I thought getting into ketosis would be a snap. You burn fat; you make ketones; your body eats the ketones. Simple. Or so I thought when I started the ketogenic diet. I explained earlier how I started a ketogenic diet on a whim and then after nine days decided it wasn’t for me.
As I started to transition off the diet, I was left wondering if I’d even made it to ketosis. To answer that question, I decided to order a ketone meter, go back on the diet for a day or two and see if I was ketotic.
Saturday morning I took my first fasting measurement. It was 0.2 mmol/L. This would be a typical level for a non-ketotic state. Since Friday I ate 132g of net carbs this was expected. However, since I had been eating low carbs for a week, I figured if I dropped down to 20 grams carbs I would test ketotic (>0.5) in the morning.
Wrong again. Saturday was a strenuous day on the farm and despite eating only 19g carbs I was only 0.3 Sunday morning. I was shocked! I was so surprised I tested it twice. “So much for that doctorate in physiology,” I thought.
After some thought, I decided my body was really good making sugar out of what was available and was resistant to producing ketones. This is when I started paying more attention to the protein I was eating. Proteins as well as carbohydrates can be easily converted into sugar. Indeed even glycerol, the backbone of fats, is used to make sugar.
On Tuesday (morning of day 4) I hit a ketone level of 0.5, the minimum required to claim a successful ketotic diet. I ran out of blood test strips that day (This was only supposed to take a couple days, so I only ordered 10.), but was able to continue monitoring using urinary strips. I estimate I fluctuated around 0.5 the next couple days and when I was able to test my blood again on Friday it was only 0.4. So not a solid ketosis yet.
I went online looking for more information and learned that not only was it not simple to induce ketogenesis, it also took at least three weeks to become keto-adapted. Geez, I though just getting into ketosis would be enough, but apparently the body doesn’t use the ketones efficiently until later.
It took me a week from when I restarted the diet to reach a solid ketosis. During that time, I continued to focus on lowering my protein to about 60 grams/day and keeping my net carbs around 24 grams. My ketone levels on day eight were 0.6, day nine: 1.1, and day ten: 0.9.
Keto-adaptation is my next target.
Luckily, there is a way to measure keto-adaptation. Once the body becomes efficient at using ketones as fuel, the urinary excretion will decrease and may completely disappear. It is recommended that one give a ketogenic diet at least one month, since this is the typical length it takes to adapt.