Thank you, evolution, for the feat of engineering that is the human body. Millions of years have contributed to what nowadays may seem like superhuman tests of will or athleticism, such as the ability to walk for miles, fast for days and sustain life solely with the nourishment of nature.
Once upon a time, this was daily existence, not a mere biological blueprint. Today’s landscape, however, looks very different than the one shared by the hunter and gatherer societies that survived and thrived off the land. Today, walking up five flights of stairs without breaking a sweat may seem like a superhuman feat!
Yet our organs, metabolism, hormone production, adrenal systems and other vital functions don’t know the difference. Humans simply don’t evolve very quickly.
While you no longer have to forage for berries and rely on hunting wildlife for protein, collagen and fat, your DNA yearns to return to that kind of nutritional simplicity.
What does “keto-adapted” mean?
Like the state of ketosis, the state of being keto is a thing of lore — it sounds glorious and you want it. Practically speaking, it’s simply how the body has evolved to survive.
As part of your biological blueprint, your organs and muscles are equipped with metabolic fuel tanks that hold caloric energy from carbs or fat. Whether you use it to hunt dinner or tackle a daylong list of errands, you can rely on your DNA to deliver. And, during times of famine, or more realistically, fasting, these fuel tanks will conserve your precious energy.
This is your carb tank. It holds glycogen, made from converting sugar into a usable fuel source — roughly 2,000 calories worth of it, ready to be burned through physical or mental exertion.
Hardwired to tap into this fuel first, your body will burn through it until it’s depleted, right down to the last drop.
To remind you to replenish the sugar supply and reach for grains, starches, fruit and the pure sugar rush of desserts, your body sends out can’t-miss clues that make you crave them and ‘hangry’ when you don’t consume them.
Being perfectly designed, your body has a backup fuel tank that holds the highest quality, most precious source of energy available — fat.
As the backup plan to make sure your health and life are preserved — just in case a long winter leads to a food shortage — this fuel tank is the largest of all… it has the ability to hold about 40,000 CALORIES! That’s 40,000 units of heat energy ready to power you through your day.
What’s breathtaking about this metabolic process is that when your body uses fat for energy, the cravings and hunger you feel when you rely on carbs for energy go away. This is ketosis at work.
Steady mood, consistent energy
Long ago, metabolic flexibility wasn’t something to try to achieve. You just were. That 40,000 fuel tank was a consistent source of energy. In today’s society, we have the all too familiar “3:00 slump” that sends millions of mentally fatigued people on snack binges and drink runs.
When you rely on a carb-based diet day in and day out, your metabolism can’t help but crave it. The constant spikes and drops of insulin are enough to make you mad — and feel drained! You may not know that this vicious cycle of feeding the sugar beast can simultaneously inhibit your fat mobilization and utilization. Instead of using fat for energy, it remains stored.
So, the goal of a keto diet is to access the fat fuel tank, burn through stored fat and continue to replenish it by creating more ketone energy.
For me personally, the increase in energy was dramatic when I first reached ketosis. It was a challenge initially. But when I got to that place of being keto adapted, I felt my everyday energy skyrocket; my mental focus was off the charts.
Now, I rely on fat-fueled energy. My days start at dawn and end at about 11 pm. Sure there are life circumstances that may cause my energy level and mood to fluctuate occasionally. But generally speaking, my energy is smooth and consistently high when I utilize fat for fuel.
The mythology of keto-adaptation
The idea of becoming efficient at burning both carbs and fat — that is, metabolic flexibility — is frequently discussed in keto diet communities.
While the benefits of becoming keto-adapted are great, it’s easier said than done.
That said, don’t let nerves stop you from taking the necessary steps, because the benefits to your energy production and overall health are well worth the effort.
Many people think that when you become metabolically flexible, your body automatically switches from one tank to the other. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple or quick.
According to Dr. Jeff Volek, a professor, researcher, and expert on carb-restricted diets, the shift from burning glycogen to fat and back isn’t immediate, but a gradual process that takes days for insulin levels to return to a balanced state.
Metabolic flexibility does come easier to some groups than others. Children, for instance, can become fat adapted very easily. I’ve seen this firsthand with my son, who has been on a keto diet since having a terrifying seizure. Athletes are in this camp as well, with their higher tolerance and physical demand for calories and carbohydrates.
For the rest of us, including the estimated 80% of the country thought to be at a metabolic disadvantage, as well as individuals who have a metabolic syndrome, the path to ‘switching back and forth’ is more complicated, nuanced and challenging.
Normal and natural aging events can pose hurdles too. I have a dear friend, who is a menopausal woman, and she has struggled through the keto-adaptation cycle despite eating what she estimated to be the recommended amount of fat needed (about 70-85% of calories).
In keto, fat is everything. And the reality is that many people underestimate how much fat they actually consume, which is why incorporating a good quality MCT oil to meals can increase fat intake without additional food preparation, and help you reach ketosis faster.
This struggle that so many people face was the catalyst behind my 9-Week Switch to Better Health, a program that ended last week. It was my mission to walk you and hundreds of others through the keto-adaptation cycle and the many questions that arise:
How do I know when I’m in ketosis…
Am I consuming the right amount of carbs for my body…
Are my sodium and electrolyte levels where they should be...
How do I boost my energy when I’m feeling fatigued…
I understand how difficult it is to become keto-adapted, but the benefits of doing so are too important to give up. With patience and guidance from our Real Skinny On Fat community, you’ll keep walking on the path toward daylong energy and positive wellbeing.
What can be more energizing than that!