Recently I have received several distraught messages from various people stating they are doing everything right with their ketogenic diet, but their weight loss has either stalled or reversed directions. They send me their food logs…their measly, scrappy food logs filled with dry chicken breasts and iceberg salad combos with barely a lick of salad dressing. When I ask them where’s the fat, they insist someone in the keto boards told them to not eat fat so they can burn their own body fat.
Seriously, I want to shake them. I want to shake them and their misinformed message board counterparts and scream. My inner Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino comes out as I emotionally pump my fist and yell, “You don’t got ketones, brah!” Good thing all of these exchanges are via email so no one actually witnesses my fist pumping rage.
I typically reply more politely by letting them know if they are eating like a sorority girl trying to fit into a formal dress, they do not have ketones and typically a ketogenic diet is not effective without ketones.
Ninety-nine percent. Wait, scratch that. One hundred percent of the time I receive a follow up email insisting they are in ketosis because their pee sticks turned purple. For the love of all things gym-tan-laundry can we please dump those urine strips wherever Pauly D stores his hair gel? Because his hairstyle doesn’t even make sense and neither do your precious pee sticks.
Testing for blood ketones is expensive, I get it. Why pay the big bucks for the only reliable way to test for ketones when you can get urine on your hands and have a pretty purple pee stick picture to flash on the message boards? Well, I think I just answered that. Testing for ketones with a blood ketone monitor is the only reliable way to know if you are in ketosis.
The urine strips you are using are most likely indicating you are dehydrated. They *may* have a touch of validity at the very beginning as your body begins excreting ketones through urine (also called acetones), but if you are in true ketosis, those strips do not work very long since your ketones will soon only be detectable via blood (beta-hydroxybutyrate). I was going to make a female time of the month joke here, but that would be gross. So is peeing all over your hands, by the way.
For those people who just want to wing it and hope for the best, there are better ways of guessing if you are in ketosis. I will chit chat with you about them below. If you have never watched Jersey Shore, you might hate this blog.
If when you wake up the first thing you do, after testing your urine ketones, is jolt to the kitchen to scarf down last night’s pizza that was left on the counter, YOU DON’T GOT KETONES, BRAH!
Most people powered by ketones are not typically hungry first thing in the morning, so there is no racing to the kitchen for food. Many don’t even require coffee right away because of the energy and mental clarity provided by burning ketones. Many who follow a ketogenic diet also naturally fall into an intermittent fasting routine which helps you stay in ketosis, along with many other health benefits.
I have been in ketosis for quite some time and my typical first meal falls somewhere between 10 am – 12 pm. This is not because I am trying to fast, but because I am busy and that is the first time I even think about food. Your brain becomes more focused on other tasks when it is not constantly searching for glucose to burn. My brain focuses on getting two kids fed and keeping them from killing each other until sweet baby nap time relief. If I was a glucose burner and had to stop to make myself breakfast, surely one kid would have carpet marks permanently wedged onto his face by now from being held down by the other while fighting over a plastic shovel from the dollar store.
If lunch just ended and all you can do is daydream about the tacos you are not allowing yourself for dinner, YOU DON’T GOT KETONES, BRAH!
When you are burning fat as fuel, you will naturally crave more fat since your body now realizes fats true value in keeping you satiated. If all you can do is think about the carbs you cannot have, your body hasn’t switched over to using fat as fuel. You need to increase the amount of fat you eat at each meal substantially to help your body switch modes.
As mentioned above, fat burners brains are too busy solving the mysteries of quantum mechanics than to sit and daydream about food. (Wow, I sure make us Ketonians sound smart. I really have no idea what that sentence means. It sounded smart).
If you are shoving protein shakes and protein bars down your throat every two to three hours, YOU DON’T GOT KETONES, BRAH!
