What The Heck Is Ketosis & Why Should I Care?

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No trace of ketones...not surprising after my anniversary weekend. But now it's time to become a fat-burning machine.

No trace of ketones…not surprising after my anniversary weekend. But now it’s time to become a fat-burning machine.

When starting my low carb diet more than 2 years ago, I kept hearing about “being in ketosis.” I tried reading up on ketosis, but for some reason my brain just translated all the info as blah blah blah. Instead, I focused my attention on just trying to eat right, thinking I’d learn more about this mystery topic later on.

Well, for the last couple of months, my weight’s bounced back and forth between 203 and 210. Frustrated, I decided to reach out to a few folks I know who eat low carb. Sure enough, all of them asked me if I was in ketosis.

Crap! I thought. I guess “later on” means now.

I picked up some Ketostix at the pharmacy to measure my ketone production. Oh great, so now I need to pee on a stick in the morning!

Snarky comments aside, the more I read up on Ketosis, the more it makes sense. It just gets frustrating that weight loss can’t be simple. I constantly need to re-evaluate what I’m doing. I guess that’s why I’m calling it a lifestyle change and not a diet (d’oh!).

Clearly what I’m eating now is perfect — for maintaining my weight. Time for some fine-tuning to kick my fat-burning into high gear.

What Is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a state where your body has a very high fat-burning rate.

Before I went low carb, my body got the energy it needed from glucose via my high carb (a.k.a low-fat) diet. Because I’m now eating low carb, my body breaks down stored fat for energy (hence my weight loss). As fat is metabolized, my body creates ketone molecules. These molecules in the blood (sort of like blood sugar) become our fuel after being converted from fat by the liver.

By turning my stored fat into energy, my body produces more ketones than someone not eating low carb. Our bodies convert some  ketones into energy (acetoacetate and ß-hydroxybutyrate). Those ketones your body can’t convert (acetone) are excreted as waste – mostly urine and breath (why lots of low carb eaters experience funky breath).

I Thought Ketosis Is Bad For You?
The assumption about ketosis is if you are burning fat for energy then your body isn’t getting the glucose it needs. But for those of us who eat low carb, that’s not the case. In fact, my glucose levels improved dramatically after eating low carb for a year. How is this possible?

Before going low carb, my macronutrient breakdown was 70% carb/10% protein/20% fat. Pretty darn close to the government’s recommendations. The result? My glucose levels went thru the roof. The more carbs I ate, the higher my insulin – the fat storing hormone – level rose, which made me fatter.

By switching to low carb, both my fat and protein intake went up while I cut my carbs drastically (10% carbs/30% protein/70% fat).

So where is the glucose coming from? My body simply converts some of the protein I eat into glucose. The advantage is that the conversion happens slowly so I don’t experience a spike in blood glucose (bye-bye carb comas).

How Does Ketosis Help Me Lose Weight?
By eating low carb, I have less insulin raging through my body. By lowering my insulin level, my fat stores grow smaller and get converted to energy. So the more ketones I produce, the lower the insulin in my blood, turning me into a fat burning machine.

Pretty awesome.

Starting From Scratch
This weekend we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. For whatever reason, I wasn’t thinking low carb. I was celebrating. Sure we went out for a nice steak dinner. It’s what I ate in addition to the steak – bread (yes, bread), mashed potatoes, dessert and lots of wine – that got me thinking about getting into ketosis.

This morning I peed on that little strip and had a big, fat 0 ketones in my urine. Disappointed? A little. But I’m not at all surprised after this weekend.

I have a little more research to do before building my ketosis inducing meal plan.

I will weigh less than 200 lbs. by year’s end!

Learn More About Ketosis
The Diet Doctor, an awesome low carb site, has a great breakdown of getting into ketosis. I plan to read it a few more times this week.

For a full breakdown of ketosis, check this out.

*Disclaimer: Hey kids, I’m not a doctor. If you are thinking about becoming a fat-burning machine via ketosis, I suggest visiting your doctor first. From what I read, being in ketosis isn’t dangerous, but there are serious issues for diabetics.

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