Lose Weight by Achieving Optimal Ketosis

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 below.

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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 “optimal ketosis”. 

Ketosis

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.

Measuring ketones

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 ketone level.

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 neccessary. That is, they will achieve neither better nor worse results than being at the 1.5-3 level. 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:

  1. Experiment: Optimal ketosis for weight loss and increased performance
  2. Four weeks of strict LCHF and ketone monitoring
  3. Final report: Two months of strict LCHF and ketone monitoring

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.

Try it

Order a ketone meter online and start measuring. There are a few different models, take a look at this one and this one.

More

Watch my video interview with the American doctor Peter Attia, on a strictly ketogenic low-carbohydrate diet: Very Low Carb Performance

Read all the tips on the How to Lose Weight page.

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.

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112 Comments

Top Comment

  1. Ralph, Cleethorpes, UK
    Yes PC (10) that is simplistic. Good luck with that ;-)
    Read more →
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All Comments

  1. Zepp
    You should go for your proteins first.. its essentiall and about 0,5-1 grams/kilo a day.. then you need some veggies.. and the rest is fat.. up to your energy demand!

    Energy demand fluctuates that much individualy so one cant tell.. one have to try it out.

    And as you get more adapted to fat.. your ketosis get lower.. and your fat burning gets higer.. without going thru ketosis.

    Reply: #102
  2. Zepp
    Sorry.. 0,5-1 gram a pound.. 1-2 gram a kilo!
  3. Denise white
    Hey Zepp, ok so I have not bought the meter yet but I will ASAP, but I have been doing the strips because that's what I can afford right now. I realize they aren't as good but it's better then nothing. Anyhow about 7 days maybe 8 they went from being very purple to just barely. I thought that this was my body was falling out of Ketosis. Probably not the case right? I also wanted to say thank you for this site. It's very nice to have somewhere to go for good information that is also free wow. Thanks again Denise
    Reply: #105
  4. Denise white
    I should have mentioned that my body goes into Ketosis pretty fast usually the end of the second day of LCHF it turns purple. But I do exercise I walk 5 miles a day and would like to lift weight but not sure if I should. I want to lose this weight so badly but don't want to slow down the process. Is it ok to do both walking and weight training 3x a week? When I get to my goal I will send in pictures of my results. Thanks again Denise
    Reply: #106
  5. Zepp
    The only thing you have to do.. counting anything is counting carbs.. if those is low.. you are in ketosis.. low or high.. and its free of charge!

    Becuse.. if one eats litle carbs its get less then your emediate demand of glucose.. then your body need to switch to use fat as predominante fuel.

    Your body probably switched to take glucose frome glycogen depoes.. and when this geting lower you get bad feelings and have to upregulate your ketolysis capability.

  6. Zepp
    Its okey to do excersice.. but one should listen to ones bodys signaling in transitation!

    Becuse.. you can force your body to use more glucose by cortisol and adrenaline!

    Dont overdo anything.. make attention on your body signaling!

  7. Denise white
    How do I up reregulate my ketolysis capability?
    Reply: #108
  8. Zepp
    You eats a ketogenic diet for a long time.. then your ketolysis enzyms get uppregulated!

    And one have different amounts of those in different tissues!

    Moste is in your brain, heart and not that much in your muscles!

    But as your muscles are a big part of your body they use a lot of keton bodies anyway!

    http://www.ketotic.org/2012/05/keto-adaptation-what-it-is-and-how-to....

  9. Denise white
    Hello Zepp, one more question, then hopefully I will be ok. I went out and bought a glucose meter today I wanted to be 100% sure I was in the "sweet spot" but what it did was confuse me. The readings are not like .5 or 1.5 they are more like, 80 on me after I ate, and 100 on my husband. So what am I doing wrong? The gadget measures your blood sugar, same thing right? Anyhow I would appreciate your advice. Thank you Denise
    Reply: #110
  10. Zepp
    You always have blood sugar in your blood.. and it goes more stable on a ketogenic diet!

    70-140 is in normal range.. the higher values after a meal whit carbs.

    One have different values for glukos and keton bodies.

    If you got the right gadget, you can by ketone sticks to it.

    Soo.. if you are in a high keto state.. you still got normal blood sugar.

    A value betwen 80 and 100 is often a fasting state for carb eaters.. and on a ketogenic diet.

    I altso bought one.. but it hurts in my fingers and I did recon that it was in normal range and variated of normal causes!

    Soo I qiut!

  11. Charles Attias
    Hoping someone can answer this about when to use a blood ketone test.

    Started ketogenic diet (under 30g carbs per day, and only green veggy carbs) about 4 weeks now.

    I wake up in the morning and do 1 hour on a nordic track, average at about 70% of my max heart rate, before eating anything. I drink some water, take a shower...and then measure my ketones via blood test.

    Should I be doing this test before my workout or does this workout make a difference? I would expect to be higher than the results.

    Only using this blood test 1 week now, but last few days in order are .4, 1.3, 1.2, 3, 1.3 and today 1.4

    I am aiming for between 1.5 to 3 as recommended...this is frustrating.

  12. zayar
    i have type2 DM for 2 years, i m overweight and my blood cholestrol level is high.i m taking atovarstatin. is it ok for me to go ketosis stage? please answer?
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