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7 Tips to Get Into Ketosis

Ketosis
is a normal metabolic process that provides several
health benefits
.

During ketosis, your body converts fat into compounds known as
ketones and begins using them as its main source of energy.

Studies have found that diets that promote ketosis are highly
beneficial for
weight loss
, due in part to their appetite-suppressing
effects (1, 2).

Emerging research suggests that ketosis may also be helpful for
type 2 diabetes and neurological disorders, among
other conditions
(3, 4).

That being said, achieving a
state of ketosis
can take some work and planning. It’s not
just as simple as cutting carbs.

Here are 7 effective tips to get into ketosis.

1. Minimize Your Carb Consumption

Slicing Big Steak With Knife

Eating a very
low-carb diet
is by far the most important factor in
achieving ketosis.

Normally, your cells use glucose, or sugar, as their main
source of fuel. However, most of your cells can also use other
fuel sources. This includes fatty acids, as well as ketones,
which are also known as ketone bodies.

Your body stores glucose in your liver and muscles in the form
of glycogen.

When
carb intake
is very low, glycogen stores are reduced and
levels of the hormone insulin decline. This allows fatty acids
to be released from fat stores in your body.

Your liver converts some of these fatty acids into the ketone
bodies acetone, acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate. These
ketones can be used as fuel by portions of the brain (5, 6).

The level of carb restriction needed to induce ketosis is
somewhat individualized. Some people need to limit net carbs
(total carbs minus fiber) to 20 grams per day, while others can
achieve ketosis while eating twice this amount or more.

For this reason, the Atkins
diet
specifies that carbs be restricted to 20 or fewer
grams per day for two weeks to guarantee that ketosis is
achieved.

After this point, small amounts of carbs can be added back to
your diet very gradually, as long as ketosis is maintained.

In a one-week study, overweight people with type 2 diabetes who
limited carb intake to 21 or fewer grams per day experienced
daily urinary ketone excretion levels that were 27 times higher
than their baseline levels (7).

In another study, adults with type 2 diabetes were allowed
20–50 grams of digestible carbs per day, depending on the
number of grams that allowed them to maintain blood ketone
levels within a target range of 0.5–3.0 mmol/L (8).

These carb and ketone ranges are advised for people who want to
get into ketosis to promote weight loss, control blood sugar
levels or reduce heart disease risk factors.

In contrast, therapeutic ketogenic diets used for epilepsy or
as experimental cancer therapy often restrict carbs to fewer
than 5% of calories or fewer than 15 grams per day to further
drive up ketone levels (9, 10).

However, anyone using the diet for therapeutic purposes should
only do so under the supervision of a medical professional.



Bottom Line: Limiting your carb intake to
20–50 net grams per day lowers blood sugar and insulin
levels, leading to the release of stored fatty acids that
your liver converts into ketones.

2. Include Coconut Oil in Your Diet

A Jar of Coconut Oil and a Teaspoon

Eating
coconut oil
can help you get into ketosis.

It contains fats called medium-chain
triglycerides
(MCTs).

Unlike most fats, MCTs are rapidly absorbed and taken directly
to the liver, where they can be used immediately for energy or
converted into ketones.

In fact, it’s been suggested that consuming coconut oil may be
one of the best ways to increase ketone levels in people with
Alzheimer’s disease and other nervous system disorders
(11).

Although coconut oil contains four types of MCTs, 50% of its
fat comes from the kind known as lauric acid.

Some research suggests that fat sources with a higher
percentage of lauric acid may produce a more sustained level of
ketosis. This is because it’s metabolized more gradually than
other MCTs (12, 13).

MCTs have been used to induce ketosis in epileptic children
without restricting carbs as drastically as the classic
ketogenic diet.

In fact, several studies have found that a high-MCT diet
containing 20% of calories from carbs produces effects similar
to the classic ketogenic diet, which provides fewer than 5% of
calories from carbs (14, 15, 16).

