What Is Ketosis, and How Does It Affect Weight Loss?
Food is your body’s primary source of energy, and three main nutrients in foods supply your body with this energy. These are carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Typically after eating a meal, your body will first break down carbohydrates from foods, and then fat and protein. Ketosis is a natural metabolic state that occurs when your body doesn’t have enough carbs (or glucose) for energy, so it burns fat instead.
Ketosis happens when your carbohydrate intake is low. As your body breaks down fat, it produces an acid called ketones or ketone bodies. It becomes your body and brain’s main source of energy.
Because ketosis shifts your metabolism and relies on fat for energy, your body can burn fat at a higher rate. Translation? You may reach your weight loss goal sooner than if you didn’t cut carbs at all.
How Do You Achieve Ketosis Successfully?
Putting — and then keeping — your body in ketosis isn’t exactly easy. You’ll need to minimize your intake of carbohydrates, no more than 20 to 50 grams (g) of carbs per day. A single medium pear, for example, contains 26g of carbs. And even foods that aren’t generally considered high in carbs — such as nuts and nonstarchy veggies — contain a small amount of carbohydrates, and so will need to be limited or avoided on this plan.
If you’re following the keto diet, you will need protein, but you should limit your intake to about 20 percent of your total daily calories. This is important because when you consume more protein than you need, your body converts the excess protein into carbs through a process called gluconeogenesis. This process pushes your body out of ketosis.
Intermittent fasting is another way to achieve ketosis. This doesn’t suggest going days without food, but rather intermittent fasting. You can eat for eight hours and then fast for 16 hours, or eat a low-calorie diet for a few days; about 1,200 daily calories if you’re a woman and 1,500 daily calories if you’re a man. As you take in less food, your body uses more of its fat stores for fuel.
In addition, you can talk to your doctor about adding supplements, such as exogenous ketones, to put and help keep your body in ketosis, according to a study published in October 2017 in Frontiers in Physiology.
Is Ketosis Safe and Healthy for Everyone?
The long-term effects of constant ketosis haven’t been thoroughly investigated. But it appears to be generally safe for most people, at least as a short-term weight-loss solution.
Again, it’s important to note that this state can cause a high level of ketones in the bloodstream, which can make the blood acidic, a dangerous medical state.
Everyone’s body responds differently to ketosis. So while some people are able to produce insulin during ketosis to slow down ketone production and avoid a toxic level, others can’t. Ketosis becomes dangerous when blood turns acid. Always speak with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet.