Ketosis is an everyday process of the body, regardless of the number of carbs you eat. Your body can adapt very well, processing different types of nutrients into the fuels that it needs.
Proteins, fats, and carbs can all be processed for use. Eating a low carb, high fat diet just ramps up this process, which is a normal and safe chemical reaction.
When you eat carbohydrate-based foods or excess amounts of protein, your body will break this down into sugar – known as glucose. Why? Glucose is needed in the creation of ATP (an energy molecule), which is a fuel that is needed for the daily activities and maintenance inside our bodies.
If you’ve ever used a calculator to determine your caloric needs, you will see that your body uses up quite a lot of calories. It’s true, our bodies use up much of the nutrients we intake just to maintain itself on a daily basis. If you eat enough food, there will likely be excess glucose your body doesn’t need.
There are two main things that happen to glucose if your body doesn’t need it:
- Excess glucose will be converted to glycogen and stored in your liver and muscles. Estimates show that only about half of your daily energy can be stored as glycogen.
- If there’s already enough glycogen in your muscles and liver, any extra glucose will be converted into fats and stored.
So, what happens to you once your body has no more glucose or glycogen? Ketosis happens When your body has no access to food, like when you are sleeping, the body will burn fat and create molecules called ketones. This is what happens on a ketogenic diet – we burn fat for energy. We can thank our body’s ability to switch metabolic pathways for that.
These ketones (acetoacetate) are created when the body breaks down fats, creating fatty acids, and burned off in the liver in a process called beta-oxidation. The end result of this process is the creation of 2 other ketones (BHB and acetone), which are used as fuel by the muscles and brain.
Although glucose is the main source of fuel for most people, these fatty acids (BHB and acetone) are used by the brain cells when carbohydrate or food intake is low. In simpler terms, since you have no more glucose or glycogen, ketosis kicks in and your body will use your stored/ consumed fat as energy.
Ketosis is pretty amazing, and in fact, gets even better. Studies show that the body and brain actually prefer using ketones, being able to run 70% more efficiently than glucose. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes perfect sense.
How Does It Work?
When fat is broken down by the liver, glycerol and fatty acid molecules are released. The fatty acid is broken down further, in a process called ketogenesis, and a ketone body called acetoacetate is produced.
Acetoacetate is then converted into 2 other types of ketone bodies:
- Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) – After being keto-adapted for a while, your muscles will convert the acetoacetate into BHB as it’s preferred by the brain for
- Acetone – Can sometimes be metabolized into glucose, but is mostly excreted as this can give the distinct smelly breath that most ketogenic dieters know.
Over time, your body will expel fewer ketone bodies, and you may think that ketosis is slowing down.
That’s not the case, as your brain is burning the BHB as fuel, and your body is trying to give your brain as much efficient energy as possible.
What Are the Benefits?
- Weight Loss. As your body is burning fat as the main source of energy, you will essentially be using your fat stores as an energy source while in a fasting
- By giving your body a better and more reliable energy source, you will feel more energized during the day. Fats are shown to be the most effective molecule to burn as fuel.
- A keto diet has shown to improve triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels most associated with arterial buildup.
- Blood Sugar. Many studies show the decrease of LDL cholesterol over time and have shown to eliminate ailments such as type 2
- Fat is naturally more satisfying and ends up leaving us in a satiated (“full”) state for longer.
- Skin. Recent studies have shown a drop in acne lesions and skin inflammation over 12 weeks.