A keto diet is a very effective way to lose fat and improve health for many people. The aim of the diet is to induce the body into ketosis, a metabolic switch where the body is able to burn fatty acids instead of glucose.
We have already discussed setting keto macros, the importance of electrolyte supplementation, and tips on how to avoid keto flu, as ways to successfully get into ketosis and become fat adapted.
Before you are fully able to get all the benefits of a ketogenic diet, you must enter into ketosis. There are a number of common signs and symptoms of ketosis to let you know you are headed in the right direction.
How do I know I’m “KETO ADAPTED”?
Using fat for fuel only happens once your metabolism changes from burning glucose to identifying ketones as the new energy source. There are 8 basic symptoms if ketosis that will tell you if you are fat-adapted.
8 Symptoms of Ketosis
Measurable Increase of Ketones
You can test ketone levels from urine, breath, or blood samples. Technically, a range of 0.5-1.5 mmol/L is considered ketosis. However, unless you follow a ketogenic diet for medical reasons (in which case you should work with a medical professional) you don’t need to test your ketones!
It’s much better to adapt the diet to your lifestyle, feel nourished, and nutritionally supported rather than chase numbers on a ketone meter or stress about testing. At times, it can be interesting information but in more cases than not, leads to greater confusion and complication.
Recommended: Why I DON’T MEASURE my KETONES
Short-Term Fatigue and Weakness
This is one of the biggest hurdle for keto dieters! The initial switch, after a life time fueling on carbs, to fat can be quite difficult for some. A few days of fatigue and weakness are very common symptoms of ketosis. During these days, you are in “limbo land” weaning off carbs and still adjusting to using fats as fuel. Your body must work to upregulate the enzymes and ketone bodies needed for processing fats for energy. You are close, don’t quite before you break through to ketosis!
What to do: Double check your electrolytes, specifically salt and magnesium. Take a calm, low-key approach to life for a few days. Understand this is part of the adaptation process and don’t push too hard or calorie restrict for a few days.
Recommended: Tips on Exercising during Keto Adaptation
Adapting to ketosis usually means you are changing many of the foods in your diet. A short period of constipation or diarrhea may occur and the digestive system works to make the necessary changes to be able to digest more fat.
To make your food choices easy, learn what and what not to eat on a ketogenic diet and check out our cookbook!
What to do: A specific form of magnesium called magnesium citrate will serve to balance electrolytes and relieve constipation. Begin with one dose, increase as needed. If diarrhea is your issue, consider ox-bile salts or enzymes to facilitate the digestion of fatty acids.
Thank the rising ketone levels for this symptom! The ketone acetone is released orally and may cause bad or fruity breath on a ketogenic diet.
What to do: Swishing with a mouthwash or brushing your teeth a few times a day can help manage any odd smells while your body adjusts. With time, unpleasantness will fade.
Muscle Cramps and Headaches
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can cause muscle crams and headaches. These are common withdrawal symptoms after removing sugar from our diet.
What to do: Consider electrolyte supplementation. Ingest 2-3 teaspoons salt daily, plus extra around times of intense sweating. Take 400mg magnesium glycinate 2-3 times daily.
Protein and fat macros are inherently very satiating, this makes a keto diet very useful for reducing hunger and helping people eat fewer calories without feeling deprived. The state of ketosis is regulated by appetite-mediating nutrients that influence hormones differently than carbohydrates1. Maintaining stable blood sugar through carb restriction also has a beneficial impact on hunger hormones. Finally, ketones themselves may have a role in neurologically reducing appetite2, they are a more efficient source of energy than sugar. Being more available and easier to use than glucose further contributes to appetite suppression.
What to do: Take advantage of low hunger whenever it strikes. Always aim for your minimum daily protein requirement and adjust the fat according to hunger. If your hunger is low, eat less fat. The less dietary fat you eat, the more you can burn from your body!
I’m NOT HUNGRY on a KETOGENIC DIET, should I eat?
Increased Focus and Energy
Low-energy may be one of the first symptoms of ketosis, a sudden boost in energy often follows. As the body adapts to burn fat over glucose for energy, you will need less and less sugar which allows your blood sugar levels to stabilize. You won’t experience draining fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin and will be able to skip the afternoon nap.
Don’t lose heart if you first experience fatigue or the keto flu on a keto diet. Our bodies need to produce ketones consistently for us to really feel the mental benefits of fat adaptation. Long-term keto dieters report increased clarity and cognitive function, completely inline with the many studies that show ketones to be therapeutic for brain disease3, concussions4, and memory loss5. The switch may take a few days and up to a few weeks until you reach your full ketone potential. Some notice subtle changes continuing on for many months as they continue to dial in their keto diet and lifestyle.
Improve Mood + Cognition and Decrease Anxiety with a Ketogenic Diet
This is by far, one the most popular benefits of a ketogenic diet. The first big weight drop occurs after starting a ketogenic diet when carb restriction triggers the release of superfluous water weight. Rapid weight loss is a clear symptom of ketosis, some keto dieters may notice significant weight loss overnight.
Time and time again, a ketogenic diet has proven effective in short and long-term fat loss6,7. To continue losing body fat consistently, dial in your macros and stick to the diet. It takes time to gain weight and it will take time to lose it too.
The TRUTH: WHY KETO WORKS for fat loss
There are several clear symptoms of ketosis and signs that your body is adjusting to a ketotic metabolism. Some are not as pleasant as others but they usually don’t last for more than a few weeks.
Everyone is different, some of us will have a very smooth transition and never experience any negative symptoms of ketosis!
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23632752↩ 2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/obr.12230/full↩ 3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18625458↩ 4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24721741↩ 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15123336↩ 6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17971178↩ 7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23651522↩