Carbohydrate restriction and ketosis are the hallmarks of the ketogenic diet. Both confer various benefits and play a cruscial role in the overall success of your new way of eating. Maintaining low carbohydrate intake is simple enough. All you really have to do is stick to a daily carb limit that allows you to get into and stay in ketosis. Knowing the signs of ketosis, on the other hand, can be a bit more confusing. Here are 10 ketosis signs and symptoms for your information, both positive and negative.
1. Appetite Suppression
Many people report decreased hunger while following a ketogenic diet.
The reasons why this happens are still being investigated.
However, it’s been suggested that this hunger reduction may be due to an increased protein and vegetable intake, along with alterations to your body’s hunger hormones.
The ketones themselves may also affect your brain to reduce appetite.
2. Weight Loss
Ketogenic diets, along with normal low-carb diets, are highly effective for weight loss.
As dozens of weight loss studies have shown, you will likely experience both short- and long-term weight loss when switching to a ketogenic diet .
Fast weight loss can occur during the first week. While some people believe this to be fat loss, it’s primarily stored carbs and water being used up.
After the initial rapid drop in water weight, you should continue to lose body fat consistently as long as you stick to the diet and remain in a calorie deficit.
3. Increased Focus and Energy
Once your body starts burning more ketones for fuel, you will need less and less sugar and your energy levels will be more stable throughout the day. This may manifest itself as a newfound capacity to focus for extended periods of time or the ability to make it through the day with an afternoon coffee or nap. The efficiency of burning ketones and fat for fuel will be a saving grace for many of us who struggle to make it through the week.
However, to experience this newfound mental clarity and endurance, our bodies need to start producing ketones consistently first. For some, this may take a couple of days of keto eating, while others may not get into ketosis until a week to a week and a half has passed. Once the liver starts pumping out ketones regularly, it may take another couple of weeks to months before you have reached your full ketone burning potential.
In other words, when you first start keto, you may feel fatigued. Once you start producing ketones, the mental and physical fogginess will drift away and be replaced by more energy and mental clarity. After a couple of weeks to months, you will be a ketone burning machine, experiencing almost all of the perks of burning ketones for fuel to the fullest.
4. Bad Breath
As your body is acclimating to ketone production, acetone will tend to spontaneously form. Since it can’t be used a fuel by our cells, we excrete it from the body in the urine and through our breath. This is why many keto dieters will have bad breath or “keto breath” that will sometimes smell sharp and pungent like overripe fruit or nail polish remover.
Fortunately, the bad breath won’t last forever. As your body gets better at producing and using ketones, it will create much less acetone. In other words, if you stick with the keto diet, the smell of your breath will return to normal.
Keep in mind, however, that having bad breath does not mean you are in ketosis. Keto breath is simply an indicator that you will soon be in ketosis if you continue doing what you are doing.
Insomnia or lack of sleep may be experienced when you are first adapting to keto dieting. You may find that you are struggling to fall asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, and/or not getting a full nights rest.
On a biochemical level, this phenomenon occurs because carb restriction causes stress hormones to be elevated before ketone production is ramped up. This can disrupt your sleep cycle and make it more difficult to sleep. However, there is no need to worry — your sleep will return to normal (and might even get better) as your body becomes more and more keto adapted.
6. Increased Urination
Carbohydrate restriction and ketones are both natural diuretics. When you first start keto dieting, you may have more frequent bathroom trips as your body’s insulin levels decrease and you release more water and sodium as a result. After a couple of days, the bathroom trips may continue as you start to produce more ketones.
This phenomenon is a pretty reliable sign that you will enter ketosis as long as you keep up with your keto diet.
7. Short-Term Fatigue
Before your liver starts increasing ketone production and you experience the benefits of ketosis, you may experience a decrease in physical and mental performance. This is one of the keto conundrums that can occur during your first week of keto dieting.
The good news is that this short-term fatigue indicates that your body is on the path to ketosis. As your body adapts to carb restriction and ketone burning, you will experience a sustained energy and clarity that you may have never experienced before keto dieting.
To fend off the fatigue in the meantime, make sure you stay hydrated and consume plenty of electrolytes.
8. Digestive Issues
A ketogenic diet generally involves a major change in the types of foods you eat.
Digestive issues such as constipation and diarrhea are common side effects in the beginning.
Some of these issues should subside after the transition period, but it may be important to be mindful of different foods that may be causing digestive issues.
Also, make sure to eat plenty of healthy low-carb veggies, which are low in carbs but still contain plenty of fiber.
Most importantly, don’t make the mistake of eating a diet that lacks diversity. Doing that may increase your risk of digestive issues and nutrient deficiencies.
9. Short-term Decreases in Performance
As discussed above, removing carbs can lead to general tiredness at first. This includes an initial decrease in exercise performance.
It’s primarily caused by the reduction in your muscles’ glycogen stores, which provide the main and most efficient fuel source for all forms of high-intensity exercise.
After several weeks, many ketogenic dieters report that their performance returns to normal. In certain types of ultra-endurance sports and events, a ketogenic diet could even be beneficial.
What’s more, there are further benefits — primarily an increased ability to burn more fat during exercise.
One famous study found that athletes who had switched to a ketogenic diet burned as much as 230% more fat when they exercised, compared to athletes who were not following this diet.
While it’s unlikely that a ketogenic diet can maximize performance for elite athletes, once you become fat-adapted it should be sufficient for general exercise and recreational sports.
10. Your Ketone Tracking Method Says So
Although the signs of ketosis we explore so far will not tell you exactly what your ketone levels are, they give you an accurate answer to the question, “Am I going to be in ketosis?”
For example, if you experience a couple of these symptoms, then you are almost certainly going to be in ketosis or are already in ketosis.
However, for those of you who want to know — beyond a shadow of a doubt — if you are in ketosis or not, try using one of these three methods instead:
- Urine Stricks. This will answer the question “Am I in ketosis?” but will not provide an accurate measure of blood ketones.
- Breath Ketone Meters. These are much more accurate than the urine strips, but can sometimes vary in accuracy. Cheaper than blood testing strips in the long-run.
- Blood Ketone Meter. The most accurate keto measuring method available to the public, but the strips are extremely expensive.
The Bottom Line
Most people will be in a light ketosis within two or three days of keto dieting so this would be a good time to test yourself using one of these methods.
It is also important to know that it typically takes two to three weeks to get into a deep ketosis. Deep ketosis is ideal for weight loss and may confer some neurological benefits that extend beyond the benefits you’ll get while you are in light or medium ketosis. The only way for you to accurately find out if you are in deep ketosis is to use a blood ketone meter.
However, don’t drive yourself crazy with ketone measurements. Your success will not be determined by getting the most accurate ketone readings. What matters most is following the ketogenic diet correctly by eating the right foods in the right macronutrient ratios for you. By doing this, you will be able to reap the benefits of the keto diet and ketosis.