In this article, i compiled a list of things that increased and decreased my blood ketone level (beta-hydroxybutyrate). What we’re after is a strong ketone level (between 0.5-3.0mmol/l) paired with low blood glucose (3.0-3.5mmol/l). When these numbers have been obtained, it’s likely a sign that blood sugar is regulated, insulin isn’t pumping through the blood as crazily as in most people, and the walls of our fat cells are wide open, ready for lipolysis to work its magic.
If you’re finding that your journey to nutritional ketosis hasn’t been as “easy” as what you’ve read in my blog, this is a great article to getting some insight on what could be happening. You’re likely missing something; a small something, that’s limiting your body’s ability to switch into ketosis. If this is you, take a read through this list to see if there are glaring issues with your current approach.
I have made; and continue to make, slip ups that affect my ketone levels. The great thing about it all is that the further I’ve gone, the more forgiving my body is. It is quite astounding how adapted my body has become. It WANTS to be in nutritional ketosis and will bounce back quite effortlessly.
Download Top Ketogenic Diet eBook. Click here to download it.
THINGS THAT INCREASE KETONES
Medium-chain-triglycerides the rocket fuel for nutritional ketosis. Starting my day with 1-2 tablespoons of this stuff blended with my coffee boosts my ketone level to soaring heights.
Quick Tip: Because MCT oil is used directly as fuel; especially for the brain, it’s best to start off slow with 1 teaspoon and work your way up. Too fast, and you may experience digestive upset.
I’ve learned that my body responds best when I consume 1-2 meals per day, plus a rich blended coffee. Understanding what my macronutrient ratios are, I like to balance my macronutrients throughout the day for maximum satiation.
Example: if my goal is to eat 75 grams of protein in a day with 3 meals, I’ll try to consume ⅓ of it (25 grams) at meal #1, ⅓ of it (25 grams) at meal #2, and ⅓ of it (25 grams) at meal #3. This doesn’t
have to be an EXACT science, I’ve just found that; especially for carbohydrates and protein, this has helped me feel balanced, satiated and strong, all day through.
Intermittent Fasting (IF)
The word “fast” makes me cringe. I can’t be the only one that relates fasting to starving to death. This is not that. Maintaining a ketone level of between 0.5-3.0mmol/l is far from starvation (starvation is a ketone level of 3.0 6.0mmol/l) so please, don’t think that I am advocating being in starvation mode or living with hunger pangs throughout this experience.
Being in a state of nutritional ketosis naturally regulates hunger.
One of the main reasons we’re hungry all the time when following a high-carbohydrate diet (anything over 100 grams per day) is because of blood sugar highs and lows. With a high-carb approach, we eat to boost our blood sugar. When it lowers after our snack (about 2-3 hours following) we get hungry again. In a state of nutritional ketosis, it is normal to be comfortable going 16-18 hours with no food… daily. Because our blood sugar is no longer dictating when we’re hungry. And, when we do this, our bodies produce MORE ketones. In fact, everyone, whether they practice nutritional ketosis or not, will likely generate ketones as they sleep!
High-fat Meal (more than 80% fat)
When I’ve had a slip up, my number one way to getting back on track is to amp-up the fats. Meals that contain more than 80% fat (generally 5% carbohydrate and 15% protein) are a great way to do this.
This is key. This is key. Have I mentioned, this is key? I am amazed at how sensitive the body is to protein. If you’re having a hard time getting your ketone levels up, it may be because you’re eating
too much protein.
Before I started delving into the world of whole foods-based nutritional ketosis, I spent 5 days tracking everything that I ate. You know, to see where I was sitting nutritionally. Of all the numbers, I was most surprised by protein. While I felt like I didn’t consume all that much protein, I was dumbfounded to learn that I was averaging about 150 grams per day. 150 grams!
Protein cannot be stored in the body. What we don’t use is converted
into glycogen, causing an insulin response.
So, if we’re eating too much protein while trying to switch into nutritional ketosis, we still may be
experiencing blood sugar irregularities, making it next to impossible to switch over to ketosis.
Blood Sugar Regulation
What carbohydrates we choose to consume, the quality, the quantity, it all will have a slight affect on our blood sugar, some more than most. When blood sugar is controlled, insulin is not frantically released which opens up the walls of our cells, and sets the stage for lipolysis (the breakdown of fats for energy!)
There are 3 strategies that you can use to help control your blood sugar
Let’s say I eat 50 grams of carbohydrates on Monday and 10 grams of that was fiber. Then, on Tuesday, I eat another 50 grams of carbohydrates but 30 grams of that was fiber. Any guesses on which day had steadier blood sugar? TUESDAY! You got it. I find, that the more fiber I eat, the more balanced my blood sugar is and the more satiated I feel.
The source of carbohydrates plays a significant role in blood sugar regulation. If I compared my body’s response to eating 20 grams of carbohydrates from root vegetables as opposed to 20 grams of carbohydrates from kale, the kale would keep my blood sugar steadier than the root vegetables.
If all carbs are consumed in one meal, your blood sugar will spike. Spreading carbs out throughout the day will lessen the impact.
The less stress we put on our bodies; especially when it comes to our thoughts, the better it is for our overall health (and our ketone levels!). In fact, this goes beyond nutritional ketosis.
When my weight loss clients reach a plateau, the first place we look at is their stress level. Wanting
to achieve a certain weight and counting everything to make sure “rules” aren’t broken can hold them back from achieving their goals. The hormones released in a stressful state can even trigger a spike in blood sugar, without glucose even being consumed. This is a less-than-ideal situation for those looking to lose weight (because it spikes cravings) and anyone looking to boost their ketone levels.
