ALL ABOUT KETOSIS
IF YOU WANT TO TACKLE WEIGHT LOSS WITHOUT THE HUNGER, READ ON TO DISCOVER HOW KETOSIS CAN HELP YOU SHED THE KILOS.
What it is and how to get and stay there
banting fever has swept South Africa with the fervour usually reserved for sport. ‘Are you eating low carb or low fat?’ is the current equivalent of ‘The Stormers or the Bulls?’ And with good reason – it’s helped many overweight people drop excess kilograms for the first time. Even so, there’s still some confusion about how best to adapt the lifestyle for your particular needs, with hundreds of questions about meal plans (You’re in luck! We’ve got just the thing – see page 12), the correct ratio of fats, protein and carbs, and whether you need to be in ketosis in order to lose weight. Wait up, who mentioned ketosis?
WHAT IS KETOSIS?
Our bodies burn either glucose or fat for energy, whichever is in greater supply at the time. Generating energy from glucose is called glycolysis, while ketosis is the body’s fat burning mode. Glucose is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. Nutritional ketosis can be achieved through following a low-carb diet with an intake of 25–60g of carbs a day. This leads to a much lower glucose level in the bloodstream, forcing the body to burn fat for fuel. The fat comes from food you eat and your body’s own fat stores. The liver converts fat into ketones, which are energy molecules in the blood that fuel the
body’s cells, including those in the brain and heart. In fact, ketones are the preferred fuel source for the muscles, heart, liver and brain.
Remember, you can’t burn body fat stores if your body is continually burning glucose. Remove the carbs, and your body very happily adapts to burning fat instead. That is why it is so effective for weight loss.
Ketosis should not to be confused with ketoacidosis – a condition that can occur in Type 1 diabetics because they don’t produce insulin. This doesn’t mean Type 1 diabetics can’t follow low-carb diets, but it’s important to do so with guidance from a medical professional to ensure medication is maintained at the correct levels.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A KETOGENIC DIET?
The main benefit is that it increases the body’s ability to use fats for fuel – that ability wears off a bit on a high-carb diet. When eating a high-carb diet, your body gets a steady energy source from glucose. But in a state of ketosis, your body becomes efficient at mobilising fat for energy.
There are many reasons to try to achieve a state of ketosis. It can be an effective strategy for weight loss without hunger, and often you’ll see other results like increased energy, glowing skin, appetite control, reduced inflammation and normalised blood pressure. Ketosis is used to manage health conditions like epilepsy, Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome; many endurance athletes are also making the switch to a fat-burning diet as they experience better performance and recovery. There’s even growing interest in ketogenic diets as a possible treatment for cancer.
HOW DO I GET INTO KETOSIS?
The primary way to transition to ketosis is by following the LCHF way of eating. But there’s a common misconception that LCHF is synonymous with ketosis, which is not true: ketosis is banting on steroids, or extreme banting!
SO HOW DO YOU TURBO-CHARGE YOUR LCHF?
Restrict carbs 1
The maximum threshold for LCHF is 100–200g of carbs per day (depending on lifestyle and level of activity), while for ketosis, that number drops to 20–60 g per day. Restricting your carb intake to 25–60g a day forces the body to begin burning fat for energy. Once your glucose stores are exhausted (which can take three days to two weeks, depending on your activity level), your body starts to produce ketones.
2 Eat enough fat
Cutting carbs is crucial to triggering ketosis, but it’s also important that your body has enough fat to provide energy to your cells. Fat is your friend. Fat comes from your diet, as well as from your body’s fat stores. Recommended sources for dietary fat are those that occur naturally without industrial processing, like lard, butter, fatty cuts of meat and organ meats (preferably from organic, pasture-reared animals), coconut oil and olive oil. For cooking, use fats that are stable at high temperatures, such as lard and coconut oil. Olive oil is best eaten raw. Eating healthy fats will not lead to weight gain, provided you keep consumption of carbs below the threshold needed to remain in ketosis.
3 Eat enough – but not too much – protein
You need to eat adequate protein to sustain your muscles. But beware: too much protein will disrupt ketosis!