When you are a fat burner, you can literally go days without a meal. Sometimes you will go an entire day and realize you actually forgot to eat. When you are a glucose burner, you have whatever you recently ate to burn before your body requires more energy. When you are a fat burner, you tap into all of that stored energy you have been conserving overtime. If you can’t make it from one meal to the next, or even skip a meal every now and then without getting hangry, you, my friend, are not a fat burner.
If you are walking to the Shore Store and get ravenous at the smell of fried elephant ears, YOU DON’T GOT KETONES, BRAH!
Most fat burners can take in the smell and keep strutting down the shore. It may even make some fat burners gag a little remembering how that junk made them feel back in their glucose burning days. Tired, lethargic, fat. Who needs it, bro? If you are ravenous or have a strong desire for carbs in between meals, start eating more satiating fats with your meals.
If that doesn’t work, check in with your digestion to make sure your body is actually using the foods you are eating. If you are eating a lot of high quality fat but still craving carbs, or worse – gaining weight, you are most likely not digesting those high quality fats.
If right before the G in GTL you feel the need to have a banana or protein shake like many fitness professionals recommend, YOU DON’T GOT KETONES, BRAH!
When you are fat fueled, you are literally fueled by fat. The fat on your body is usually enough to push you through most workouts. Fasted weight lifting is more effective because your human growth hormone (HGH) levels are higher when lifting fasted. Higher HGH means much quicker results with less time spent in the gym. If you partake in cardio workouts, these are better fasted too. Instead of burning the glucose you just ate, you will burn stored body fat. I think that’s kind of the point.
If you require meals right before or directly after your workouts, you still have work to do before becoming fat adapted. Maybe ditch the gym and get into the kitchen to make some fat bombs first. Food always trumps workouts when it comes to weight loss. Repeat that one hundred times if you still do not believe it. Let it sink in a little.
If you prefer to watch a Snooki and Jwoww marathon because you are just too exhausted to make it to the Shore Store to pretend to sell t-shirts, YOU DON’T GOT KETONES, BRAH!
When you are truly in ketosis, it’s almost shocking how much energy you have. When I first began a ketogenic diet, I couldn’t even sit still to watch an episode on my precious The Real Housewives. I had this overwhelming urge to vacuum the floors. And then I had to have clean counters. Wait, there was a spot on the windows; I had to wipe them again. WHO WAS I? I had been a couch potato for most of my life and suddenly I became Molly Maid when my baby was napping. In my only time to relax I had copious amounts of energy to do anything but relax!
When I was a glucose burner, all I dreamed of all day long was throwing my feet up and watching the dvr with a huge bowl of microwaved popcorn. And that is pretty much what I did with any ounce of spare time. With ketones, I have a clean house! Ok, that’s a lie. I have two kids under 4 years old. I have pretzel crumbs and legos covering every square inch of my house. But you best believe I am constantly picking those things up instead of sitting on my butt studying how Doc McStuffins saves the day. Instead I walk around the house humming about taking ouchies away with two hands filled with legos. So. Much. Better.
If someone isn’t currently explaining to you that they are not eating fat on a ketogenic diet in order to burn their own body fat and you still have the negative attitude of Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino, YOU DON’T GOT KETONES, BRAH!
When your brain is busy burning ketones, the world suddenly becomes a very happy place. You start to notice all of the birds singing and the flowers dancing and your husband’s chewing may even become cute when it once made you want to rip all of his teeth out one by one. OK, that one went too far for this girl with a slight case of misophonia. Ketones are wonderful. Ketones are great. Ketones are not miracles. But you get the picture. Ketones make you happy! Ketones turn you into Mary Poppins, but without the spoonful of sugar because, you know – ketones.
If you are burning fat as fuel appropriately, your day should not be filled with mood swings or constant crashes that are often felt by sugar burners. Your brain fog clears and your thoughts become lighter, clearer and more concise. You develop a better, happier attitude in life. There is a pep in your step and gratitude in your heart. Then again, why shouldn’t there be? You have created this healthy life for yourself with unlimited amounts of energy and food. When you are burning ketones, you get to eat lots of delicious food! No more starving yourself. No more killing yourself at the gym. Life just becomes easy. How can anyone be mood swingy about that?
