A low-carb keto diet is an effective tool for burning fat and improving health. But how long does it take to get into ketosis?
Eating 50 grams of carbs or less per day puts your body in a state of ketosis. Studies show that diets that aim for nutritional ketosis, such as the keto diet, benefit Type 2 Diabetes, and may lower cardiovascular disease risk(1).
If you’re getting started on the keto diet, you might be wondering how soon your body reaches ketosis. That depends on a couple of factors. Your diet plays a crucial role including your physical activity, among others.
This article gets you into the topic of ketosis: How long before you can reach it, signs and symptoms, and how to enter it sooner. But first, let’s start with the basics.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state characterized by increased ketone levels. It can be induced by restricting carbohydrates in the diet. As a result, the body runs low on glucose, and so it burns through its stored fat to get energy.
We have a detailed guide on ketosis where we discuss its benefits, safety, and more. Check out the guide here.
How Long Does It Take to Enter Ketosis?
When it comes to the timing, most people can reach ketosis in 2 to 4 days by drastically reducing carbohydrates to 50 grams or lower. Fasting for extended periods is another way to achieve it, according to a study(2).
Carb restriction reduces insulin levels and lipogenesis, the creation of fat. Your glycogen stores then become depleted and as a result, your body looks for alternative fuel. In this case, ketone bodies(3).
Some individuals, however, find that reaching ketosis takes longer than expected. One reason especially among beginners is that they’ve come from a high-carb diet before going keto.
Their glycogen stores may be full and more time and effort are needed to exhaust them. If you’re currently struggling to enter ketosis, don’t fret. We’re going to teach you proven ways to induce ketosis faster.
How to Tell If You’re In Ketosis
Your body is good at telling you that you’re already in ketosis.
If this is your first time, you should expect negative symptoms that are normal, by the way. Collectively, they’re called the “keto flu” because they mimic flu-like symptoms.
Common keto flu symptoms include fatigue, headache, brain fog, dizziness, and gastrointestinal discomfort. Some people also experience dry mouth that’s accompanied by thirst and bad breath(4).
Watch out for these positive signs as well: Increased mental clarity, reduced appetite, weight loss (water weight), and increased focus.
Usually, positive symptoms follow negative symptoms. This happens as your body starts adapting to its new fuel.
While observing all these symptoms help, the best way to tell that you’re in ketosis is by testing your ketone levels. Ketones appear in your blood, urine, and breath.
Measuring blood ketone levels using a special meter is the most accurate way of testing. This detects beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), the most abundant ketone present in the blood.
Ketone levels should range from between 0.5 mmol/L to 3.0 mmol/L.
Testing using a ketone urine strip is non-invasive. Most people find it affordable and convenient which is why urine strips are popular. The darker the color of the strip, the deeper you are in ketosis.
Why Entering Ketosis Takes More Time for Some People?
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for reaching ketosis. It’s important to understand that certain factors affect how fast you hit ketosis.
For example, if you’ve been accustomed to eating carbs for the majority of your life, it may take a while.
Activity level is also a factor. Exercise and prolonged physical activity. Research done on athletes shows that exercise breaks down muscle glycogen particles. Furthermore, glycogen degrades faster as exercise intensity is increased(5).
Here’s a common mistake that people make: They think they’re doing low-carb when in reality they’re not. Are you keeping track of your total carb intake? Overdoing carbs will increase your insulin and blood glucose levels, slowing down ketone production. Try to use our keto macro calculator to find out how many carbs, fat, and protein your body needs. Your macros depend on your activity level and personal goal.
Poor sleep and high stress levels also slow down ketosis due to elevated cortisol.
How to Get Into Ketosis Faster
If you want to get into this fat-burning state more quickly, follow the tips below.
Tip: Ketosis happens sooner if you combine a low-carb intake with fasting. However, this isn’t recommended for some people who have a higher risk of hypoglycemia or very low blood sugar. Consult your doctor first.
1. Lower carbohydrate intake to 20-50 grams daily
The main strategy for entering ketosis is by limiting the carbs you eat. Depending on your previous diet, this number is much, much lower than your norm. 50 grams of carbs per day is the recommended standard for most people. Aim for 20 grams if you want to trigger glycogen shortage quickly.