4 Drink enough water!
IS THERE A DOWNSIDE TO KETOSIS?
Yes, but nothing too serious and nothing that won’t pass in time. While your body transitions into a fat-burning machine, you may experience ‘keto flu’. Headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps and twitching are some of the more common symptoms, and are usually a sign that your body is experiencing withdrawal. It is at this point that many people give up on LCHF, believing that it doesn’t suit them. But increasing your intake of salt and magnesium, should resolve these symptoms.
Other common symptoms of ketosis are ‘acetone breath’ or ‘keto breath’, resulting from excretion of acetone, as well as a metal taste in the mouth. These go away with time. Acetone is a degradation of acetoacetic acid and one of the ketone bodies not used, and excreted by the lungs.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M IN KETOSIS?
The two most significant types of ketones are acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate. In the early stages, acetoacetate is more abundant, and its presence in the urine can be measured with Ketostix. It isn’t accurate, as you can be in ketosis even if the Ketostix don’t detect ketones. As your body becomes more efficient at fat burning, it starts to produce more beta-hydroxybutyrate, which can only be measured in the blood using a blood ketone meter, which is very similar to a glucose meter. (The FreeStyle Optium brand is available in South Africa.) For optimum nutritional ketosis your reading must be between 0.5 and 3 mmol/L. Ketones are usually lowest in the morning and increase over the course of the day. They will also increase after exercise. If you are testing regularly, stick to the same time of the day for the best comparison.
In the early stages of ketosis, weight loss can be fast, especially for men. This is partly because glycogen is stored with water, and once all the glycogen has been used up, the water is excreted. It can take 3 to 4 weeks for your body to be fully keto-adapted, although your body will continue to refine the ketotic processes for several weeks, even months. For most people, the weight loss is regular, with occasional plateaus. It’s rare for weight loss to lead to an unhealthy low weight, as it usually stops once a healthy weight has been achieved.
Ketosis is easily disrupted for up to a week through consuming carbs in excess of the ketotic threshold, and it’s much more likely to deliver successful weight- loss if you allow your body to fully adapt to fat burning before you resume eating more carbs. Once you are keto-adapted, your body will cope more easily with cycling in and out of ketosis.
WHAT ARE KETOSTIX*?
Ketostix are small, thin plastic strips with a small reagent area on them. When Ketostix are dipped in urine (or passed through a stream of urine), the reagent area changes colour to indicate the number of ketones present. This is an important indicator for those on ketogenic diets – especially beginners – because it lets you know that you have indeed limited carbohydrate consumption sufficiently to force the body into ketosis.
More experienced keto dieters use the strips to help figure out exactly how many carbohydrates they can eat before they are out of ketosis. It can also help determine how different foods affect your ability to stay in ketosis.
DO I NEED TO EXERCISE TO LOSE WEIGHT WHILE IN KETOSIS?
Exercise is not essential for losing weight on a ketogenic diet, but the benefits of following a varied exercise programme are well-documented and exercise helps to sensitise insulin. This should include one or two bouts of high intensity interval training (HIIT) per week, which shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes per session, plus some lifting of heavy weights. HIIT in particular has been proven to increase insulin sensitivity and fat loss much more quickly than other forms of exercise.
WHAT ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS?
Apart from electrolytes to assist with keto-adaptation if necessary, you don’t need to take supplements. If you eat correctly for ketosis, you’ll be eating plenty of whole foods – healthy fats, meat and leafy green vegetables – which will provide more vitamins and minerals than a diet heavy in processed, refined carbohydrates. What’s more, LCHF doesn’t include grains and legumes, most of which are high in anti-nutrients (phytic acids and lectins) that prevent your body from absorbing minerals like calcium and magnesium from your food.
WHERE CAN I READ MORE ABOUT KETOSIS?
I found these three websites particularly helpful: www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com www.dietdoctor.com/ lose-weight-by-achieving-optimal-ketosis www.reddit.com/r/keto/wiki/faq *Ketostix are available at most pharmacies.
In the early stages of ketosis, weight loss can be fast,
especially for men.
fat! enough Eat