Lose Weight by Achieving Optimal Ketosis
Yesterday 15:09 in Insulin, Ketone Measuring,
Do you want to lose weight? Here’s number 14
of my 17 best tips. All of the published tips
can be found on the How to Lose Weight page.
Before we get started, here’s a short recap
of the tips so far: The first and most crucial
piece of advice was to choose a low-carb
diet. The next were eating when hungry,
eating real food, measuring progress wisely,
thinking long-term, avoiding fruit, alcohol and artificial sweeteners, review your medications,
stressing less and sleeping more, eating less
dairy and nut products, stocking up on
vitamins and minerals and finally, exercise.
This is number fourteen:
14. Get into optimal ketosis
Warning: Not recommended for type 1 diabetics, see further below.
We’ve now arrived at tip number 14. If you’re
still having trouble losing weight, despite
following the 13 pieces of advice listed above,
it might be a good idea to bring out the heavy
artillery: optimal ketosis. Many people stalling at weight plateaus while on a low carb diet have found optimal ketosis helpful. It’s what can melt the
fat off once again.
So how does this work? A quick run-through:
The first tip was to eat low carb. This is
because a low-carb diet lowers your levels
of the fat-storing hormone insulin, allowing
your fat deposits to shrink and release their
stored energy. This tends to cause you to want
to consume less calories than you expend –
without hunger – and lose weight. Several of
the tips mentioned above are about fine-tuning
your diet to better this effect.
How do you know you’re getting the maximum
hormonal impact from your low-carb diet?
You do that by achieving what’s known as
Ketosis is a state at which the body has an
extremely high fat-burning rate. Even the
brain runs on fat, via ketone bodies. These
are energy molecules in the blood
(like blood sugar) which become fuel
for our brains after being converted from
fat by the liver.
To encourage ketone production, the amount
of insulin in your bloodstream must be low.
The lower your insulin, the higher your ketone production. And when you have a well-controlled, sufficiently large amount of ketones in your
blood, it’s basically proof that your insulin
is very low – and therefore, that you’re
enjoying the maximum effect of your
low-carbohydrate diet. That’s what’s called optimal ketosis.
Today, there are reasonably-priced gadgets
available for measuring ketone levels at
home. One needle prick of the finger, and
in just a few seconds you’ll know your blood
Blood ketones are best measured on a fasted
stomach in the morning (before breakfast,
that is). Here are a few pointers on how
to interpret the result:
Below 0.5 mmol/L is not considered
“ketosis”. At this level, you’re far away
from maximum fat-burning.
Between 0.5-1.5 mmol/L is light
nutritional ketosis. You’ll be getting a
good effect on your weight, but not optimal.
Around 1.5 – 3 mmol/L is what’s
called optimal ketosis and is recommended for
maximum weight loss.
Values of over 3 mmol/L aren’t necessary.
That is, they will achieve neither better
nor worse results than being at the 1.5-3
Higher values can also sometimes
mean that you’re not getting enough food.
For type 1 diabetics, it can be caused by
a severe lack of insulin, see below.
KETONES IN URINE:
Ketone levels can also be measured in a
more old-fashioned way, with urine test
sticks (sold prescription-free in pharmacies
or on Amazon). Ketone sticks give less
reliable results for several reasons, and
the above recommendations can’t be
straightforwardly applied to them. They are,
however, much cheaper.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:
Feel free to read my accounts of a
two-month personal trial:
Experiment: Optimal ketosis for
weight loss and increased performance
In Swedish: Four weeks of strict LCHF
and ketone monitoring (English version
In Swedish: Final report: Two months
of strict LCHF and ketone monitoring
(English version coming soon)
Although I was quite happy with my weight
before these trials, they resulted in a
further loss of 4.5kgs (10 pounds) and
7cm (3 inches) around my waist – without
additional exercise or even the slightest
resemblance of hunger.
How to achieve optimal ketosis
Many who firmly believe they are eating a
strict low-carb diet are surprised when they
measure their blood ketones. They may be at
around only 0.2 or 0.5 – quite far off from
the sweet spot! Why?
The trick here is not only to avoid all obvious
sourced of carbohydrate (sweets, bread,
spaghetti, rice, potatoes), but also to be
careful with your protein intake. If you eat
large amounts of meat, eggs and the like,
the excess protein will converted into
glucose in the body. Large amounts of
protein can also raise your insulin levels
somewhat. This compromises optimal ketosis.
The secret to getting around this is usually
to eat your fill with more fat. For example,
if you have a bigger helping of herb butter
to your steak, you might not feel like having
a second steak, and instead feel satisfied
after the first one.
A popular trick people use to ingest more fat
is “fat coffee” (sometimes called “Magic
Bullet Coffee” or MBC). It involves adding
one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon
of coconut oil to your (morning) coffee, and
requires a food blender for the right texture.
More fat in your food will fill you up more.
This will ensure you eat less protein, and
even less carbohydrate. Your insulin will
drop and, hopefully, you’ll be able to reach
optimal ketosis. And that’s when many a stubborn
weight plateau is overcome.
IF IT DOESN'T WORK:
Being in optimal ketosis for a prolonged
period of time (say, a month) will ensure
that you experience the maximal hormonal
effect from eating a low-carb diet. If this
doesn’t result in noticeable weight loss,
you can be certain that too many carbs are
NOT part of your weight issue and not the
obstacle to your weight loss. There are, in
fact, other causes of obesity and being
overweight. The next three tips in this
series might help you.
Order a ketone meter online and start
measuring. There are a few different models,
take a look at this one and this one.
Watch my video interview with the American
doctor Peter Attia, on a strictly ketogenic low-carbohydrate diet: Very Low Carb
Read all the tips on the How to Lose
A WORD OF WARNING:
If you have type 1 diabetes, you should
not follow the above advice on optimal
ketosis – it may be risky. If you have
ketones in your blood at all, you must
be sure that your blood sugar levels are
normal. If they are, you’re in normal
ketosis – just like the ketosis of
healthy people who stick to a strict
low carb diet.
High blood sugar levels coupled with
high blood ketones, on the other hand,
will mean that you have a pathologically
low level of insulin – something
non-diabetics do not suffer from.
This can lead to ketoacidosis – a
potentially life-threatening condition.
If this happens, you’ll need to inject
more insulin; if you’re at all unsure
of what to do, contact a medical
professional. Coveting really high blood
ketones for weight control is not worth
the risk for type 1 diabetics.