The ketogenic diet has been something of a lifesaver for many people—because it simply works, and here at Konscious Keto we embody the simplicy and purity of the keto diet in everything we do.
The transformation your body will experience in a relatively short amount of time is pretty incredible, but it does take patience and plenty of ketones to get there.
As your body switches into ketosis, it’s doing a lot more than simply burning fat. It’s affecting every cell in your body, and you’re definitely going to feel it, in more ways than one.
There are a variety of signs and symptoms that can help reassure you that your body is in ketosis.
While some of these ketosis symptoms are very welcome (hello, energy!), some are not so much (“ketosis breath”).
Fortunately, the positives tend to stick, while the negatives go away pretty quickly.
Here are 10 ketosis symptoms you may experience and some tips on how to manage all of them.
#1 - Ketosis Breath
One unwanted symptom that many keto dieters will experience is ketosis breath. While it’s not quite like halitosis, it can still be unpleasant.
You may detect a strong fruity smell or a metallic taste. Some people even report an odor similar to nail polish remover.
But you can take this as a good sign that your ketone levels are increasing.
This is why:
As you drastically cut your carb intake and deplete your glucose stores, your body will start to convert fats into ketones to be used as its fuel.
Your body produces three types of ketones:
- Acetoacetate (AcAc)
- Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)
AcAc forms BHB and also creates acetone as a byproduct—it’s this last ketone that causes that ketosis breath.
Fun fact: Acetone is a common ingredient in nail polish removers, which is why you may be reminded of that smell!
You’ll likely notice this change of breath within a few days of starting a ketogenic diet, but fortunately, it’s only a short-term inconvenience.
As your body adapts to its new ketosis-powered, fat-burning role, the fruity breath should subside, typically within a few weeks.
Still, if it bothers you, there are a few tricks to freshen it up.
Try upping your carbohydrate intake slightly; you’ll just want to use a ketone breath analyzer to figure out the maximum amount of carbs you can consume without kicking yourself out of ketosis.
You can also stock up on some sugarless gum or mints and be vigilant about flossing and brushing daily.
Remember it’ll only last for a short time!
Read this article for more tips on how to stop ketosis breath.
#2 - Fat Loss
Ketosis breath is nothing when it comes to the fat loss you’ll experience. Yes, eating fat is the surest way to losing fat.
The keto diet is definitely not one that will leave you starving and salivating at every turn, which is a lot of the reason why it works.
Of course, fat loss is often the main goal for many ketonians, keto breath it’s a symptom of ketosis that can show up quicker than you think.
It’s in the weeks to follow when your body becomes adapted to ketosis, that you’ll start to lose fat. You may see the scale drop about 1-2 pounds a week, and then slow down as you approach your ideal healthy body weight.
This has been proven in several studies, which have shown that a low-carb ketogenic diet can help overweight and obese patients lose as much as 3.5 pounds per week while maintaining lean mass (1, 2).
But exactly how quickly you’ll see that fat loss depends on some individual factors, like:
- Your current weight and body composition
- Your metabolism
- What you’re eating and how much
- Any underlying health problems, like thyroid, hormonal or blood sugar issues
For example, if you’re coming into the keto diet with a slow metabolism and insulin resistance, it may take your body longer to adjust to ketosis and start melting away that fat.
It’s important to understand these types of individual circumstances so you don’t get frustrated and give up too soon.
Remember that sticking to the keto diet will eventually help balance out any metabolic or hormonal issues you may be experiencing anyway.
That alone should be a great motivator!
If you’re not seeing the weight loss as quickly as you expected, be patient—ketosis can take up to a week to kick in, as long as you’re following a clean keto diet of fresh, whole foods.
That means no processed “keto” junk like low-quality meats and cheeses. You also need to be vigilant.
Check your ketone levels via your blood, breath, or urine to make sure your body is in ketosis. (See more about how to do this below.)
Also, be sure you’re eating enough calories—but not too many either—and that you’re getting in some daily physical activity, too.
#3 - Ketones in the Blood
Ketones are the keys to ketosis, and detecting elevated levels in the blood is one of the surest signs that you are on the right track with your keto diet.
Ketones are by-products made in the liver when glucose is no longer available and your body starts to break down fat for energy.
