How to tell if you are in ketosis

Ketosis is a state in which the body has a highly high-fat burning rate. It gets to this point by first depleting liver glycogen (which contains about 100g worth of glucose), and when there’s no more glycogen, it switches over to using your muscles for energy.

That’s why you feel like crap when you’re in ketosis because your muscles are breaking down. This is known as “protein catabolism,” and the goal of dieting is to lose power.

In ketosis, you’ve tapped out your glycogen reserves and started burning fat for energy instead. To measure this, you can test your blood for ketones or use a breath analyzer. You can use the latter because it’s cheaper, but either works pretty much equally well.  

You should be able to get one of these for about $100-$180 at any health store or online.

Signs that suggest you are in ketosis

  • Feeling tired/fatigued
  • Having a dry mouth or bad breath
  • Foul-smelling urine (you can also search online to tell if this is normal for ketosis)
  • A metallic taste in the mouth, which most people describe as “bloody” or “salty.”
  • Decreased energy levels and increased fatigue during workouts.
  • Increased thirst
  • Loss of appetite

There are ways to avoid all these symptoms, but most people don’t do that. It’s essential to understand ketosis because it is this state that provides the majority of the benefits of fasting; it does NOT occur with regular dieting.

If you can get into ketosis (and out again), then you can enjoy the majority of fasting benefits without actually having to fast.

Because it’s crucial: ketosis is not something that comes with regular dieting; you must specifically work towards achieving it. This means no sugars, little to no carbs (20g/day or less), and lots of fat and protein in your diet.

It’s also important to be aware that you may not see the “ketone breath” or “ketone blood” signs that you’re in ketosis. It can take a few days for these to show up, and sometimes they don’t show up at all.

Health benefits of ketosis

There are many, but we’ll cover the major ones.

1.   Lipolysis

From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that our bodies can burn fat. Fat is highly efficient for energy, and our ancestors had to be capable of it.

Though, if you’re a modern human who doesn’t have to worry about chasing down prey for hours on end all day or going for days without food, then your body can probably do without the extra fat.  

Most people could stand to lose excess weight before their health suffers from it.

Many people feel better once they get into ketosis because their body can now transition from burning carbs as its primary fuel source into using fat stores as its primary fuel source.

This also means that you don’t need to eat as much anymore because your body isn’t constantly replenishing glycogen levels in the blood. This equates to about 20g or less of carbs per day for the average person.

2. Ketosis fights cancer

According to a study, pancreatic cancer cells exposed to β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) began “autophagy,” a regulated process in which your body consumes damaged components and creates new ones.

The process essentially allows your body to start over again with healthy cells. This could mean that ketosis slows down or stops tumor growth by preventing damaged cell division.

3. Ketosis reduces inflammation

Ketosis has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on multiple sclerosis patients. This is because ketosis reduces blood glucose levels, which reduces lipid peroxidation and protein glycosylation, contributing to inflammation.

4. Ketosis can improve mental clarity, memory, and mood (acetylcholine)

When your body is in ketosis, your brain can begin to use ketones as an energy source. This means that you will have an abundance of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning.

One study improved a memory test score by up to 20% after four weeks on a ketogenic diet. Another study shows an increase in verbal fluency scores compared to those who follow high carbohydrate diets.

5. It increases physical performance

Ketosis has been shown to increase endurance without requiring as much oxygen during exercise, which means that you’ll be able to do more physical activity before becoming fatigued.

This is beneficial for athletes, bodybuilders, and people who lead sedentary lifestyles and have diabetes or metabolic syndrome diseases.

Health risks of ketosis

There are some health risks associated with following a ketogenic diet. Still, they are scarce, and I’m not aware of any studies linking the long-term consumption of ketones with adverse effects.

1. Ketosis can lower blood pressure (after adaptation)

It’s important to note that this only applies to people who have uncontrolled hypertension or are currently on medication for their blood pressure/hypertension.

In the initial stages of ketosis, your body will release hormones such as insulin and glucagon to process the excess amount of stored glycogen in your muscles. This causes blood pressure to temporarily go up because these hormones also regulate blood vessel constriction and dilation.

However, after adaptation over some time, it is believed that your blood pressure can return to normal levels.

2. Ketosis may cause kidney stones (rare)

A high water intake is recommended while on keto just in case you’re at risk for developing calcium oxalate stones, which are commonly found in people with underlying kidney diseases such as kidney failure and distal renal tubular acidosis.

3. You might get the “keto flu” (flu-like symptoms)

Many people experience flu-like symptoms when they first switch to a ketogenic diet, but these usually go away after 1-2 weeks of keto-adaptation. This results from your body changing from using carbohydrates as its primary source of energy to using fat instead.

If you find yourself experiencing keto flu, make sure to keep drinking plenty of fluids and avoid overworking your muscles until the symptoms go away.

4. You might experience some gastrointestinal discomfort (gas, bloating)

This usually occurs during the adaptation process mentioned above, which takes about 1-7 days on average, depending on how many carbs you were consuming before starting a ketogenic diet.

The good thing is that this gas typically dissipates within 5-10 minutes after excretion because it’s simply water vapor that’s produced when hydrogen ions are combined with carbon dioxide, according to Dr. D’Agostino.

5. A low carb/ketogenic diet can cause muscle cramps (rare)

This typically occurs due to the drop in the number of minerals stored in your muscles, as well as an accompanying electrolyte imbalance that can result from cutting back on high sodium foods and eating more green vegetables instead.

Drink plenty of fluids and try eating pickled cucumbers or taking a magnesium supplement which can help counteract this particular side effect by replenishing your magnesium levels within cells.

The takeaway

Ketosis is a complex metabolic process that takes place in your body when you restrict carbs for long enough to the point where your body starts relying more on fat stores instead of glucose.

Also, always speak to your doctor before starting any new diet plan, particularly one that restricts entire food groups like the ketogenic diet.

Be wary of fad diets because not all are good for you, and some may even pose health risks. A lot can change in a year or two, so it’s best to get advice from professionals.

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