What Exactly is Ketosis and is it Good or Bad For Me?

When you eat carbohydrates, they break down into glucose which is the main source of fuel for your bodies.  If however you eat very few carbs and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can be converted to blood sugar), your body will look for alternate ways to get energy from and it starts to produce ketones.  Ketones are produced in the liver, from fat. They are then used as fuel in the body, including the brain. This is important because the brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day.  It’s a common misconception that the brain needs carbs. The truth is that the brain happily burns carbs when you eat them. But if you don’t eat too many carbs, the brain is happy to burn ketones instead.  Your body cannot run on fat alone, it can only run on glucose…or ketones.

On a ketogenic diet your entire body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat.  Insulin levels become very low and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy to access your fat stores to burn them off.  This is obviously great if you’re trying to lose weight, and studies show that ketogenic diets lead to more weight loss.  Being in ketosis also reduces hunger and cravings so you lose weight effortlessly and even reverse type 2 diabetes.  Also, by giving your body and brain an almost unlimited supply of energy, you can increase your physical and mental endurance.

Some people think that ketosis is extremely dangerous.  However, they might be confusing ketosis with ketoacidosis, which is completely different.  While ketoacidosis is a serious condition caused by uncontrolled diabetes, ketosis is a natural metabolic state.  In fact, ketosis and ketogenic diets have been studied extensively and shown to be very safe for long periods of time.

So how do you get your body into ketosis?  Cut the carbs!  Remember that everything, with the exception of meat and fat, is a carb which breaks down into glucose.  So how many carbs per day can you eat and still get into ketosis?  Approximately 20-50 NET carbs.  NET carbs are not the same as TOTAL carbs.  For example, fiber is a carb but the human body doesn’t absorb and it requires no insulin to metabolize and thus it has no glycemic response, so we subtract it from the total carb.  So if your bread has 30g total carbs but 5g of fiber, the net carb is only 25g.  You would be amazed at how many carbs you are eating if you are not counting or cutting them.  Other carbs that have no glycemic effect are sugar alcohols (xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol etc) which are used as a calorie free sugar substitute.

It is important to check your ketone levels by using Ketone sticks or “ketostix”.  You can get them in the drug stores.  You pee on the stick and it turns a color.  Basically the more ketones that are in the burning, the darker red-purple the stick will turn.  There is a chart on the bottle so you see if you are burning negative, small, medium or large.  If you are negative, you are not in ketosis and are not burning fat this way.  This is the best way to know if you are eating too many carbs or not eating enough good fats.  I find when I add MCT oil, I burn larger, faster.  You can put the MCT oil (which comes from coconut oil) in your shakes, drizzle it on steamed veggies or use it for your salad dressing with vinegar and spices.

So, get into ketosis…it’s good for you!