Anyone familiar with the “ketogenic diet” should also be knowledgeable about the term “ketosis”. The concept of the ketogenic diet cannot be fully explained without an extensive explanation of the metabolic process known as ketosis.
The ketogenic diet is quite popular in the fitness world due to its effectiveness in supporting weight loss and improving overall health.
A ketogenic diet comprises of low carb and high-fat content, if this diet strictly adheres to it will lead to an increase in blood ketone level thereby inducing ketosis.
Ketosis is the metabolic process that occurs when one engages in a ketogenic diet. The body tends to burns fat for energy as a result of the excessive reduction in the intake of carbohydrates.
In a ketogenic diet, one eats less than 50 grams of carbohydrates leading to an insufficiency in the amount of glucose needed to provide energy to the cells.
A low carb, high-fat diet affects a lot of biological processes in the body (insulin level in the body is reduced, the metabolic rate of fat is greatly increased).
As the metabolic rate of fat increases (i.e the time it takes for fat to be broken down) the level of production of ketones in the liver is increased. This increase is effected in order to serve as energy to the brain.
When you begin a ketogenic diet the ketosis process does not start immediately it could take up to one week to fully induce the process.
The question asked by most beginners to the “keto diet lifestyle” is, will I be able to know when my body goes into ketosis? Are there some notable signs or symptoms?
The answer to both questions will be a definite yes, your body reacts to the diet switch in different signs such as weight loss, headache, muscle cramps (I.e these signs are collectively known as “keto flu”).
This doesn’t signify that you are sick, it just your body way of showcasing the effectiveness of your diet switch (from burning glucose as energy to burning ketones as energy).
If you experience some or all of the signs listed below this could be a clear indication that your body has entered ketosis.
How long does it take to enter into ketosis?
To enter into ketosis your body must have been subjected to;
Ketosis does not magically occur, to reap the benefits of ketosis you must engage in activities that can influence it.
One of the most common ways to induce ketosis is to maximally reduce the intake of carbs and increase the consumption of fat.
Ketosis occurs when the body converts fat into ketones for energy in order to replace the diminished glucose level which is the normal source of energy to the body.
Ketosis does not begin immediately after the diet switch, the time it takes for ketosis to occur varies among individuals. It might take days in some people but in others, it could take a week for ketosis to occur.
When we eat food rich in carbs, our body converts the carbohydrates to glucose which is transported through the bloodstream in order to supply the body with energy. Excess glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen.
A ketogenic diet requires one to eat less than 50 grams of carbs daily, if you stick to this plan the carbohydrate supply to the body will get low and the body will use up the glycogen stored in the liver. People who normally consume a high carb diet take longer to enter ketosis than people who consume a low or average carb diet.
Ketosis can also be influenced by other factors including exercise, age, daily fat and carb intake, metabolic rate, and protein intake.
12 Signs to know that you are in ketosis
Keto breath is one of the most common signs of ketosis, it could be a fruity, metallic or sweet smell that is associated with the breath. Once your body use up the glucose stored as glycogen in the liver the body begins to use ketones for energy which results in the production of keto breath.
During the early stage of ketosis when your body just began to use ketones as a source of energy, the production of ketones is extremely higher than the amount the body is able to use up. This leads to an excessive amount of ketones left in the body.
Ketones leave the body through the urine and the mouth hence the bad breath. Acetone is known as the major cause of this breath however benzophenone and acetophenone are also ketones that play a role in this fruity breath associated with ketosis.
Most people that engage in a diet similar to the ketogenic diet also experience fruity or sweet breath.
An immediate cure for this breath has not been discovered but there are several ways to reduce or mask the breath. Brush regularly or use a healthy and dentist approved sugar free gum to minimize the smell.
Ensure that you look through the label of the gum you purchased in order to avoid increasing your blood sugar or negatively affect the ketone level(chewing gums loaded with sugar has this effect).
If you experience the keto breath this is a very positive sign, it shows that your diet is effective and your body is in ketosis.
In order to avoid public embarrassment while socializing it is advisable that you move around with a pack of gum that you can easily pop into your mouth.
Many individuals engage in keto diet mainly because of it’s weight shedding benefits, which may be effective if the keto diet is followed over a good amount of time.
