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What is Ketosis & How Do I Know If I'm Doing it Right?

What is Ketosis & How Do I Know If I'm Doing it Right?

by Tom Davis -

Ketones, ketones, ketones. Everybody wants ketones! What is ketosis? Well, ketones are a more efficient fuel source than sugar (glucose).

Sometimes referred to as ketone bodies, ketones are acid by-products made in the liver when the body breaks down fat instead of carbohydrates for energy.

Ketones are then sent into the bloodstream  to power muscles and other tissues in the brain and body.

This process, called beta-oxidation, happens when  carbohydrate intake is low, and the body lacks enough glucose to be used for energy.

Instead, it will turn to fat and use ketones for fuel, and this is your body in the superpower state of ketosis.

So, if you’re wondering what is ketosis then you’re in for a treat - it’s a fat-burning metabolic rate that anyone can achieve. 

Keep reading to find out more.

The Benefits of Using Ketones for Energy

So, why would you deny yourself the comforts of carbs and a whole lot of bread, pasta, and cereal?

Know that, unlike glucose, ketones do not cause any fluctuations in blood sugar or insulin levels. 

Because of this, the process of ketosis offers many potential health benefits.

When the body produces ketones, blood sugar levels are at a minimum, causing a decrease in insulin.

Reduced levels of both are essential in reducing the risk of chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.

Ketones may also protect from cardiovascular conditions in another way, by lowering triglycerides and increasing HDL (the “good” cholesterol)—both of which typically improve when the body is in ketosis.

If you fear intense carb cravings, here’s some other exciting news about ketosis: ketones may help you fight cravings and suppress your appetite by controlling hormones related to satiety (leptin and amylin) and hunger (ghrelin).

This means you won’t even be tempted by carb-laden foods and sugary treats, making it way easier to stay on your ketogenic diet.

And when you do, your body and mind will thank you. There’s evidence that a body in ketosis can also improve brain function.

Some claim it helps with mental clarity and relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression. Other low-carb dieters have experienced a decrease in mood swings and irritability.

Going deeper, ketones may protect mitochondria—the power sources located within every cell in our bodies.

Dysfunction of the mitochondria has been linked to a wide range of chronic diseases, as well as cancer. 

Mitochondria prefer using fat for fuel since it’s easier to process into energy; ketones may also help fight oxidative stress built up in the mitochondria.

Meanwhile, some researchers think ketosis could even treat Alzheimer’s. They’ve dubbed it “type 3 diabetes,” believing that the disease may be a form of insulin resistance that affects the brain.

If so, a significant reduction in blood sugar and insulin levels from ketosis could potentially protect from this still-cureless disorder.

Types of Ketone Bodies

There are three major types of ketone bodies produced, including:

  • Acetoacetate (AcAc)
  • Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)
  • Acetone

When fats are broken down, AcAc is the first ketone produced. It then forms BHB, which is the most abundant and efficient ketone produced in the body.

This is why most ketone supplements are made with BHB, which we’ll discuss more in detail later. 

Acetone is a byproduct of AcAc; it’s the culprit behind that fruity smell you may detect on your breath during ketosis.

What is Ketosis?

Most people are overwhelmed by keto and don’t know where to start. What is a ketosis diet anyway?

There’s no doubt it can be tough to turn your body into a fat-burning machine, but there are some quick, easy tricks to reaching ketosis fast.

To start, your primary goal is to drastically lower your carbohydrate intake, typically to about 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day. 

This is because ketosis cannot happen until your body uses up all of its glucose stores.

That said, even if you reduce your carbs slowly, at incremental levels, you’ll still start to look and feel better.

To lower your carbs, you’ll need to increase your fat intake. This is where the keto diet varies quite a bit from the one consisting of bland, tasteless foods that we typically think of.

No more boring steamed chicken and broccoli! Instead, load up those veggies with a healthy dollop of grass-fed butter or olive oil. 

Add some rich, heavy cream to your berries. Consume other healthy fats like avocados and olives.

Also, include a daily dose of extra virgin coconut oil and MCT oil (we’ll get into what this is later). Both will help you stay satiated as their fats are quickly converted into energy.

