Signs of Ketosis – What are they Exactly?
The signs of ketosis that I am referring to are those used to confirm that your body has stopped burning glucose (sugar) and is now using ketones (fat) for its primary source of energy.
Lets look at these signs of ketosis to determine how we can measure your ketone level. You have probably already done a ton of research on the keto diet and come across things like ketosis vs ketoacidosis and other references to ketosis results which quite often confuses rather than clarifies things for the new keto beginner.
But I’ll reference and link a few of the better ketosis definitions I found at the end of this post. Personally I like a simplified explanation of ketosis results so I can see at a glance as to whether I am on the right track with my ketogenic diet, and eating the correct ratio of high fat low carb.
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Getting Into Ketosis
Growing up you probably had it drummed into your head that sugar was the primary energy source for our bodies, and that belief has held true for most of our life to date. So, to now find out that’s not strictly true and fat (or ketones) is a better but under-utilized fuel source is a bit of a surprise to say the least.
To put it in another way, when your body can’t find any carbohydrates to process it will metabolize fat to produce ketones, and once that occurs and the ketones are in your blood, you will have reached a specific ketosis level be it high or low.
What this means for you is that your body is utilizing your fat stores for energy, rather than converting fat and muscle into glucose to use for energy. The main objective of a ketogenic diet is to put one’s body into ketosis.
OK, so once you’ve grasped those concepts lets look at what happens next.
Basically, when you are in ketosis and you want to stay there (which you do) you follow the ketogenic diet/lifestyle plan (read more about ketogenic diet) and this is what happens:
1. You cut carbs from your diet or at least reduce them to a minimal amount.
2. One of the ketosis results is that your body will break down fats for energy (I love that for me it targeted my worst wobbly bits)
So why would you want to put yourself into ketosis? Lets look at some of the signs of ketosis and the results.
1. Weight loss: When you are utilizing fat directly for your energy, you lose weight more rapidly because you are tapping into personal fat stores directly for energy.
2. Better energy levels: In the absence of glucose, your body receives more consistent energy by using your own body fat so consequently you don’t experience sugar fluctuations. So say goodbye to Nanna naps.
3. Improved mental focus: The brain prefers a consistent source of energy such as that supplied by fat and consequently you don’t have those normal ups and downs you see (on a day to day basis as you get older)
4. Longevity and disease mitigation: I can’t talk to the longevity aspect (well at least not yet – though I am hitting up 70 and a bit) but following a ketogenic diet has certainly helped me in regard to the osteoarthritis in my fingers and tendonitis in my arm as both are now just distant memories.
5. Decrease in appetite
Exercise Benefits of Ketosis
One of the big questions especially as we are ascending into those bigger numbers for birthdays is: how much do I need to exercise?
Well not being a big fan of physical, this was one of the more appealing aspects of following a ketogenic diet in that no big exercise regimes are required. However, having said that common sense will tell you that particularly as you get older its important to keep yourself mobile even if that’s only taking a short walk each day.
What worked for me was joining a gym and aqua aerobic club combined. Honesty compels me to admit that going to sessions and meeting up with my girlfriend was the primary motivator to get me out of bed in the beginning, as I didn’t want to let her down. So my suggestion is don’t stress over it in the beginning but find something that works for you.
Signs of Ketosis
Unfortunately, some of the ketosis results aren’t always the nicest. But keep in mind these are often only of short duration.
1. Weight Loss
Weight loss is probably one of the better signs of ketosis that you won’t mind seeing. Ketogenic diets are exceptionally good at helping you to shed that unwanted fat.
A word of caution though, don’t get too hung up on the rate of weight loss. It can vary initially you may lose weight fairly rapidly along with water loss, but this can slow down and, in some cases, even stall for a while.
But don’t panic in most cases it starts again at its own rate, provided you are sticking with the low carb deficit. I found that it was useful to take lots of photos along my journey.
Don’t just focus on weighing yourself, get friendly with your tape measure. You might be pleasantly surprised to find even if you aren’t losing any weight that the inches are still melting away.
2. Increased Ketones in the Blood
The most notable sign of ketosis during the keto diet process is the increase in ketones in your blood and the reduction of blood sugar levels.
Once you are fully in ketosis you will find that you no longer utilize glucose (sugar) for energy instead your ketones (fat) become your primary source of fuel.
I will discuss various methods for measuring these in the next section.
3. Bad Breath
It’s not uncommon to hear people complaining of ketosis breath when they reach full ketosis.
This is one of the common side effects. You will come across numerous reports of those doing a keto diet or even Atkins saying that their breath has a fruity smell.
The the ketosis breath and smell is caused by raised ketone levels. The actual cause is acetone, a ketone that is present in your body, your urine and breath.
Understandably this fruity ketosis breath is probably a bit of a deterrent for your social life but is definitely a positive sign about your diet. To get round the problem you can brush your teeth more often or use sugar free gum to temporarily solve the problem.