I saw transitioning to this new ketogenic eating style as a great opportunity to strengthen my meditation practice.
10 minutes when I wake up, 5 minutes halfway through the day goes a long way in reducing stress, focusing my energy and increasing my ketone levels. If you feel like you’re doing everything right but aren’t stoked by your results, get real with where you’re at energetically.
Working Out (Long Term)
Glucose is stored in our body as glycogen. When glycogen is stored, the body uses it as energy instead of generating ketone bodies. We want to run on the ketones! The only way to get glycogen out is to exert ourselves. I love brisk walking for this, it’s stellar.
your ketone levels aren’t as high as they actually are. Note: I’m not advocating dehydration here! Drink up and test your ketones with a blood or breath meter instead.
Download Top Ketogenic Diet eBook. Click here to download it.
THINGS THAT DECREASE KETONES
Your Macros Aren’t Right
The difference between rockin’ a strong ketone number and getting frustrated because this approach
just isn’t working for you could be as small as the piece of fruit you’re having in the morning or the glass of wine you had last night. Getting your macros right is key!
A couple of thoughts
• If your carbohydrate intake is over 50 grams per day, you may be eating too many carbohydrates. Try reducing your intake to 30 or 40 grams per day to see how it goes.
• Alcohol kicks the body out of ketosis very quickly. Remember when I said that carbohydrates are your body’s preferred fuel (the fuel it will go and look for first before anything else)? Alcohol is second on the list, before fats. So, if there’s alcohol in the system, your body will use it for energy before it uses fats.
There’s sugar in your supplements. Surprise! For real, a lot of medications and supplements use sugar and can kick you out of ketosis faster than you can say, “Why the hell is there sugar in my supplements?”
Lets say you ate the same thing, everyday, for 30 days and tested your blood glucose and blood ketone levels at the same time. You’d start to see that your levels fluctuate naturally. This is likely due to hormones and is so, totally normal. In my case, I want my hormones to fluctuate – us women want varying hormone levels throughout the month. Maintaining a healthy cycle is how I got into all of this in the first place!
There’s nothing much you can do here except be thankful that your body is creating beautiful, balanced hormones from all of the glorious fat you’re enjoying.
Deceiving marketing has made us think that artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, etc) won’t affect our blood sugar. And, there is quite a substantial amount of keto-adapted folks that rely heavily on low carbohydrate goodies laced with the stuff. Not only are artificial sweeteners dangerous for your health, but too, your body can’t tell the difference between artificial sweeteners and actual sugar. It reacts in the same way. And in most cases, even more so because artificial sweeteners are 100 times sweeter than sugar.
Stevia will likely raise your blood sugar, but not nearly as much as artificial sweeteners or sugar.
Stevia is a fabulous sugar replacement when you’re first getting started, especially if you’re looking
to switch into ketosis while also going grain-free, dairy-free and sugar-free all at the same time. Baby steps.
Ultimate goal = limit ALL forms of sweet if you feel like you can’t get a handle on your numbers.
The reason many of us have found ourselves here is because our bodies aren’t working as we
(know) they should. Cravings, abnormal weight gain, high blood sugar, allergies something is out
of whack. We want to gain flawless health now so that more serious issues don’t pop up later.
Paired with the go-go-go of everyday life and the unsettledness that comes when trying a new eating style, stress can become an issue that stands between you and balance.
As mentioned previously, setting a couple of times throughout the day to “breathe” and take it easy, to reflect and wash away the stress, will do wonders in nutritional ketosis.
Studies have outlined that nutritional ketosis increases the level of cortisol in our bodies (the stress hormone) to similar levels experienced when training for a marathon. Here’s why that may not be as accurate as we’re lead to believe. The people in the studies likely had metabolic syndrome a condition characterized by one of the following factors: large waistline, high triglyceride level, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and/or high fasting blood sugar. One of the key symptoms of metabolic syndrome is high cortisol levels. When placed on a low carb diet, within 6 weeks, cortisol levels decreased in these test subjects. But they likely had higher-than-normal cortisol levels to begin with. In short? We have to look at the big picture before drafting up any crazy conclusions!
Working Out (Short Term)
Especially when becoming keto-adapted, blood glucose levels increase during exercise as we “drain” our glycogen stores. This is why testing for ketone and blood glucose levels directly following an exercise may not be a good idea. My approach is to wait at least 2 hours after exercise before testing to get an accurate picture of what’s going on.
Eating Too Often
The idea that we need to eat every 3 hours to “regulate” our metabolism is crazy pants. Our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), aka “metabolism” is not affected with when we feed ourselves.
BMR is the energy your body requires to fuel basic functions pumping heart, breathing, brain function, that sort of thing. We all need a “base” of energy to fuel these actions. Whether we consume these calories in one large chunk, or space it out over a 16-hour eating period, the amount we need does not change and will not be affected by what approach we take.
The only reason we’ve been told to eat every 3 hours is to avoid blood sugar crashes. In nutritional ketosis, this is no longer a concern. Our blood sugar is regulated. We do not need to eat to boost it.
It took me a little while to get used to this. For the first couple of weeks, I was still eating every 3 hours because I thought it’s what I needed to do, not because I was legitimately hungry. After a little while, I realized that this practice of eating when I wasn’t hungry, was holding me back from maintaining a strong ketone number.
Quick Tip: 9 times out of 10, when you wake up hungry, you’re thirsty. A great indication that you didn’t drink enough water the day before!
Download Top Ketogenic Diet eBook. Click here to download it.