Ketosis - The Only Guide You'll Ever Need
A step-by-step for focus, weight loss, blood sugar control and more
Welcome to the world of ketosis
The health and fitness scene is awash with fad diets and junk science. We want to do away with the unsubstantiated claims (but without the overwhelming jargon). So let’s start with this…
You probably thought that sugar was the key (or maybe even the only) source of energy for your body. But science is increasingly showing us that this is far from the case. Welcome to the world of the ketogenic diet, which taps into your fat to fuel your body.
High fat, low carb, sufficient protein.
When done right, a ketogenic diet can hand you a wealth of benefits – from faster weight loss to sharper mental focus.
Just what are ketones, anyway?
In the most basic sense, ketones are an incredibly efficient source of fuel which are created when your body breaks down your fat stores, which can only take place once your carb supplies are low enough.
Ketosis is the biological state of having a certain level of ketones in the blood (specifically above 0.5mmol/L).
Ketosis and medical conditions
For many, a ketogenic diet provides a promising solution for faster weight loss, but its benefits don’t stop there. In fact, ketosis has been scientifically proven to assist those with:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Ketosis in action: How ketosis works – step-by-step
Step One – Cut out the carbs
When your body needs energy and your glucose and glycogen levels are low, your blood sugar and insulin levels dip. This when your body will look for an alternative source of fuel.
Step Two – Breaking down the fat
With no carbs to burn, the body will burn your fat instead (this process is officially known as beta-oxidation).
Step Three – Ketosis delivers a powerful array of benefits
“A ketogenic diet is a powerful adversity to belly fat (the kind that can increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and premature death)”.
Lose weight – Your body draws on your fat directly – cutting out the middle man and more quickly reducing the numbers you see flashing back at you on your scales. More than 20 studies have found that those who follow this diet not only lose more weight than low-fat dieters, but that they’re also less hungry (with more chance of sticking to the diet).
Gain energy – As your body no longer relies on peaks and troughs of glucose, your body enjoys steadier energy.
Gain mental focus – When your body draws on fat as an energy resource it gains a consistent feed of energy – something that’s essential for your energy-hungry brain.
Live longer and reduce your risk of disease – Ketosis has been scientifically linked to numerous health benefits and risk reductions – from Alzheimer’s, to diabetes onto reduced inflammation.
Boost your physical performance – Ketosis is really efficient at harnessing oxygen, which boosts your physical performance while avoiding low blood sugar and energy crashes (which is why the ketogenic diet is so popular amongst athletes).
“Ketosis can boost HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol) – which is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease”.
The three forms of ketones
- Acetoacetate (AcAc)
- Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB)
Acetoacetate is the initial ketone that’s created from the breaking down of fat, which leads to the formation of Beta-hydroxybutyrate.
Acetone is the third type of ketone that is created as a by-product of acetoacetate via decarboxylation.
A history of ketosis – in a nutshell
As a species, we’ve always been capable of burning ketones for energy.
Rewind thousands of years and ketosis would have been most prevalent when glucose-based foods were in short supply (such as during the colder months).
But because today’s typical diet provides a rich source of carbs, the body burns those instead – very rarely entering ketosis. Yet the ketosis pathway remains – and it’s just as effective at burning ketones for energy as it ever was.
“In one study, runners who followed a ketogenic diet burned 2.3 times more fat per minute than those following a low-fat diet”.
Weight loss and ketosis
A ketogenic diet provides a diverse number of benefits that aid you in your weight loss efforts, including…
- Regulation of blood sugar – When losing weight, the last thing you want in your diet are high levels of carbs, as they can create blood sugar spikes (shortly followed by energy dips, mental fog and fatigue)
- Increased fat oxidation – A ketogenic diet burns both your body fat, as well as the fat in your diet, rather than carbs (which explains the high fat content that you should consume when following a ketogenic diet)
- Regulation of your hormones – It’s no secret that hormones can sabotage your weight loss efforts. What’s lesser known however is that a ketogenic diet can help you overcome cravings for junk food (which can speed up your weight loss)
- Suppression of your appetite – Feeling fuller for longer is key to successful weight loss, and can help you hone your listening for genuine hunger signals (rather than just sugar cravings)
Hit the treadmill – Ketosis is cheering you on
Ketosis can boost your workout – whether hard-hitting cardio, aerobic or resistance exercise. Here are the key ways in a ketogenic diet is going to do you a few favours in the gym.