If you do use the gum or mouth mints always make sure to check that it is no carb before buying, Some of these gums have nasty sugar surprises hidden in them.
4. Appetite Suppression
There have been a number of reports of people experiencing reduced hunger once they start following a ketogenic diet. Whilst there aren’t any confirmed reasons as yet, one of the most popular theories is that changing to a high fat diet, changes the composition of the food you are eating.
In simple terms you are now eating foods that are more dense and subsequently satisfying so you reach satiety faster and don’t feel the need to eat so much or often.
Plus, there is another train of thought that says the increased ketones may be affecting your brain and resulting in a reduced appetite.
5. Increased Focus and Energy
One of the most common complaints when people are going through the “keto flu” at the beginning of their keto journey is the tiredness, brain fog and feeling nauseous. The good news is that once you have moved into a state of ketosis you will probably find you are experiencing an increase in energy and focus as one of your better ketosis results.
However, this can take a few weeks before you see these signs of ketosis you just need to hang in there and know it will come.
6. Short-Term Fatigue
Another downside of changing on to a ketogenic diet can be experiencing excessive fatigue. In fact, this can sometime cause people to throw in the towel and give up on keto.
Don’t be one of those defeatists it doesn’t last. If you just hang in and get through these initial uncomfortable days you will reap so many benefits.
There are a few things you can do to offset this tiredness, they are quite normal. And are generally being caused by your changing from a heavy-laden carb diet to a high fat ketosis net carb one.
It takes time for your body to adapt so expect to have to deal with these problems for the 7-10 days it takes getting into ketosis.
In the meantime, to offset any problems increase your electrolytes, drink plenty of water and also my own personal solution of taking at least one cup of bone broth a day. Just as an aside I did this without fail and didn’t have any “keto flu” or side symptoms.
The reason electrolytes are recommended is because during all the flushing of water that takes place in your initial stages of the ketogenic diet a lot of these are eliminated and need replacing.
For supplements I recommend having at least 2,000 – 4,000 mg of sodium, 300 mg of magnesium and at least 1,000 mg of potassium
7. Digestive Issues
Because you undergoing some fairly radical dietary changes it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise to find you are experiencing digestive issues. So, it is quite normal to find you are having constipation or diarrhea problems, These are normal side effects at the beginning of your keto diet.
In most cases they will disappear once your body becomes adjusted to the new routine. But always be watchful as to how new or different foods may affect you.
Try and ensure that you include a good selection of low carb vegetables in your daily diet as these provide the fibre we require and helps with those pesky digestive problems.
Sleeping problems is another issue you may have to deal with. Whether not being able to sleep or just waking up more frequently (often to have to pay a visit to the bathroom) For most people this is only a short-term problem and in fact once you are fully adapted may find that you are sleeping better than you ever did on the past,
If you want something to physically see signs of Ketosis there are a number of different ways you can use to test your ketosis levels.
One method is to use a blood ketone meter. These can be purchased from several outlets but I found the best value ketone meter on Amazon. With the blood ketone meter it entails pricking your finger touching the respective strip to the blood and then checking the ketone reading on the meter.
These ketone meters can be a bit expensive, its not so much the cost of the meter but more the respective strips and needles which have to be purchased separately. But if you like accuracy this is the way to go.
Where you prick you finger and use the resultant blood sample to show the level in the meter. I’ll include a link to the best ones I came across. But they are a bit pricey around $50 and the test strips about $12 for 30 which can get a bit pricey if you do every day.
Or you can go the cheaper route and but the Urine testing strips, which change colour when you pee on them. Usually the best time is first thing in the morning, the chart on the side of the box will give you an indicator as to what stage you are at. Check out these ketone strips at Amazon.
Usually you reach light ketosis within a few days from just your ketogenic diet. But normally getting into ketosis can take a few weeks. This is perfect for weight loss and other benefits.
But don’t drive yourself crazy with measuring, and there are various apps and charts to help you work out your macro nutrients and keep within the levels that suit you.
Who Should Avoid Ketosis?
On the assumption that ketosis is reached by limiting your carbohydrate intake, its fairly safe to assume there are a lot of people who would benefit by following a ketogenic diet.
My suggestion for those who aren’t sure is to try ketogenic dieting for a few weeks and monitor your health with your doctor. I have no medical training or experience and can only talk to you about my own experiences, any undertaking of major diet changes should always be discussed with your own doctor first. Some people just flat out need more carbs to function.
Anecdotally, it seems that most people see benefits with the ketogenic diet once they’ve given their bodies time to adapt to carbohydrate restriction.
Ketosis is different for many of us to get our head round initially, but it comes with many unique benefits. The healthiest way of getting into and seeing signs of ketosis is by following a ketogenic diet. There are ways you can there quicker with a bit of help from supplements, but personally I think slow and steady wins the race for me. But let me know in the comments below if you want to know more about supplements.
In summary, ketosis is regarded as safe and beneficial for the majority of people.