You can also forgo eating altogether, but only as a temporary solution. Try fasting for just 12-24 hours at a time to deplete any glucose stored in your body.

You may want to start on an intermittent fasting schedule, which allows you to eat for a set period daily.

Keep reading, and we’ll walk you through the steps on how to do this without feeling that you’re being denied anything.

Another way to kick into ketosis faster is by exercising. For maximum results in the shortest amount of time, try HIIT (high interval intensity training).

This requires only about 10-20 minutes of your time. In other words, probably just a little longer than it’ll take you to read this article!

Metabolic Signs You are in Ketosis

One of the trickier things about starting on a ketogenic diet is figuring out if your body is actually in fat-burning mode.

Some typical signs and symptoms that you’re in ketosis, include:

  • Fruity breath: As mentioned above, this is a side effect caused by the release of acetone.
  • Weight loss
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Increased energy
  • Increased mental clarity and focus
  • Initial weakness and fatigue: This is a short-term side effect, and should subside within a few days.
  • Increased ketones in the blood, breath, or urine: These can be tested through specialized meters and breath-analyzers.

Maintaining Ketosis

Some of the side effects mentioned above, along with eating out and other social events and commitments, can make it extra challenging to stick to a ketogenic diet and maintain ketosis.

Most important for maintaining ketosis is to stay hydrated—try to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces daily.

For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim to consume 75 ounces or more of water. 

If that much water bores you, add some bubbles and maybe a bit of fresh lemon or lime juice to the mix.

Along with staying hydrated, you’ll want to consume high-quality salts, like Himalayan pink sea salt or other natural forms of sodium, like broths.

You’ll also want to observe your protein consumption. Many people tend to overdo the protein, which leads your body to convert excess amino acids into glucose.

This will quickly take your body out of ketosis. Stick to no more than 1 gram per kg of body weight per day. 

For example, if you weight 150 pounds (68 kg), keep your protein intake to around 68 grams.

Intermittent fasting techniques can also be extremely helpful in maintaining ketosis and make it easier for you to stick to your diet.

There are different ways of fasting, from 12 hours a day up to a full 24-hour fast, once a week.

We’ll go over some of the most popular techniques later. Try what works best for you and your schedule.

Here are some other ways to ensure your body remains in fat-burning mode:

  • Exercise regularly (HIIT is best, 4-5 times per week)
  • Add in fermented foods, including kimchi and sauerkraut
  • Consume MCT oil
  • Cook with coconut oil
  • Manage your stress; maybe incorporate yoga or meditation into your daily routine
  • Aim for a good, solid 8 hours of sleep per night

Read our guide to our keto grocery haul here.

What are the Long-Term Benefits of Ketosis?

Physical Benefits

Over time, ketosis can have some powerfully positive effects on your body, from the inside out. You’ll likely first notice the weight loss and decreased body fat.

Your blood sugar, triglyceride, and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) levels will drop, and so will your risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Any signs of acne may start to dissipate.

Your energy levels will remain stable (no more afternoon slumps!), and athletes will often see a boost in performance.

Ketosis has also been shown to relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms and help those who suffer from migraines.

Studies have suggested a link between ketosis and improvements in patients with Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and cancer (6).

Cognitive Benefits

As a mostly fatty organ, the brain may prefer fat as its primary source of fuel. 

There’s certainly a good amount of evidence that suggests ketosis can offer a wide range of cognitive benefits.

Ketones help better stabilize two crucial neurotransmitters—glutamate and GABA—which are involved mainly in brain function.

Because of this, many people have found that with ketosis comes improved focus and mental clarity. It’s also been shown to improve memory.

Even patients with Alzheimer’s have seen improvements  in memory when ketone levels are increased.

Spiritual and Wellness Benefits

Along with a stronger, healthier body and a sharper, clearer brain, ketosis may even improve your emotional well-being.

Some people have reported increased mood and an overall decrease in mood swings under a ketogenic diet.

Others have found it can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, as it may help boost and balance levels of dopamine and serotonin.

How Do I Track Ketones?

