Ketosis – Guide and Diet Plan
These days it seems like you almost can’t get out of the house without hearing the word ketosis. If you’ve ever been on a diet or went to see a nutritionist, then you’re probably a bit more familiar with the term. If not, it might seem like almost a magical word that can solve all your health and weight issues. It’s a word often used by so-called fitness experts in order to hard sell their weight loss programs and diet plans. There’s so much misinformation online it’s no wonder people often dismiss ketosis as just another cheap marketing trick. That’s why we’re here to make things right and tell you everything you’d ever need to know about this strange and fascinating process.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic process that happens to your body when it runs out of glucose it uses for energy. In its normal state, the body uses a process called glycolysis in order to create energy. Although it is quite a mouthful, glycolysis in itself isn’t a very complicated process. It’s a series of chemical reactions that help convert glucose, the sugar that’s in your blood, into pyruvate. Pyruvates are the simplest of the alfa-keto acids, the acids that are responsible for supplying your cells with oxygen and energy. During the process of converting glucose into pyruvates, there’s a lot of energy released, and that energy is what powers your body. It’s a normal and natural process that occurs in almost every healthy organism. But, if your body gets low on glucose, that’s when things start to get a bit more complicated.
You see, if your body gets deprived of all its blood sugar, then the glycolysis stops completely. If there’s no glycolysis, there’s no energy and the body would slowly start shutting down. To stop this from happening, our bodies have evolved in quite an ingenious way. If glycolysis is disabled, the body immediately switches to ketosis in order to create energy. When there’s no more glucose in the blood, the liver starts supplying the blood with three different types of water-soluble molecules it produces from the fatty acids in the body. Those molecules are called ketones and this entire process is called ketosis. So, to put in layman’s terms – when everything in the body’s relatively normal, the energy comes from sugars, and everything that’s not used up is stored as fat. When your blood sugar drops, the body uses ketones from its fat to make energy, thus burning up its fat deposits.
When does it happen?
Although ketosis is most often used as a very effective means of losing weight, it can occur on its own if the person’s normal health has been jeopardized. Ketosis is the most common complication related to diabetes type 1, also known as diabetes mellitus. A person’s inability to produce enough insulin can make its body completely abandon the process of glycolysis, do a complete 180, and switch to ketosis completely. This is sometimes a very dangerous complication as there’s ketosis happening in spite of the high blood sugar associated with diabetes. A person can often dismiss the symptoms (nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain) as they’re commonly viewed as symptoms of many common virus infections.
Ketosis also occurs as a result of targeted diet. It’s the most effective way the body can burn its fat, so it’s often used for weight loss. There are many diets that rely on ketosis in order to work, but the most famous ones are the Atkins and the Paleo diet. While both diets are originally based on viable medical facts, the way they market their health and lifestyle benefits only helps them classify as fad diets. Both diets rely on restricting carbohydrates and focus on high-protein meal plans in order to achieve a ketosis state. There’s little scientific evidence that supports the effectiveness of these and other like diets, and it’s advisable you consult with a doctor or a nutritionist to help you decide whether these diets would benefit you.
How do you get into ketosis?
The fastest way you can get into a ketogenic state is to start doing strenuous cardio exercises on an empty stomach. If you limit your carb intake to under 20 grams per day, you’ll be able to achieve ketosis in a matter of hours. However, this is the body’s first and immediate reaction to stress, and it’s almost always short-lived. The ketogenic state stops as soon as you get any sugar or carbs in your system, and the constant switching between glycolysis and ketosis is very stressful and dangerous to the body. The reason many people fail at sticking to their diets is that they often offer immediate ketosis, which leaves people feeling starved and tired. People keep putting their health in danger as they forget that, although ketosis can be achieved pretty easily, it’s not the body’s natural state and it will put unnecessary stress on it.