When adding coconut oil to your diet, it’s a good idea to do so
slowly to minimize digestive side effects like stomach cramping
or diarrhea.

Start with one teaspoon per day and work up to two to three
tablespoons daily over the course of a week.

Bottom Line: Consuming coconut oil provides
your body with MCTs, which are quickly absorbed and converted
into ketone bodies by your liver.

3. Ramp up Your Physical Activity

Woman Losing Weight With Exercise

A growing number of studies have found that being in ketosis
may be
beneficial for some types of athletic performance
,
including endurance exercise (17, 18, 19, 20).

In addition, being more active can help you get into ketosis.

When you exercise, you deplete your body of its glycogen
stores. Normally, these are replenished when you eat carbs,
which are broken down into glucose and then converted to
glycogen.

However, if carb intake is minimized, glycogen stores remain
low. In response, your liver increases its production of
ketones, which can be used as an alternate fuel source for your
muscles.

One study found that at low blood ketone concentrations,
exercise increases the rate at which ketones are produced.
However, when blood ketones are already elevated, they do not
rise with exercise and may actually decrease for a short period
(21).

In addition, working out in a fasted state has been shown to
drive up ketone levels (22, 23).

In a small study, nine older women exercised either before or
after a meal. Their blood ketone levels were 137–314% higher
when they exercised before a meal than when they exercised
after a meal (23).

Keep in mind that although exercise increases ketone
production, it may take one to four weeks for your body to
adapt to using ketones and fatty acids as primary fuels. During
this time, physical performance may be reduced temporarily
(20).

Bottom Line: Engaging in physical activity
can increase ketone levels during carb restriction. This
effect may be enhanced by working out in a fasted state.

4. Increase Your Healthy Fat Intake

Avocado And Flask Of Oil

Consuming plenty of healthy fat
can boost your ketone levels and help you reach ketosis.

Indeed, a very low-carb ketogenic diet not only minimizes
carbs, but is also high in fat.

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Ketogenic diets for weight loss, metabolic health and exercise
performance usually provide between 60–80% of calories from
fat.

The classic ketogenic diet used for epilepsy is even higher in
fat, with typically 85–90% of calories from fat (24).

However, extremely high fat intake doesn’t necessarily
translate into higher ketone levels.

A three-week study of 11 healthy people compared the effects of
fasting with different amounts of fat intake on breath ketone
levels.

Overall, ketone levels were found to be similar in people
consuming 79% or 90% of calories from fat (25).

Furthermore, because fat makes up such a large percentage of a
ketogenic
diet
, it’s important to choose high-quality sources.

Good fats include olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter,
lard and tallow. In addition, there are many
healthy, high-fat foods
that are also very low in carbs.

However, if your goal is weight loss, it’s important to make
sure you’re not consuming too many calories in total, as this
can cause your weight loss to stall.

Bottom Line: Consuming at least 60% of
calories from fat will help boost your ketone levels. Choose
a variety of healthy fats from both plant and animal sources.

5. Try a Short Fast or a Fat Fast

Woman with an Empty Plate in Front of Her Holding a Fork and a Knife

Another way to get into ketosis is to go without eating for
several hours.

In fact, many people go into mild ketosis between dinner and
breakfast.

Children with epilepsy are sometimes fasted for 24–48 hours
before they start a ketogenic diet. This is done to get into
ketosis quickly so that seizures can be reduced sooner
(26, 27).

Intermittent
fasting
, a dietary approach that involves regular
short-term fasts, may also induce ketosis (28, 29).

Moreover, “fat fasting” is another ketone-boosting approach
that mimics the effects of fasting.

It involves consuming about 1,000 calories
per day, 85–90% of which come from fat. This combination of low
calorie and very high fat intake may help you achieve ketosis
quickly.

A 1965 study reported significant fat loss in overweight
patients who followed a fat fast. However, other researchers
have pointed out that these results appear to have been highly
exaggerated (30).

