This is how to get into ketosis the right way.
What if I told you that you can get into ketosis only in 2 days. It is possible.
What about one day? Also possible!
1 hour? Of course!
Most people are looking for the easiest and the fastest solution to everything. “Lose 20 pounds in 1 day with this magic pill!”
Did it work for you? I don’t think so.
I don’t blame people who want it to be easy and fast. I was one of those people when I started a ketogenic diet.
What I didn’t realize is that it is not about how fast I get into ketosis, it is about changing my lifestyle and sticking to it day in and day out.
Today, I want to talk about how to get into ketosis the right way. This is a blueprint that you can use when starting out with a ketogenic diet or when you want to get back into ketosis.
I will also provide you with necessary techniques, shopping list, and recipes that will help you to start the keto diet and get into ketosis.
Ketosis vs. keto-adapted
There is a lot of confusion all over the Internet about being in ketosis vs being keto-adapted (fat adapted).
Some people use them interchangeably without fully understanding the meaning behind them.
Let’s clarify both terms and find out which one we are trying to achieve today.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic process that is activated when our body doesn’t have enough glycogen (derived from carbs) for our cells to burn for energy.
Instead, it starts to convert fat deposits (adipose) to energy. As a part of this process, it makes ketones.
Ketone bodies are water-soluble molecules that are produced by our liver from fatty acids. We produce ketones because fatty acids can’t cross a blood-brain barrier, and they can’t be used by our brain as energy.
When people talk about nutritional ketosis they associate it with the presence of ketones in your body. Nutritional ketosis begins at 0.5 millimolar of ketones in your blood. The optimal ketone concentration is between 1.0-3.0 millimolar.
The maximum concentration that I have reached was 3.1 right in a fasted state.
Does it mean that if you have ketones in your body that you are in ketosis?
Most of the times, it is true.
One of the exceptions would be taking exogenous ketones. I will talk in details about it in a later chapter.
But the premise is that if you take exogenous ketones, you can artificially raise the concentration of your ketone bodies which puts you in “ketosis” even if you have eaten a very high carb meal.
During this scenario, most of your exogenous ketones are going to be excreted through the urine and most likely none of them used to burn fat.
Are you keto adapted yet?
You started producing ketones, you got into ketosis, but your body is not ready to fully embrace ketosis yet.
When our body breaks down adipose (fat) deposits, it uses a completely different set of enzymes and processes.
It has to adapt to function with a very little glucose and build up enzymes to become more efficient at burning fat as a primary source of energy.
It takes much longer than just getting into ketosis to become keto-adapted. It varies from person to person, but a typical range is 4-6 weeks.
Once you are keto-adapted, you become a fat burning machine, meaning that you have high levels of enzymes that efficiently burn fat and low levels of glycogen in the liver and muscles.
And finally, your sluggishness goes away and you become more energetic.
The best part about being keto-adapted is that if you do slip out of ketosis during a high carb day, your body is still fat adapted.
Yes, your body will process the carbs, turn them into glycogen, then use it for energy before using ketones, but getting back into efficient ketosis becomes much easier.
How to get into ketosis for the first time?
Do you remember your first time at anything?
Usually, it does not go the way we plan it. Heck, sometimes you get discouraged and never do it again.
I want you to avoid quitting and make the process of getting into ketosis very smooth.
First, let me remind about ketosis because it is very important:
Ketosis is activated when our body doesn’t have enough glycogen (derived from carbs) for your cells to burn for energy. It starts to convert fat deposits (adipose) to energy instead.
Do you need to take exogenous ketones?
Do you remember I told about “the magic pill”? Exogenous ketones is that magic pill. You probably heard about Pruvit, KetoCaNa, KetoForce, and others.
For people who are not keto-adapted and trying to start a ketogenic diet, it is tempting to take a pill or a shake and BOOM! you have ketones in your blood within 1 hour.
On top of it, some companies say that you don’t have to be as strict with carbs when taking exogenous ketones.
Some companies even advertise exogenous ketones as a “lose fat fast” supplement and that you will be a fat burning machine!
I am mostly talking about Pruvit here.
Here is the truth…
Exogenous ketones are designed mostly for keto-adapted athletes/bodybuilders to improve their performance or for people who have epilepsy or other neurological disorders.
Companies just realized that there is much more money to be made if it is marketed as a weight loss supplement for low carb diets.
If you are not either a keto-adapted, athlete/bodybuilder or have a neurological disorder, then you are just buying yourself a very expensive urine.
Another myth is that if you take exogenous ketones then you are automatically in ketosis and burning fat, regardless of how many carbs you just consumed.
It is like saying that you can eat as many carbs as you want on keto as long as you take fiber supplements.
“Hi, I am Jen. I ate -24g of net carbs today. Yay!”
Your body’s primary source of energy will always be glycogen (carb intake).
So if I take exogenous ketones and eat more than 30g of carbs per day, I am not in nutritional ketosis. The liver and muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen and your body will use it as energy first.
Do you know what happens to ketones that are not used, because your body is using glycogen?
Most of them get excreted through the urine. Did I mention a very expensive urine?
If you are an athlete, then go and read this article. Dr. Attia describes his experience with exogenous ketones and how it can improve performance.
Here is another interview with Dr. Veech about the safety and effectiveness of exogenous ketones.
The only benefit of taking exogenous ketones during your first time as a keto dieter is to decrease the amount of sluggishness.
It gives me quick, carb-like bursts of energy that I would not have when just following a strict ketogenic diet.
I personally don’t use exogenous ketones, but I consume MCT oil in my coffee as a pre-workout. Inexpensive coconut oil works too.
