You’re here because you want to find out how to activate ketosis and start losing weight quickly. I give the lowdown and several tips for you to trigger the ketosis process, and the steps you can take to find out whether ketosis has been activated.
(If you’re here for the first time, I’ll suggest you to read Keto 101 for a thorough background on what the Ketogenic diet is all about. It will provide you an understanding to why and how Ketosis is important to your body (and to losing weight).)
Ketosis is the very origin behind the all popular Ketogenic diet. The ketosis process is why there is so much focus around the world on macros and what we eat.
This post may contain affiliate links. But the good news is that they come at no monetary cost to you. They may generate a small commission to support the running of the site.
Why you might ask?
That is the very essence of this article. I’ll be diving deep into the ketosis process and why this natural bodily process has gone on to create such a massive fan following all over.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic process that exists inside the body. During this process, your body converts fat into compounds known as ketones.
Now if you have read Keto 101 (if you haven’t, here’s another tip for you to read it first), you will realise that I mentioned that ketosis can only occur if there is an insufficient amount of carbohydrates (carbs) in your body.
Have you pieced the puzzle together yet?
I hope you have. Here’s a tip: the keto diet only allows the individual to eat foods that are low-carb, and high-fat. To be exact, you would want your daily macro to be:
- 10% of calories from carbs
- 65% of calories from fat
- 25% of calories from protein
If you still haven’t figured it out, here’s the answer: in order for you to activate ketosis (aka fat burning process), you should minimise (not fully, mind you) the amount of carbs you consume.
When you consume insufficient carbs, your body will have no other sources for energy to fuel your body. That said, your body does not shut down just like that. There is usually an alternative source your body can turn to for help.
This alternative source is your excess fats. That’s right, the ketosis process, when activated, actually targets your excess fats as a supply for energy to run your other bodily processes and systems.
Thus, you would want to minimise the amount of carbs so you can intentionally trigger the ketosis process in your body.
Fat = Energy?
A reduced consumption of carbs in your dietary plans would go on to reduce the amount of glycogen (glucose stored in your body) in your body.
When that happens, your body automatically begins searching for the alternative sources of energy I talked about. This is when your body starts releasing fatty acids into the system.
These fatty acids come from excess fat storage in your body. The liver, which is a key organ in the production of energy, converts these fatty acids into ketones.
These ketones are what go on to fuel some of your bodily functions.
How to Activate Ketosis?
The next question is: how can you activate this natural process in your body so you can lose weight?
1. Minimise Your Carb intake
Well this is the very obvious tip you need in order to kickstart ketosis. We’ve been talking about how a low-carb diet can trigger the fat-burning process (and hence, lose weight).
If you’ve been on the Internet for awhile (well, who hasn’t), you would know there’s another diet called the Atkins diet. This particular diet restricts carb intake to 20 grams a day for two weeks in order to activate ketosis.
This sounds like an extreme change to many individuals especially if they’re new to dietary planning or if they’ve been used to high carb diets.
I do not advocate for such a drastic change in your dietary schedules. And I would ultimately recommend that you seek a medical professional’s expert opinion if you intend to undertake a diet like the Atkins diet.
There is certain rationale for such a restriction. And it’s to guarantee that you activate the ketosis process in your body. Through certain ketones test (I will talk about this below), you can check if ketosis has been activated. And if it has, you can slowly increase the amount of carb intake.
In my opinion, you should always approach changes in your dietary schedules with caution. Each individual’s bodies handle such changes differently. Some may experience discomfort; some may not.
I will discuss how you can get into Ketosis quickly and safely below.
2. Include Good Fats in Your Diet
This explains the second half of the diet: high-fat intake.
Again, I have talked about the different dietary fats one can find in foods in Keto 101.
It’s important that you are able to differentiate and identify good fats from the bad ones. Especially if you’re planning your own meal plans.
(If you wish an introduction to keto meal plans, I’ll be more than happy to help. In fact, I am working on the ideal meal plan for you on a keto diet. To hear about it, simply join my mailing list!)
