The ketogenic diet, also called keto, is a very-low carb diet that puts your body into a state called ketosis. In ketosis, your body uses ketones for energy, and ketones are made from fat. Turning fat into ketones is a very inefficient process, and it takes a lot of fat to make relatively few ketones. This is what makes keto such an effective weight loss diet. But what is the fastest way to get into ketosis?
Most diets rely on calorie restriction to help you lose weight. By eating less food, your body has no choice but to burn more fat for fuel. This means that most weight loss diets start working almost right away. The day you start eating less is the day you start losing weight, albeit very slowly.
Keto is different. Rather than restrict the amount of food you eat, keto restricts the type of food you can eat. Bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, grains, and cereals are out, and meat, eggs, oils, nuts, and non-starchy vegetables are in. With no carbs to use for fuel, your body has no choice but to rely on fat and ketones for energy.
On the downside, keto diets take time to work. It can take several days to a week or more to enter ketosis. Once you enter ketosis, your body turns into a fat-burning machine but, until that happens, any weight loss will mostly be water. This is one of the main criticisms of the keto diet.
Therefore, it makes sense to get into ketosis as fast as possible. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to speed up this process so that you can start burning fat like a boss in just a couple of days.
Factors that can delay reaching ketosis
Getting into ketosis is a process. Your body contains a lot of carbohydrates, most of it stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen. Even if you cut your carb intake to the absolute minimum, it will still take time for your body to use your onboard supplies of carbohydrate. You won’t enter ketosis until your muscle and liver glycogen stores are fully depleted.
Several factors affect the initial size of your glycogen stores.
1. Muscle size – most of your glycogen is stored in your muscles. Glycogen is quite a big, bulky substance because every gram of glucose is attached to 3-5 grams of water. Because of this, there is a finite limit to how much glycogen you can lock away in your muscles. If you have big muscles, you have more space to store glycogen. Muscular individuals may find that they take longer to enter ketosis than less muscular people.
2. Exercise experience – if you work out regularly, your body will be very adept at storing more glycogen. Glycogen is the preferred source of energy for exercise. When you work out, your muscle glycogen levels are depleted. Knowing this, if you exercise regularly, your body adapts by supercharging your ability to store glycogen. Regular exercisers usually have bigger glycogen stores than non-exercisers.
3. Your carbohydrate intake before your keto diet – when you eat carbohydrate, it is broken down into glucose. Initially, at least, your body will do all that it can to store glucose as glycogen and not waste this valuable source of energy. It will cram as much glycogen into your liver and muscles as possible. Any unused carbs will then be converted to fat and stored for later.
If, like a lot of people, your diet typically contains an abundance of carbs, your glycogen stores are likely to be significant. In addition, a lot of keto dieters start their low-carb diet with a big carb binge. This is understandable because, for the next few weeks or months, carbs are off the menu. Unfortunately, this further increases your glycogen stores and will delay entering ketosis.
Why you want to get into ketosis faster
The sooner you enter ketosis, the sooner your body can get on with the job of burning fat at an accelerated rate. If it takes you two weeks to enter ketosis, that’s two weeks during which your keto diet won’t be working its magic. You WILL lose weight during this period, but most of that weight is water.
As your body gradually uses its onboard glycogen stores, the accompanying water is released. You’ll know this is happening because you’ll pee more. Water is a heavy substance, and as you pee more, you will lose weight. Most keto dieters lose 5-10 pounds just getting into ketosis. However, until you enter ketosis, this weight is not fat.
In addition, as your glycogen levels start to fall, but you are yet to enter ketosis, you will probably experience some mildly unpleasant side effects. These side effects are collectively called the keto flu. Keto flu happens when your body is running low on carbs but has yet to make the shift to using ketones for fuel. The longer it takes to enter ketosis, the longer the symptoms of keto flu will last. Those symptoms include:
The keto flu is no-one’s idea of fun, and the sooner you get into ketosis, the sooner those symptoms will vanish. If you really want to get the most from the keto diet, it makes sense to try and get into ketosis as fast as possible. Use the following keto tips to reach ketosis in days rather than weeks!
How to get into ketosis fast
While you could just cut your carb intake and wait for ketosis to happen, you may find yourself waiting for anywhere up to a week or two for the keto fairy to arrive. The good news is that there is no need to delay ketosis. This is how to get into ketosis fast.
