Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the liver produces “ketones.” Ketone bodies are acetone, acetoacetate, and 3-hydroxybutyrate. When you reduce your carbohydrate intake and increase fat in the diet, the body (after an initial phase of adaptation) is transformed from a “sugar burner” to “fat-burning.”
In practice, instead of using sugar as an energy source of carbohydrates, your body uses fat. And this involves a number of advantages, in order to alleviate the symptoms of major diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, celiac disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
The state of Ketosis
When we consume foods that are high in carbohydrates (or even large amounts of proteins), our body breaks them down by making them available in the form of glucose. Glucose (sugar) is then used to “create” energy needed in order to adjust the various vital functions.
With an adequate calorie consumption, most of the food thus serves to benefit our body. But when exceeded, advancing glucose is converted into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles (as glycogen). If, however, our glycogen stores are already “full”, our body converts excess glucose into fat that is deposited.
Now, when glycogen stores are finite, the state of ketosis begins. In essence, the body starts to use fat reserves, creating molecules called “ketones”.
For all we know, the state of ketosis has preserved the evolution of the species. If we think of the Paleolithic men, they certainly did not have the opportunity to consume food several times a day (every day) and certainly did not have fast food restaurants at their disposal. Indeed, they had to hunt (with great effort) to get food, and they would not always succeed (maybe for days). They survived thanks to ketone bodies, and often ate a diet very high in fat (certainly not by choice).
How long will it take to ensure that the body will turn from sugar-burning to fat-burning?
There is not a precise period for everyone. Generally, one speaks of a period which varies from one week up to 4 weeks, once the consumption of carbohydrates is reduced (below 60 grams per day).
Ketone bodies are dangerous?
Many people (including doctors) do not know the subject well and confuse the state of ketosis with ketoacidosis (diabetic). These are two very different situations. And as for the first, there is no danger. For ketoacidosis yes, since it is an active process in which the production of ketone bodies is abnormal and out of control, due to the impossibility (in diabetic patients) to utilize glucose (insulin deficiency).
But know that ketoacidosis can only intervene in people with the almost total absence of insulin (as in type 1 diabetics).
Ketogenic diet in high-level athletes long-term
As for the chance to train in a sport long-term on a ketogenic diet, the views are absolutely inconsistent. In this study, however, five trained cyclists are subjected to the usual training sessions during a period of 4 weeks following a ketogenic diet. Despite initial concerns, the training sessions were held regularly, and instead of swallowing Powerade during the performance, the athletes were “rehydrated” with coconut butter (full-fat).
Effects “transient” during the first few weeks of adaptation
Having reduced the intake of carbohydrates, you can record some transient effects during the adaptation phase (first few weeks), such as: fatigue, irritability, headache, weakness, desire to consume sugar, and constipation. However it is not a fixed rule that can apply to everyone. But most of all, for those who already follow the Paleo diet, these effects are minimized.
Myths about the ketogenic Paleo diet
- The ketogenic diet requires a high consumption of proteins .
Contrary to what many think, a ketogenic paleo diet (low-carb) is not a diet high in protein.
- But a diet high in fat is not dangerous?
The short answer is NO. Indeed, a Paleo diet high in fat (“Paleo”) is arguably among the best diets possible, when associated with a limited consumption of carbohydrates. A diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates contributes to the increase in cholesterol and lowers good triglycerides.
- A ketogenic diet rich in fats clogs the arteries, which causes heart problems.
This is one of the biggest lies, based on the fact that fat and cholesterol cause heart disease. There is no published scientific study that shows a correlation between cholesterol and saturated fat causing heart disease.
- Antioxidants and phytonutrients of vegetables are important to our health. The ketogenic diet is lacking it.
Firstly, it is worth remembering that 60 grams of carbohydrates from vegetables (if well chosen) can be a good quantity to be consumed per day. Then, despite what is commonly assumed, the foods of animal origin are rich in vitamins and minerals of plants, with the exception only of vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin E. This is often why it is recommended (during a ketogenic regime) to focus more on the intake of green leafy vegetables (Vitamin K and C) and nuts (vitamin E). It’s also important to know that with the decrease of carbohydrates, it also decreases the need for vitamin C, and considering animals are able to produce vitamin C on their own, it will be present in the meat we eat (if not overcooked) .
In support of what has been reported, anthropologists Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Anderson lived with the Inuit Eskimo population in an experiment, consuming meat and fish for 90% of the diet for 9 years. Back in New York, Stefansson (along with others) were subjected to a study in the Bellevue hospital where they consumed meat almost exclusively for a year, fish and fat (75-86% fat, 15-25% protein, and 1-2% carbohydrates for a daily consumption of calories between 2000 and 3100). At the end of the experiment, all values were normal and no vitamin deficiencies were recorded.
A ketogenic diet is forever. Or maybe not ..
The ketogenic diet is a powerful tool. And as you know, power is nothing without control. It can be helpful in many circumstances. For some, it is a necessity or a unique opportunity to have a normal life. It’s probably not a system to adopt forever, but it is a useful diet to put an end to a series of problems that (apparently) had no previous solutions to.
For those who follow the Paleo diet, you should dispel the myth of carbohydrates. In that sense, when the right vegetables are chosen you’ll be able to consume copious amounts of vegetables without breaking the limits and break the state of ketosis. To give you an idea, 1 pound of lettuce is equivalent to 30 grams of carbohydrates. In other words, it takes half of the carbohydrates mentioned (as the maximum limit) to maintain a state of ketosis.
In many cases, the ketogenic diet is useful to improve the state of health or simply to lose weight naturally with little effort. There’s no special caloric restriction (to obtain benefits), but simply a different distribution of the macro-nutrients as fat (Paleo) are predominant and carbohydrates being below 60 grams per day. Once the target is reached, one can choose to make some changes, perhaps balancing the consumption of carbohydrates, increasing vegetables, fruits, and reinserting sweet potatoes .
If you do not have metabolic or weight problems, there is no contraindication to consume moderate amounts of carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and some tubers. But as always, speak with your doctor before you immerse yourself in any experiment.