Some great examples of where you can find good dietary fats are
- Coconut oil, avocado (and avocado oil)
- Salmon, tuna (and many other fish)
- Nuts (almonds, macadamia, peanuts, etc)
Without making it sound too science-y than it should be, these good fats are beneficial for you because it helps to increase ketone levels in your body.
These fats also give you the calories you need to fuel your body. You can expect these fats to provide you with 60-80% calories. That said, if you want to lose weight, you should not consume too much fats (even if it’s good for you because you’d want to maintain a daily calorie-deficit).
(In fact, I’ve previously written a topic on the best whole foods you can have on a keto diet!)
Again, higher levels of ketones would mean an easier time to activate and maintain ketosis. In fact, these good fats are essential for individuals with diabetes or alzheimer’s disease.
I hope you realise that these foods actually already exist all around us. It certainly is not as difficult as some may it sound. It really takes a little bit of effort to eat healthy and eat better!
3. Increase Your Protein Intake
Many keto-focussed blogs have talked about low-carbs and high-fats. But they have often neglected to mention that it is also necessary to consume more protein.
Protein is essential for your body. It forms the building blocks of your muscles (which are essential for metabolism). If you don’t already know, metabolic activities are the very processes that burn calories for fuel in your body.
And you want to preserve your muscles to keep those processes going. If your protein intake dips, your muscles will feel the pinch and shrink.
Your liver also needs amino acids (provided by protein) to go on to provide the energy for some of your organs that cannot use ketones for fuel. This is why it’s important that you do not go on a zero-carb diet, or a specifically low carbs diet.
4. Continue to Stay Active
This is another important factor in the ketosis process, as in many other weight loss strategies and general health.
This is also why I suggest you do not kill your carb intake abruptly.
If you have a very active lifestyle, you are already breaking down glucose (first) for energy in your body. In other words, carbs are being burnt for energy.
This is an added trigger for your body to stimulate and increase production of ketones by targeting excess fat storages.
In fact, the more active you are, the faster the ketosis process actually is (and the faster you lose weight).
Other benefits of Ketosis
Apart from losing weight, ketosis actually brings you and your body a number of benefits. This is why I look at the keto diet as a means to a healthy lifestyle, and not just for weight loss.
In other words, to really enhance your weight loss journey, you need to embrace the ketogenic diet for what it is — eating right and exercising regularly.
Improved Mental Focus
Unlike carbs, ketones are actually a more consistent source of fuel for your body. This is because your body only obtains carbs from foods (and eating) so that results in intermittent spikes throughout the day. Even worse if your meals are not regular.
Because of ketosis, your body gets access to a stable, consistent source and this has lasting effects on your brain and body to power through the day with increased mental focus.
Better protection against certain health problems
- Improved protection against progression of neurological diseases (alzheimer’s disease and parkinson’s disease)
- Reduced frequency of seizures in people with epilepsy
- Better insulin sensitivity (great for people who are diabetics)
What are ketones?
They are also known as ketone bodies and are produced by the liver as it breaks down excess fat storage for energy during ketosis.
These are the 3 types of ketones that are commonly found in the bodies:
- Acetoacetate: These are byproducts when fatty acids are broken down further into Beta-Hydroxybutyric Acid (BHB) and Acetones
- Acetone: They break down rather quickly. If you noticed, when you’re undergoing ketosis, your breath starts to smell bad. Acetones are likely the reason why you get such bad breath.
Disadvantages of ketosis
There aren’t many disadvantages related to the keto diet; that is why many people all over actually come to love the diet. However, there are some people that report having constipation when they take on the keto diet.
There is a rationale behind that. By reducing carbs intake, it also means that people are reducing their fibre intake as well. And dietary fibre is essential for the effective function of the gut and digestive systems.
This is one major reason why I do not encourage a sudden and drastic shift in dietary habits. By cutting carbs intake drastically and suddenly, your body might not be able to handle the absence of certain nutrients that would be essential to your body’s functions.
That said, constipation can be avoided by consuming plenty of high-fibre and low-carb foods — like broccoli, cauliflower, and chia seeds. You can even supplement your daily nutrient intake with a fibre supplement.
Ketosis vs Ketoacidosis
There are some people who would confuse these two terms.