1. Minimize your carb intake
To force your body to use glycogen for energy, you need to stop consuming carbs. Low-carb diets allow you to eat anywhere between 50-100 grams of carbs per day, but that is still too many carbs to induce ketosis.
Instead, you must limit your carb intake to no more than 20-30 grams per day and eating even fewer carbs will get you into ketosis faster. You might not be able to eliminate all carbs from your diet, but you can get very close to zero.
Use a food tracking keto app to monitor your carb intake. Enter everything you eat and drink into the app to reveal your exact carb intake. Set yourself a carb ceiling of 30 grams per day and do your best to stay below that figure.
2. Consume MCT oil
Medium chain triglyceride oil, MCT for short, is a special kind of fat that your body can readily break down and convert into ketones for energy. Consuming MCT oil has been shown to help speed up your descent into ketosis. Natural sources of MCT oil include coconut oil, palm oil, and butter, whereas MCT supplements are much more concentrated and a better choice for keto dieters.
50-100 grams per day should help get you into ketosis faster. However, to avoid stomach upset, increase your intake of MCT oil over several days. Start with one tablespoon on the first day and increase gradually after that.
3. Move more, sit less
Glycogen is your muscles preferred source of energy during physical activity. When you are sedentary, as you are now while you read this, your body almost exclusively uses fat for fuel. However, when you get up and get moving, your body needs a faster-acting source of fuel, and that’s glycogen.
Force your body to use its glycogen stores more quickly by moving more and sitting less. Any physical activity will be beneficial, but intense exercise will deplete your glycogen stores faster.
Muscle glycogen is stored locally. That is to say, the glycogen in your legs fuels your legs, and the glycogen in your arms fuels your arms. To deplete your glycogen stores as fast as possible, choose exercises and activities that use lots of muscle groups working together. Swimming is a good option, as is hitting the gym and doing a full-body workout.
4. Eat more fat
To get into ketosis faster, 70-80% of your calories should come from fat. A lot of keto dieters are nervous about eating so much fat and worry that it is bad for their heart. The reality is that the right kinds of fat are very good for your heart, and the keto diet has long been associated with improved cardiovascular health.
Low fat keto diets do not work very well. Your body needs an abundance of fat to start making ketones. Increase your intake of healthy fats to get into ketosis faster. Use your food tracking app to make sure you are eating enough.
Good fat options for keto dieters include:
- Olive oil and olives
- Avocado oil
- Nuts and nut butter
- Coconut oil
- Full-fat dairy e.g., cream and butter
- Homemade mayonnaise
- Meat and seafood
- Keto fat bombs
5. Try fasting
Skipping a few meals will hasten your descent into ketosis. With no food to use for fuel, your body will have no choice but to release glycogen for energy. The longer you fast, the more glycogen will be used, and the sooner you’ll enter ketosis.
The easiest way to try fasting is just to skip breakfast and your usual mid-morning snack, and then have a light, low-carb lunch during the mid-afternoon. Eat your regular low-carb evening meal and then repeat the process the following day. This will give you a fasting period of about 18-20 hours – more than enough to speed up ketosis.
Make fasting even more effective by adding exercise into the mix. Instead of starting your day with breakfast, head out for a 30-minute jog instead. A day or two of fasting will get you into ketosis very quickly.
6. Maintain your protein intake
Getting into ketosis means eating lots of fat, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about protein. Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass, liver function, and giving you something to eat that isn’t olive oil, butter, or coconut oil!
Eating nothing but fat, a so-called fat fast, might get you into ketosis faster but it’s not sustainable for more than a day or two. Trying to eat all fat, all the time is a good way to derail your diet. Instead, make sure that 20-30% of your calorie intake comes from protein. Choose high-fat protein foods for ease and convenience or a good keto protein bar. Good options include beef, lamb, pork, and poultry with the skin left on.
7. Exogenous ketones
Exogenous ketones are ketones in supplement form. Taking exogenous ketones can help you get into ketosis sooner by showing your body what it needs to do now that you aren’t eating any carbs. Exogenous ketones alone won’t help you burn fat, but they are useful for getting into ketosis faster.
How do I know if I’m in ketosis?
