There’s only one critical element to a keto diet: getting into and being in ketosis. Throughout this four-week journey, we’ll share lots of delicious ways to do that. But first, let’s get clear on exactly what it means to get into ketosis, how long it takes to get there, and what you’ll want to do in order to get into and stay in ketosis!
What Is Ketosis?
Simply put, ketosis is a natural metabolic process where your body uses fat for fuel rather than glucose (carbohydrates). This only happens when the body is deprived of carbs. Without access to carbs, your body triggers your liver to convert fat (from your food and your body) intoketones (blood acids) and then use those ketones for energy.
As you might expect, getting into ketosis and staying there has everything to do with what you do and don’t eat. If you calculated your macros for a keto diet as described on Week 1, Day 2, you know how many total calories you should consume per day, and that you should get 70 to 80 percent of your calories from fats, 20 to 25 percent from protein, and 5 to 10 percent from carbohydrates, give or take depending on your lifestyle and other personal factors. But what you might not know is when you can expect to see and feel the benefits of your efforts.
Getting into Ketosis
If you’re like most people who are just getting into the keto lifestyle, you’re probably itching to see and feel immediate results. You may even be obsessively testing your blood for ketone levels and wondering why the test results fluctuate so often and so dramatically. To that we say: have patience! One of the biggest hurdles to success on a keto diet is a mindset that you’re “supposed to be” further along on achieving your goals or more in ketosis than you are. Plus, every single person reacts differently, so there's no need to compare.
Rather than pushing yourself to the result, aim for the journey. The first month or two on keto is a learning experience, where you’re getting to know the diet, discovering how your body reacts to various foods, finding your pain points, and physically adjusting to burning fat rather than carbs for energy. If you don’t see results as quickly as you like, don’t be discouraged. Just remind yourself you’re embarking on a new, healthylifestyle and keep on the path. In time, the results will come.
In fact, once you start consistently eating foods that promote ketosis within your specific daily macros, it can take anywhere from 2 to 9 days before you start seeing and feeling any results (though most people fall into the 3 to 5 day range).
Practicing fasting or intermittent fasting may get you into ketosis in less time, but it’s not necessary and it may be a bit more than you want to take on right out of the gate. (Learn more about fasting here.)
How to Know You’re in Ketosis
After you give the keto lifestyle a few days, the easiest way to see if you’re in ketosis, and know to what level of ketosis you are in, is to conduct a blood test using your Keto-Mojo meter. You may see your ketone levels start rising from 0.1 mmol/L, to 0.2, then 0.4, until you are in ketosis at 0.5 mmol/L! (You can learn all about how to test here and what your ketone levels should be here.)
Testing is the only surefire way to know if you are in ketosis or not, but there are telltale signs that you’re on your way, too. Many people new to keto get symptoms of what is not-so-fondly known as “the keto flu.” These symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, nausea, muscle aches, and headaches. Though they’re no fun, don’t worry! Many of these symptoms are from electrolyte imbalance, so you can alleviate them by making sure you get enough magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Foods such as avocado, pumpkin seeds, Ultima electrolyte powder, bone broth, and pickles, are delicious ways to ward off symptoms. Regardless, you are likely to be in the clear after the first 3 to 5 days of beginning to get into ketosis.
Once you’re solidly in ketosis, common signs of your status are a metallic taste in your mouth (this is from the ketones), a much more manageable appetite, and the ability to go longer between meals without feeling hungry. Finally, one of the best telltale signs you’re in ketosis: a massive and sustained increase in energy!
That said, these “signs” are subjective and are not experienced by everyone on the keto diet, so don’t worry if you don’t get the keto flu or have the metallic taste. Just keto on!
Tips for Staying in Ketosis
Once you’re in ketosis, your next goal is to do your best to stay there. Following are some practices that help make the effort easier. Turn them into habits and before you know it, the keto lifestyle will be second nature.
Focus on Whole, Low-Glycemic Foods
Now that the ketogenic diet is becoming popular, many companies are branding themselves “keto-friendly” in an effort to capitalize on the growing keto community. But don’t let the hype fool you. Even foods that are touted as healthy are often carbohydrate-heavy and sugar-laden. Take granola bars, for example. Many people consider them a healthy snack choice. But many of the toasted oat bars contain even more sugar than a candy bar!
In fact, sugar in its various forms is so integral to our foods that even products you wouldn’t think to contain troublesome ingredients, like most flours, starches, and sugars. Consequently, we recommend getting most of your nutrition from whole foods.
Besides, eating a diet of mostly whole foods makes things simple; you won’t need to keep an eye out for hidden ingredients that could affect your ability to stay in ketosis. When considering recipes to try and shopping for groceries, aim for whole, low-glycemic foods and ingredients, such as those we listed here.
Read Food Labels!
Mints, gum, candy, baked goods, and drinks labeled “low-carb” may seem like great ideas, but if you take a look at their ingredients lists, you’ll often find they too contain problem ingredients (i.e., carbs/sugars) that can cause your ketone levels to drop or completely kick you out of ketosis!
The same goes for other food products that you may not even expect to contain sugar or other high-carb ingredients; some broths, spices, condiments, chewing gum, mints, and even sugar alternatives can sneak unexpected carbs into your diet and affect your ability to get into ketosis.
Luckily, all packaged foods feature labels that tell you what you need to know, so be sure to read labels and factor any carbs in the foods you consumer into your daily macro calculations. You can learn how to determine whether a food is keto-friendly here.
Test for Food Sensitivities
There is a catch around figuring out keto-friendly foods: the nutritional label doesn’t always tell the full story.Your body is unique, so keto-friendly foods and drinks that are perfectly suitable for others may adversely affect your level of ketosis, or even kick you out of it, if you are sensitive to them. Plus, some low-carb foods contain ingredients that are high-glycemic or can cause blood glucose spikes. For example, many protein powders that claim to be keto containmaltitol (a common sugar alternative that has a higher glycemic index); some people have no trouble consuming it, while it kicks others out of ketosis.This is where testing your individual response to the foods you consumer is critical when starting out.You can learn more about ketone testing here and learn more about testing for food sensitivities here.
Keep a Stash of Keto-Friendly Snacks
One of the greatest threats to staying in ketosis is getting off course, and you’re far more likely to do that if you don’t have keto-friendly foods around when you need them. We shared a list of perfect items for the keto pantry yesterday, on Week 1, Day 3. Now’s a good time to review it, and head to the store if you haven’t already!
Now you know what it means to get into ketosis. As you progress, remember that every body is different, and once in a groove, some people's ketones tend to test higher than others. Just remember that to be in ketosis, you need only to hit the 0.5 mmol/L mark.
WEEK ONE | QUICK LINKS