So what is ketosis and how can it help you reach your peak performance?
It’s best to use a scenario that most of us are familiar with to explain this concept so here goes…
Have you ever built a campfire before? If so, you’d know that there are three types of fuel that you can use. Kindling, logs or coal.
The kindling is the easiest to catch fire. It burns fast, really fast, often dying out before the logs even catch fire. The logs take a bit longer to catch fire, but if you’re able to burn them just right, eventually the coals catch fire and the burning coals will keep you warm throughout the night.
Where am I going with this, you ask?
Well, the truth is, understanding the different types of fuel is the key to unlock your peak performance. How does unlimited energy, fat loss and increased focus sound to you? Just what you’re looking for? Great!
Like the fuel burning the campfire, the human body runs on three types of fuel. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. So you knew that already, but do you really know how each one works?
Let’s start with carbs.
We love them. We sometimes even crave them (#LegDay anyone?!). As soon as you eat carbs, you’ll get an instant burst of energy and feel great, but this doesn’t last long. You’ll be left crashing from your energy high and running back to satisfy your carb cravings.
Next up are proteins. Proteins are known as the building blocks for our muscles. While they have their uses, in high quantities they can actually act as a barrier that stops you from losing fat.
Saving the best for last, the fats. Fats work in the body the same way that the coal works in the campfire. Fats can give you the longest and the best source of energy.
So you’re saying I should be eating more fats to get the best source of energy?
That’s exactly it! But for a lot of people, it’s really difficult to get to a state where you can actually burn fat. This state is commonly called ketosis.
What exactly is ketosis?
Let’s think back to the carbs, we eat them and feel great for a short amount of time. Then we start crashing, so we eat more and more to keep going. This is like the kindling in the campfire, that burns out quickly.
So to keep the campfire burning just a little bit longer, we add some logs. You can think of this as adding some protein to your diet. But eating only carbs and proteins won’t get your body to a state of ketosis where you’re able to burn fats. When we burn fats, we are able to lose body fat. Now, this is where the magic happens!
When you get to a state where you’re burning pure fats, ketones are released into your body. Now you can think of ketones as thousands of little motivational speakers running around your body. They’re the good guys. They work to give you energy, increase your focus and best of all, they’ll help you to burn fat.
Ketosis is a normal metabolic process, which sounds relatively simple to reach. In this state of ketosis, your body is breaking down fat molecules and converting them into energy.
The pros and cons of a ketogenic diet
According to the Consumer Health Digest there are a number of both pros and cons of the ketogenic diet and if you want to make an informed decision, you should know them both.
Let’s start with the pros:
- Weight loss – Your insulin levels decrease and you’re producing ketones which put you in that ideal ketosis state.
- Diabetes type 2 reversal – Writing on behalf of Health Line, Kristeen Cherney states that “managing carbohydrate intake is often recommended for people with type 2 Diabetes because carbohydrates turn to sugar and, in large quantities, can cause blood sugar spikes.”
- Blood pressure normalization – A number of studies have shown that low-carb diets have been found to reduce high blood pressure. Have a look at how Dr Nally was able to control his high blood pressure by adopting a low-carb lifestyle.
- Reduced sugar cravings – Sugar addiction is real, but a ketogenic diet gives you a way to break out of the sugar cycle. Not only will the diet curb your sugar cravings, but it will also keep you fuller for longer.
- Flawless skin – Dr Andreas Eenfeldt suggests that the number one diet to improve acne is a low-carb diet.
- Less heartburn – According to Aglaee Jacob, a low-carb diet helps to reduce the amount of time that acid stays in the esophagus. This helps to significantly reduce the symptoms of heartburn.
- Epilepsy control – The ketogenic diet has been found to assist in the controlling of seizures in epilepsy sufferers.
- A happier digestive system – A low-carb diet can help to calm an irritable stomach in a number of different ways.
- Increased mental focus – Not only will you be feeling at the top of your game, but this will be combined with improved concentration.
- Increased physical endurance – You’ll be burning fats as your source of energy and thinking back to the campfire, like the coal, fats will act as a steady and stable energy source.
Although the benefits of a ketogenic diet far outweigh the disadvantages, there are three that you should be aware of.
- Fatigue – when you start your ketogenic diet, it’s possible that you’ll experience some fatigue. This is due to the metabolic changes taking place in your body and your energy will return once you’re creating ketones. Once you’ve been on the ketogenic diet for a while, you’ll no longer be experiencing the energy highs and crashes that you did when you were using carbs as your main source of energy.
- Micronutrient deficiencies – It is possible that the ketogenic diet could trigger micronutrient deficiencies. This is due to the minimal carb intake and can be prevented by taking regular supplements.
- Blood-lipid profile – third concern that you should be aware of is your blood-lipid profile. Your cholesterol is measured as part of your blood-lipid profile. The high amount of fat that is consumed on the ketogenic diet could affect your cholesterol. This is still an area of debate, with some people experiencing decreasing cholesterol levels and others seeing a slight increase in their levels.
Jonathan Deprospro, a training and dieting expert, suggests that:
“the diet can be centered around healthier unsaturated fats.”
