It’s no surprise that with different diets trending over time with some coming and going that we are now seeing the latest trend of ketogenic diets making a comeback. Seemingly overnight, it seems that everyone is utilizing this diet approach and even supplement lines are starting to create products accordingly. Yet, despite its surge in popularity, the ketogenic diet is still one of the most misunderstood. From misinformed ‘gurus’ on social media to loosely using the word keto, it’s not hard to see why there is confusion. But what does it mean to get your body into ketosis?
Now, first and foremost there are numerous benefits to using a ketogenic diet approach. These are especially prevalent for those looking to burn body fat while maintaining lean mass, increasing insulin sensitivity and a few other benefits. This article will help explain what ketosis really is.
Probably the most misunderstood aspect of keto is what it truly means. For one to be in true ketosis, this means that they are in a metabolic state that occurs when dietary carbohydrates are in such low quantities that your body must rely almost exclusively on fatty acid oxidation and ketone metabolism.
Human physiology dictates that for basic function, the human body requires a substantial amount of energy and in particular, a currency called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). For example, if the average human body requires 2000 calories per day, not including any activity or physical movements, then the amount of calories required for normal functioning alone is 2000 calories. This can be more or less, but for example’s sake we made this a general number.
At the center of the body’s function is the brain. This requires about 400 calories per day, running almost exclusively on its preferred energy source, glucose. This means that your body needs a minimum of 100g of glucose (carbohydrates). Being able to adapt to adversity and surviving in different conditions, if the body isn’t getting adequate carbohydrates from diet to fuel the brain, it can borrow and/or convert sugars from other areas or sources within the body.
The first place that is tapped into is the liver which is major glucose reserve. If this source is depleted of glucose, then the body once again has an alternative fuel source from the liver, which brings us to the discussion of ketones, which are created by the liver in the absence of glucose to fuel the brain and other tissues that don’t utilize fat for an energy source.
One thing to note physiology wise is that when you are truly ‘burning fat’, this is when the body is in a calorie deficit from a combination of dietary restriction and exercise. This causes the body to use stored fatty acid molecules and convert them into a fuel source called acetyl CoA.
This is crucial to note as when the body is in a ketogenic state, the amount of fat that your liver is using for energy is so high, there is an excessive amount of this acetyl CoA that it starts converting it into the ketone bodies. As a result and due to the need for a new energy source, the body happily begins dumping these ketone bodies into the bloodstream for energy. Once this process is underway, and the body is doing this continually, the body has officially reached a state of true ketosis.