The ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight, improve mental cognition, balance hormones and treat various diseases like diabetes and epilepsy. But how long does it take to get into ketosis?
When you enter a state of ketosis, your body switches from using glucose to using ketones for fuel. This has been associated with a number of health benefits, including:
- Weight loss: Reduce hunger and cravings while staying full longer
- Reduced risk of diseases: Lower risk of diseases such as heart disease, type II diabetes and even cancer
- Higher energy levels: Less blood sugar spikes and overall better well-being
But how long does it take to experience these benefits?
How Long Does It Take to Get Into Ketosis?
You cannot simply jump into ketosis in a 24-hour timespan. Your body has been burning sugar for fuel your entire life. It will need time to adapt to burning ketones for fuel.
So long long does it take to get into ketosis? This transition could take anywhere from 48 hours to one week. The length in time will vary depending upon your activity level, lifestyle, body type and carbohydrate intake. There are several ways you can speed up this process, like intermittent fasting, drastically decreasing your carb intake and supplementation.
Remember: Once you get into ketosis, there is no guarantee you will remain in ketosis. If you eat a carb-laden meal, practice carb cycling, or increase your carb intake for athletic performance, your body may start burning glucose. To get back into a fat-burning state, follow the same methods you did to get into ketosis initially.
How to Get Into Ketosis Fast: 6 Steps to Follow
Follow these steps to get into ketosis faster:
#1 Drastically Cut Carbs
The general carb limit for the keto diet is around 30 grams per day. If you’re an athlete, this may increase to 100 grams.
When starting a low carb diet like Atkins or keto, some people find comfort in cutting out carbs gradually. However, if you want to get into ketosis fast, drastically reducing your carb intake is a necessary step. Track your carbohydrate intake during this time, not letting any hidden carbs slip under the radar.
#2 Increase Fats
Healthy fats make up a large component of any keto meal plan. If you’re new to keto, it may take time to transition to this way of eating. Make sure your fat intake accounts for 70-80% of your total calories. This will help your body transition to using fat as its primary fuel source.
Consume these healthy fats to get into ketosis quickly:
- Oils like coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, MCT oil or powder, avocado oil or macadamia nut oil
- Fatty meats, egg yolks, butter or ghee
- Fatty nuts and nut butters (but be careful on these)
- Plant fats like avocados, olives or coconut butter
#3 Watch Protein Intake
You should consume enough protein to maintain body functions and preserve lean muscle mass. Too much protein will prevent you from entering ketosis[*].
Most individuals mistake keto for other low carb, high-protein diets. However, keto is an extremely low carb, moderate protein diet. Your protein intake should only account for roughly 25% of your daily caloric intake. This might be equal or less than your current protein intake.
To ensure you don’t consume too much protein, stick with high-fat protein sources rather than lean sources.
#4 Take Exogenous Ketones
Exogenous ketones are supplements to help you get into ketosis faster. The most effective exogenous ketones are those made with beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB ketones). BHB is the most abundant ketone in the body, making up to 78% of total ketone bodies in the blood. It’s also a more efficient fuel source than glucose.
Taking exogenous ketones helps your body get into ketosis faster (sometimes in as little as 24 hours). You still need to eat a low carb, ketogenic diet, but supplementation can decrease the amount of time it takes and decrease unpleasant side effects.
#5 Try Intermittent Fasting
Fasting is often used in conjunction with keto. It poses a number of health benefits, including improved concentration and reduced blood sugar levels. It has also been associated with decreasing symptoms of various diseases. When used in combination with a ketogenic diet, it can help you get into ketosis faster, and aids weight and fat loss.
If the thought of intermittent fasting intimidates you, try these other two approaches:
- Fat fasting involves eating low-calorie (usually around 1,000 calories), with roughly 85-90% of those calories coming from fat, for a few days.
- Fast mimicking mimics the effects of fasting within a short time frame. During this brief time span, you still eat high-fat foods[*].