The key to getting the most out of this ketogenic state is to go slow and steady. A sudden shift in your diet and lifestyle is dangerous and unnecessary, as better and more long-term results can be achieved by being moderate but persistent. You can start by slowly incorporating cardio exercises that suit your fitness level into your daily routine. It’ll give your metabolism the boost it needs and it won’t put too much strain on your muscles. Slowly reducing your carbohydrate intake won’t leave you feeling hungry and deprived, and you can get used to the new diet more easily if you don’t rush into it. Substituting a carbohydrate-rich food with a fat-rich one each day will make the transition go smoothly and you can avoid stressing both your health and your budget.
Getting into a full ketogenic state depends on many internal and external factors. There’s a lot of different things at play here, ranging from your genetic predisposition and your previous medical history all the way to the quality of the food you eat. It can take anywhere from two weeks to even six months to reach absolute ketosis, depending on your previous fitness level and dietary habits. It almost always comes easily to active people with relatively normal and unspectacular eating habits, and they can completely rely on ketosis for their energy after just a couple of weeks. However, for people who have quite a sweet tooth and do little to no exercise, it doesn’t come as easily. So a ketogenic state for a couch-potato with a sweet tooth can only happen after many, many weeks of targeted exercises and dieting.
There’s no universal answer to the phenomenon of ketosis, but you can make a pretty good estimate at how long it would take you to reach it by taking into consideration your fitness, body type, and eating habits. When you place yourself somewhere on that two weeks to six-month scale you’ll get quite a good picture of what this journey would look like for you.
A Keto-Friendly Diet
Many people associate a keto based diet with being a restrictive method for weight loss. Although it has been proven to help people lose weight, it’s primary goal is to remove all unnecessary fat from the body. It’s not a restrictive diet, meaning that it doesn’t limit the number of calories you intake. Instead, it only limits your carb intake so that the lack of glucose in your blood would lead to ketosis. If you decrease the number of calories, then weight loss will definitely ensue. However, if you switch to a keto diet followed by proper exercise, without decreasing the overall calorie intake, then you’ll go on to lose fat and build muscle without any drastic changes to your weight.
Seeing how it’s easy to sell almost every keto based product, it’s no wonder why people often think it’s an overly complicated and expensive diet program. The fact is, it’s much simpler than you think to have a keto-friendly diet, and much cheaper too. The diet consists of limiting your intake of carbohydrates found in processed foods, such as wheat and other grains. All the carbs you need can be obtained from vegetables alone, and that’s the main focus of the diet. It’s a high-fat diet, so you’re also advised to go as wild as you want on unsaturated fats. That means as much natural organic butter, olive oil, and cheese as you want. These are foods rich in natural fats, which supply your body with enough nutrients to keep you full and keep the ketosis going.
Fry your steaks in extra virgin olive oil and top them with a generous knob of butter when served, but stay away from bread. To reach ketogenesis, you must limit the consumption of both refined and unrefined sugars and carbs. That means no bread, no pastry, no pasta or rice, and no fruit. Removing fruit from your diet saves you from consuming a lot of fructose, which can, if eaten in enough quantities, interfere with ketosis as much as a couple of doughnuts.
Most of the carbs you’d ever need can be obtained from vegetables. The greener and leafier they are – the better. So things like bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, cabbage, and lettuce should make it to your every meal. A breakfast of eggs and bacon, a steak in a buttery sauce with a plate of broccoli for lunch and a tuna salad for dinner is what your meals should look like. Snack on cheeses, nuts, and peanut butter to avoid feeling hungry between meals, and go for a couple of chocolate brownies for dessert.
There are endless possibilities when it comes to cooking in order to maintain ketosis, but if you run out of ideas and need some inspiration, there are a lot of cookbooks and recipes available. There are even entire cook shows dedicated to cooking for a keto-diet, and most of it is free and easily accessible online. And if you still want to go with something a bit more tested out, I suggest buying a copy of the “Ketosis Cookbook”. It has great reviews and it also acts as a kind of an all-encompassing ketosis guide.
So, eating on a keto-diet isn’t nearly as expensive and strenuous as it sounds. Most of the foods recommended are already in your fridge and pantry, and all it takes is a little bit of research to get a good start.
But is it safe?
