Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? What's it like? How do I 'do' ketosis? How do I know I'm in ketosis? The questions everyone who's Banting wants the answers to. Ketosis, in chef speak, is quite simply a state your body enters once it has been deprived of glucose. Your body switches to burning fat for energy (stored fat or fat that you have eaten) instead of glucose. A side-effect of that process is the release of ketone bodies into the blood stream.
When you're starved of glucose, your body has no choice but to burn fat for fuel, so it needs little explanation as to why ketosis works at melting fat like a blow heater on an ice sculpture. Ketosis comes with some added extras, namely a commonly noted sense of euphoria or lucidity and increased energy levels.
A downside includes toothbrush-proof halitosis, which stems from the secretion of ammonia through the lungs as a side effect of burning all that fat. Some people on low-carb diets have reported kidney stones, gallstones and a number of other ailments. Scientific research on both sides of this debate is being done all the time, but in our experience from talking to the members of our community and tracking their data, it is generally a case of what was done before they started Banting and not Banting itself. But, this post isn't here to debate that, it serves as a 'how to' and not as a 'you should'.
Theoretically it is very easy. Avoid anything with high carbs in it. If you're not sure what those might be, consult the Real Meal Revolution 'Red List'. Even dipping your toe into the red list will ruin your odds on ketosis. A simpler explanation would be to only eat items on the Green List. Once your body has used every last bit of glucose, you have left, you will feel a bit tired and irritable for a day or so.
By keeping carbs below 30g a day, the body moves from a carb burning state to a fat burning state. Ketones are formed when fatty acids are broken down by the liver for energy. These molecules are generated during fat metabolism – and are a sign that your body is now using fat for energy. This process forces the body to burn fat. We explain this in more detail in the Online Program, where you can also find the necessary tools to follow a ketogenic lifestyle.
If you're worried about eating the wrong thing, it always helps to up your fat content. Fat contains no glucose and can nail your appetite in no time (it’s important to make the distinction between fats and dairy at this point. Although dairy is a fat it does contain some carbs). You will crave carbs the most because your body will be fighting to get more glucose. Prof Noakes says that when this happened to him, he always ate a piece of cheese, instead of going for the bad carbs. Some readers have reported food fantasy dreams and nightmares during this time, but you need to dig your nails in and hold on tight. After one or two days you will be back in the game and rearing to go.
Some find a high fat breakfast is the best way to start the day to keep you fueled for hours. We recommend something like fried eggs in butter, with some bacon. Avo is also a great fat for breakfast - and if you are dairy free, coconut oil is another wonderful option.
Be wary of “empty” fats – we would far rather advocate having another egg over skipping breakfast for a Bulletproof Coffee. Bulletproof Coffee is a normal cup of coffee with a supplementary tablespoon of butter and coconut oil blitzed into it, using a stick blender. It should not be seen as a meal replacement, but rather as a filler between meals (if you are feeling slightly peckish) or if you are feeling a bit sluggish – it’s a great pick-me-up. Although if you're not hungry at breakfast you can wait until lunch to have your first meal and a cup of coffee may be all you need.
A fat shake is another great filler to keep you going between meals, but it is high in dairy, which contains carbs and might spike your insulin, so be sure to factor that into your daily limit.
Jonno teaches you how to make delicious fat drinks in the Online Program, plus many more delicious recipes.
Before long, you should find that you don’t need the fillers to tide you over and that you’ll only eat when you’re hungry.
Eating a buttery or creamy sauce on your steak is also a great way to up your fats and keep you fuller for longer. Your body can convert protein into glucose so too much meat will hinder your progress. A piece of steak as big as your palm is a good size. It's surprisingly easy to eat a bit too much for your needs, therefore we recommend tracking your meals. Our meal tracker in the Online Program, works like a bomb.
Now, to tell whether you're there or not ('in ketosis'), you'll need to test yourself. We often get readers writing to us saying they've been in ketosis for two weeks and nothing has happened. We find this hard to believe so we advise that you make 100% sure. The easiest test is to look in the mirror or stand on the scale. If you're shedding weight like the biggest loser you can rest assured that you have found ketosis. For those who want to be extra sure you can use Keto Sticks. These measure the ketones in your urine and give you a score. Over 0.5 mmol/L on the meter is entry level nutritional ketosis but 1.5 – 3 mmol/L is considered 'optimal ketosis'.
Nutritional Ketosis vs Diabetic Ketoacidosis
"Ketosis is something that Type 1 Diabetics can benefit from by maintaining stable blood sugar levels, to avoid diabetic complications, whereas ketoacidosis is a completely different entity altogether, and can be life-threatening to the Type 1 Diabetic."
Ketosis is a perfectly normal response to carbohydrate restriction but, Ketoacidosis is a pathological condition caused by insulin deficiency. Common to both ketosis and ketoacidosis is low insulin; however, in ketoacidosis, blood glucose levels are very high, and insulin is critically low. Ketone levels are elevated in both states, although are 10-20x higher in ketoacidosis. Nutritional ketosis and diabetic ketoacidosis should not be confused with one another. A ketogenic diet doesn't cause ketoacidosis and those with diabetes (types 1 and 2) will do well on a ketogenic diet.
First step, turf your bread and eat a breakfast full of healthy fats. And don't forget, Tic Tacs contain sugar, so chew some parsley instead!
Sign up to the Online Program for the best way to get familiar with Banting and a low-carb lifestyle.