They then hit your bloodstream and become the main fuel source to power your brain and muscles.
Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is the most abundant ketone in the body. It typically makes up about 78% of total ketones in the blood.
This is why most ketone supplements are made with BHB and can be extremely effective in inducing nutritional ketosis, even without following a strict keto diet (3).
Testing your ketone levels will help you verify if you’re in ketosis or not. The most accurate way to do this is with a blood ketone meter.
There are many at-home testing kits available that can track both your ketone and blood glucose levels, including the Precision Xtra and Nova Max Plus.
What you’re looking for is a level that’s above 0.5 mmol/L. This indicates you’re in ketosis.
However, a higher measurement of around 1.5 - 3.0 mmol/L is recommended for optimal keto benefits.
#4 - Ketones in the Breath and Urine
You’ll also be able to detect ketones in your breath and urine, though these measurements are not nearly as accurate as those tracked in the blood.
Unlike blood testing, which tracks BHB, urine testing detects acetoacetate (AcAc). This is where the levels can be slightly less reliable.
For example, if you took BHB exogenous keto supplements to help get you into ketosis, this wouldn’t reflect in a urine test.
Urine strip tests may also not be as accurate over time, especially once you are keto-adapted (that is, once your body is in full-on fat- and keto-burning mode).
Still, urine strips are cheap, convenient, and easy to use, especially when you’re first starting on a keto diet. You can find them online and at most pharmacies.
One other way to track your ketone levels is through the breath via a breathalyzer. This detects the third type of ketone, acetone.
Remember, acetone is what causes ketosis breath, and the higher it measures, the more assured you can be that you are in ketosis.
Breathalyzers can also run pretty cheap, and they tend to be more reliable than urine testing, but still less accurate than a blood ketone meter.
#5 - Appetite Suppression
Cravings be gone!
Yes, when first cutting carbs, many of us fear to experience some intense hankerings for pizzas,breads, cakes, all those carb-laden guilty pleasures.
But ketosis has another wonderful trick up its sleeve: it can actually help you fight these cravings and suppress your appetite.
And this has been proven many times over. One systematic review analyzed various studies to find that individuals on a ketogenic diet ended up being less hungry and with a reduced desire to eat (4).
This is partly because a high-carb diet causes extreme blood sugar swings that only leave you wanting more, even if you’ve recently eaten. You’re just never satisfied.
However, on a keto diet, your blood sugar levels will drop and stabilize since you’re powering on ketones instead of glucose.
On top of that, ketones play a significant role in controlling hormones related to satiety (cholecystokinin or CCK) and hunger (ghrelin). An imbalance of these hormones is often what prevents people from losing weight.
Ever successfully dropped some pounds only to end up gaining a bigger appetite?
Yep, that’s your hormones working against you as they try to fight your weight fluctuations.
But being in ketosis will quickly resolve this by suppressing ghrelin even as you lose weight. This is a big reason why ketosis is a powerful weight loss and weight maintenance tool that can work for just about everybody.
MCT oil, a recommended keto supplement, can also serve as an appetite suppressant by filling you up and stabilizing your blood sugar and hormones.
#6 - Increased Focus, Memory, and Energy
The physical improvements that come with ketosis are one thing, but you’ll certainly enjoy the mental benefits just as much.
Many people report experiencing improved focus, energy, memory, and mood when in a maintained state of ketosis.
Your brain is mostly made of fat, so in a way, it makes sense that it would prefer fat as its main source of fuel, right?
To get a little more technical, it seems that ketones can also help stabilize two essential neurotransmitters called glutamate and GABA. These are crucial to brain function and learning.
They also work together: glutamate is stimulating and involved in all thought- and information-processing, while GABA helps reduce that stimulation when there’s too much of it.
Brain fog and lack of focus typically happens when there’s too much glutamate and not enough GABA.
But when ketones come into play, they can help convert any extra glutamate into GABA, helping clear that fog so you can focus effectively.
In fact, ketones have even been shown to improve memory and cognition in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (5).
#7 - Short-Term Fatigue
Now, before you reach that peak focus and energy, you and your body will have to go through a bit of a learning curve.
