WHAT IS KETOSIS?
The state of ketosis: If your liver glycogen (stored carbs) is low enough, your body will start producing ketones to fuel your brain and a few other things, as well as switch to using more fatty acids as fuel for your metabolism. Once Keytone production goes up, we say you are in ketosis.
Ketosis isn’t an on/off kinda thing though. There are varying levels of ketosis.
You can get into ketosis by eating a ‘keto’ diet or by fasting, or by eating a low carb diet and exercising enough that you burn through all your stored liver glycogen.
Original keto diets, developed for treatment of epilepsy, had to be very strict, keeping to 80 10 10 in your macronutrients to ensure ketone prodcution was high and blood sugar was very low.
This is a traditional or 'nutritional ketosis'.
This was way back when, and then, keto was largely or forgotten about for many years.
Recently--as you may well have heard--keto has made quite the comeback. It’s now one of the most popular fat loss diets, and is very popular amongst fat loss and health freaks alike for the fact that it drops your insulin and blood sugar so low.
At first, keto people followed traditional nutritional keto principles, ensuring fat intake was high, carbs were almost non-existent and protein had to be low as we feared the gluconeogenesis would turn the protein into sugar and get us out of ketosis -- if this happened they were to panic as if all is lost!
More recently, people are realising that ketosis isn't some life-or-death magical state that you have to remain in all the time. Realising that if protein levels are higher, that it isn't automatically turned to fattening sugar through gluconeogenesis.
In fact, it's now thought that gluconeogenesis is a demand driven process that won't lead to excess bodyfat.
and as we know, a high protein diet is desireable, even on a keto diet.
Researchers Ben Bikman and Dave Feldman really shed some light on this, and point out that protien doesn't spike our insulin in the absence of carbohydrate anyway. It's the combo that does it.
Overall, for most people, particularly from a body composition perspective, a high protein, very low carb diet that puts you into a milder state of Ketosis, is probably far more desirable than a low to moderate protein ‘nutritional ketosis’ diet that puts you into a deepe state of ketosis.
Ketosis itself is not the goal. The goal is strength, health and fat loss. So no need to spend hours trying to load your coffee with butter, drink olive oil and looking up recipes for fat bombs. Besides, once your fat adapted, you want a large portion of the fat you burn to come from your body fat stores anyway.
the benefits of ketosis
--> easy fat loss
--> mental clarity
--> smooth energy
--> hunger supression
--> Improved hormone regulation
--> Muscle sparing (maybe)
the naysayers say
There's nothing magical about ketosis. We can survive without carbs, but can we thrive? It's unnecessarily extreme. It slows your thyroid.
My thoughts: If you want fat loss, anything that's not keto is suboptimal and equally as likely to take muscle from your body as fat. But you don't need it all the time and you don't neccessarily need to do it long term, you need it cyclically.
EATING THAT MUCH FAT CAN'T BE GOOD FOR YOU?
Fats aren't bad but the quality matters. I can't remember where I read it, but it's been suggested that the early keto diets, whilst successful in some ways, didn't test as well in other ways because they were so high in poor fats like industrial seed oils.
So bare in mind that you shouldn't fear a high fat diet, it's highly likely less bad for you than a traditional high carb diet, but that al fats aren't equal and you should seek to get them from the best sources.
See super fuel for further guidance.
Getting into keto eating can be really easy or really difficult depending on your approach, your current habits and of course the sheer luck of how you take to it.
If you struggle to get into a keto diet it's probably one of three things causing you issues.
1. electrolytes on adaptation
2. half-arsing it
5. Too much, too soon
You must be careful how much and which veg you consume. You must increase your fat intake step by step. High protein, higher fat but not high fat, and be very careful with your veg. Load up on fiber for the potassium and you'll be on the toilet too much. Increase your fat too suddenly for your gallbladder to adapt, and you'll be in the toilet too much -- if you're lucky...
But transition sensibly and slowly and you should find a keto or at least low carb diet that works for you. If you can't, the next best thing is probably to fast long and often and then you'll spend plenty of time in ketosis ('fasting forced ketosis'), and stay insilin sensitive and be able to burn fat and maintain excellent blood sugar levels anyway. Don't dogmatically pursue any one system -- these are just the options, you onl;y find out what works best for you through experimentation.
IS KETO RIGHT FOR US LONGTERM?
I don't know.
People argue either way, but as with all diets, except the definitely-bad-for-us traditional western diet, we have no long term studies.
The evolutionary lense suggests that we may well have spent days, weeks, months or lifetimes in ketosis as we evolved. The availability of carbohydrate, would have been very limited, seasonal or non-existent at times, and yet, here we are.
We don’t really know yet, many health experts think we should spend much of our time in ketosis, some say all, some say nearly all of it, who knows?
My thoughts are that we should frequently be ion ketosis, but also maintain the metabolic flexibility to use carbohydrate as well.
LONG-TERM OR CYCLICAL?
Your personality and your beliefs about whether you should do keto long term or not. For this challenge, you should bare in mind that it doesn't matter and you certainly don't need to decide now. The likelihood is that you probably take in too much sugar too often, and that there is nothing harmful or dangerous about following a keto diet for a month or six. it's also almost certainly going to benefit you to get fat adapted and have less sugar for a while. it's highly likely to be ideal for fat loss, so in my opinion well worth giving it a try.
As for longterm, I think that's a question for the longterm, not for now. Use the state of ketosis to quickly get your body looking amazing and shed any unwanted body fat, then get used to cycling in and out of the state whiole working out what's optimal for fat loss when you're older.