Of all the times ketosis is marketed as an optimal health and weight loss state, there’s almost no mention of its safety. So don’t go rushing to conclusions just yet.
The fact is, if not done right, ketosis can do more damage than good to your body and your overall health. If you suffer from any pre-existing or chronic conditions, I strongly advise you talk to a doctor first. You could be suffering from a number of asymptomatic conditions or illnesses you don’t even know about, and getting into ketosis can do a lot of damage.
Type 1 diabetes or diabetes mellitus can often go undiagnosed and thus untreated. If you go on a keto diet with this condition, the consequences can be quite severe. You can experience uncontrollable bladder issues, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and tiredness. And because people often overlook this as symptoms of stress or food poisoning, the damage done by ketosis can get so severe it could take years of treatment to get your body back in order.
All of this sounds quite scary, we know. But these are rare complications that occur only when there’s an underlying condition, so if you’re of relatively normal health then you shouldn’t experience these complications ever.
Another side-effect of going into ketosis is something called ketoacidosis. It’s a metabolic state associated with a high and uncontrollable production of ketone bodies. In normal amounts, the ketones your body produces are healthy and normal. However, if the body loses its ability to regulate the production of ketones, it can cause a severe accumulation of keto acids. The keto acids are a normal by-product of ketosis, but in large enough amounts they can significantly decrease the pH level of the blood. This also happens during normal ketosis, but in substantially smaller amounts so there’s no danger of permanent damage to the body. Ketoacidosis can be easily treated if diagnosed on time, and it manifests primarily on the person’s breath. If the breath has a fruity smell or a smell similar to a nail-polish remover, it’s because of the acetone that’s released in the blood when the acetoacetic acids start decomposing.
There’s also a danger of starvation if the keto diet gets too extreme. A radical and drastic change in a person’s diet can result in starvation even though there’s a significant consumption of calories. The body can go into such shock due to stress, that it can’t manage a ketogenic state for long.
If you start feeling these or any of other side-effects when in ketosis, please check with your doctor or nutritionist. No matter how small or insignificant, any unwanted change can prove to be dangerous if left untreated.
Ketosis And Bodybuilding
If you’ve ever been to the gym you’ve probably come across the term ketosis at least once. That’s because the whole idea of ketosis as a weight loss measure gained the most popularity thanks to the bodybuilding culture. Although bodybuilding has always been around, it only started gaining popularity in the last decade or so. Thanks to the widespread use of the internet and social networking, it became more easily accessible and demystified. When the whole bodybuilding culture started gaining momentum, people started hearing more and learning more about ketosis. It’s a favorite among bodybuilders and people who compete in physique contests, as it’s the fastest and the most reliable way to lose body fat.
Bodybuilding, physique, and bikini fitness competitions require the contestants to have very defined and visible muscles. This can only be achieved if the muscles are strong and pumped and if there’s little to no fat in the body. People who compete in these contests are very active and muscular and are used to pretty clean and healthy diet, so they can reach ketosis more easily than other people can. The amount of time they require in order to achieve absolute ketosis is two, or even three times shorter than that of an averagely active person. Their diet is based on the same principles as every other keto-diet is, with just a slight change in the amount of macros they intake. A bodybuilder’s keto-diet is far more calorie restricted than usual, and the amount of fat they intake is drastically lowered in order to achieve maximal results in the minimum amount of time. Training for a bodybuilding or a physique competition can take anywhere from six to twelve months, with every day being as precious as the next one. Building muscles is the goal there, and it requires quite a bit of bulking. So the cutting phase needs to be as quick and drastic as possible, and that’s where ketosis steps in. Bodybuilders have a very specific metabolism in itself, and they can sometimes reach full ketosis in a matter of hours.
Although it’s most often recognized and used as a body fat cutting technique, there’s been a new trend developing in the bodybuilding world. There are more and more bodybuilders and other fitness experts that resort to something called “clean bulking”, where they maintain ketosis for extended periods of time while simultaneously working on building muscles. It’s a process whose efficiency and validity has been continuously denied, and there have been numerous studies done in order to disprove this theory. In spite of that, there’s a rising number of star athletes and competitors who resort to this technique only and swear by its efficiency.
