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Ketosis

Ketosis Your body enters a state called ketosis when it starts burning fat as its main fuel source which then results in a weight loss. When does this occur?

This process is triggered when you start a protein diet. Do you know exactly what we mean by entering ketosis? To find out more about this process and what happens to your body during a low-carb diet, please read on.

What is ketosis?

Nutritional ketosis occurs in the body when the levels of blood ketone bodies increase. This happens when the body starts burning its fat reserves instead of carbohydrates as its main fuel source.

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How does ketosis occur?

When you switch to a low-carb diet, your body starts releasing fatty acids from its fat reserves. The fatty acids then travel to the liver where they are converted into ketone bodies (in the process of ketogenesis). These ketone bodies, or ketones, then become the new source of energy for the muscles and the brain. In very simplified terms we can say that the fatty acids used by the body are already pre-digested by the liver.

You can trigger ketosis by modifying your diet

It’s very simple. If you reduce the amount of carbohydrates that you consume to a minimum, you will switch into ketosis. What do we mean by a minimum? Do not eat more than 50g of carbohydrates a day. This will trigger a change in your metabolism whereby your body will replace carbohydrates with fats as the primary source of energy.

“To put it simply, your body will start feeding off its stored fat and you will start losing weight.”

An easy way to modify your diet in order to send your body into ketosis within the first 2-4 days is to start the KetoDiet protein diet. As soon as you start following your diet plan, you will be eating meals that meet the special nutritional requirements necessary for this process:

  • low carbohydrate content (to maintain the state of ketosis)
  • high protein content (to protect your muscles)
  • vitamins and minerals in the right proportion

In addition to your protein meals, you can also enjoy a large portion of permitted vegetables as part of your daily diet as it is an important source of fibre. You should also consume healthy fats, such as good quality oils, avocado and different types of nuts.

Have I entered ketosis yet?

How can you tell that you have entered ketosis? Let your feelings and sensations guide you. You should notice some weight loss, your waistline getting slimmer, a surge of energy and the absence of hunger. It is quite possible that you won’t notice any reduction in your waistline for several days. The weight loss comes in waves, so don’t be measuring your waist every day. It is better to do it at regular intervals, say once a week.

However, if you still feel that ketosis has not occurred yet, you can check it with the diagnostic test strips for urinalysis (e.g. KetoPhan) that you can buy in any good pharmacy. The ketones are released into your blood and urine, so this is where they can be detected. If your body is in ketosis the test strip should turn pink or purple.

You should bear in mind, however, that urine ketone levels fluctuate throughout the day, so the result might not be 100% reliable. Besides, the test strips can only detect one type of ketones – acetoacetate. The result might not correspond to the levels of blood ketones. Also, the levels of ketones in the blood and in urine depend not only on how fast they are being produced, but also on how quickly they are broken down.

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Look forward to a surge of energy

What also makes ketosis very pleasant is the fact that fats, unlike carbohydrates, are packed with a double amount of energy, i.e. they have more calories. This means that burning 1g of fat will provide your body with 38kJ whilst 1g of carbohydrates will yield only 17kJ.

Not only does ketosis lead to a weight loss, it also helps reduce some health risks

Ketosis can have a positive effect on some health conditions. It can help reduce blood sugar levels as well as cholesterol levels. It has been reported that ketosis tends to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” one) and increase the levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” one).

“A protein diet is also good for the complexion, it reduces swellings in the body, boosts the lymphatic circulation and it even reduces cellulite.”

A protein or ketogenic diet can also be used in the treatment of epilepsy. If the condition in a child does not respond to conventional treatment, a directed ketosis might help reduce the number of their epileptic seizures. In adults, ketosis can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. In such circumstances, the person following a ketogenic diet is under the supervision of a medical or nutritional specialist who devises a diet plan specific to the patient’s needs.

Ketosis may also increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin in some people with type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, clinical evidence points to the positive effects of ketosis on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and metabolic syndrome. In some cases, ketosis can even be used in cancer treatment where the selected cancer cells might be weakened by the lack of glucose (because they cannot utilize energy from fats) and they stop functioning as a result.

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Ketosis is not ketoacidosis

If you have come across someone claiming that ketosis can threaten your life then it is more than likely that they confused nutritional ketosis with the dangerous diabetic ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis occurs only in people whose bodies can’t produce insulin, a hormone which inhibits the production of ketones. This is the case in people with type 1 diabetes or those at an advanced stage of type 2 diabetes. The ketones in the body reach critical levels which can be very dangerous for the person.

Is ketosis safe?