I want everyone reading this to have ketones, brah, but in a less muscle meathead kind of way. The best way and only way to know for sure is to test with your blood monitor. The strips are expensive, but even just testing once or twice per week will give you a better indication than guessing with urine strips. Finally figuring out if you are for sure in ketosis will give you a better idea of what you need to do to stay there.
Simply dropping your carbs below 20 and adding a little fat to your diet isn’t enough for most people. For some people that may work, but for others there are more steps you can take to get there. But you do not know if you need to take those steps unless you know where your ketones are registering.
Also know that switching from a lifelong glucose burner to a fat burner does not happen overnight. Quit expecting to change your lifetime habits for just one day, then waiting for a miracle to happen. It could take a week. It could take multiple weeks. It really could take much longer if you are not testing and have no clue if what you are doing is working. The point is, you need to give this process time. You need to give your body time to figure out how to switch to this optimal fat burning mode. If you are rushing the process in despair, you will never know just how amazing this life can be.
If you have been patient; if you have done everything I talked about and you are still feeling the steroid rage felt by our Jersey Shore friends, there are things you can do to help speed the fat burning process along:
- Add more fat to your diet. Typically when someone comes to me and is not losing weight on a ketogenic diet, the answer is usually add more fat. Eating a low calorie diet full of fat is still a low calorie diet. Low calorie diets can raise your insulin, which is the opposite of a ketogenic diet’s purpose. Try adding more fat – see if that helps you. It’s kind of like when you ask IT for help. They always ask if you restarted your computer. Let’s equate adding more fat to restarting your computer.
- Give intermittent fasting a try: The process of fasting really can kick a body into ketosis faster. Even just an overnight fast of 12-14 hours is helpful for some people. If your body is really stubborn, you may need to work on your fasting muscle and stretch it for longer periods of time.
- Digestion, digestion, digestion: A ketogenic diet can be a miracle for anyone, but should not be attempted immediately by everyone. If your body is not digesting protein or fat well, your body will really hate you when you take away it’s precious processed carbohydrates. It will hate you in the form of burning diarrhea. It will hate you in the form of baseball sized constipation. It will hate you in the form of oily zits all over your pretty little face. If you are experiencing poor digestion in any form when switching to a ketogenic diet, it would be wise to take a step back and work on your digestion. If you don’t, your body will continue to store your food as toxins. This means you stay fat and miserable. If you are interested in learning more about digestion, start with the almost free digestion course found here.
- Work with a coach: I hate to toot my own horn as much as I hate that phrase, but I have helped many people get on their merry ketone way. If you are really struggling, give coaching a try. There is way more to this health stuff than you may have time to research, so hiring someone who has already done the research can move things along and keep you motivated to continue. When you continue, you reach your goals. People I work with are making new strides everyday – hitting goal weights they haven’t seen in years and improving health markers in ways even working with their doctor did not improve. This stuff works, but only if you do it right and stick with it.
Also, I will say this every time – my information is educational, not medical advice. Listen to your doctor. If your doctor does not stay updated on health topics, find a new doctor. Always continue to educate yourself as well.
I was really struggling with a clever way to end this blog. I looked down and realized the majority of the time I spent writing this blog I have been wearing a white ‘wife beater’ tank top that says ‘Husband Beater.’ (Don’t report me to PETA or whoever takes up abused spousal cases. It’s a joke. My husband is twice my size . I don’t beat him) I am not sure if the shirt inspired the blog or the blog inspired the shirt. I do know Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino just helped me explain ketones to you, and that is something I never thought would happen. Miracles every day, people.
To learn how to stop yo-yo dieting FOREVER, click here. Work with your body, not against it!
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