The loss of weight shouldn’t be a surprising thing to individuals in ketosis, as research is of the opinion that an extremely low carb diet is effective for weight loss.
During the introduction to the keto diet for most individuals, they tend to experience an immediate and fast weight loss (short term weight loss).
This occurs due to the diuretic effect ketosis has on the body leading to a rapid loss of water weight (it’s advisable to take steps to stay hydrated). When the body becomes more accustomed to keto and engages in the conversion of fats to ketones for fuel generation, the loss of fats will be experienced over time.
People on a ketogenic diet may not experience true fat loss until after several weeks, but on the first few days of engaging in this diet, they will experience weight loss, which is just a normal reduction in water weights.
Recent research has shown that people who engage in a ketogenic diet may lose more weight in the long term than people who engage in a low-fat diet.
The weight loss associated with ketosis is both long term and short term, during the first stage of the ketogenic diet the weight lost is mostly carbs and water) i.e this is the short term weight loss).
If you stick to the diet after the initial short term weight loss, you should experience fat loss as long as you strictly adhere to the diet.
This is a very common side effect of ketosis, people notice an obvious decline in energy when they begin the ketogenic diet.
Most times beginners quit the diet when they experience fatigue. Feeling tired or weak does not mean that you are allergic to the diet or you are falling Ill, it is just your body’s way of indicating that ketosis has been activated.
Carbohydrates produce an immediate energy boost to the body than fat, as the level of carbohydrates drastically reduces and the body starts burning fat for energy this causes people to feel more weak and tired.
Some studies have shown that weakness or tiredness is actually caused by the rapid loss of water from the body. When the carbohydrates level in the body is depleted and the glycogen reserve is used up, the body experiences a short-term weight loss (I.e water weight is quickly lost from the body).
This immediate loss of water weight can lead to dehydration which is the major cause of fatigue. The body also loses electrolytes through the rapid loss of water.
The level of fatigue can be minimized through the help of supplements such as potassium and magnesium. Ask your dietitian or doctor for a prescription in order to prevent taking the wrong dosage as this can be harmful to your health.
Fatigue is a short live effect of ketosis, it usually lasts during the initial stage when the body is trying to adapt to the recent changes. People should regain their strength a few weeks into the diet however if symptoms persist after a few weeks, consult your dietitian.
If you experience difficulties in sleeping this is another sign to show that you are in ketosis. This effect lasts for a short period of time, as your body gets accustomed to the diet this effect should cease.
Many beginners who engage in a ketogenic diet complain of interruption of sleep at night or a complete inability to fall asleep during the night. This effect troubles lots of individuals new to the diet causing them to end the diet during its initial stage.
Lack of sleep or inability to sleep for long hours lasts for a limited period therefore it shouldn’t be the reason to abruptly end your diet switch.
There are lots of evidential testimonies from long time keto dieters that show that after your body has fully adapted to the biological changes sleep quality will be greatly improved.
A great percentage of people who begin the ketogenic diet complain about a reduced appetite. Ketosis influences appetite, it suppresses appetite making one feel less hungry and easily satisfied.
Ghrelin and Cholecystokinin are considered to be the two major hormones that play a role in this function, Ghrelin is the appetite hormone, it is responsible for hunger feeling while cholecystokinin (CCK) is responsible for the feeling of satiety.
The increase in the production of ketones leads to a reduction in the production of ghrelin and cholecystokinin this makes one feel less hungry and gets easily satisfied. The cravings for processed food will be greatly reduced, you will notice that you might not feel hungry when you stay without food for long periods.
Elevates cognitive function:
With the inception of the ketogenic diet, the body slowly adapts to the usage of ketones (fat) for energy in place of glucose (carbs). As the process of ketosis is initiated a large part of the brain starts burning ketones, it may take a while for the brain to fully adjust to this change.
This change in energy source affects the functioning of the brain for a while, it is followed by a noticeable increase in brain function. Ketones serve as a very potent source of energy for your brain, they are accepted in the medical community as a treatment for certain brain related diseases including memory loss.
Studies have shown that ketosis helps to improve brain function. During the initial stage of ketosis brain functioning capacity declines but this decline is short-lived, after a few weeks there is a noticeable elevation in brain function.
This effect is a function of ketones, studies have shown that the brain loves ketones, ketones are responsible for the increase in cognitive function, ability to focus, improves concentration.
