How to Reach Ketosis: The Complete Guide

What do Victoria Secret’s model Adriana Lima and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow both have in common? They’re both among the many celebrities who have reaped the benefits of a ketogenic diet.

Ketosis is becoming an increasingly popular topic as it promises to get you in the shape you’ve always wanted to be in. Not to mention the many health benefits associated with adhering to a ketogenic diet. Read on for our complete guide on how to reach ketosis and reap the many benefits of a life spent in ketosis.  

What Is Ketosis?

First things first, it’s important to know what you’re aiming for: Ketosis is a natural metabolic state where the body relies on fat and ketones as its primary energy sources instead of glucose.

Your body’s preferred fuel source is glucose which it gets from carbohydrates, and when these sources run low the body has to look elsewhere. When the body is in ketosis the liver uses the fat that you eat and your stored body fat to create ketones. Ketones are water-soluble molecules that the body uses as an alternative fuel source to keep your body functioning.

Health Benefits of Ketosis

Ketogenic diets are hugely successful for weight loss. Numerous studies have found the ketogenic diet to be much more beneficial than low-fat diets, but in addition to that is the long list of other health benefits associated with the ketogenic diet.

The ketogenic diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity making it possible for type 2 diabetics to reduce and even completely stop taking diabetes medication. There is also evidence that a ketogenic diet could starve cancer cells from the glucose they need to grow, making it a useful addition to cancer therapy.

It can also be used to treat acne and even reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in individuals with epilepsy. A lot of diets work by starving the body of essential nutrients, but ketosis can help you to lose weight while improving your overall health.

While your body is adjusting to ketosis you might feel sluggish and tired, but once you’re fully adapted you will notice an increase in focus and concentration as well as more physical energy. So, now you know how beneficial ketosis could be for you, let’s take a look at how to get there.       

How to Reach Ketosis

In order to reach ketosis, you need to reduce your carbohydrate intake. This can be easier said than done, and reaching ketosis is a lot easier when the ketogenic diet is viewed as a broader lifestyle change as supposed to just a restriction on eating. The following steps will teach you how to reach ketosis fast and stay there.   

Reduce Carbohydrate Intake

The ketogenic diet is all about minimal carbohydrates. How many carbohydrates you can have is dependent on your activity levels. For most people, a daily intake of 15-30 grams of net carbohydrates per day will allow the body to reach ketosis.

If you’re an athlete or training intensively 4-5 days a week then you can allow yourself a little more. However, it is not recommended to eat over 50g of carbohydrates a day. When you’re first going keto it’s important to drop your carbohydrates to around 20g a day until you reach ketosis and then take it from there.   

Increase Physical Exercise

Exercise depletes the body of its glycogen stores. When you exercise and your glycogen stores aren’t being replenished by consuming carbohydrates the body begins to burn fat for energy. 

By exercising intensely and regularly while reducing your carbohydrate intake you will reduce the amount of time it takes for the body to run out of glycogen and enter ketosis. Once you’re in ketosis, the more you exercise, the more fat your body has to burn for fuel.

Exercise will not only help you to reach ketosis fast, but it will further improve your fat loss when you’re there!    

Familiarize Yourself With Keto Staples

Sticking to the keto diet can be difficult, and the easiest way to avoid falling off the wagon is to familiarize yourself with keto staples. You’re going to want to stockpile keto ingredients and recipes so that you can plan your meals and you always have something to hand when you’re hungry. 

Like with any restrictive diet, it is important to plan and prep your meals, so you don’t get caught out when your energy levels need a top-up.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has surged in popularity recently, and for good reason. It’s been found to increase energy levels, reduce blood sugar levels, improve sleep quality, and help with weight loss. When used in conjunction with a ketogenic diet it will help you to reach ketosis quicker and improve weight and fat loss.

Intermittent fasting works by not eating for an extended period of time. The great news is, is that you’ll be sleeping for most of it. You can play around with the intervals, but the most used is the 16/8 method. This means you don’t eat for 16 hours, and then you constrict your eating into an 8-hour window.

An example of this would be having your last meal of the day at 6 pm and then not eating again until 10 am the next day.

The reason intermittent fasting helps with entering ketosis is that when you fast the body shifts from using carbohydrates for energy to fats. That should sound familiar! By fasting you further deplete your glycogen stores meaning your body has to start burning fat for fuel.     

Consume More Healthy Fats

Healthy fats are going to become the bulk of your diet when you are aiming for ketosis.  Your diet is going to be around 70-80% fat. If you’re not used to eating this much fat then it might be a daunting amount, and not all fats are created equally. 

There are three types of fat that make up a healthy Keto diet.