Ketoacidosis is an entirely different item altogether. It actually refers to a situation when the body cannot produce (or does not receive) enough insulin, and starts breaking down the fatty acids stored in your body.
What makes ketosis and ketoacidosis entirely different from each other is that in the case of ketosis, only ketone levels are high while glucose levels are relatively low because of low carb-intake.
For ketoacidosis, both glucose and ketone levels are high in the bloodstream. This can possibly result in the following symptoms:
- Excessive thrist
- Excessive urination
- Stomach issues
- Nausea/ vomiting
- Confusion (or brain fog)
- Loss of consciousness
If you experience any of these symptoms (especially if you’re a diabetic and are unsure if you might have such symptoms), you should consult a medical professional’s advice.
Counting Macros and Calories
So if you’re looking to lose weight with the keto diet, you should generally be going for a calorie-deficit plan.
For example, if the average daily calorie recommendation is 2000, you would likely want to pursue a diet with less than 2000 calories a day.
However, if you’re an active individual, and exercises often (even walking counts), you should note that these exercises burn calories. Thus, you ideally would not consume less than 2000 calories because you’ll end up having a net calorie-intake of much less than 2000.
To counter that, it would be effective if you would have the means of counting your average calorie burn rate from your daily physical activities.
This can be done through a smartwatch (like Apple Watch, Galaxy Watch, Garmin, Polar, Fitbit, and more). I actually advocate for a Garmin Vivoactive, Fitbit Alta Smart Fitness or the Fitbit Flex because I’ve used these in my workouts before, and I love the fact that their heart rate tracking is accurate. (Important for calorie tracking)
(I actually did quite a bit of sports in the past year because the diet has really helped me get in shape!)
So assuming that you’re on a 2000-calorie diet, and taking into account the following keto macro composition:
- 10% calories from carbs: 200 calories
- 65% calories from fats: 1300 calories
- 25% calories from protein: 500 calories
And converting them to grams one should consume daily:
- 200 calories from carbs: 50g carbs
- 1300 calories from fats: 144g fats
- 500 calories from protein: 125g protein
If you noticed, there is a ratio:
- 1g carb is roughly 4 calories
- 1g fat is roughly 9 calories
- 1g protein is roughly 4 calories
There are tons of apps on the Google App Store and Apple App Store that you can use to log such critical information quickly.
With the Apple Watch, you can even get convenient access to your remaining calories for the day and remaining macro amounts for the day. Talk about convenience! Everything is right on your wrist.
Signs of Ketosis
There are certain signs that you can observe when your body is undergoing ketosis. Some of these symptoms can be either positive or negative, depending on what they are.
1. Bad Breath
Many people actually do experience bad breath when they find themselves going through ketosis. This is because of the elevated ketone levels in their blood.
Specifically, the breath is often reported to take on a fruity smell. Because your body is producing elevated levels of ketone, it needs an avenue to expel the excess, and one way is through your exhalation.
To counter bad breath, there’re several ways you can go about reducing or eliminating it. You can use:
- Sugar-free mints or gum
- Sugar-free drinks
2. Weight Loss
This is probably what everyone is looking out for.
Weight loss can occur, sometimes at a slightly quick pace, in the first week of ketosis. This sign is nothing surprising since we have discussed plenty on how ketogenic diets can induce consistent weight loss quickly.
3. Elevated Levels of Ketones in the Blood, Urine and Breath
This is not surprising again since I have previously discussed how one can activate ketosis.
The elevated levels of ketones in your blood is a positive sign that Ketosis has been activated and is happening inside your body. These ketones work to replace the use of glycogen in your body in producing fuel for your daily functions.
4. Increased Satiation Levels
This is one of the key factors involved in the rapid weight loss reported by some.
Increased satiation levels would mean that there is less urge to eat more than you should. Some research has stated that this is the result of elevated ketone levels in your blood, signalling to your brain that you have eaten and are satiated.
5. Fatigue and Reduced Performance (Short-term)
Some people have also reported experiencing short-term fatigue and reduced performance during the early stages of ketosis. This is also what made some quit their diet early on.
This is actually normal as the body is trying to adapt and adjust to the change in diet. You could even say that the body is craving for carbohydrates because the body has long been used to high carb diets.