Using a Ketone Strip, Breathalyzer, and Meter

To check that your body is producing ketones, you’ll want to measure levels in your urine, breath, and blood. 

Ketone urine strips may be the easiest to use, but they’re also the least accurate.

The next step up is a breathalyzer, which detects acetone levels in your breath.

As mentioned earlier, acetone is a byproduct of ketone production, so the higher that measures, the further you are in ketosis. 

Breathalyzers tend to be more accurate than urine strips, but not as reliable as a blood ketone meter.

While meters are the most expensive option, they’re also your best bet when it comes to detecting whether or not you’re in ketosis.

There are various types of meters available on the market, including the Precision Xtra and Nova Max Plus, which also read blood glucose levels.

What Are Exogenous Ketones?

As opposed to endogenous ketones, which are produced in your body in the liver, exogenous ketones can be taken as a nutritional supplement.

Essentially, they are external sources that can give you an immediate boost of ketones. 

Most supplements are made up of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and are available as ketone salts (mixed with sodium, potassium, and calcium) or ketone esters (combined with alcohol).

The beauty of exogenous ketones is that they can get you into a state of ketosis even if you’re not strictly following a ketogenic diet.

What is Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)?

There’s a good reason why beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is most often used as a ketone supplement.

One of the three types of ketones, BHB is the most efficient and abundant in our bodies, making up about 78% of total ketones in the blood versus 20% acetoacetate (AcAc) and only 2% acetone.

BHB is one of our body’s most efficient energy producers, and it’s the main ketone linked with improved brain function, increased weight loss and performance, decreased inflammation, and even anti-aging effects.

How to Use Exogenous Ketones to Get Into Ketosis

Exogenous ketones come in various forms, including powders and liquids. The powdered forms are most readily available, and they’re easily transportable. They’re best mixed into a shake or smoothie.

Liquid versions, like KetoForce, can also be used, but the sharp taste can be quite hard to swallow. 

Exogenous ketones will quickly supply you with a boost of ketones, and they’re especially helpful when you may be struggling to follow a strict ketogenic diet.

For more information on ketone bodies, check out this great article on how exogenous ketones can improve your state of ketosis.

Ketosis Vs. Ketoacidosis

Ketosis involves a healthy increase in ketones and can be an effective way to lose weight and decrease the risk of chronic diseases.

Meanwhile, ketoacidosis is a complication from type 1 diabetes (and sometimes type 2 diabetes) due to an insufficient amount of insulin and a combination of extremely high levels of ketones and blood sugar. 

In other words, ketosis and ketoacidosis are two entirely different things.

Those working to get into ketosis by restricting carbohydrates, who do not have diabetes, need not worry about developing ketoacidosis.

How to Stay in a Safe Metabolic Range

If you have type 1 diabetes, management of your condition is crucial. Having a sufficient amount of insulin is key to preventing ketoacidosis.

Eating a low-carbohydrate diet can also keep you in a safe metabolic range, as it will help lower your blood sugar.

Remember, it’s the mix of both high levels of ketones and blood sugar (typically over 240 mg/dL or 12.9 mmol/L) that can induce ketoacidosis.

Symptoms Diabetics Experience in Ketoacidosis

Ketoacidosis can be life-threatening, and treatment should be sought immediately. 

Poor diabetes management most commonly triggers it.

Some symptoms of ketoacidosis include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of confusion
  • Breath has a fruity smell
  • Low blood pressure

Can Fasting Help Me Get into Ketosis Faster?

What is Intermittent Fasting?

We’ve mentioned intermittent fasting earlier, now let’s get into the nitty-gritty. You’ll get the same benefits of fasting, just under an easier protocol.

You’ll choose set days or times to eat and fast, and there are various methods to choose from:

  • Leangains: Eat within a set period of the day, for 8-10 hours, while fasting the remaining 14-16 hours.
  • 5:2 Diet: Eat as you usually would five days a week. The other two days, consume only about 500-600 calories.
  • Eat Stop Eat: Eat as you typically would for five or six days a week, and fast for a full day or two.
  • The Warrior Diet: Fast for a full 20 hours daily, and eat one large meal every night.

