How Long it Takes to Enter Ketosis: Evidence-Based Research

Welcome to another insightful and educating article on our nutrition section. Today, we will be discussing ketosis, more specifically how long it takes to enter ketosis.

You may have heard of the ketogenic diet at some point in time. Well, it is quite popular. The ketogenic diet is a very popular low-carb diet.

The idea behind the ketogenic diet is that your body uses ketones as its fuel source, rather than glucose. Ketones are compounds produced from the breakdown of fat. The ketogenic diet strives to use these compounds as an alternative source of fuel (1).

A ketogenic diet has many health benefits including weight loss, high levels of good cholesterol (HDL), reduction in blood sugar levels, triglyceride, and insulin levels (2, 3).

However, most people have to come to acknowledge the fact that it takes them quite a while to enter ketosis compared to others. In fact, many people find it difficult to enter ketosis. This article will reveal how long it takes to enter ketosis and why it is taking you a while to get into that state.

How long it takes to enter ketosis
Photo Credit: Athletic Muscle

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO ENTER THE KETOSIS STATE?

The benefits of a ketogenic diet are best enjoyed when your body switches into a state of ketosis.

Ketosis is a metabolic state characterized by the conversion of fat into ketone molecules. The body then uses these ketones as its source of energy rather than glucose. Ketones are put to use when the amount of glucose in the body is limited (4).

To get into ketosis, you must reduce drastically minimize your intake of carbs.

When you eat carbs, it gets broken down into glucose – some form of sugar molecules. The glucose travels across the general circulation (bloodstream). If you have a lot of glucose in your blood, then the excess of it is stored in your muscles and liver in the form of glycogen.

When you reduce your carb intake to below 50 grams per day, then your body will use up its glycogen reserves and then, switch over to ketones as a fuel source (5).

The time that it takes for each individual to switch to a state of ketosis varies (6, 7).

For a person who eats 220-50 grams of carbs daily, it will take roughly 2-4 days to switch to a ketotic state. However, it may take up to a week or even more than that in some people (6, 7, 8).

Certain factors determine the time that it takes for the body to switch into a state of ketosis. These include your daily carb consumption, protein and fat intake, metabolism, and age.

For instance, a person who eats a high-carb diet before switching to a ketogenic diet may take longer to switch to ketosis compared to someone who eats a low carb diet or a moderate one. Why? Because the body will have to exhaust its glycogen stores before switching to ketosis (5).

HOW DO YOU KNOW I KNOW WHEN MY BODY HAS SWITCHED TO KETOSIS?

When your body switches to ketosis, you will experience some symptoms. These symptoms are generally referred to as the keto flu. Keto flu symptoms include bad breath, fatigue, increased thirst, nausea, and increased thirst (5).

While keto flu symptoms may indicate that your body is undergoing a transition, the most effective way to know whether your body is in ketosis or not is by testing your ketone levels.

HOW DO YOU MEASURE YOUR KETONE LEVELS?

The best way to know whether your body has switched to a state of ketosis or not is by testing your ketone levels.

You have three different types of ketones in you – acetone, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate. These three can be measured through your breath, urine, and blood respectively.

The level of acetoacetate can be measured through your urine. This is done with a ketone urine strip. When the strip is dipped into the urine, it will turn various shades of purple or pink depending on the level of ketone in your urine. The more your ketone level, the darker the urine (9, 10).

The ketone urine strips are easy to use and quite cheap. However, they are not as accurate as other measures.

The level of acetone can also be measured with a ketone breath meter, like ketonix. If you are ketotic, this meter will flash a color to indicate and will indicate how high your ketone levels are.

Research has shown that ketone breath meters have a fair level of accuracy (11).

The level of Beta-hydroxybutyrate is determined using a blood ketone meter. A blood ketone meter works just like a glucometer – a tool that allows you to measure the level of glucose in your blood.  

So how do you use a blood ketone meter? You simply prick your finger with the small pin that accompanies the ketone meter and then allow the top of the strip to make contact with your blood (12).