A low carb diet helps to regulate blood sugar levels this helps to boost brain function. The claims of improved brain function by long term ketogenic dieters who strictly adhere to the diet plan is valid and factual.
One’s mood can also be positively influenced by ketosis (i.e ketosis might help to reduce mental stress hence preventing the occurrence of anxiety or depression).
Reduces athletic performance:
Reducing your daily recommended carbs intake can result in fatigue and this can extend to your workout routine. Most dietitians and doctors advised new keto dieters to avoid engaging in strenuous physical activities as their energy level during this period is quite low.
This reduction in performance is a short-term effect, your strength level should be fully normalized after a few weeks. Your body is used to burning glucose for energy however when your body fully adapts to burning ketones for energy, you will regain your normal performance level.
Most of the energy the body requires for strenuous and tasking activities is supplied by glycogen stored in the liver and muscles, when the reserve is completely exhausted it leads to a reduction in energy level.
The benefit associated with this reduced energy level is the ability of the body to burn fat at a faster rate during any form of exercise (this is how ketosis supports weight loss). Studies have shown that most athletes who are dedicated to ketogenic diet burn more fat than athletes who stick to the regular carbohydrate intake.
Don’t quit your ketogenic diet because you suddenly don’t have enough energy to complete your workout routine or because your performance in an exercise was very low. This won’t last forever once your body adapts to burning ketones for energy your performance will be back to its normal level and you might even experience higher endurance rate.
Increased level of ketones in the blood:
The ketone level in the body increases once your body starts burning ketones for fuel instead of glucose.
This is one of the easiest ways to know if your body has gone into ketosis. You can perform the test yourself to determine your status (ketosis status) using a blood testing meter or your doctor can take your blood sample and perform the test for you.
If the test shows that your blood ketone level is at 0.5mmol/L or above it, this shows that you are in ketosis. Alternatively, people can use a strip to perform a urine test or a breath analyzer to perform a breath test in order to determine the ketones level. however, these tests may not be efficient and reliable as the blood test.
When the intake of carbohydrates is reduced the body tends to minimize the production of insulin which is responsible for processing glucose. The reduction of insulin stimulates the kidney and leads to the production of excessive sodium.
With the amount of sodium greatly increased there is an imbalance in the distribution of electrolytes in the body and this will lead to short-lived cramping of muscles.
Electrolytes are responsible for transferring electrical signals between the cells of the body, any imbalance in electrolytes will affect the transfer of these signals. They include calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, electrolytes can be gotten from the food we eat.
Ketogenic dieters should ensure that they eat a balanced diet, a balanced diet is composed of these electrolytes that the body requires in order to function properly.
If your diet is balanced but you still experience muscle cramps, it is advised that you speak to your doctor or dietitian who will recommend some supplements or advise you on the kind of diet to engage in.
At the initial stage of a keto diet, one might experience certain digestive issues. The most common side effects are constipation and diarrhea once your body successfully passes through the transition period your digestion should improve.
Eat a lot of low carbs, high fiber food they will aid bowel movement and prevent constipation.
Make sure there are diversities to your diet in order to prevent certain diseases that may occur as a result of a deficiency in essential nutrients.
This is one of the frequent symptoms of ketosis, it occurs as a result of dehydration, reduced intake of carbohydrates and electrolytes imbalance.
This symptom is also short-lived it could last for 1 day or a week, it could last longer in some people. If headaches persist for a long time, it is important that you consult your doctor or dietitian.
During the initial stage of ketosis, the short term weight loss that is experienced is usually the loss of water weight. This major loss of water increases thirst and leads to dehydration and imbalance of the electrolyte.
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can cause certain health issues like muscle cramps and fatigue which affects athletic performance.
If you are a ketogenic dieter ensure that you drink a lot of water in order to avoid dehydration. If you constantly feel thirsty or have dark coloured urine these are all signs of dehydration and it is advisable that you visit a doctor.
Are you on a ketogenic diet, have you experienced any of the 12 signs or symptoms of ketosis discussed?
If yes, this does not mean that you are sick or reacting to the diet, it just shows that your body is adapting to the changes that comes with the diet switch.
Are there other signs you have experienced? Let’s know about them in the comments section below.