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What is a keto diet and how long does it take to get into ketosis?

What is a Keto diet?

It’s a question that I get asked all the time, particularly in January when friends are trying to get back into shape. A keto diet is a low carbohydrate diet. This means eating less than 20g of carbs a day and increasing one’s intake of fat. This makes the body enter a state called ketosis - where the body begins to burn fat instead of glucose as its primary energy source. Now this sounds very strange at first. I was raised in a world where fat was always seen as the enemy, after all, surely fat makes us…fat!? However not so! It all comes down to the way our body chemistry works. When we eat sugars and carbs which are a form of sugar, our bodies use it as an energy source. The problem is that we can rarely use all this excess energy. This means the body produces insulin to convert the sugars into a stored energy source called glycogen and so we gain weight. If we want to reduce our levels of insulin then we need to reduce our blood sugar levels and the best way to do that is to eat fewer sugars. ‘But what will our bodies use as energy if we stop burning sugar?’ I hear you ask! By eating more fat and less sugar our bodies change from burning sugar as an energy source, to burning fat. In effect we become fat adapted.

So ketosis is in fact a metabolic state in which the body converts fat into molecules called ketones. These become the energy preference of your body rather than when glucose which is limited while on a keto and or low carb diet.

How long does it take to get into ketosis?

Before getting into answering this, it’s important to first point out the ketosis is not an exact science as each one of us is different. Some of us get into ketosis quicker than others, just like some of us are more sensitive to carbs that others which is called our level of insulin resistance. The common experiences of ketosis include weight loss, a drop in appetite and a general feeling of wellbeing.

To answer the question “how long does ketosis take,” let us first look at what we already eat and plan to change this so that our carb intake is less than 20 grams and our fat intake makes up around 90 percent of our diet. Once you have got the balance between carbs and fat then you are well on the way to following the ketogenic diet. A low carb diet is very similar and means ingesting around 50 grams of carbs a day.

The ketogenic diet (or keto diet) is a low carb high fat diet (LCHF) and encourages ketosis by creating an environment for you body to experience a metabolic change.

Ketosis is really just a name for burning fat - not glucose - as energy. 

When you start a keto diet you body will probably need some time to adapt to the energy source change and some people experience a period of feeling unwell, called "keto flu". This is only temporary and can be easily treated so that your body can stay in ketosis and you will start to feel much better again. It doesn’t take most people long to get into ketosis when they follow a keto diet. After a few days the metabolic change in your body has occurred and you are now fat adapted! However if you are one of the few that do not get into ketosis quickly on the keto diet then do not worry, some people take a week or more. So to answer the question ‘How long does it take to get into ketosis?’ I guess it does vary from person to person and there are ways to find out including kits that can test for keynotes in one’s breath and other methods that can detect ketones in the urine.

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