Susie Burrell

‘your food, your body, your life’

Are you really in ketosis?

Chances are you know someone who is, or claims to be following a keto diet. The low carb approach to dieting that shifts energy metabolism from burning glucose as its primary fuel to instead breaking down fat stores into ketones and using them as energy instead. Keto diets generally result in relatively quick weight loss with those who can adhere to them and devotees openly preach the numerous associated benefits of mental clarity, hunger management and far superior weight loss than traditional calorie restricted diets. And while there has been an influx of diet books promoting the keto approach, the reality is that while many people think they are eating keto, most probably are not.

In order for ketosis or fat burning to be induced, very, very small amounts of carbohydrate need to be consumed – less than 10-20% of total energy, or as little as 20g of total carbohydrates for some people. This means no fruit, few vegetables and no legumes, dairy or grains. In modern life, where many of us purchase at least 1/3 of our meals away from the home this is easier said than done. In order for you to keep your carbohydrate this low you would need to prepare much of your food at home and be literally limited to meats, seafood, avocado, nuts and seeds for every meal. Most people do not follow keto this strictly.

Next, once you cut the carbs in your diet it takes some time glycogen stores in the muscles to be depleted and to actually achieve ketosis, 2-3 days at least. This means 2-3 days of literally no carbohydrate and then if you break your diet once, with a couple of beers or a piece of birthday cake at work, it will then again take a day or two to achieve ketosis. In a life filled with diet cheats, many keto fans are regularly cheating themselves out of ketosis.

Another less frequently mentioned reason many keto followers are not actually in ketosis is that they eat too much protein. Whilst a keto diet primarily requires a low carb approach, if too much energy is consumed in the form of protein, or more than the 20-25% the body requires to function, gluconeogenesis will be triggered where excessive amino acids will be converted to glucose and used as energy. For keto followers this mean that extra eggs, dried meats, smoked salmon and meats consumed at both snacks and at meal times can easily tip you over the 20-25% of daily energy coming from protein and halt ketosis.

Keto diets work when they are followed but they require at least 70% or more of energy in our diets coming from fats – oils, seeds, nuts, avocado. This is not easy to achieve. So if you are committed to a keto lifestyle the best thing you can do is keep an eye on your macros via a calorie monitoring app such as My Fitness Pal. Or use keto sticks to check your urine and ensure you are actually in ketosis and as a general rule of fun if your breath does not smell funny, you are probably just eating low carb, not a keto diet.