Kicked Out of Ketosis When on Keto?
When your kind grandmother comes to town she wants to take you out to a nice restaurant because she has missed you so much.
“No avocado or almond butter for you. You eat pizza and pasta tonight. ”
Are you sure what to do with your diet? Will it kick you out of ketosis?
What will happen?
Being kicked out of ketosis sounds awful. Like to be kicked out of a party. Or be kicked out of school.
But is it really that bad? Can we just jump back after a "cheating day"? Or is our keto mission derailed, along with all weight loss and well-being?
In this post, we look at the science of eating carbohydrates while we are on the keto diet. And we will answer the burning question ... what happens when you get kicked out of ketosis.
But don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds. We will also show you some tricks to get back to ketosis after having been kicked out.
But is kicked out of ketos really the end of the world?
Have you ever read something like this on a low carb forum?
"... and then I found it had Malitol in it. I ATE CARBS. I won't be able to sleep tonight. My body just can't handle carbohydrates as it used to."
Are you entitled to get a full-blown freakout for eating carbohydrates?
First, understand this: ketosis and fat adaptation. Two similar but different things.
You can be fat-adapted, but not in ketosis.
Ketosis owns the name, but fat-adapted is what we really want.
The Keto Authority Dr. Timothy Noaks explains:
"Fat adapted means that the entire body is adapted to burn more fat - from your brains to your muscles. It takes about 6 weeks.
If you become fat adapted, you burn a huge amount of fat during exercise. And you conserve carbohydrates, so that's how we measure fat adaptation.
Fat adaptation is not a small achievement - remember that you have been running on glucose almost all of your life.
You have changed your mitochondria, cells, and liver to make this happen. An oven-toasted bagel ain’t gonna take you back. Not even a juicy slice of pecan pie. No, it would require a full-return to the carb life (and who wants that!?) to spoil your fat-adapted benefits.
Much of keto’s magic is due to fat-adaptation. The fat-adapted person can:
Stay full of meals. Fewer cravings and thus excess calories.
Burn body fat and lose weight. The better you can oxidize your own body fat for energy, the easier you can lose weight.
- Improve athletic performance. Your body can store far more energy in fat than as glycogen. This is why you’ll see marathon runners slurping those gooey starchy packets on the trail. Evidence is showing fat-adapted athletes can outperform their carb-hooked competitors.
As long as the fat-adapted state is not compromised, many of the keto benefits will continue. And it would take you weeks of dedicated "cheating" for this to happen.
Then what's the point of ketosis anyway?
Ketosis means that ketones are produced in the liver from fatty acids.
This happens when the liver glycogen (stored glucose) runs low. The body goes into starvation mode and turns on an alternative fuel source.
Fasting or eating a ketogenic high-fat, low-carb diet begins this process within a day or two.
Ketosis also gives us some unique benefits. Here is Dr. Noah again:
"Ketone bodies are remarkable because they are the only type of fat that is water soluble. They circulate in the blood and can be used as fuel by the muscles and brain."
Your body constantly makes ketones. You probably have some after you wake up after a long sleep. Okay, what's ketosis?
Once you cut carbohydrates, ketone levels are built up in your blood. When your concentrations hit .5 mmol, you are in. Why .5? Because that's what keto inventors decided. So the higher the ketone level the better, right?
It's not that simple.
You produce a lot of ketones when you start the diet. As you become fat-adapted, your levels decline. This is because your muscles learn to run off free fatty acids and no longer need ketones for fuel (but your brain still does!).
These are all good things. You now burn fat at a higher rate.
But the darn blood meter shows lower levels. No bragging points for you.
Ketosis is a transient condition. It's easy to get in, and even easier to get out. Down a glass of MCT oil powder and you are deep. Eat a pizza and you're out.
You can drop out of ketosis by exercising. Good ole stress can do that too. This is because stress increases insulin, which reduces ketone production. Ketosis is a fickle thing.
High ketone levels can be a good thing. Many claim high-level levels enhance their mood and boost their brain.
Our advice is to go after how you feel. The ketone meter can become an obsession, a source of joy or shame based on the day's reading.
