What if you could control the rate you burn body fat?
What if you could eliminate hunger pangs and cravings?
What if you could flick a switch and unlock a state of mental clarity you've never experienced before?
With ketosis you can.
But, entering ketosis is not easy. And becoming metabolically flexible enough to transition between 'The Matrix' (ketosis) and normal carbohydrate fuelled life is challenging.
But, trust me, it's worth it.
This article will explain what ketosis is, how to enter and exit ketosis, the pros, the cons (oh yes, there is a downside) and how you can use ketosis to take your life to another level.
The impetus for this article came from a conversation with a new friend.
My friend is in his early 40s, an outdoors-man, hunter, hiker, camper and up until recently, lean as a whippet.
With Sydney's recent lockdown, he's found himself indulging in a few too many tiramasus. His body fat has increased a little, maybe to 20%. But, as a fit and healthy hunter who carries deer out of the bush on his back, he'd like it to be about 13%.
So, he's committed to eat strict carnivore for 30 days.
He called me with a few questions, most of which revolved around ketosis.
Our conversation reminded me that most people are completely oblivious to the power of ketosis.
They will never knowingly enter this powerful state of fat-burning, mental alertness and endless energy.
Like Neo in The Matrix, you have a choice. Take the 'red pill' and unlock another dimension of possibilities. Or, take the 'blue pill' and remain in contented ignorance.
Assuming you chose the 'red pill' (come on, life is short), let's dive down the ketosis rabbit hole.
What is ketosis?
In a state of ketosis your body has no carbohydrates to burn for energy and instead burns fat, either food you've eaten or fat on your body. Your body produces ketones from the fat and uses them for energy.
How do I enter ketosis?
Stop eating carbs (or eat less than 50g per day). Eat plenty of animal fat (fatty meat and/or butter) and some protein. The majority of your fuel should come from fat.
How will I know I'm in ketosis?
A urine test or blood test will give you an official measurement of your ketone levels.
But, I've never used one of these tests.
When you enter ketosis you will know, it will feel unfamiliar and you may experience some or all of the symptoms below.
So, what should I expect?
First off, the less than ideal:
- Keto flu - yep, it's a real thing. Generally symptoms will kick in around your day 3 in ketosis, you may feel groggy, tired, flat and have body aches. Your body is adapting to being starved of carbohydrates and using fat for energy. It normally lasts about a week. Keto flu can be rough but on your first crack at keto it should be expected. Adding quality salt to your meals and water can replenish your minerals and ease the groggy-ness.
- Explosive diarrhoea - (keto is sounding great so far, right?). We digest fat via the bile in our stomachs. When you start keto you're eating more fat than ever before and your body simply can't produce enough bile and the fat (and everything else you've eaten) needs to leave your body. Very fast! Diarrhoea generally lasts a few days. It's rough but it's also quite satisfying clearing your gut out for a fresh start.
- Increased urination, you will likely lose a lot of water weight in your first week on a ketogenic diet. This water needs to leave your body somehow, and along with the process mentioned in the dot point above, you will urinate a lot.
- Smelly urine / breath - ketones escape in the form of acetone excreted via your urine and breath. Expect both to smell very pungent. Not pleasant.
- Drop in physical performance initially. Your body has used up all you glycogen, and hasn’t adapted to burning fat and making ketones yet. You won't be hitting any PBs in your first couple of weeks of ketosis. Longterm, I believe being metabolically flexible is hugely advantageous for your physical performance. Short term, you are going to see a reduction in performance.
- Insomnia, this was an unexpected side-effect for me. I've never experienced it before and normally sleep like a baby. I've had several mornings where I wake up at 3:30am feeling totally alert and ready to go. I've been able to workout and get a lot work done without feeling tired until late that night. It's a weird feeling. Honestly, I like it. More hours in the day. More productive.
Now for the good stuff:
- Unbelievable mental clarity. Your mind will feel sharp. Distractions will fade into oblivion. You'll be able to go deeper into your work and work for longer than ever before. This is an epic benefit! I have put off writing this article for a few days because I knew it required deep concentration. I had a high fat breakfast this morning, I skipped lunch, it's now 7pm, ketosis has kicked in and I'm firing on all cylinders.
- Lasting energy all day. Say good bye to carb-slumps post lunch. Say good bye to constant insulin spikes and sugar cravings. Skip a meal with ease and keep on trucking. This is a simply awesome upside.
- Get lean and build muscle. Entering ketosis is the easiest way to burn body fat. You don't feel hungry and your fat begins to melt off. Plus, you can still train, I've had some epic, long, intense workouts fasted and in deep ketosis. Again, a huge upside to ketosis.
Is it sustainable to be in ketosis 24/7, 365 days per week?
Firstly, I think it’s very unlikely you would stay in a deep state of ketosis for an extended period of time (more than a couple of days).
After a big meal, even if it is meat and fat only, the number of ketones your body produces will reduce.
So, longterm, assuming you don't continue with calorie restriction / fasting forever, it's not sustainable to be in a deep state of ketosis ongoing.
Being metabolically flexible, where your body can draw energy from carbs or fat, is where you should aim to be. This means you can tailor your diet to how you’re feeling and what you need to do.
For example, after a weekend of treating yourself with alcohol and carbs, you might want to enter a state of ketosis to regain your focus and trim body fat.
If you were about to do something physical that requires all the energy you can muster in a short burst, a banana or some honey might give you the boost you need.
Being metabolically flexible is a superpower. You will know more about your body and how to harness it’s hidden powers than 99% of people.
My advice? (not medical advice, obviously). Practice going into ketosis and become metabolically flexible.
And, when in doubt, eat nutrient-dense whole foods.
Want to learn more about maximising your health? Here are three ways:
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Thank you for reading. I look forward to seeing you in The Matrix.
P.S. Here are some resources that helped me write this article:
Dr Paul Mason: Low carb Vs Ketogenic Diets
Tim Ferriss: All The Ways *Not* To Do Ketosis
Dr Ken Berry: What is the Ketogenic Diet?
Bulletproof.com: What is metabolic flexibility and how can you achieve it?