Previous Article: Understanding the Long Term Effects of Ketosis and The Keto Diet
Main Page (Index): Ketosis: The Complete Guide
Next Article: Do Other Low-Carb Diets Achieve Ketosis?
Those who plan to try a ketogenic way of life ask, “How long does it take to get into ketosis?” The truth is that each person responds to the keto diet differently. However, there is a typical timeline in which you can expect your ketone levels to increase.
That’s what we’re going to talk about in today’s guide. Here, you’ll learn the different stages of ketosis, how soon you can enter this state, and things that may stop you from entering.
Here’s the truth: Ketosis does not happen overnight.
It can take up to 1 day to several weeks for you to enter ketosis.
This is especially true if you have been burning carbohydrates for fuel. You cannot enter ketosis unless you deplete your glycogen stores first .
As your body tries to reach ketosis, it goes through a series of processes. Read on to learn about these 3 essential stages.
1. Deplete glycogen
Your body uses glucose from the food you eat to sustain its different functions. When glucose is in excess, it gets stored in your liver and muscle cells in the form of glycogen. Any time your body needs energy, it mobilizes glycogen .
As long as you maintain a carbohydrate-rich diet, your glycogen stores will always be full. However, when you reduce your carbs to 50 grams or less per day, your glycogen stores become depleted .
With this low glycogen, you may notice a rapid loss of water weight. The reason? Glycogen is bound to water molecules. 1 gram of glycogen is stored with at least3 grams of water .
You might not have heard of gluconeogenesis, so here’s what it’s about. It’s a process where your body produces its own glucose to compensate for low glycogen.
To make its own glucose, your liver turns to non-carbohydrate compounds. They include lactate, amino acids, and glycerol .
2. Break down fats
When gluconeogenesis isn’t enough to supply your body with glucose, ketogenesis takes place.
As glycogen stores are further depleted and insulin decreases, your stored fat gets liberated. Triglycerides in your adipose tissue are broken down into free fatty acids. These free fatty acids can now be used for ketogenesis .
3. Start making ketones
That said, your 3 ketone bodies are:
Out of these 3 ketones, BHB is the most abundant. It can also be measured in the blood.
Again, “how soon” a person reaches ketosis can vary. However, it can take you a minimum of 1 day to achieve ketosis .
Let’s dig deeper by referring to the studies below.
In a 2018 study, the researchers observed the following :
Another study showed that it can take weeks for people to reach ketosis if they fast for more than 72 hours or follow a keto diet .
Ketosis is a unique experience for most people. You may find yourself not reaching ketosis sooner than you expected.
Wondering why you’re not in ketosis yet?
A common reason is that you’ve been a carbohydrate burner before you started doing keto. A massive chunk of your diet consisted of carbohydrates. That means your glycogen stores were always full.
It’s also possible that you’re eating more protein on keto. Too much protein causes your insulin levels to rise, promoting fat storage.
Stress is another factor that could delay ketosis. Being under physical or mental stress elevates your blood glucose .
You already know the length of time to reach ketosis. Now, it’s time to discuss the best ways you can remain in ketosis.
Who doesn’t want to?
After all, long-term nutritional ketosis has plenty of benefits. These benefits include possible diabetes reversal, reduced body weight, lower triglyceride levels, higher HDL cholesterol, and more [11, 12].
Here are three simple tips you can follow:
1. Figure out your personal macros.
Pay attention to these 3 macronutrients and follow their required percentages :
The answer to how much fat, protein, and carbs a person should eat exactly will vary. Several factors affect your macros. Such factors include your age, body fat percentage, and activity level.
As long as you stay within your limits, you should be able to produce ketones.
2. Keep your carbohydrate intake low.
Here’s the deal:
Carbs lurk everywhere. Surprisingly, they hide in foods you think are healthy and harmless. You already know that rice and pasta contain more carbs. But did you know that they also lurk in sauces and salad dressings ?
According to WebMD, one tablespoon of barbecue sauce contains 7 grams of carbs. Imagine how high your carb intake can go if you keep on dipping into that sauce .
Safeguard yourself by being aware of less-known carb-rich foods and condiments. Also, you should be able to identify the net carbs in each food. That way, you can stay within your daily carbohydrate need on keto.
