Ketones, or ketone bodies, are exactly why the keto diet works! Ketones are fuel molecules that the body makes out of fat – both fat in the diet and fat stored in the body. As glucose levels fall and consequently become more stable, ketone levels rise. This allows the body to enter a state of nutritional ketosis where fuel is abundant.
Most of the cells in the body, including the brain, can use ketones as fuel and ketones can actually produce more energy than glucose. Not to worry, for the small amount of glucose that the body actually needs, and to maintain blood sugar that isn’t too low, the body can make glucose out of certain amino acids, lactic acid and glycerol (part of triglycerides – fat!) Besides, keto isn’t a “no-carb” diet; it’s a very low carb one.
You might be thinking that the keto diet sounds pretty great, or even too good to be true, but perhaps you still have questions of how to start the keto diet or how to frame it on the context of your life or health needs. Let’s walk through the details.
I used to be of the mindset that making a gradual transition to the keto diet was the way to go. Slowly lowering carbs over many weeks seemed like the gentlest approach, and this approach does, in fact, work for many people. However, if you are fairly motivated, I now recommend diving into the keto diet headfirst! You can take some time to get organized, do some meal planning and shopping, but after that, you’ll get into ketosis more quickly if you just take the leap!
Bottom Line: If possible, spend ample time planning and preparing and then just go for it – rip the band-aid.
It’s true, you might feel a little worse before you feel better when you transition to keto. Remember that as you begin keto, your body is undergoing a huge metabolic transition, and likely one that you haven’t experienced before (although all of the DNA programming is there!) Your body is used to running on glucose and suddenly it isn’t there. Add to the fact that it can take a little time for the body to begin efficiently making, and then efficiently using ketones for fuel. It is no wonder you feel tired!
Staying hydrated and eating enough salt can be lifesavers for getting through this transition. It’s also a good time to back off on exercise in favor of more gentle and restorative movement, prioritize sleep and rest more as needed.
The term “keto flu” refers to the uncomfortable, and often flu-like symptoms, that you might experience during the transition from being a sugar burner to a fat-burner and getting into ketosis. These symptoms can include fatigue, hunger, cravings, brain fog, low blood sugar, and muscle weakness. For most people, the symptoms will pass within the first week of a keto diet, and likely faster if following my tips above about hydration, salt and rest.
It’s important to note that the full metabolic transition into ketosis can take several weeks.
Keep on the lookout for the next blog post. I’ll be reviewing more common ketogenic diet FAQs about what to eat and carb-related inquires.