Forget the scary sounding "getting kicked out of ketosis" and focus on what really matters.. long-term fat-adaptation.
A carb meal will kick you out of ketosis, but it will not kick you out of fat-adaptation. Think of ketos as numbers on a screen, a point-in-time reading, while fat adaptation is a long-term change in your metabolic function.
The longer you stay in a fat-adapted state, the less you have to worry about being kicked out of ketosis. But if you just start, save the cheating days for a rainy day!
And if the thought of a cheating day gives you anxiety, just know there are clean, delicious keto snacks you can turn to. A good alternative is some Keto Snack Mix, made with scattered nuts, salty cheeses, and low sugar fruits (yum!).
What happens when you get kicked out of ketosis?
You lick your lips as the last piece of pasta goes down the hatch. Fettuccine alfredo, you're favorite. Hey, at least you have a healthy dose of fats in that cream sauce.
As those sweet carbs hit your system, blood sugar levels rise and the pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin stimulates enzymes that store blood glucose in the liver as glycogen.
You are now in the "fed" state. And the ketone production has ceased (boo!).
The carbs you take in will stop ketone production until they're used up, or stored away in muscle. The good news is that your liver can only store ~ 100 grams of carbohydrates in glycogen.
When carbohydrates are removed again, your blood sugar falls and the liver signals the release of glycogen. This takes 12-16 hours depending on the activity level.
When glycogen is depleted, ketogenesis resumes.
The return to ketosis is no different than when you start the diet. It just happens faster.
What are the downsides to getting kicked out of keto?
While breaking keto isn’t the end of the world, it can make you feel crummy. It can make you feel cranky. And we're not just talking about guilt (which let’s be honest.. there shouldn’t be any!).
Here are some of the big negatives people report when they break the diet:
Carb cravings. Insulin spikes force energy into your cells but can leave other cells in a starved state depending on how insulin resistant you are. Starved cells crazy more… you guessed it… carbs. It can be a vicious cycle that can take you off the rails.
Fatigue. Ah, the carb crash. Remember those!? Insulin levels can leave you with low blood sugar and exhaustion.
- Brain fog. Ketones are your brain's preferred fuel. Now back on glucose, you may feel a bit foggy up in the head.
These symptoms vary greatly in person-to-person. There are reports that people are deceived after single carb indulgence. Remember that the keto flu you worked so hard to get over?
Our best advice is to listen to your body and understand where you carbo tolerance is. Try to avoid sweeteners - even in keto-approved products - as these sneaky foods can increase your cravings.
Because you don't need much stimulation to satisfy the longing while on keto, pure snacks that are naturally sweetened with real fruit can be a great way to "pamper" without worrying about being kicked out of ketosis.
Can you have carbs AND keto?
What if it was possible to consume your pasta and stay in ketosis? Can you have your pasta and eat it too?
Sounds too good to be true.
But it isn’t. All you have to is bike 110 miles leading up to your Italian dinner. Make sure to climb at least 6,000 feet of elevation too.
Kidding aside, our story comes from Dr. Peter Attia. If you don't know (and you should ...) Dr. Attia is a lifelong physician, an ultra-endurance athlete and one of the leading thinkers of the ketogenic diet.
On the last day of his ride, Attia consumed 351 g of fat, 243 g of protein and 321 g of carbohydrates. It is enough to make someone on keto cringe.
Yet the next day he tested his ketones and ... 2.2 mmol. Almost deep ketosis.
All that riding created a glycogen deficit in his body. And those carbs went to pay off his glycogen debt while the liver kept cranking out ketones.
You don’t have to be this extreme to kickstart ketosis. Almost any form of exercise will deplete glycogen and speed the return to ketosis.
The higher the intensity, the better. Cardio interval training or circuit training is best.
Heck, you can even make air squats in the bathroom before your second course. You'd be in good company - Tim Ferriss has been known to do this.
The Bottom Line
Forget what the ketone meter says. If you see and feel better, keto works for you.
Carb breaks can be speed bumps along the way. You might feel crummy. But you can always pick it back up the next day.
And hey, life is short. Indulge every now and then.
Be Well and Keto On,