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The keto diet (short for “ketogenic” diet) is often hailed as the holy grail for weight loss because of its ability to shift your body into a super fat-burning mode called “ketosis”. But most people don’t realize that there are other effective ways to get into ketosis.
What is ketosis, and why does it lead to weight loss?
Your body is considered to be in a state of ketosis when it produces and uses ketones as the primary energy source for activities.
In a normal state, carbs (short for carbohydrates) are the primary energy source that fuels muscle contraction and other bodily functions. It’s true that the nutritional value of carbs can vary dramatically depending on the type of food (check out this post on good vs bad carbs for more info). But despite this, all carbs are digested into smaller sugars (glucose) that our cells use for energy.
Glucose in excess of your immediate energy requirements is stored as glycogen. Unfortunately, your body can’t store an unlimited quantity of glycogen. Once glycogen stores fill up, extra glucose is converted to fat that is stored in adipose tissue (fat cells). Over time, this can lead to weight gain.
Ketones are an alternative fuel that your liver produces from fat. When in ketosis, your body shifts from using carbs (glucose and glycogen) as the primary fuel source to using fat (ketones). This transition makes it easier for our bodies to access fat stores and burn them off, resulting in weight loss.
What are the most effective ways to get into ketosis?
One of the most well-known ways to get into ketosis is through restriction of carbs with diets like the keto diet. But the reality is that there are several different strategies you can use to increase your ketone production. Read below to explore some of the most effective ways to get into ketosis.
1) The Keto Diet
The keto diet is essentially a high-fat, moderate protein, and extremely low-carb eating plan.
Reducing carb intake eventually depletes blood glucose and glycogen stores, which causes insulin levels to decline. This shifts your body to using fat as a fuel source and further leads to lipolysis, or the breakdown of fat stored in adipose tissue as triglycerides. The fat is released as free fatty acids and used by the liver to produce ketones as a fuel source. This ultimately leads to ketosis.
But in order to reap the benefits of the keto diet, I’m sure you’re curious of exactly how low “extremely low-carb” is.
Well, in a “standard” 2000-calorie diet, the recommended daily allowance of carbs is 45 to 65% of total daily calories, which translates to between 225 and 325 grams of carbs per day. On the keto diet, only a small fraction of the typical carb amount is allowable – roughly 20 grams of carbs. Although variations of the keto diet allow higher daily carb amounts (40-50 grams), studies suggest that staying under 20 grams offers the best results.
The volume of food that comprises 20 grams of carbs really depends on the type of carbs. This could be anything from a half a bagel or a few bites of cake to full plates of high-fiber, low-carb vegetables like spinach, avocado, and asparagus.
Fat fasting is a low-calorie, high-fat eating pattern that is one of the fastest ways to get into ketosis.
A fat fasting program generally requires consumption of roughly 1,000 calories per day over a 2-4 day period. During this time, 80%-90% of calories should come from fat (preferably healthy fats). Because a fat fast requires a high fat consumption, it significantly restricts carb intake just like the keto diet. But unlike the keto diet, protein intake is also restricted.
Because fat fasting combines a high-fat/low-carb/low-protein eating pattern with a low-calorie diet, it is an effective short-term strategy to jump start ketosis or break through a weight loss plateau. However, fat fasting is only intended to last 2-4 days. It can be unhealthy (or even dangerous) when done for extended periods of time.
3) Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that seeks to speed metabolism by alternating between periods of fasting (not eating) and feeding. With intermittent fasting, you can eat what you want and in the quantities that you want. However, food must be eaten during scheduled periods of time.
Most people don’t realize that intermittent fasting is one of the simplest ways to get into ketosis. When you fast, the drop in glucose and insulin levels stimulates the release of fat-burning hormones like norepinephrine. This results in lypolysis, burning of fat stores (including stubborn belly fat), and ketone production, just as with the keto diet and fat fasting.
A big difference between the keto diet and intermittent fasting is that, with fasting, your fat stores are the only source of fat used to make ketones. This can be beneficial for weight loss. However, with the keto diet (and fat fasting), your fat stores are the secondary source used to make ketones. Fat from the foods you eat during a fat fast or while on the keto diet serve are the primary source for ketone production.
Click here to take the Keto Diet vs Intermittent Fasting Quiz to find out which is better to help you lose weight!
Our bodies actually go into “mild” ketosis during the natural fast that we all experience while sleeping overnight. The additional time spent in fasting mode during intermittent fasting yields even greater ketone production (i.e. more fat-burning power). Of course, the amount of ketones produced depends on the length of the fasting period, with longer (24-hour) fasting periods leading to more effective ketone production than shorter (6- to 12-hour) fasting periods. Learn more about the different intermittent fasting schedules and how to lose weight with intermittent fasting by clicking here.
4) Fasted Cardio
Exercise is an important part of every weight loss plan. In addition to burning fat, exercise can help shift your body to producing ketones by depleting your glycogen stores. In fact, evidence suggests that working out in a fasted state is a particularly effective way of getting into ketosis.
When in a fasted state, which is roughly 3-6 hours after your last meal, insulin levels are low. When insulin is low, the body prioritizes the breakdown of stored fat (instead of carbs) to fuel activities. Because of this, fasted cardio is an excellent way to increase your body’s overall fat-burning power. In addition, the free fatty acids released from the breakdown of stored fat during fasted cardio are readily available for ketone production. This can help you get into ketosis.
Want to get fit but having a hard time staying motivated to exercise?
Take the “My Fitness Personality” quiz to help you find a workout routine that sticks! Click here!
5) Coconut Oil/MCTs
Coconut oil contains specific fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Unlike most other fats, MCTs are rapidly absorbed and shuttled to the liver to be used as an immediate energy source or to produce ketones.
Consuming MCTs may be one of the simplest ways to get into ketosis, but it is unlikely that consuming MCTs alone (without any other dietary change) will lead to sustained ketosis. However, studies have shown that when you consume a high-MCT diet, the restriction of carbs to go into ketosis does not have to be as severe as with a traditional keto diet.
In addition, some even recommend consumption of MCT during the fasting periods of intermittent fasting. Termed “assisted fasting”, the ketones that result from consuming MCTs help suppress the appetite during fasting periods, making fasting for longer periods of time more tolerable.
Coconut oil and MCT come in a variety of forms. If you want to research the different forms available, a good place to start is with organic, non-GMO coconut oil.
Getting into ketosis is an effective way to burn fat and lose weight. As with any change in dietary patterns, make sure you check with your physician to ensure the ways to get into ketosis discussed in this post are appropriate for you.
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