- Ketosis reduces the risk of an energy crash during longer workout sessions
- A ketogenic diet maintains a healthy supply of blood glucose
- Ketosis switches your body to burning fat, which keeps your stores of glycogen levels up in your muscles
- A ketogenic diet boosts oxygen efficiency – for improved performance and endurance
Expect to be laser focussed
A diet that leads to dips in energy can have a big impact on your mental power, from brain fog to toughing it out when trying to remain focused over a long period of time. With a ketogenic diet, not only do you avoid this issue, you proactively benefit from a clearer, sharper mind; as ketones bolster the efficiency of mitochondria (which act as the power generators of your body’s cells).
However consuming a good level of fats is critical – every last cell in your body needs fat – particularly the brain, which is made up from more than 60% fat.
- Pureketo ‘SMART’ – Keto dieters who want the added benefit of a nootropic. People in high stress jobs, people studying, people looking to maintain proper cognitive function while dieting. Men/Women.
- Pureketo ‘SUPER’ – Keto dieters who want added nutrients from added super nutrients/greens Men/Women
- Pureketo ‘Performance’ – Keto dieters who also participate in sport or go to the gym that need the extra added ingredients. Very slightly more male orientated. Preworkout.
- Pureketo ‘Electro’ – Keto dieters who participate in sport, go to the gym, and who need the extra added ingredients which give full spectrum electrolytes. Very slightly more male orientated. Post work out.
- Pureketo ‘MCT+’ – Keto dieters who are looking for extra fuel in the form of medium chain triglyceride oil powder understand that a keto diet can cause stomach irritability, bloating etc which the chamomile will negate. Anti-anxiety also.
The Ketogenic Diet
A ketogenic diet consists of high fat (70-80%), moderate protein (20-25%) and low carbs (5-10%). Let’s walk through each of these three elements…
If you’re like the majority of people, you should aim for between 20 – 25 grams of carbs each day (to give you an idea – the average baked potato has around 21 grams of carbohydrates).
Protein is key to a successful ketogenic diet. How much you’ll need will depend on your weight, with 0.8 grams of protein required per pound of lean body mass. If you get this right, you won’t lose muscle.
Busting a myth: Many sources say that you need to restrict your protein to between 10 – 15% of your total calories on a ketogenic diet. This isn’t true – you can consume more than this without interrupting the ketosis process, raising your blood glucose or reducing your ketones.
A hefty 70% – 75% of your diet will be formed from fat but – and here’s the important part – you must take care to consume mostly high-quality, healthy fats. Here’s a list of foods that fall into this category:
- Dark Chocolate
- Whole Eggs
- Fatty Fish
- Chia Seeds
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Coconuts and Coconut Oil
- Full-Fat Yogurt
Menu for a standard ketogenic diet
- Frittatas and quiches
- Hash with pork, kale, and eggs
- Baked eggs in avocados
- Omelette with spinach, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and goat’s cheese
- Scrambled eggs with cream cheese, bell peppers, and spinach
- Salad with chicken, eggs, avocado, nuts, cheese with olive oil and vinegar or another dressing
- Lean, thin slices of meat served with cheese and bell peppers or pickles
- Tuna salad or egg salad
- Soup without pasta or beans
- Cauliflower rice bowl with grilled protein, cheese, dressing, olives, and nuts
- Sausage ragu with zucchini noodles
- Ground beef-stuffed peppers
- Ham-and cheese-stuffed chicken breasts with loaded broccoli
- Hamburger steaks with mashed cauliflower
- Lettuce wraps with chicken, peanuts, and low-carb dressing
- Cheese crisps
- Bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers
- Buffalo chicken dip (cream cheese, mayonnaise, chicken, and buffalo wing sauce)
- String cheese
- Beef jerky
Four key exercise types for ketosis
Aerobic – Cardio
Aerobic/cardio workouts include exercises such as running, swimming or biking that lasts for more than three minutes.
Take it slow and steady (keeping your heart rate at or around the right level). If you’re unsure as to what the correct level is for burning fat, here’s the equation…
220 – your age = X
60 – 70% of X = Your fat burning range
Anaerobic – Weight lifting or HILT
Anaerobic exercises involve short intervals of high intensity energy output – such as weight or interval training.
If you want to follow an anaerobic exercise routine, you’ll need a ketogenic diet that adds in more carbs than the standard keto diet.
