I’ve noticed the recent rise in popularity of the ketogenic diet and it’s left me wondering if people really understand its benefits when weighed against the alternatives. There is no denying that ketogenic diets have a well-deserved role in treating certain types of epilepsy and other chronic diseases. But for those that are simply looking to shed some pounds and take control of their sugar cravings, it is a very strict diet that can be difficult to maintain. Especially since being in a ketogenic state does not guarantee weight loss. Being in ketosis only means that there is acetoacetate in your urine.
Although humans evolved to use fat as the preferred source of energy, most of us have been living our entire lives mainly metabolizing sugars and having our energy come from glucose. When we make the shift from carbs to fat for our source of energy, our bodies are slow in efficiently changing the metabolic pathway. When the body is lacking the ability to efficiently use the ketone bodies produced from fat, this called being in ketosis, but not being fat adaptive.
When someone makes the switch from a high carb diet to a high fat ketogenic diet, they first deplete their glucose stores, then they begin creating ketones that their body doesn’t yet know how to use efficiently. This is the induction phase of ketosis, also know as the “keto flu” because it causes flu like symptoms. Most people experience headaches, nausea, fogginess general sluggishness. It can take weeks for the body to develop and undergo adjustments at the cellular level to become efficient with using ketones as a source of energy. Once those metabolic pathways are built up (especially your mitochondria), your body has essentially become fat adaptive.
Fat adaptive people are those that are able to go several hours without eating a meal, still feel hungry, but never feel the effects of being hangry. Fat adaptive people are those that are able to perform a regular workout on an empty stomach and can forget about carb loading. Fat adaptive people are able to burn stored fat when their bodies need the extra energy. They don’t experience sugar crashes and are able to stay energized all day. They also probably are not in a ketogenic state most of the time because they are still consuming carbs, and only switching to burning fat when their bodies need to. These changes in metabolic pathways are seamless for them, they do not experience any keto flu systems. Switching from glucose to fat is an automatic process that their body does naturally to keep energy levels constant.
Getting your body to be fat adaptive is a life style change. It requires you to eat a low carb, high-fat high protein diet and exercise regularly. Most people who adopt a primal diet along with a regular exercise routine will naturally become fat adaptive. Besides adopting a primal diet, here are two things you can do right now to help re-program your body to be fat adaptive:
- Eat a High-Fat Breakfast
- Breaking a fast with a high-fat meal is a great way to train your body to start building up the pathways to becoming fat adaptive. Every night you go without food for 8 hours or more which is essentially a mini fast. Instead of starting off with a high carb or protein based breakfast, aim for a ketogenic breakfast.
- Eat more coconut oil
- Not all fat is created equal. Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride (MCT) and is one of the more easily processed fats for your body to use. MCT’s are not stored in fat cells, and they are readily converted into ketone bodies. Add a spoonful of coconut oil to your meals or snacks to get your body trained to use ketones as sources of energy.