There are several ways to confirm you have entered ketosis. If you’ve followed the tips in this article, you should reach ketosis in a couple of days rather than a week or more. Signs that suggest you are in ketosis include:
1. Your low carb flu symptoms disappear – cutting carbs can leave some people suffering the low carb flu. Your body is all-but addicted to carbs and goes into withdrawal when you eliminate them from your diet. The symptoms include headaches, nausea, and fatigue. However, once you are in ketosis, all these symptoms disappear.
2. No more carb cravings – bread, rice, pasta? Giving up these foods can be hard, but that’s what you need to do when you follow a ketogenic diet. Because you are so used to eating lots of carbs, cutting carbs can cause cravings. It’s not uncommon for new ketogenic dieters to dream about high-carb foods! However, once you enter ketosis, those cravings will disappear once and for all.
3. Boundless energy – when you eat carbs, those carbs are converted to glucose and then used as energy. Once that glucose is gone, your energy levels will crash until you eat more carbs. However, once your body is in ketosis, it has an unlimited source of fuel in the form of ketones, and you can say goodbye to fluctuating energy levels.
4. No more brain fog – initially, giving up carbs can leave you with brain fog. You might find it hard to concentrate, or you may be a little more forgetful than usual. This is because your brain won’t be getting the glucose it is used to. But, once you are in ketosis, your brain will be fueled by ketones, and that mental fog will lift, leaving you feeling sharp and clear-headed.
5. You’ll stop feeling hungry – low blood glucose can leave you feeling very hungry. Your body is used to getting a steady supply of carbs, and if that supply is interrupted, even on purpose, it sets the hunger alarm bells ringing. When you quit carbs and get into ketosis, you have an almost unlimited supply of energy, which means that hunger alarm gets turned off. Also, the high protein and high-fat foods you’ll be eating as part of your ketogenic diet are much more filling than carbs.
6. Fruity breath – when you are in ketosis, your breath can become a little fruity. This is not unpleasant, but it is a sign that your body is producing and using ketones. It’s a bit like when you chew Juicy Fruit chewing gum, only much less concentrated. You can relieve keto breath by eating sugar-free gum, drinking more water, and oil pulling.
7. Increased urine output – when you are in ketosis, your body increases urine output to flush out unused ketones. If you notice you are visiting the bathroom more often or passing more urine than usual, you are probably in ketosis. You may also feel thirstier than usual. Because of this, it’s essential you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
8. You’ll sleep like a baby – carb cravings and hunger can completely derail your sleep. Fluctuating blood glucose levels, especially in the early hours of the morning, can wake you up. Once you are in ketosis, your low blood sugar alarm clock gets shut off for good and, as a result, you should find that you can sleep through the night with far fewer periods of wakefulness.
9. You’ll feel great – once your body has broken free of carbs and is fully into ketosis, everything starts to feel great. The combination of more energy, no cravings, no hunger, mental clarity, and unstoppable endurance means you’ll feel better than you ever felt before. Yes, making the shift from carbs to ketones takes a while, and can leave you feeling less than stellar, but once your body makes that shift, you’ll wonder why you never did it before.
10. Keto sticks – keto sticks detect ketones in your urine. You simply pee on them, and they change color according to how many ketones are present. Most keto sticks turn purple, and the deeper the color, the higher the concentration of ketones. Keto stick packs come complete with a scale for easy comparison, so you see how deeply you are in ketosis. Keto sticks are cheap, and you can buy them from most drug stores and pharmacies. Use them several times a day to track your descent into ketosis.
Getting into ketosis doesn’t need to take a week or more. In fact, if you use all of the strategies in this article, you should be able to enter ketosis in just a couple of days. The actual time it takes you to reach ketosis depends on things like the size of your initial glycogen stores and how strictly you adhere to the keto diet but, even then, you should be able to achieve ketosis relatively quickly. Remember, the sooner your glycogen stores are depleted, the sooner you’ll turn your fat-burning furnaces up to the max.
Ketosis is not just good for fat burning. Research suggests that being in ketosis is also good for your brain and heart function. You’ll also have boundless energy and won’t experience the usual highs and lows associated with eating lots of carbs – physical and mental.
Now you know how to achieve ketosis as fast as possible, it’s up to you to stop reading and put these keto tips into action!