Upon first kicking off your keto diet, you will likely be afflicted with a short-lived sickness dubbed the “keto flu.”
This will involve symptoms like brain fog, headaches, fatigue, weakness, irritability, and maybe some sugar cravings.
While this can be a battle to get through, remember that this is a loud and clear sign that you’re headed in the right direction.
And keep in mind it’s only fleeting. This is the time when many people give up too soon, thinking this ketosis thing is not for them.
But you have to give your body time to adapt. It can take up to a full month until you are in a full state of ketosis.
During that time, you’ll gradually break free from those flu-like symptoms, and, believe me, you’ll soon enough realize the full benefits of everything you’ve been working toward.
Also, if the fog and fatigue get to be too much, there are a few things you can do to relieve these symptoms:
- Increase your fat intake
- Up your calorie count
- Drink more water
- Boost your electrolytes with supplements, sea salts, broths, and salty snacks
#8 - Short-Term Dips in Performance
Along with that keto flu, you may also find that you’re not exactly on top of your game at the gym. But this will pass just the same.
Short-term dips in performance is mostly caused by the swift decrease in glycogen, which your muscles prefer to use as fuel for high-intensity activity and exercise.
If you’re an athlete or training for any physical competition, you’ll want to keep this in mind and schedule accordingly.
You wouldn’t want to start a keto diet a week before a big marathon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go keto at all.
In fact, some endurance athletes have found it to be highly beneficial for their performance once they’ve become keto-adapted.
For the rest of us, most keto dieters find that their performance levels return back to normal.
There’s also evidence that exercising while on a keto diet could have you burning more than twice as much fat than those on a high-carbohydrate diet (6).
Another way to work through any performance slump is by carb-cycling. This involves eating high-quality carbs like whole grains and sweet potatoes, once a week.
It allows your body to refill those glycogen stores in your muscles for any intense workout.
This is especially useful if you’re feeling stressed out or have pushed your body too hard at any given time.
As long as you commit to your macro counts the other six days of the week, carb cycling should not affect your ketosis progress.
#9 - Digestive Issues
As you change the way you eat, your digestion will inevitably change as well.
This means ketosis can also cause some gut discomfort along with digestive issues like constipation and diarrhea.
But don’t get too frustrated by this because these symptoms should subside once you’re smoothly running on ketones.
If they don’t, you’ll want to take a closer look at the foods you’re consuming. Just because something is keto, doesn’t mean it’s best for you.
Some people may experience sensitivities with foods like dairy, eggs, or even cacao. It’s important to keep track of any negative reactions—no matter how subtle—that may come after consuming a particular food.
If you suspect one type of food is causing you discomfort, remove it from your diet for a few weeks, then reintroduce it to see if the symptoms resurface.
To avoid long-term constipation or diarrhea, you also want to make sure you’re getting in enough fiber with low-carb vegetables (leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, bell peppers, etc.), and that your diet doesn’t solely consist of bacon and fat-bombs.
As tempting as that may be, nutritional diversity is key to staving off any digestive complications or nutrient deficiencies.
#10 - Insomnia
Let’s face it, the keto diet is a full mind and body overhaul. And any massive change will likely leave you a little on edge—at least to begin with.
One downfall some keto dieters experience is insomnia. This can simply be part of that initial keto flu and then quickly go away.
You may be having difficulties sleeping because your body is working extra hard to metabolize greater amounts of fat and protein that it’s not used to.
It might also be due to that extra boost of energy you’re starting to feel.
For others, insomnia could be a sign of an electrolyte imbalance, particularly magnesium, a calming mineral that can help you relax. So, be sure you’re staying hydrated and also getting a sufficient amount of electrolytes.
Keto insomnia should be a fleeting symptom for most people. If you continue to struggle with it, you’ll want to make some lifestyle adjustments.
Check your stress levels, watch your caffeine intake, and step away from all screens one hour before bedtime.
This is important because chronic sleep deprivation can end up slowing down any weight loss goals, and may even lead to unwanted weight gain (7).
Sticking Through the Symptoms
Any major shift in your diet will result in major shifts in your body—from head to toe. Stick with it, the good continually proves to prevail. Being aware of how ketosis will affect you is the key to reaping all of its long-term benefits.