A ketogenic diet is high in fat, and low in carbohydrates and protein. Going into ketosis makes your body look for other sources of fuel when carbohydrates are low. Even if the ketogenic diet has been around for nearly a hundred years, researchers currently still do not really know how the diet works on the molecular level. Nonetheless there is something about being in a state of ketosis that is really beneficial to your health — something which researchers have tried and tested across many different contexts. To know how you could get into ketosis, you should first look into how ketosis works and see if it is right for you.
What is Ketosis?
To clear things up, ketosis is a state your body gets into when carbohydrates are low and cannot be used as a source for energy. The ketogenic diet is one which involves eating high amounts of fat and low amounts of protein and carbohydrates. The ketogenic diet is used to get into ketosis.
The body relies on carbohydrates and sugars for fuel. When carbohydrates are low, the body uses another source of fuel so that it keeps functioning. Ketosis occurs when intakes comprise of around less than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates a day. Different bodies have different needs, which means that different ratios of fat to carbohydrates can be consumed to successfully get into ketosis. 3:1 or 4:1 fat to carbohydrates and protein are good ratios, but lower ratios can work as well. There are no hard rules, only guidelines.
The ketogenic diet has been used all over the world, for almost a hundred years. The idea may be novel but its basis, fasting, has been around as a treatment for thousands of years. Currently, the ketogenic diet has proven to have beneficial effects. Going on a ketogenic diet has proven to be helpful for those with epilepsy, as the diet has some anticonvulsant properties. The ketogenic diet has been used for other conditions as well, such as Parkinson’s disease, migraines, autism, depression, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and hypercholesterolemia. The ketogenic diet has also been used for weight loss.
How Does Ketosis Work?
Ketosis is characterized by 2 things, namely, reduced blood glucose levels, and ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are the liver’s products of fatty acid oxidation.
A ketogenic diet aims to get your body into ketosis. To get in ketosis, carbohydrate intakes are restricted to very low amounts. Carbohydrates are often used for fuel because they are an easy source of energy for the body to use. However, when carbohydrates are used, other sources of stored energy like fat are not used. Carbohydrates, which turn into glucose molecules to be used as energy sources for the body, are replaced by another kind of fuel. Without carbohydrates in your intake, the body starts to look for other sources of fuel to use.
When there is no glucose, fatty acids are used. When there is a lot of fatty acid oxidation going on, a lot of acetyl-CoA are produced, which exceed the capacity of the tricarboxylic acid cycle (in simple terms, this is the series of chemical reactions that happen when the body tries to use its stored energy). This leads to the production of ketone bodies in the liver’s mitochondria. Ketone bodies are used for energy and in the brain, ketone bodies are used as building blocks for the biosynthesis of cell membranes and lipids. Ketone bodies are brought to tissues nearby so they may be used. When the ketone bodies are used when they are oxidized, acetyl-CoA is released and it enters the tricarboxylic acid cycle (in simple terms, without glucose the body resorts to using fat for energy).
Getting into ketosis is different for every body. While the ketogenic diet is used to treat many kinds of conditions and disorders, a ketogenic diet has vastly different mechanisms and effects on the body. Ketosis works on a case-to-case basis.
Getting Into Ketosis
What Ketosis Looks Like
On the ketogenic diet, the saying “you are what you eat” does not apply.
A ketogenic diet is one where most of your daily intake should be comprised of fat. While other diets have shamed fat intake, there is no need to feel guilty about fat consumption. Fat can be healthy. The ketogenic diet is not a starvation diet. If you try to go on the ketogenic diet make sure that you are getting a sufficient amount of calories for your body.
You can get your fat from many different sources. The carbohydrate limit may be intimidatingly low, but there are still many kinds of food you can eat to get into ketosis. For instance, many types of fish, shrimp, and crabs contain almost no carbohydrates while being healthy for you. You can eat non-starchy vegetables that contain a high amount of fiber, which the body digests differently from other carbohydrates.
What Ketosis Feels Like
After a few days of being in ketosis, you can start telling when you are in ketosis based on the signs your body will tell you.
Here are some things you may experience if you are in ketosis:
- bad breath which may taste fruity
- dry mouth
- increased energy
- increased thirst
- frequent urination
- reduced hunger
You may also experience the following:
- digestive issues, such as constipation and diarrhea
- insomnia or waking up at night
- short-term decreases in physical performance
- short-term fatigue
- weight loss
Should you get into ketosis? What may help someone may hurt or be detrimental to someone else. There are some risks associated with going on the ketogenic diet. Because ketosis affects everybody differently it would be safe to first consult your doctor or healthcare provider first.
To be on the safe side, do not go on the ketogenic diet unsupervised. You must consult a doctor or healthcare provider before going on the ketogenic diet if you are any of the following:
- you are pregnant
- you’re breastfeeding
- you take medication for high blood pressure
- you take medication for diabetes