3. Test your ketone levels.
Are you still reaching the ideal ketone range for ketosis which is 0.5 and 2 mmol/L ? Make sure that you measure beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) levels in your blood.
BHB is the most prominent ketone body in your circulation. Testing for its presence gives you accurate readings.
Here’s a useful tip:
Test your ketones before and after a meal. Doing this is a great way to know how your body responds to certain foods.
Some foods spike your blood glucose levels fast. These spikes also increase your insulin levels. Insulin rises to transport glucose back into your cells.
In case you don’t know, insulin helps regulate the ketogenic pathway. You need to keep your insulin low to increase your free fatty acids . (Recall that free fatty acids are utilized to make ketones.)
The straightforward answer is:
Different people have different personal carbohydrate limits. This will explain why some individuals reach ketosis faster than others. You may also hear about people who can tolerate more carbs. For example, athletes.
While a ketoer limits carbohydrates, how much he or she should limit depends on some factors. These include:
Most people, however, can remain in ketosis by consuming 20-50 grams of carbs per day. Ideally, you should get 5-10% of your calorie needs from carbohydrates .
Getting into ketosis can be an uphill struggle. No wonder, some people give up too soon. If you’re experiencing the same thing, you might ask yourself:
“What’s stopping or slowing me down?”
“How can I speed up the process?”
Here’s what you should know.
1. Long-term stress or too much stress
You may not realize this, but stress is one big factor that’s keeping you from entering ketosis.
You could be staying within your macro limits, taking exogenous ketones, and exercising. But if you’re stressed, your cortisol levels increase.
When cortisol increases, your blood glucose levels also increase. Cortisol increases your blood glucose to give you the energy to fight the stress . However, elevated cortisol over the long term damages your health.
As you may already know, an increase in blood glucose leads to a rise in insulin. High insulin kicks you out of ketosis. It promotes fat storage .
Now that you know how stress affects ketosis, aim to keep it under control. Get enough sleep. Maintain a positive attitude.
2. Not enough fat in your diet
Nutritional ketosis is not just about limiting your carbohydrates. It also involves getting most of your calories from healthy fat. It makes sense. If you’re reducing a macronutrient, there has to be a replacement for it.
But why is fat essential in your keto journey?
The secret is satiety, also known as fullness.
For week 1, the participants ate whatever they want and as much as they want. They consumed about 3,000 calories and 300 grams of carbs per day. For weeks 2 and 3, the researchers changed the participants’ diet to low-carb and high-fat .
The participants experienced greater satiety on the high-fat diet. What’s surprising is that they consumed fewer calories even when eating more fat .
Dr. Boden believes that carbohydrates increased the participants’ appetite during the first week .
3. Too much protein in your diet
Aside from not having enough dietary fat, some people new to keto tend to do this: They overeat protein.
Keep in mind that on a keto diet, you need moderate protein. That’s 1.2-2 grams of protein per kg of body weight .
Going above 2 g/kg won’t provide you with any added benefit. However, some people exceed this upper limit because they’re afraid to eat fat to satiety .
What happens if you eat too much protein?
Protein moderately stimulates the release of insulin. With that, excessive amounts of protein increase your insulin levels. High insulin interferes with your body’s ketone production .
So, you have to keep insulin low by keeping protein moderate.
4. Being impatient with the results
Before you throw in the towel, remind yourself that you’ve been running on carbs for most of your life. Everyone can enter ketosis - we were all built with this metabolic machinery. It’s just a matter of time.
Stay patient. Give yourself at least 1 day to several weeks to reach this metabolic state. Do the things that speed it up, such as decreasing your carbohydrates to 20-50 grams daily.
Consider your lifestyle as well. Are you active, getting enough sleep, and controlling your stress levels? Remember: Anything that spikes your blood glucose and insulin can drive ketones down.
It should take at least 1 day to reach ketosis. However, you can also enter this physiologic state after weeks.
You will reach it, but first, you need to deplete your glycogen stores. That way, your body can start looking for an alternative source of fuel.
Are you excited to partake in this journey?
Before you do, speak with a trained physician who understands the keto diet. He or she will be able to help you reach your goals safely.