Don’t be pressured to buy exogenous ketones. A lot of people can get equivalent energy levels with a proper hydration.
Stay under 20g of net carbs per day
The only proven way to get into ketosis is to consume less than 20g of net carbs per day.
Why does everyone talk about 20g net carbs per day as “the rule” to achieve ketosis?
Eating under 20 g net carbs guarantees that you will reach ketosis, regardless of your body composition.
In fact, our brain only needs 20-30 grams of glucose daily in order to function properly.
Even when you are keto-adapted, your brain will get only up to 75% of its energy from ketones. Other 25% will have to come from glucose.
So when you eat 20-30 grams of carbs, it will most likely be used by your brain, especially when your glycogen stores are depleted.
If you go beyond 30 grams, your muscles and your liver will start filling up with glycogen which reduces the benefits of ketosis.
Common issues with doing 30+ net carbs
- When your glycogen storages are full, your body starts making fat out of carbs.
- Food cravings will likely become worse
- Extra calories derived from carbs add up quickly
In order to find your carb limit, I would recommend starting with 20g of net carbs per day. Measure your ketone bodies (blood or breath), then up your carbs by 5g and measure again.
Do this until you will get kicked out of ketosis which is below 0.5 millimolar.
When I work out every day, my carb limit is about 46 grams. During recovery weeks, the limit drops to 30 grams.
How long does it take to get into ketosis?
If you don’t follow a ketogenic diet and eat high carb meals, your body would have approximately a two-day supply of glycogen that you will use as a primary energy source.
Usually, it takes 2-7 days to get into ketosis, depending on your carb intake, activity level, and your body composition.
If you eat under 20 grams of net carbs, you should enter the state of ketosis within 3-4 days.
I recommend this 7-day keto diet meal plan to get into ketosis and start the process of being keto-adapted. I used it and it works great!
Ketosis diet meal plan (7 days)
This ketogenic meal plan will be a little bit more calorie restrictive than the usual keto diet meal plans.
If you want to calculate your macros beforehand, here is a great keto calculator that you can use.
After you calculate your macros, adjust this meal plan according to your daily calorie intake.
Here is a meal plan with the shopping list, recipes, and tips for your first keto diet week.
It is simple, cheap and effective! It should put you in ketosis within 4-6 days.
Measuring your progress
How do you get validation that you are in ketosis?
There are 3 main methods how to measure the presence of ketones in your body.
Here is a big picture about ketone bodies flow
The liver produces ketones to circulate as blood ketones. Yoru body uses what it needs for energy and produces a byproduct in some cases (BHB) that is excreted through the breath. The unused ketones are excreted through the urine.
Blood ketone meter
It is the only accurate way of measuring ketone bodies. It tells your current state of ketosis.
With all the benefits having it with you, it can get pretty pricey. Precision Xtra blood ketone meter costs $30. On top of it, you would pay $4 per ketone strip.
If you want to measure your blood ketones once a day, $120 is a lot of money for accurate blood ketones.
Ketone Test Strips
There are a lot of names for ketone test strips. Ketostix, keto sticks, urine sticks.
They are plastic strips that measure the presence of ketones in your urine. The strips do that by having a reagent known as nitroprusside, which reacts strongly to ketones (acetoacetate and acetone).
It is definitely a very common way to measure ketones, but the truth is that it does not tell you anything about ketones in your blood.
What you are seeing are wasted ketones that are unused by your body.
The only case when I recommend to buy Ketostix is when a person is just starting out. They want affirmation about the production of ketones. Keto sticks would give you that affirmation.
During the first a couple of weeks of the keto diet, you will have a lot of unused ketones in your urine. Your body is not keto adapted yet. $10 for ketone waste affirmation is a good price to pay to stay calm.
The more keto adapted you get (4-6 weeks), the fewer ketones you will see in your urine. Ketone urine strip will become not useful at all.
Ketone Strips Color Chart
Ketone Breath Meter
It is a reliable indicator of ketosis, according to this paper. Ketones breath directly correlates with levels of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) in your blood.
What makes it less accurate is that in some cases, the excess acetone itself can be excreted through the breath. So the reading can be inaccurate, depending on your alcohol consumption and your water intake.
Speeding up the process (not necessary)
You can speed up the process with these techniques:
- 24-hour fast
- Exercise (HIIT)
- Fat Fasting (1000-1200 calories, 80% calories from fat)
For epilepsy treatment, children are required to start with a 24-hour fast first. Even though it does not improve the treatment long term, it helps to enter ketosis much faster.
Average adult stores about 400g of glycogen in the liver and about 100g of glycogen in muscles. 24 hours will be enough time to deplete glycogen stores and enter ketosis.
Exercise intensity plays a significant role in how quickly you can enter ketosis. The more you exercise, the more you deplete glycogen reserves.
Intense exercise combined with ketogenic diet can speed up the process and put you in ketosis as fast as 24 hours.
Fat fasting is a type of fasting where you eat at a large deficit (1000-1200 calorie) per day and 80%-90% of calories come from fat, 5% from carbs, 15% from protein.
You can prepare fat bombs, eat cream cheese, drink coffee or water. If you do it for 2-3 days, you will most definitely reach ketosis.
Starting a ketogenic lifestyle can be hard. The first step is to get into ketosis. There are multiple ways to get into ketosis.
The right way is to eat under 20 grams of net carbs and follow a specific ketogenic diet meal plan. Measure your journey by using a breath ketone meter or a blood ketone monitor.
If you ever want to speed up the process, you can try to do a 24-hour fast, intense exercise or do a two-day fat fast.
What is your experience getting into ketosis? Share in comments below.
Do you want to take the research, frustration, and guesswork out of the picture? Try our keto coaching services.