Here are practical ways to reduce carbs:
Eliminate rice, pasta, bread, and other whole-grain products. Drink only water, unsweetened coffee, and unsweetened tea. Eat only meat, seafood, and non-starchy vegetables.
2. Move your body more
Being more active puts you in ketosis since it depletes your glycogen stores.
Some people think they cannot exercise while in ketosis. This is a myth. In fact, regular exercise reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases(6).
If you’re still experiencing the keto flu, stick to low-intensity, steady-state exercises such as biking, jogging, dancing, and hiking. High-intensity workouts will be difficult to do during this time.
3. Do intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is an approach that restricts energy at certain periods. Specifically, you’re going to cycle between periods of eating and fasting. When done continuously, it improves weight loss and insulin sensitivity(7).
A research study found that not eating for 10-16 hours causes your body to rely on its fat stores. As a result, ketones are released into the bloodstream(8).
We’ve also mentioned intermittent fasting as one of the best keto hacks you can do on keto to beat a weight loss plateau. There are different ways to do intermittent fasting ― spontaneous meal skipping, the 16/8 method, one meal a day (OMAD), and alternate-day fasting.
You can also use intermittent fasting as a strategy to recover from a cheat day on keto.
4. Supplement with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)
Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is a supplement made of fats sourced from coconut oil. When ingested, MCTs get converted into ketones. Some studies have found that supplementing with MCTs improves the time to nutritional ketosis and increases beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) levels(9).
Here’s what’s interesting: Among the different kinds of MCTs ― C8, C10, and C12 ― C8 is the most ketogenic(10).
5. Try taking exogenous ketone supplements
Exogenous ketones are ketones that come from an external source. Instead of your own body producing ketones through a reduction in carbs, you take exogenous ketones. They usually come in the form of a drink or capsule.
Some of their benefits include weight loss, increased energy, decreased inflammation, and lowered blood glucose. However, please bear in mind that merely supplementing with ketones does not accelerate results. Carb restriction is still a highly effective strategy.
6. Don’t overdo snacking
Are you a serial snacker? Meaning, you graze throughout the day.
While snacking isn’t inherently bad, overdoing it increases your total calorie intake. Not to mention, a lot of mainstream conventional snacks and some that are marketed as “keto-friendly” contain hidden sugars. This will make it difficult to stay within your carb limit, delaying ketosis.
Snack only when you truly need an energy boost. Keep snacking to a minimum by having meals that are nutrient-dense and high in healthy fats.
Related Post: Here are 20 keto snacks that help maintain ketosis
7. Use the right sweeteners if you need something sweet
Some people find that consuming sweets from time to time makes their keto diet journey more manageable. If this is you, be sure to use sweeteners that won’t have any effect on your blood sugar and insulin levels.
We suggest these keto-approved sweeteners: Stevia, erythritol, sucralose, monk fruit, and allulose. See the complete sweetener list in this article.
8. Learn to ride the waves of hunger
Whether you’re fasting or closely tracking your keto macros for the first time, you’ll experience hunger waves. Cravings too.
But instead of giving in to hunger, learn to ride those waves. Rest assured that those hunger waves will pass eventually. They won’t increase or become worse.
Here are effective strategies to distract yourself from hunger:
- Refresh yourself with a glass of water.
- Do your favorite hobby. Reading or playing the piano, for example.
- Tackle a house chore.
9. Make sleep quality a top priority
What happens when you don’t get enough sleep? Research shows that too little sleep causes your body to produce cortisol, a stress hormone(13).
And guess what? Increased cortisol may elevate blood glucose which prevents you from entering or maintaining ketosis. So, lower your cortisol levels by getting more sleep at night.
At the same time, remove yourself from stressful situations or learn to manage stress better, where possible.
Most people can enter ketosis within 2-4 days by cutting carbs according to their recommended macro ratio. But it’s important to keep in mind that the time to reach ketosis may vary by individual. Each person has a different metabolism, activity level, set of habits, and more.
By following the tips above, you should be able to achieve ketosis sooner. Start by evaluating yourself. Establish a daily routine, based on what we discussed, that will help you stick to the diet.