1 rule, Atkins induction etc. Here are some examples:

There is one important thing: your protein can’t be too high. For me over 25% of energy intake from protein for more than one day will kick me out of ketosis. It might be a little different for every person but the overall guideline is to be careful with protein and get at least 65% of energy from fats (better if 70% or more). 

Ketosis is a good way to lose weight. It makes you lose it fast. However, you have to take into consideration that the first weight that you lose isn’t fat but (mostly) water. That’s because glycogen is stored with water molecules. So at first when you are using up all glycogen stores from your body by not giving it enough carbohydrates, you will lose water first. Then the fat will go. So if you fall into ketosis for only a couple of days (maybe even accidentally not intentionally by a low carb diet, I have gotten into ketosis unintentionally) and then get kicked out of ketosis for whatever reason, don’t be surprised by a slight weight gain. But it’s only water, don’t freak out.

Why is protein intake so important? Well, when you eat too much protein, your body will start to make glucose from it and mess up your blood sugar levels that have to be stable in order to get or stay in ketosis. For me, protein from dairy is the most tricky and seems to kick me out of ketosis fast, partly because it also usually comes with carbs (products like cream, cottage cheese, ricotta, cream cheese etc). So overall: instead of eating another steak if you still feel hungry, add some butter, coconut oil or a fat based sauce. 

Ketosis isn’t absolutely necessary to lose weight. You can lose weight really nicely on a normal low carb diet and perhaps doing 10% of energy from carbs and 30% from protein and the rest from fat or any other low carb high fat combination. Most of my lost weight has been lost without ketosis.

So why bother monitoring all grams and percentages so closely? Isn’t it a lot of work? Yes, it can be. But sometimes it’s necessary, like when you hit an infamous weight-loss plateau. Then it’s a good idea to consider getting your self into ketosis for some time, get the scales moving doen again and then going on with your normal low carb diet, that perhaps isn’t as extreme or super strict.


Have you ever been in ketosis? For how long and how did you get there?


Sources of this post:

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