That is why I have advocated for a gradual shift in diets (as discussed earlier in this article). It will help your body to adjust to a low-carb diet without you having to experience any of such effects.
If you do notice yourself suffering from fatigue and low performance, you can turn to electrolyte supplements to replenish essential salts in your body that are critical to your body’s functions.
6. Increased Levels of Focus and Energy
As mentioned earlier, brain fog is something that’s been observed and experienced by many people who are on the keto diet and go through ketosis for the first time. This is also known as the Keto Flu.
Because your brain needs time to get used to the usage of ketones instead of glycogen, you might experience this Keto Flu for a short period of time.
But don’t give up!
Ketones are actually really potent sources of fuel for your body and brain. And it’s been reported that once you overcome Keto Flu, you will experience higher levels of clarity and performance than before.
7. Issues with Sleep
The good thing is, not many people experience issues with sleep. For the unfortunate few, it tends to happen because your body is, again, undergoing changes in your diet.
It will take some time, depending on your body, to recover and it usually will.
8. Issues with Digestion
Again, not many people experience these digestive issues. But it can happen to you especially when you have just changed your diet (keto or not).
A common factor involved here is that there has not been greater focus on your nutrient intake when you undertake a change in diet. Many people are so focussed about the effects of a new diet that they overlook the importance of nutrients.
In this case, dietary fibre is really important for your digestion. And by cutting a lot of carbs from your diet, you might unintentionally cut dietary fibre out of your diet as well. This is largely why people go through digestive issues.
This will be fine if you remember to include plenty of low-carb vegetables — often cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and cauliflower. I have discussed some of the best whole food items previously. You definitely want to take note!
Checking for Ketosis
Now the next big question is: how do you check or know if you’re in ketosis?
Someone out there has already figured it all out. In fact, they’re rather effective means to ascertain whether ketosis has been activated in your body.
1. Blood Glucose Meter
This is probably the most accurate tool around. And if you need one, I’d suggest you to get the blood glucose meter. Nothing could be more accurate than checking if you have ketosis from a tiny blood sample.
This essentially checks the level of ketones in your body. When there’re elevated levels of ketones, it means ketosis has been activated.
These two are what me and my friends have used:
- Keto Mojo Blood Ketone and Glucose Testing Strips (what I use)
- Fora 6 Connect 50 Blood Ketone Test Strips
2. Breath Ketone Meter (Breathlyzer)
If you’re afraid of blood or do not wish to prick your finger each time you measure, you can try this breath ketone meter.
While it’s not as accurate as the direct analysis of a tiny sample of blood, it provides a rough (acceptable) measurement of ketone levels.
One possibly inconvenient fuss with using a breathlyzer is the need to refresh your stock of mouthpieces (for hygiene purposes).
Check these out:
3. Ketone Strips
This is the last tool in the arsenal. And it’s probably what most people start out with as they begin on their keto diet journey.
However, you may or may not like how you use these strips. These strips essentially are strips for urine samples. You would need to dip these strips in your urine (not in the toilet bowl, mind you) or pass the strips through as you urinate.
It’s the most inconvenient test around, and it probably isn’t the most accurate but it’s the popular choice for many. Urine usually contains many other elements that can be picked up falsely by these strips.
It also depends on your own hydration. If you’re dehydrated, and has less urine than usual, the strips might pick up a higher concentration of ketone.
Optimal Blood Ketone Levels for Ketosis
The optimum range of ketone levels is between 1.5 and 3 mmol/L. However, if you observe that your levels are above 0.5, it could also mean that you’re well under way with ketosis!
If you have diabetes, or any other health conditions, and have been advised by a medical professional to go on a keto diet, you would generally want to aim for ranges between 3 and 5 mmol/L.
These levels can easily be measured and observed if you used any of the tools I mentioned above.
There you have it. You’ve got all you need to know about ketosis and how you can activate ketosis quickly.
If you need more help on structuring a meal plan, I have taken the effort to build an effective 7-day keto meal plan that will help you get into ketosis in no time.
In fact, I’m looking to build more meal plans to help my readers. You would want to keep yourself in the loop by signing up for our mailing list now!