Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body primarily relies on fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. It occurs when carbohydrate intake is restricted, and the body starts breaking down stored fat into molecules called ketones to provide energy. Here’s how ketosis works:
- Carbohydrate restriction: When you consume very few carbohydrates (typically less than 50 grams per day), your body’s glycogen stores (the stored form of glucose) become depleted. This signals a shift in energy metabolism.
- Fat metabolism: With limited carbohydrates available, your body turns to an alternative energy source—fat. Fatty acids are released from fat stores and transported to the liver, where they undergo a process called beta-oxidation. This process breaks down fatty acids into molecules called ketones, specifically beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), acetoacetate, and acetone.
- Ketone production: The liver produces ketones from the breakdown of fatty acids. Ketones serve as an efficient energy source for the brain, muscles, and other organs when glucose availability is low. The bonus: ketones inhibit hunger and thus, take care of those pesky cravings, making it easier to reduce calories and lose weight.
- Ketone utilization: Ketones are released into the bloodstream and transported to various tissues in the body. The brain can readily use ketones for energy in the absence of glucose.
- Metabolic adaptation: As your body adapts to utilizing ketones for energy, certain metabolic changes occur. These include increased production of enzymes involved in fat metabolism and a decrease in the production of enzymes that process carbohydrates. Most people noticed that it takes 3 weeks or so to adapt to using fat as their energy source – they may feel a lack of energy initially before shifting towards having more energy.
- Ketosis monitoring: You can measure your level of ketosis using various methods, such as blood ketone meters, breath analysers, or urine test strips. These methods detect the presence and concentration of ketones in your body.
It is important to note that entering and maintaining ketosis requires strict adherence to a very low-carbohydrate, healthy-fat diet known as a ketogenic diet. This diet typically consists of a moderate protein intake and no restriction on the amount of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and oils, whilst limiting carbohydrates from sources like grains, sugars, and starchy vegetables. Being in ketosis is like being pregnant! You cannot be a bit pregnant, in the same way, that you cannot be partially on a keto diet – you are either in it or you are not! When you are in ketosis, then hunger levels are supressed, but when you are not, hunger levels start to rise.
So keto diets can be very helpful for managing hunger and cravings, and are often highly successful for getting some initial weight loss. But because they but do require a degree of adherence to stick to, we often find at Alevia, that after utilising a keto diet to kick start weight loss, many patients find it easier in the long term to stick with a high protein, low carb (but not NO carb) style of eating. This often provides a bit more flexibility in eating patterns.
The challenge is that when not in ketosis, hunger levels will start to increase with weight loss. Luckily, this can be overcome with the use of weight loss medications that override these hunger hormones – thus allowing you to stick to a balanced, enjoyable diet, without feelings of restriction or missing out! After all, eating is for life and at Alevia, we believe you should really be able to enjoy a range of healthy foods in your diet with the occasional treats that do not bring it all unstuck.
Remember, there is no one “right” diet and what style of eating you choose may change over time. If you would like to find out more about the weight loss eating plans that help you to control hunger and cravings, then why not get in contact with the Alevia team now!