Flexibility – Yoga, Pilates, stretching
Working in some flexibility-focused exercises can help to support your joints and increase muscle range. In turn this can reduce the risk of sustaining an injury while exercising, and can require little more than three-weekly 15-minute sessions of stretching, Pilates or yoga.
Stability – Balance and core training
Stability-based exercises can help redress alignment issues while strengthening your muscles.
The process of ketosis will adapt as according to the intensity of your stability training, for example…
- Low-intensity – Your body will burn fat
- High-intensity – Your body will typically use its carbohydrate resources
Four core styles of ketogenic diets
- The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SDK) – Keto with the classic macronutrient splits
20 – 50 grams of carbs per day
75% fats – 20 – 25% protein
- The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) – Add carbs prior to exercise – Athletes
20 – 50 grams of crabs per day (usually 30 – 60 minutes before exercise)
- The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) – Go in and out of ketosis in planned intervals – For those who can’t live without carbs
20 – 50 grams of carbs per day – 5 – 6 days a week
Higher carbs – 1 – 2 days a week
- The High-Protein Ketogenic Diet – Eat more protein than on the SDK – For weight lifters
60% fats – 35% protein – 5% carbs
How’s your ketone progress going?
So, you’ve been eating keto foods for three weeks and taking supplements. You can take it that you’re well into the ketosis process by now, right? Wrong, actually. Too many carbs, and your body won’t enter ketosis (it’s a fine balance).
To be certain that you’ve entered ketosis, you can test your ketone levels. You’re aiming for levels of between 0.5 and 3.0.
You can check your ketone levels in one of three ways: urine, blood, or breath. Here’s an overview of each…
- Urine Testing
Once your body hits a certain level of ketones any excess amount will be passed through your urine. Testing your urine is simple and can be done at home.
Pro: Easy and cheap. Con: Not entirely reliable.
- Blood Testing
Blood testing involves a quick and painless prick of your finger, which is then swabbed with a test stick. This will show you how much of the Beta-Hydroxybutyrate ketone is in your body.
Pro: Most accurate. Con: Most expensive.
- Breath Testing
Breath testing (with a breath meter) analyses how much of the acetone ketone is in your breath.
Pro: Easy and cheap. Con: Least reliable of the three methods.
“High-carb diets and poor insulin can develop into high blood sugar levels, which in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and premature aging”.
Three Tips to Kick Off your Keto
- Up your exercise
Engaging in more physical activity can boost your entrance to keto, as exercise reduces your glycogen stores. Typically these would be replenished when you next eat carbohydrates, however when carbs are limited your liver will instead up its production of ketones.
- Try a fat fast
Fat fasting involves restricting your diet to around 1,000 calories per day, 85–90% of which would come from fat. This low calorie/high fat combo can more quickly lead you into ketosis.
- Add Coconut oil into your diet
Coconut oil contains high levels of fats called medium-chain triglycerides (known as MCTs), which have a high lauric acid content. There are numerous studies that have linked lauric acid to a more constant level of ketosis. This is because it’s metabolized more gradually than other MCTs.
Before you go… A few words about doing ketosis safely
Key question: Is ketosis safe?
Yes – no question about it – ketosis is an entirely safe (and indeed natural) state. But you may have heard (or mixed ketosis up) with something called Ketoacidosis.
Ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes. It happens when the body creates a dangerously high level of blood acids, usually due to poor diet or mismanagement of insulin.
Ketoacidosis can be fatal if it goes untreated.
Side effects to watch out for
First things thirst – expect to be dehydrated (so drink plenty of water). There are two driving factors behind this…
- The glycogen and carbs are stored alongside water because 4 grams of water are needed for every gram of glycogen. As your glycogen reduces, the water is lost along with it.
- Heightened insulin levels can go hand-in-hand with water retention – gradually the ketogenic diet will lower your insulin levels, with the excess fluid released over time.
Temporary side effects (and their remedies)
- Low motivation – Exercise to grab an uplift in serotonin
- Lethargy and nausea – Rest
- Headaches – Drink more water
- Brain fog – Add more fat into your diet (this will speed the process up)
- Stomach pain – Rehydrate and up your electrolytes with a pinch of salt
Above all else, give your body the time it needs to adapt to ketosis – this is a relatively big switch. Once you’ve adapted, you’ll be glad you preserved through the first couple of weeks.