We often get asked whether a protein diet puts any extra strain on the liver or kidneys. These organs are responsible for cleansing our bodies by removing toxins that are produced by breaking down fats. Ketosis is a natural state for the body. The liver and kidneys are designed for it and if healthy, they will have no trouble dealing with it.

“Obesity and excess weight put a far greater strain on your LIVER and KIDNEYS than ketosis.”

In fact, it is the chronic obesity and excess weight that can put a far greater strain on your body and pose a risk to your future health. It is therefore very important to get rid of the excess weight once and for all and to maintain a healthy and stable weight by adopting a new diet.

Do not stay in ketosis long term

If you follow our KetoDiet Intense diet plan, you will be losing weight in a healthy way for the period of 3 x 4 weeks. After this time, you can slowly start introducing higher amounts of carbohydrates into your diet, unless you decide to follow a low-carb diet long term.

Does ketosis have any side effects?

Although ketosis is a natural state for the body, you might observe some side effects whilst in ketosis. What are they and how to alleviate them?

Weakness

In the first days of the protein diet the body is burning glycogen that is stored in the muscles and the liver. Together with the glycogen a lot of water is also being released from the body. At the same time, the body is adjusting to a new diet with just a minimum amount of carbohydrates. Due to all these changes, you might feel weak, slightly nauseous or lethargic. If it happens make sure you drink plenty of water (2-3 litres per day) and eat 500g of permitted vegetables (slightly salted if need be) every day.

Passing urine more frequently

The dehydration of the body results in the urge to pass urine more often. It is actually a good sign. The body is getting rid of toxins that are produced when fats get broken down. This effect usually subsides once the body has used up all its stored glycogen. It is therefore very important to drink plenty of unsweetened liquid (2-3 litres of water) every day throughout the protein diet.

Dry mouth, metallic taste and thirst

Just as with a higher frequency of passing urine, a strange taste in your mouth is also caused by the dehydration. Although potentially unpleasant, this side effect is a sign that your body is entering ketosis and that it is adapting to the ongoing change in the right way. The best way to get rid of the dryness or the metallic taste in your mouth is to chew a sugar-free chewing gum or have some fresh herbs, such as mint.

Constipation

Constipation is also linked to the dehydration. Should you experience it, continue drinking 2-3 litres of water a day and eating 500g of permitted vegetables (ideally cooked) because apart from vitamins and minerals, they also contain a much needed fibre. Alternatively, you can supplement your diet with a soluble fibre – psyllium.

Diarrhoea

Due to a significant change in your diet, you might also experience the exact opposite to the above - short-term diarrhoea. This occurs when you limit the amount of carbohydrates in your diet, but fail to introduce healthy fats. Or it can be just an unpleasant reaction of your body to a huge change that it is experiencing. Make sure that during this time you consume more seeds, nuts, avocado, butter or high quality oils. Add some psyllium in your diet if necessary. However, the diarrhoea should not last a long time and if it does, please contact our dieticians.

Tiredness, hunger and headaches

If until now your diet consisted mainly of high-carb and high-sugar food, your body will need some time to get used to a new diet. Especially at the beginning, when you are weaning yourself off sugar, the rapid decrease in sugar intake can lead to hypoglycaemia - a drop in the blood sugar levels. As a result, you will be craving sweet things, you might feel hungry, tired and even slightly shaky. To overcome this, have some good quality coffee, strong tea or even 0.2l of coke light or coke zero. A low-dose painkiller should help settle a persistent headache.

Changes in the menstrual cycle

The first few weeks of the protein diet see a sudden drop in the levels of fat which is hormonally active and this can cause changes in the menstrual cycle in sensitive women. Make sure that your daily diet contains the right amount of healthy fats, e.g. half an avocado, a handful of nuts (walnuts, almonds etc.), or 2 spoonfuls of olive, pumpkin or coconut oil. If your period lasts more days than usual or if it is irregular and doesn’t settle within 2-3 months, please see your gynaecologist.

Muscle cramps

In rare cases, the start of a protein diet can also lead to muscle cramps. To prevent this, keep hydrated by drinking 2-3 litres of water a day and add magnesium to your diet. Work out your current magnesium intake and then consult a pharmacist to find out by how much you could increase it.

In some exceptional cases, people might develop intolerance to protein meals, they might vomit or break out in a rash. If this occurs, the protein diet regime must be stopped immediately.

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Is ketosis suitable for me?

Ketosis is not suitable for everyone. If you suffer from type 1 diabetes, have problems with your internal organs, are pregnant or can identify any other contraindications on our list, then you should consider a different approach to losing weight than a protein diet or you should consult your doctor or a dietician before starting it.

List of contraindications

You now have plenty of information on ketosis.

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