Ketosis

The process of reducing dietary carbohydrates to the point that the body starts to burn fat as its primary fuel can be pivotal to rapidly curing the metabolic syndrome and/or reducing significant amounts of excess weight. Burning fat results in a person going into 'ketosis' which results in the production of measurable ketones in their urine. This article compiles some notes about how to get into and measure ketosis.

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Getting into ketosis

Firstly you need to carefully study the detailed article on the metabolic syndrome on this site found here. Not everyone who has the metabolic syndrome needs to get into ketosis to get better or lose weight but if a person is in very poor health or has a significant amount of weight to lose then, whilst it requires a very strict approach, getting into ketosis will get the fastest results by quite a margin.

Strip out carbohydrates

You will need to completely avoid all carbohydrate rich food. Anything that has any kind of flour or sugar in it, even if it purports to be a healthy food, will almost certainly contain too much carbohydrate to allow you to get into ketosis. There are estimates that you have to eat 'less than 20grams of carbohydrate in a meal' to get into or stay in ketosis and if you know that you are a person who does well with charts and lists then do look around on the internet for this information as it is there in the public domain.

Don't overeat proteins

You can and should definitely eat plenty of protein when you are on a low-carbohydrate diet but, if you are trying to get into and stay in ketosis, you need to know that if you eat over a certain amount of protein then your body will turn the excess protein back into sugar through a process called gluconeogenesis. How much is an excess really does vary a lot between different people and how much exercise they do so this is another reason to check yourself with the strips as described shortly.

Eat plenty of fat!

As weird and counter-intuitive as this is for anyone who has grown up in the 'fat is bad, carbs are good' mind-set of the last few decades the simple truth is that the nutritionists got this completely wrong. It is not fat that makes people overweight, or gives them metabolic diseases, it is sugar. You can and should eat plenty of fat to help you get into and stay in ketosis and in fact this is the one food group that you can eat from as much as you like! For most people the best way to get plenty of fat into their diet is from things like avocados, nuts & seeds, edible oils, coconut products and dairy products such as cream and cheeses. Of course meat, fish & chicken also contain fats but, in terms of being in ketosis, you are best to eat fattier rather than leaner sources of these protein rich foods too.

Be prepared to exercise

The body does not easily turn itself over to burning fat as its primary energy source. People who have the metabolic syndrome had ancestors who found that they had a genetic advantage from having the disposition to store excess sugar as fat in their bodies in times of famine. Even if you have stripped out carbohydrates and are eating excess proteins your body may still resist releasing its treasure trove (in energy terms) of stored fat until you force the issue by doing some exercise. Be careful not to injure yourself if you have not already been in training. All you have to do is to make your body work hard enough to get your heart rate up. The 'how-long?' question is not one that can be answered here because it really does vary between different people too much to tell. You have to test yourself to find out.

Don't fall back down the hill!

The process of getting into ketosis is like climbing a hill and many people who try to go on a low-carbohydrate diet really struggle with little to show for it because they never actually get to the top, which is ketosis, i.e. when they shift from using sugars to burning fats as their primary source of energy. Once a person reaches the top of the hill and gets into ketosis then everything becomes so much easier because fat is an incredibly efficient source of energy and, once it starts being used, the person feels a great deal better; their energy levels rise, their weight levels drop, their body stops hurting and their mind stops craving carbohydrates. It usually takes at least a few days and up to a week to get into ketosis, this is the pivotal time that makes or breaks this program for many. Don't fall back down the hill but push on, harder if you have to, once those strips start changing colour you will know you've passed the hardest part.

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Measuring for Ketosis

Obviously you have to get some urine test sticks to be able to do this but these are readily available without prescription. If you don't already know where to get them then I suggest you enter something like 'Ketone test-strips + suppliers' into your search engine and someone who can sell to you directly should come up.

The actual process is extremely simple because the strips change colour straight away and you can simply hold the strip at the one end so a small amount of your urine runs over the business end of it whilst you are going to the toilet. Give the strip a shake over the toilet to remove any excess drops and then hold it up against the colour chart on the bottle to see if you are in the pink yet! Most people will test a lot when they start this program so, if you have a choice I recommend the bottle of 100 strips rather than the 50. Once they get into ketosis and have worked out their food and exercise parameters they naturally don't need to test as much.

In the pink!

People vary a lot with how strongly they can get into ketosis and stay there. I think it is a mistake to focus too much on the level you get to so long as you get there in the first place! Even the very first trace amount of ketones (the first level of reaction when it changes colour from beige) is an excellent sign that you have started to burn fats as an energy source. The next level up, called 'Trace' is where most people get most of their results and this is an ideal place to safely and strongly remain in ketosis for however long is required for you to reach your health goals. It may be the case that being a step or two higher than the trace level will mean that you will lose weight faster but you need to know that this level will fluctuate quite a lot according to the time of day, how much you are exercising and when you last ate etc. I know that people get very focused on what they perceive as the optimal levels of ketosis in this area but what I can tell you from my clinical experience is that, so long as someone is in ketosis at all, to any degree, then their health improves and their weight drops.

The upper limit

Similar to my comments above, I do not think that people need to overly worry about going too strongly into ketosis as, whilst I am aware of the theoretical risks, I have yet to see this being an actual problem with anyone who has done these programs. In this area, as with all of health, you must listen to your body. There is a happy sweet-spot for ketosis where you feel good and lose weight. If you try to push too hard and feel bad, sore or out of sorts then just ease back a notch. So long as you are getting some level of pink strips from the testing, then you can trust that you are doing enough to make this work and you can stop pushing uphill and enjoy the ride!

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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