Because a fat fast is so low in protein and calories, it should
be followed for a maximum of three to five days to prevent an
excessive loss of muscle mass. It may also be difficult to
adhere to for more than a couple of days.

Here are some tips and ideas for doing a fat fast to get
into ketosis.

Bottom Line: Fasting, intermittent fasting
and a “fat fast” can all help you get into ketosis relatively
quickly.

6. Maintain Adequate Protein Intake

Foods High in Protein

Achieving ketosis requires a protein
intake
that is adequate but not excessive.

The classic ketogenic diet used in epilepsy patients is
restricted in both carbs and protein to maximize ketone levels.

The same diet may also be
beneficial for cancer
patients, as it may limit tumor
growth (31, 32).

However, for most people, cutting back on protein to increase
ketone production isn’t a healthy practice.

First, it’s important to consume enough protein to supply the
liver with amino acids that can be used for gluconeogenesis,
which translates to “making new glucose.”

In this process, your liver provides glucose for the few cells
and organs in your body that can’t use ketones as fuel, such as
your red blood cells and portions of the kidneys and brain.

Second, protein intake should be high enough to maintain muscle
mass when carb intake is low, especially during weight loss.

Although losing weight typically results in the loss of both
muscle and fat, consuming sufficient amounts of protein on a
very low-carb ketogenic diet can help preserve muscle mass
(5, 30).

Several studies have shown that the preservation of muscle mass
and physical performance is maximized when protein intake is in
the range of 0.55–0.77 grams per pound (1.2–1.7 grams per
kilogram) of lean mass (20).

In weight loss studies, very low-carb diets with protein intake
within this range have been found to induce and maintain
ketosis (7, 8, 33, 34).

In one study of 17 obese men, following a ketogenic diet
providing 30% of calories from protein for four weeks led to
blood ketone levels of 1.52 mmol/L, on average. This is well
within the 0.5–3.0 mmol/L range of nutritional ketosis
(34).

To calculate your protein needs on a ketogenic diet, multiply
your ideal body weight in pounds by 0.55 to 0.77 (1.2 to 1.7 in
kilograms). For example, if your ideal body weight is 130
pounds (59 kg), your protein intake should be 71–100 grams.

Bottom Line: Consuming too little protein
can lead to muscle mass loss, whereas excessive protein
intake may suppress ketone production.

7. Test Ketone Levels and Adjust Your Diet As Needed

Blood Glucose Meter and Strips

Like many things in nutrition, achieving and maintaining a
state of ketosis is highly individualized.

Therefore, it can be helpful to test your ketone levels to
ensure you’re achieving your goals.

The three types of ketones — acetone, beta-hydroxybutyrate and
acetoacetate — can be measured in your breath, blood or urine.

Acetone is found in your breath, and studies have confirmed
testing acetone breath levels is a reliable way to monitor
ketosis in people following ketogenic diets (35, 36).

The Ketonix meter measures acetone in breath.
After breathing into the meter, a color flashes to indicate
whether you are in ketosis and how high your levels are.

Ketones can also be measured with a blood ketone meter. Similar
to the way a glucose meter works, a small drop of blood is
placed on a strip that’s inserted into the meter.

It measures the amount of beta-hydroxybutyrate in your blood,
and it has also been found to be a valid indicator of ketosis
levels (37).

The disadvantage of measuring blood ketones is that the strips
are very expensive.

Lastly, the ketone measured in urine is acetoacetate. Ketone
urine strips are dipped into urine and turn various shades of
pink or purple depending on the level of ketones present. A
darker color reflects higher ketone levels.

Ketone urine strips are easy to use and fairly inexpensive.
Although their accuracy in long-term use has been questioned,
they should initially provide confirmation that you are in
ketosis.

A recent study found that urinary ketones tend to be highest in
the early morning and after dinner on a ketogenic diet
(38).

Using one or more of these methods to test ketones can help you
determine whether you need to make any adjustments to get into
ketosis.

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