It has since been proven to work, but it’s no cakewalk even if you’re an experienced athlete. The process of building strength and muscle in the state of ketosis is very, very slow and it can take months before you start seeing any results. However, maintaining a ketogenic state for long periods of time has its benefits, and it makes all the muscle gains more pronounced and longer-lasting.
Can ketosis fail to help you lose weight?
Although it’s a medically proven and viable process, sometimes it just doesn’t work. Whether you started a keto-diet in order to lose weight or just decrease your body’s fat deposits, it’s not a fail-proof formula. There are many factors that contribute to its success and efficiency, and almost every one of them can fail and make the entire process come to a halt. There’s a long list of all the things that could go wrong and the side-effects they can cause, with starvation being the most dangerous one. You can also develop other symptoms and experience other side-effects that could be what’s ultimately stopping you from losing weight. If you think you keep failing to reach ketosis or think you have but just don’t see the results, consult with your physician and he’ll help you chose the next best step. Losing weight and extra body fat are great and admirable goals, and ketosis is a great way you can reach them, but they should never come before your health and overall wellbeing.
A Ketosis Calculator
A ketogenic diet consists of limiting your daily intake of carbohydrates and drastically increasing your fat and protein intake. There’s quite a lot of science and research behind the exact amounts of these macronutrients you have to take, so you can rest assured it’s all real, valid data.
You can find quite a bit of these keto calculators online, or download such apps to your phone. They all basically work the same, so you won’t go wrong by choosing any one of them. The layouts and units of measurements may vary, but the principle is the same.
To reach a ketogenic state a person must keep the daily intake of carbs at or bellow 30 grams. Anything more than the recommended 30 grams per day will interfere with ketosis and make the body switch to glycolysis and leave you feeling starved. It’s impossible to completely stop consuming any carbs as there are trace amounts found in almost every food. Keeping at or bellow 30 grams is low enough to maintain a ketogenic state for extended periods of time without it being too stressful to the body.
The facts regarding the protein intake vary a lot, depending on the goal you want to achieve and your fitness level. If you lead a mostly sedentary life and want to maintain the muscle mass you already have, then 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass will be sufficient enough. A lightly to moderately active person should consume about a gram of protein per pound of lean body mass in order to maintain muscle mass, and a highly active individual that wants to build additional muscle mass should intake about 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. To put it in numbers, a slightly overweight 200-pount guy with 25% body fat has a lean body mass of 150 pounds. That means that his protein intake should be around 120 grams per day in order to retain existing muscle mass. These numbers vary slightly when age and gender are considered, but the basic math stays the same.
When it comes to fats, they comprise the majority of all macros consumed on a keto diet, anywhere from 50 to 70%, depending on the circumstances. There’s no strict limit as to how much to consume exactly, as there’s little data on how many grams per pound of lean body mass is sufficient enough. The thing is, fat leaves you feeling very full. That means you can only consume so much of it before you completely satisfy your hunger. And given the fact that 90% of all fats are ketogenic, with the rest being anti-ketogenic, you can rest assured that almost all of them will be used for energy throughout the day. You consume anywhere from 100 to 250 grams of fat per day, and as you don’t shove it down your throat in one sitting but consume it throughout the day, they get evenly distributed and almost all of them get used up. Even the anti-ketogenic fats you consume get dissolved and they can’t increase your blood sugar levels at all.
Conclusion – is it good or bad?
As with almost everything in life, there’s no right or wrong answer to this either. You can’t deny the validity and efficiency of ketosis, neither can you dispute the many benefits it has for both weight loss and as a treatment for some chronic conditions. But it’s not a magical solution and it can present itself with quite a bit of side-effect, some just benign and annoying, while other can be a serious threat to your health. Do your research well, consult with a physician or a nutritionist, and weigh your options. If you do it right, the benefits can outweigh all the possible setbacks and side-effect, and it can help you get your body to its best possible shape.