  • Monounsaturated Fats – These fats can decrease the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity
  • Saturated Fats – These fats can improve your HDL to LDL ratio, improve hormone regulation and help to maintain healthy immune system function
  • Polyunsaturated Fats – These fats are a bit more tricky. Foods high in polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil are essential for brain health, but when they’re heated they can often form harmful compounds. 

Sources of healthy monounsaturated fats include:

  • Avocado oil
  • Olive oil
  • Bacon with no nitrates
  • Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel 
  • Lard
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Chia seeds

Sources of healthy saturated fats include:

  • Eggs
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Lard
  • Coconut oil or MCTs (more on this later!)
  • Fatty cuts of red meat like New York Strip Steak

Sources of healthy polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocado and avocado oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Fatty fish

Eating more healthy fat will help you to reach ketosis quicker, because it will promote your body to get used to burning fat for energy. Be aware though that some fats such as nuts contain more carbohydrates than others so always be sure to check the label. 

Take MCT Oil

MCT oil is a healthy saturated fat, but it deserves its own mention when it comes to reaching ketosis. MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, which are fatty acids that are easily metabolized and used for energy. This helps to boost the levels of ketones in your blood making it easier for your body to reach ketosis.

A great way to work MCT oil into your Keto diet is to blend it with your morning coffee. Not only will you start the day with more ketones, but it might just be the creamiest and tastiest coffee you’ve ever tried!

Supplement and Test Your Ketone Levels

Your ketone levels are going to be vital. The quicker you can get your ketone levels up to between 1.0 mmol/L and 3.0 mmol/L the better – this is the sweet spot for optimum ketosis. The reason for regularly testing your ketone levels is that it will help you gauge how different foods and activities affect your ketone levels.

When you’re first setting out on the road to ketosis, regularly testing your ketone levels and taking note of how they change can help you more effectively plan your meals and activities to help reach ketosis quickly. Testing is simple and can be done with either blood, breath, or urine.

You can actually take exogenous ketones to help raise the levels of ketones in your blood and therefore reach ketosis quicker. You will still need to follow the ketogenic diet closely, but supplementing ketones can help to reduce the side-effects of crossing over into ketosis such as lethargy and diarrhea.

Observe Your Protein Intake

Even though going Keto seems to be predominantly about watching your fat and carb intake, you need to pay attention to how much protein you are eating. If you focus entirely on fat your body is going to be robbed of a host of nutrients that come with eating good sources of protein. 

You should be eating a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every pound of lean body mass. If you’re exercising regularly, then your body is going to need more so that it can repair itself after each exercise session.  

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is a common side-effect of ketosis. This is because when your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy, the ketones it produces have to be passed from the body via frequent urination. When you’re in ketosis you’re going to be losing more fluids and electrolytes.

From headaches and brain-fog to urinary-tract infections and kidney stones, there’s plenty of reasons why you don’t want to stay dehydrated for long. Ensuring you drink enough water and supplement electrolytes is absolutely vital if you’re looking to reach ketosis quickly and stay healthy. 

Electrolytes will also help to combat any lethargy associated with ketosis.

How Long Does It Take to Reach Ketosis?

If you follow the above advice on how to reach ketosis quickly then it’s possible to be in ketosis in as little as 24 hours, but most people should expect it to take 2-4 days to reach ketosis.

There are a number of factors that may affect how long it takes, but if you follow all of the advice given above you should get there sooner than later. Factors that might lengthen the amount of time it takes include

  • Your Previous Diet – If your previous diet was full of carbohydrates, then it might take longer for your body to deplete its glycogen stores
  • Metabolism – Some people’s metabolisms adapt quicker than others. If your metabolism adapts slowly then it might take longer for your body to reach ketosis. Your metabolism usually relates to your level of physical exercise and quality of sleep. 
  • Age – The older you are the longer it might take to enter ketosis.

How to Know When You’re There

As there’s no concrete amount of time it’s going to take you to reach ketosis, you’re going to need a reliable way to know when you’re there. The most reliable way is to test your ketone levels. This can be done easily using your breath, blood, or urine.

Some methods are more reliable than others, but then some are more costly, so be sure to do your research first. Testing by blood is the most accurate but is also the most expensive. 

It’s Time to Enter Ketosis

Well, now you know what ketosis is, how to reach ketosis, how long it’s going to take, and how to know when you’re there… All that’s left to do is begin.

By following the advice in this article you should reach ketosis quickly and easily. The ketogenic diet is a hugely successful weight and fat loss method, but if you have any doubts be sure to consult with your doctor prior to starting the ketogenic diet.

Do you still have questions? Be sure to check out our blog post on the myths and facts about the Keto diet.

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