#6 Exercise More
Exercise helps deplete the body of glycogen stores (stored glucose). When glycogen reserves are low, and not being refilled with carbohydrates, the body turns to burning fat for energy. Therefore, increasing your exercise intensity can help you enter ketosis faster.
Reasons Why You’re Not in Ketosis Yet
If you tried all of the above methods and still haven’t entered ketosis, there might be an underlying cause. It’s important to take a hard look at your diet and daily habits that might prevent you from entering ketosis.
You’re Eating Too Much Protein
One of the most common mistakes when starting a ketogenic diet is eating too much protein. Protein is a building block of life and a necessary component of any diet. However, it’s important to remember ketosis requires a high-fat, moderate protein intake. Here’s why:
Glucose is your body’s preferred energy source. In the presence of glucose, your body will refuse to break down fat (ketones) for fuel. However, even in the absence of carbohydrates, there is one other way your body can use glucose for fuel: by breaking down protein.
When you eat more protein than needed, you can enter a state known as gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis is the process by which your body converts amino acids into glucose, thereby using glucose for energy. Whether your body converts amino acids or carbohydrates into glucose, the results are the same: Your insulin spikes, reducing ketone levels in your blood.
You’re Not Eating Enough Fat
By now, surely you understand a ketogenic diet requires a high-fat intake. However, many people underestimate just how much fat they need to consume.
If you want fat stores to be your body’s new, preferred energy source, that energy source must first be available. Make sense?
To enter ketosis, up to 80%of your daily calories should come from fat. To put this into a frame of reference, if you eat 2,000 calories a day, 1,600 of those calories should come from fat sources. This comes out to roughly 144-170 grams of fat. Both quantity and quality are equally important, so consume fats from high-quality sources, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
You’re Not Eating Enough, Period.
When you transition to a ketogenic diet, sometimes it’s difficult to eat enough calories. Fat is incredibly satiating and sometimes acts as an appetite suppressant.
When your body doesn’t get enough calories, it will go into starvation mode. This causes it to “hoard” body fat, rather than use it for energy. This can also cause several metabolic and thyroid problems[*].
As a beginner to the keto diet, track your calories to ensure you’re eating enough. This might sound counterintuitive, especially if you’re following keto for weight loss. However, it is much more common amongst those following keto to not eat enough than to eat too much.
Tips to Transition Into Keto
When your body enters ketosis for the first time, it’s switching its preferred fuel source. This transition can cause flu-like side effects in some people, including fatigue, headaches, dizziness, sugar cravings, brain fog and stomach trouble. This is often called the “keto flu.”
Supplementing with exogenous ketones can help negate these unwanted symptoms. When supplements aren’t enough, try these tips:
Many people experience a flush of water weight when they switch from eating a standard, high carb diet to keto. Therefore, it’s important to stay hydrated. Plus, hunger is often confused for dehydration. Avoid this by drinking water often, especially when you experience cravings or hunger.
Get Enough Sleep
Proper sleep is important for hormone function and repair of the body. Not getting enough sleep is tough on the adrenals and blood sugar regulation. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep per night. If you struggle with quality sleep, create an environment that is conducive for rest. This could be keeping your room cooler, turning off all electronic devices one to two hours before bedtime or using a sleep mask.
How to Know If You’re in Ketosis
If your goal is to get into ketosis as fast as possible, you have to test your ketone levels. Why? Testing helps you recognize what foods or habits kick you out of ketosis.
There are three primary methods to test your ketone levels:
- Urine testing: While this is one of the most affordable methods, it’s also the most inaccurate. Unused ketones leave the body through the urine — meaning, you are essentially measuring unused, unburned ketones.
- Breath testing: This is a far more accurate method than urine testing, but still not the best. This measures the amount of acetone (another ketone body), when you should try to measure the amount of BHB.
- Blood testing: This is the most highly-recommended, most accurate way to test your ketone levels. With a small prick of a finger, you can measure the level of BHB ketones in the blood.
If you test your ketone levels regularly, follow the steps outlined above and supplement when necessary, you’ll no longer be wondering how long it takes to get into ketosis. You’ll be in it, burning fat and energetically reaching your health goals in no time.