Your body is assumed to enter ketosis when you have a blood ketone level that is above 0.5mmol. That said, a ketone range of 1.5-3.0 mmol/liter is ideal for maintaining ketosis (8, 13).

Blood ketone meters are very accurate and effective at determining blood ketone levels. However, you should note that the test strips are quite expensive.

Blood ketone meters and other tools that determine ketone levels will give you a fair idea of whether you are in ketosis or not. With this, you will know whether to make any adjustments to move into or remain in a ketotic state.

WHY DOES IT TAKE LONGER FOR SOME PEOPLE TO ENTER INTO A KETOSIS STATE?

So many factors contribute to the varying rates in entering ketosis.

In many cases, it may be unintentional, mostly due to high intake of carbs than is recommended for a ketogenic diet. When you eat too many carbs, it takes longer for your body to get into a state of ketosis.

One thing that you should note is that some people may enter ketosis even while eating many carbs per day (up to 90 grams). On the other hand, others will need to eat very small amount of carbs before they can switch to a ketotic state (14).

Thus, you may need to further cut down on your carb intake if you are finding it difficult to enter ketosis.

Another mistake that prevents ketosis is eating a ketogenic meal that has a low-fat content. Generally, 70 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from fat, 20 percent from protein, while the remaining 10 percent should be from carbs (15).

Also, excessive consumption of protein on a keto diet may toughen the process of entering ketosis, as the process of gluconeogenesis may receive a boost. During gluconeogenesis, your body converts amino acids into sugar. Excess sugar in the blood can inhibit the production of ketones in your body (16).

Other factors that affect the onset of ketosis include stress, sleep, exercise, and other lifestyle factors.

For instance, exercise enhances the depletion of carb stores. Thus, people who engage in frequent exercise enter ketosis faster than others (17, 18).

If you are finding it difficult to enter ketosis, then check if you may be defaulting in any of these.

TIPS THAT CAN HELP YOU GET INTO KETOSIS FASTER

If you are finding it hard to get into a state of ketosis, then these tips may quicken the process:

  • Eat no less than 20 grams of carbs daily: A low intake of carbs will encourage the production of ketones in your body (14).
  • Monitor your carb intake: When you watch your carb intake, you will be able to stick to the maximum amount that you should take. Never underestimate your carb intake.
  • Avoid eating out. I agree that there are many keto-restaurants out there. However, when you eat out too frequently, it becomes difficult to watch your carb intake.
  • Take note of hidden carb sources. Yes! Most dressings and sauces are loaded with carbs, and we tend to overlook this more often.
  • Consume more of high quality fats. At least 70 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from healthy fats. Examples of healthy fats include nut butter, nuts, coconut oil, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, eggs, meat, and fatty fish.
  • You can do a short-term fat fast. An egg fast is a good example. Eggs have a low carb content and are high in healthy fats. It will help you get into ketosis faster.
  • An intermittent fast is a good tip. Intermittent fasts allow your body to switch its fuel source from carbs to fat. This will not affect its energy balance (19).
  • Use a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) supplement. Medium-chain triglyceride supplements are fats that the body absorbs rapidly. Also, they are easily converted into ketones (7, 20).
  • Engage in more exercise. Engaging in physical activities and exercises allows your body’s glycogen stores to deplete faster. This will boost the production of ketones by the liver. Research has shown that exercising in a fasted state increases ketone levels in the body (17, 18).

THE SUMMARY

Normally, it takes 2-4 days to enter ketosis.

The duration varies with some persons taking up to a week or even more. The time that it takes to switch to a state of ketosis is dependent on a number of factors including protein intake, fat intake, current carb intake, exercise level, metabolism, and age.

The best way of determining whether you are in ketosis or not is by measuring your ketone levels. You can do this with a blood ketone meter, urine, or a breath measuring tool

If you are finding it hard to enter ketosis, you can track your carb intake, increase your exercise levels, or follow any of the tips that have been suggested in this article.

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