What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting in Ketosis?

Intermittent fasting helps improve your metabolism, lower inflammation and other markers of chronic disease like blood sugar and blood pressure, and may even extend your lifespan.

When you’re in ketosis, these benefits are further increased. 

Intermittent fasting itself can even bring you into ketosis at a much faster rate.

Fasting will also reduce the side effects brought on by starting a ketogenic diet and help keep your body from continually switching between using glucose and fat for energy.

Here are more benefits of intermittent fasting in ketosis:

  • Decreases fat tissue
  • Induces autophagy (the process of cellular repair and cleansing)
  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Reduces oxidative stress
  • Enhances mental focus and clarity
  • Promotes longevity

How to Start a Simple Fast to Get Into Ketosis

It’s not necessarily about the fasting itself, but what you’re eating when you’re not fasting.

So, you’ll want to choose the form of intermittent fasting that works best for you and your schedule, but also fully commit to enjoying satisfying foods during your dedicated times of eating.

So, during those eating times, should you be counting calories? Do calories even matter?

They certainly do, but not precisely in the way you think. Most diets help you lose weight by cutting calories, and it works. 

The problem is that you end up getting so hungry it doesn’t take long before you quit the diet, eat even more food, and your weight goes back up.

The keto diet fixes that problem by having you eat foods that make you feel satiated and full (even if you’re having fewer calories than usual).

During periods of eating, aim to do the following:

  • Add coconut oil: Start with one teaspoon per day and work up that daily amount to two to three tablespoons.
  • Lower your carbohydrate intake: To get into ketosis, you’ll want to limit your carb intake to around 20-50 grams per day.
  • Increase your fat intake: Replace those carbs with healthy fats, including grass-fed butter and olive, avocado, and coconut oils. Fat should make up about 60% of your daily calories.

You may also want to consider a “fat fast.” 

This includes consuming about 1,000 calories per day, with all 85-90% of that coming from fats.

This should only be followed for a maximum of three to five days to prevent loss of muscle mass.

Another way to get into ketosis quicker is by increasing your physical activity. 

You’ll get a nice boost in ketone levels when exercising in a fasted state.

Should I Take Supplements in Ketosis?

Why Should I Consume MCT Oil on a Ketogenic Diet?

MCT oil is the most popular supplement for those following a ketogenic diet. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) provide quick, immediate energy and are significantly effective in enhancing ketone production.

MCT oil can stabilize blood sugar and increase absorption of critical nutrients including calcium, magnesium, and protein. It can also help suppress your appetite and promote faster weight loss.

Start with small doses of MCT oil, about one tablespoon, spread this into half-teaspoon doses over the day. 

You can use MCT oil as cooking oil, as the base for a salad dressing, or added to coffee, tea, or smoothies.

What’s the Difference Between MCT Oil and Coconut Oil?

The best natural source of MCTs can be found in coconut oil; however, it only contains 55% MCTs versus MCT oil, which is made up of 100% MCTs.

Coconut oil also contains all four types of MCTs, while MCT oil contains only two—and those two, caprylic and capric acid, are the most efficient for energy.

While coconut oil is a great overall supplement, MCT oil, in particular, will help you reach ketosis faster.

Should You Take Raspberry Ketones on the Ketogenic Diet?

As its name suggests, raspberry ketones are found naturally in red raspberries, as well as other fruits like blackberries, kiwis, and cranberries.

However, that name can also be deceptive, as these ketones have nothing to do with ketosis.

These types of ketones are not the same as those made in your body. What you need, instead, are exogenous ketones, and you can find them in our online store.

That said, some believe raspberry ketones can help you burn fat faster by increasing levels of adiponectin, a hormone involved in regulating blood sugar and metabolism.

However, no scientific research has found that raspberry ketones result in weight loss. 

Another problem with raspberry ketone supplements is that most contain artificial flavors or other ingredients.

For those trying to get into ketosis, make sure you’re purchasing exogenous ketones, not raspberry ketones.

We hope this article has helped answer your question, "What is ketosis?" 

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