I’m about to tell you the 5 fastest ways to increase your blood ketone body levels, getting you into that fat-burning, brain-boosting, metabolic-mode we call “ketosis”!
(i) Be a Baby without a Boob! Foundational work by the legendary Professor George Cahill demonstrated that newborns go into deep ketosis within a couple of hours of their last milky meal. Because ketones can help neurons thrive, this adaptation helps a baby’s brain to grow.
(ii) Something tells me my suggestion to “be a baby” wasn’t helpful. But maybe the joke suggestion made you laugh? Laughing is good because if you’re laughing, you’re not stressed. Chronic stress is the enemy of ketosis. Think about it this way: when you’re constantly stressed your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. Your stress hormone, cortisol, rises dramatically and your body floods your blood with glucose to supply your muscles with quick-burning fuel to run away from that saber-tooth tiger. (It’s a bummer that our stress response didn’t evolve to help us cope with the modern news cycle.) These adaptations inhibit your liver’s ability to turn slow-burning body fat into ketones. Therefore, while yoga and meditation won’t get you into ketosis alone, learning to avoid and cope with chronic stressors is foundational to helping you get into deep ketosis. And, if you’re stressing yourself out over numbers, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot.
(iii) Now we get into the meat of it, literally… food! What should(n’t) you eat? First and foremost, it’s essential to remove net carbohydrates from your diet as a source of energy (fiber is fine). The ratio of energy derived from fat, protein, and carbohydrates typically referenced on a standard ketogenic diet is about 75%-80% fat, 15-20% protein, and 5% net carbohydrates. So, eating a higher proportion of fat when you do eat is the key to ketosis. But not all fats are created equal. Some fats are more “ketogenic” than others. For example, the medium-chain triglyceride caprylic acid (C8) goes straight from the stomach to the liver to be burned as fuel and turned into ketones. You can buy pure C8 or get some from coconut oil, which is 10% C8. (If you do go the coconut route, please buy virgin oil: https://mdlingo.com/a-guide-to-coconut-products-water-milk-cream-oil-butter/). As one last fun aside on C8 caprylic acid, “capra” is Latin for goat. This is because goat’s cheese gets its flavor from the relatively high levels of caprylic acid it contains. That’s one more reason to choose goat’s milk over cow’s milk (https://mdlingo.com/cheese-mutant-cows-opioids-constipation/). Moving on, one of my favorite ketogenic fats is one that’s not often discussed in the realms of keto: olive oil! Olive oil is rich in oleic acid, which gets converted into a chemical called oleoylethanolamide (OEA). OEA activates fat-burning PPAR proteins and fullness TRPV receptors in the gut, helping you get into deeper ketosis (https://mdlingo.com/olive-oil-weight-control-mental-health/)!
(iv) Why would fullness help with ketosis? Well, if you’re not hungry, you don’t eat. Fasting is our fourth way to get into ketosis. After a prolonged fast (see the Cahill graph), your body depletes its stored liver glycogen and begins to burn fat as fuel, turning some of it into ketones. The more often you fast, the better your body gets at burning fat and the more quickly you will go into ketosis. In fact, many believe you’ll derive most of the benefits of constant ketosis by simply implementing a strategy known as “time-restricted feeding,” in which you eat all your food in a confined feeding window each day. This has been hypothesized to permit you to flow in and out of ketosis to preserve “metabolic flexibility” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31881139). Whether a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, or both combined, is right for you depends on your situation. Don’t go keto if you’re an Olympic sprinter and don’t do prolonged fasts if you’re pregnant or underweight. Personally, I found fasting for even 14 hours unpleasant until I had first adapted to a ketogenic diet. Thereafter, I enjoy a 16 hour daily fast. It makes me feel good and, in my eating window, I get to indulge flexibly, while remaining in ketosis. You may be the complete opposite. It’s about personal fit.
(v) Did I say “fit”? Yep. Let’s talk about fitness, or, more accurately, exercise! Long duration steady state exercises, like jogging, are best for burning fat and creating ketones in the moment because fat is a slow-burning fuel source. Therefore, if your goal is to get into ketosis fast, exercise slow. (As a caveat, steady state exercise is not sufficient to get you into ketosis if you’re carb-loaded.) But I also don’t want to give other types of exercise short shrift. While higher-intensity exercises, like sprinting, HIIT, or weight training will actually decrease your ketones in the moment, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When you work at high intensity your body gobbles up ketones faster than your liver produces them (analogy: it’s as if you are pouring fluid into a funnel but then widen the bottle neck of the funnel so the levels of fluid in the funnel drop) and your body also digs deep into your stored muscle and liver glycogen, raising your blood sugar and inhibiting ketogenesis. Your ketones will drop during high-intensity exercise, partly because you’re burning up the ketones in your blood and because your body needs quick-burning glucose first. However, high-intensity work will also help you build muscle, boosting your metabolism and increasing your glycogen storage and fat-burning capacity. In my opinion, a metabolically dynamic combination of long-duration cardio, HIIT, weight training, and yoga (and recovery) is probably the healthiest exercise pattern.
The title of this piece was “5 fastest ways to get into ketosis,” so perhaps you’re feeling a bit short changed? Was that really the focus of what you just read? Maybe, but only partially. The truth, and the message I want to leave you with, is this: there are no good shortcuts in health. We all want quick fixes and silver-bullet pills. We are all tempted by the promises of the “secret-tricks” and “fast-ways-to.” But health is a long-term investment. It’s also highly personal. You know you best. Therefore, the best and healthiest, although maybe not the fastest, way to get into and stay in ketosis comes down to your education and self-experimentation! Ketones are good for the brain. Why not make the relationship reciprocal and use your brain to make them?
*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of MDLingo.com, its affiliates, or its employees.