To be confident about being in ketosis, especially at the beginning when you're not quite sure how you should feel, it's best to measure your ketone levels. By monitoring your ketone levels, you can assure that you're doing the diet correctly and make dietary adjustments based on what you measure. People also respond to diet and exercise differently, so the best way to cater the keto diet to your own biology is to measure.
Before we discuss how to measure ketone levels, let's set some guidelines for optimal ketone levels. Nutritional ketosis is detected when levels begin to read at 0.5 mmol/L of ketones in the blood, but your optimal ketone level will depend on your personal goals. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, your target ketone level will be lower than someone who wants to improve mental performance. The following table provides some general guidelines based on your goal.
Ketogenic diets, like most low carb diets, work through the elimination of glucose. Because most folks live on a high carb diet, our bodies normally run on glucose (or sugar) for energy. We cannot make glucose and only have about 24 hours' worth stored in our muscle tissue and liver. Once glucose is no longer available from food sources, we begin to burn stored fat instead, or fat from our diets.
This means that if you have risk factors for heart disease ” such as elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure (hypertension), or a strong family history of the disease ” you should use caution when following this diet. The diet's heavy reliance on fat, especially saturated fat, can elevate cholesterol levels, further increasing your chances of developing heart disease in the future. (7)
Reduced hunger. Many people experience a marked reduction in hunger on a keto diet. This may be caused by an increased ability of the body to be fueled by its fat stores. Many people feel great when they eat just once or twice a day, automatically ending up doing a form of intermittent fasting. This saves both time and money, while also speeding up weight loss.
The good news is that snacks are totally allowed (and I're not just talking about carrot sticks.) There are plenty of packaged options out there designed for keto fans. FATBAR is one of them. These snack bars have 200 calories, 16 grams of fat, and four grams of net carbs. They're also plant-based and are made with almond or cashew butter, cocoa butter, coconut, pea protein, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds.
Other experts say the long-term accumulation of ketones could be harmful. œThose ketones are emergency fuel sources, and we're not meant to run on them long-term, says Kristen Kizer, a registered dietitian at Houston Methodist Hospital. œKetones are negatively-charged molecules, which means they're acidic. When you build up ketone bodies in your system, you're building up acid. One of the ways your body buffers acid is by pulling calcium from your bones. Kizer also notes that the diet isn't very balanced and involves a very high intake of animal products, which generally do not protect against cancer, diabetes, or other diseases.
A related clinical diet for drug-resistant epilepsy is called the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet, in which MCT oil is extensively used because it's more ketogenic than long-chain triglycerides. (13a) Another dietary therapy for epilepsy called Low Glycemic Index Treatment (LGIT) was developed in 2002 as an alternative to the ketogenic diet. LGIT monitors the total amount of carbohydrates consumed daily, and focuses on carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index.) (13b)
Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to what you put into it “ when you overload it with fats and take away carbohydrates, it will begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. Optimal ketone levels offer many health, weight loss, physical and mental performance benefits.1There are scientifically-backed studies that show the advantage of a low-carb, ketogenic diet over a low-fat diet. One meta-analysis of low-carbohydrate diets showed a large advantage in weight loss. The New England Journal of Medicine study resulted in almost double the weight loss in a long-term study on ketone inducing diets.
Here's the Knowledge Stage analogy: Say we are hungry and want to go out to eat. It wouldn't make much sense to sprint to the nearest restaurant, right? Wouldn't we be better served to take the few minutes to learn about what's available, and then make a plan? Yes, we would take the time to Yelp or ask a friend for some knowledge and use that information to decide where we want to go.
This was a great read , Steve, thanks! I'm 19 days in but forever educating myself. Wish I'd been more prepared for the keto flu cos' that hit me HARD! Out the other side now though and hoping to see some improvements in my cycling endurance and less reliance on the gels and goos! I'll also be doing lots of HIIT for some racing that I'll be doing this winter (in the UK) so looking forward to experimenting with that! As a former (and maybe still current) sugar lover, the dessert tips were especially useful. Thanks again!
¢ Restricted ketogenic diet ” As mentioned earlier, a ketogenic diet can be an effective weapon against cancer. To do this, you need to be on a restricted ketogenic diet. By restricting your carbohydrate and calorie intake, your body loses glycogen and starts producing ketones that your healthy cells can use as energy. Because cancer cells cannot use these ketones, they starve to death.12
Historically, a targeted ketogenic diet consists of limiting carbohydrate intake to just 20“30 net grams per day. œNet carbs is the amount of carbs remaining once dietary fiber is taken into account. Because fiber is indigestible once eaten, most people don't count grams of fiber toward their daily carb allotment. In other words, total carbs “ grams of fiber = net carbs. That's the carb counts that matter most.
Alison Moodie is a health reporter based in Los Angeles. She has written for numerous outlets including Newsweek, Agence France-Presse, The Daily Mail and HuffPost. For years she covered sustainable business for The Guardian. She holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where she majored in TV news. When she's not working she's doting on her two kids and whipping up Bulletproof-inspired dishes in her kitchen.
It's not for me, but it interesting to learn these things, and of course there seem to be good reasons for doing it for some people. I'm happy with the œeat less, exercise more diet for now, but I might try out intermittent fasting since I've seen a few things suggesting it might help with allergies? I doubt that's well supported, but I've liked what you've had to say about it, so since it's not a thing I have to spend money on to try out, might as well, right?
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