What is Ketosis and How Does it Work?

What is Ketosis and How Does it Work?

At face value, ketosis sounds like a worrying medical condition. Not only is ketosis perfectly normal, however, it’s the desired state for fat loss on the Keto Diet. This natural state has to do with how your body uses macronutrients for energy. What sounds like a scary illness is actually an important method for dropping pounds and burning a better source of energy.

Changing the way your body burns fuel

The body’s preferred energy source is glucose, created by breaking down carbohydrates. Bodies that receive more than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day will continue to burn glucose for energy. However, consuming less than this amount triggers the body’s starvation response, called ketosis.  

Ketosis is a metabolic state your body enters when the cells switch from glucose to ketones as their energy source. The body enters ketosis when it doesn’t have enough carbs to burn. Fat stores release fatty acids that travel to the liver and are broken down into ketones. The ketones flood your bloodstream and become an alternative energy source for cells. In other words, to survive, your body adapts to burning a new source of fuel for energy. 

The timeline for ketosis 

The average person will take two to four days to enter ketosis when deprived of carbs. However, the process could take a week or longer for some individuals. People achieve ketosis within different time frames, so don’t get discouraged if you’re not there yet! The amount of time it takes depends on factors like physical activity, metabolic rate and diet.

Someone who exercises frequently will enter ketosis sooner because they’re burning through stored glucose at a faster rate. The same can be said about people with naturally high metabolisms. A different person may take longer to enter ketosis if they previously had a high-carb diet. This is because they have a higher volume of stored glucose to burn through before the body switches to ketones for energy.

Can you test for ketosis?

You absolutely can! There are a few different methods to check if you’ve entered ketosis. One of the most common ways is to purchase Keto urine strips, which measure the ketone levels in your urine. The strip will turn a certain shade of purple, with darker colors indicating higher ketone levels. Keto urine strips are the cheapest option, but they’re also the least accurate.

Alternatively, you can use a ketone breath meter. They’re a bit more accurate than urine strips, though slightly more expensive as well. You blow into the meter, and it will flash a certain color to indicate whether or not you’ve entered ketosis.

The most accurate (and expensive) option is a blood ketone meter. This gadget comes with a pin to prick your finger, then you dab a tiny drop of blood onto a testing strip. Blood ketone levels that have reached 0.5 millimole (mmol) or higher mean you’re approaching (or in) ketosis.

Signs you’re in ketosis

The best way to tell if you’re in ketosis is by using one of the above methods. However, symptoms of the “Keto Flu” can also signal when your body transitions from glucose to ketones. Common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Bad breath
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased thirst

Don’t worry, these symptoms don’t last. Eventually, your body will become much more efficient at burning fat instead of carbs. However, it’s worth noting that ketosis is a delicate state of being that’s easier to achieve for some more so than others. And remember, achieving ketosis is one thing—maintaining it takes a concerted effort.

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