What is Ketosis? Here’s what you need to know

The amount of misinformation around ketosis is staggering. Many people think that it’s a disease or illness that will harm your body – that’s not true in the slightest.

In fact, many consider being in a state of ketosis a good thing.

The simple definition: being in a state of ketosis means that your body is using fat for energy.

First, you need to understand the process…

Now, if you’re not schooled in nutrition, using fat for energy might seem like a normal thing. In reality, though, the human body has a very specific process it uses when obtaining energy.

  1. The desired source for energy is carbohydrates, such as bread and rice
  2. The second source for energy is fat – this can be fat that’s already on your body, or the fat that you ingested from that bacon you ate for breakfast today
  3. The third source for energy is muscle, AKA protein – you don’t want this to happen, as it means that your body is (literally) feeding off of its strength to stay alive

That makes sense – where does ketosis come in?

Ketosis happens when a person is on a low (or no) carbohydrate diet, such as the paleo diet.

Inside of fat molecules, there are these things called ketones. The scientific name for them is ketone bodies, but all you really need to know is that the human body can transform them into ATP, a type of energy.

This ATP allows us to do everything that requires energy (like exercise), and it also fuels our internal organs so that they can do what they need to do so that we survive.

So, the complicated definition of ketosis: when someone is on a low carbohydrate diet, the body will turn to fat molecules for energy. Within these fat molecules are molecular structures called ketone bodies, and the human body can break those down into a form of energy called ATP.

Why would you want to be in a state of ketosis?

It’s pretty simple, actually. Some dieters look at ketosis as a godsend. The main point of dieting is to burn off fat, and if you are in a state of ketosis, then your body is burning fat for energy.

Many people swear by the process. On a normal diet, your body would be looking to carbohydrates for energy, and only turning to fat after they’ve been depleted.

Ketosis cuts out that carbohydrate middleman. You eat diets consisting of only fats and protein, and after 7 to 10 days you will enter a state of ketosis.

Keep in mind that almost all food will contain traces of carbohydrates. That’s why it’s okay to get a few carbohydrates (30g to 50g) per day – just don’t go overboard, or your body will break out of ketosis almost immediately.

Sound good – what’s the catch?

While ketosis can be very helpful to those trying to lose weight, there are a plethora of downsides. We’ll list them below – it’s up to you to decide if the accelerated weight loss is worth it.

Low energy

While the body is able to feed off of fat for energy, that doesn’t mean that’s it’s the most effective way. Remember, the desired source of energy is carbohydrates. It’s possible to get energy without them, but it might not be terribly effective.

We say “might not” because everyone is different. If you ask 10 different people who have tried low carb diets and entered a state of ketosis, they will all tell you that they had different energy levels.

The general consensus is that if you live a fairly sedentary lifestyle – working at a desk job during the day, for instance – then you’ll be fine. If you do hard labor – like move boxes for 12 hours a day – then you might not be able to get enough energy off of your fat to support that rigorous exertion.

If you’re interested in trying ketosis, there’s only one way to reveal how much energy you’ll have: do it.

Disrupted lifestyle

Go take a look at the menu of your favorite restaurant. Note the ingredients that are in each dish.

Unless you’re eating at trendy restaurants that cater to people on low-carb diets, then your eating options are going to be severely restricted.

For example, you can’t have toast with your eggs. You can’t eat sandwiches anymore. No pizza, either.

If you cook the majority of your own meals, then this might not be a big deal. If you don’t, then you’re going to have to switch up your meals substantially in order for it to work. It’s entirely doable – there is a plethora of information on low-carb diets because of how well it works for weight loss – but you can’t go into a state of ketosis without making an active effort to do so.

“Ketone breath”

There’s a specific compound in ketones called acetone – acetone can’t be used for energy, and it’s excreted from the body through your sweat and urine.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t smell great. Your burps and urine will have a distinct odor to them. Some people report that their everyday breath takes a turn for the worse, so you’ll have to consider that, too.

It’s not the end of the world – you can always pop a breath mint or a piece of gum. Again, just like the disrupted lifestyle, it’s just one factor to consider.

Ketosis wrapped up in 100 words

Being in a state of ketosis means that your body will rely on fat sources for energy instead of carbohydrates. It can be effective for weight loss – some people swear by it.

There are some downsides, but they’re not the end of the world. The severity of the side effects varies greatly from person to person, and different people will care about them more than others.

Overall, ketosis is something that you want to be gunning for on a low-carb diet. There has not been any scientific evidence saying that it’s bad for you, and it’s one of the most popular weight loss methods in 2014.

If you want to try being in a state of ketosis with a low-carb diet, it’s pretty simple – just cut out the carbohydrates from your diet. Good luck!