These healthy fats, as opposed to saturated fats, can also help with reducing high cholesterol levels.
How do I achieve ketosis?
Making changes to your diet is the first step along the road to ketosis. A diet consisting of a low amount of carbs and a higher amount of fats, is known as the ketogenic diet. In her article “How long does it take for the ketosis diet to work?” Jill Corleone, a registered dietician and health coach, suggests that:
“The ketogenic diet is high in fats and protein and low in carbohydrates, which mimics fasting to produce ketones and a state of ketosis. A ketogenic diet helps you lose weight by forcing your body to burn fat for energy instead of carbs.”
It sounds simple, right? Eat more fats, burn more fat. So why aren’t we all doing this?
The answer, it’s hard!
(If you’re a skim reader, skip to the last section to find out how you can achieve a state of nutritional ketosis really fast)
To get to a state of ketosis, where we are burning fats and releasing ketones, the average person has to work out about tens times harder and longer than they are now. The reason for this is simple. You first have to burn through all your carbs, then your proteins and only then do you get to the fats!
Reaching ketosis naturally takes time and hard work. In his YouTube video looking at how long it takes to get into a state of ketosis, Dr Berg suggests that:
“If you’re really healthy, it can happen maybe in a week, but on average it’s going to be about a month to 6 weeks”
But when you reach a stable state of ketosis, it’s worth it. Dr Berg says that:
“You’ll feel satisfied after you eat, you can go long periods of time without eating and not be hungry. You won’t have sugar cravings anymore and you’ll have more focus.”
Watch the full video now:
It’s best to think of it like a game of Pacman. You spend most of the game running away from the ghosts and then every once a while, Pacman eats one of those power pellets and everything changes. That’s how it feels when you’re in ketosis.
Surely you don’t want to spend your days like Pacman at the beginning of the game, running away from the ghosts? You want to find those power pellets, reach that state of ketosis, and feel great.
What can I eat to reach ketosis?
A really helpful Ketogenic Diet for Beginners from the Diet Doctor suggests that there are a few key points to remember when organising your meal plans.
Firstly (and most importantly) is that you need to restrict your carb intake. Ideally you want to only have 20 digestible grams per day, even less if possible. Remember, like the kindling in the campfire, carbs burn away very quickly and won’t sustain you.
Secondly, restrict protein to modest levels. The Diet Doctor suggests that you should stay at or below 1 gram of protein per day for each kg of body weight. So if you weigh 80kgs, you don’t want to consume more than 80g of protein per day.
Thirdly, you can eat as much fat as you need to feel satisfied. You aren’t trying to starve yourself, and you need to be consuming fats to reach ketosis.
Finally, avoid snacking when you’re not actually hungry. We’ve all experienced those times when we snack because we’re bored. It’s very important to avoid this boredom snacking as it slows down your weight loss.
So you know you need to cut down on carbs, minimise protein and increase the fats. But you’re still not sure what to have for dinner? Have a look at this 14-day ketogenic diet plan to give you some great ideas!
Is ketosis for me?
Following a ketogenic diet is typically safe for most people, but there are a few instances where you should seek medical advice before starting your ketogenic diet.
If you are on medication for diabetes, you need to consult with your doctor before you start a ketogenic diet. You won’t be ingesting carbs that typically raise your blood sugar, so your insulin dosage will need to be adapted.
Similar advice is given to sufferers of high blood pressure, who may also need to adapt their medication once starting a ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic diets are not recommended to breastfeeding mothers, for the simple reason that breastfeeding women lose sugar through their milk. In very rare cases, completely eliminating carbs could result in ketoacidosis.
How do I know I’m in ketosis?
There are some obvious signs to look out for that show that you’re in ketosis.
Frequent urination is one possible sign that you’re in ketosis. This frequent urination is likely to result in an increased thirst and that dry mouth feeling.
Keto breath is another interesting sign that you’re in ketosis. This is due to the release of a certain chemical that can sometimes have a distinct, fruity smell.
A reduced appetite and increased energy are other signs that you’ve reach ketosis. Other symptoms may affect your stomach and result in abdominal pain, cramping or possible nausea.
If you think you’re in ketosis, there are a number of ways that you can measure your level of ketones to confirm this. Dr Jockers suggests 5 different ways to measure your ketones.
- Testing your blood: This is suggested to be the most accurate to measure the ketones in your blood. Dr Jockers states that “these (tests) have the ability to determine the ketone level in your blood precisely, but they are also pricey and invasive.”
- Breath analyzer – The next option is to use a test that’s able to measure your ketones through your breath. This is a much less invasive method, but may not be as accurate as the blood test.
- Urine test – The third option is a urine test. This is a relatively easy method, but the results could be influenced by other factors and may not be completely reliable.
- Blood glucose tests – Testing your blood glucose level can be a less costly alternative to a ketone blood test. Dr Jockers tells his clients that “if their blood sugar is between 50-75mg/dl” and they have increased energy and focus, then they have reached a state of ketosis.
- How you’re feeling – Now this is a pretty subjective one. But if you’re no longer craving food, you’ve got energy and feel mentally alert – it’s likely that your body has reached a stable ketosis state.