WHAT IS KETOSIS?

WHAT IS KETOSIS?

Ketosis, the ketogenic diet and ketones might be trendy right now, but it is definitely not new. Being in a state of ketosis is a normal metabolic state our bodies can be in. Think of it as the opposite of using a glucose metabolism.

Being in ketosis is a metabolic state where your body uses fat as the primary energy source instead of relying on carbohydrates.

While it is true that the body uses carbs as an energy source, it is also true and better to use ketones as energy. You may be thinking, okay, but where do these ketones come from? 

It is pretty simple, and you can think of it as a fail-safe mechanism. 

Although a bit difficult to imagine in today’s society, the reality is that there were times of starvation or food scarcity. During famine or food scarcity, people don’t fall over and die if they go without food for a couple of days. We think we will, but we don’t.

The body automatically produces the energy it needs to survive by switching to a state of ketosis. For the body to be in a state of ketosis, or to produce ketones, is a perfectly normal state of metabolism.

The body makes ketones when we restrict carb intake, and ketones increase during periods of fasting and prolonged exercises. 

Understanding Ketone Terminology

 

Here are some of the key terminology referred to when discussing ketogenic metabolism. 

  • Ketones – Energy containing elements derived from a fatty acid that provides fuel to the body.  
  • Ketosis – The biochemical process where ketone bodies are produced. Keto-molecule and genesis – beginning. The beginning of ketone production or the making thereof.  
  • Ketoacidosis – A dangerous side effect of Type 1 Diabetes where ketone production reaches levels above ten mmol/L. Take note: ketoacidosis is not associated with Type 2 Diabetics.  
  • Nutritional ketosis – The process of accelerating the production of ketones through the restriction of dietary carbohydrates.  
  • Keto-adaptation – The process the body goes through when exposed to limited amounts of carbohydrates and continuously elevated ketone levels. It is a change or shift in which the body uses fat for fuel. The process of keto-adaptation starts around day 3 of being in ketosis and continues to develop for up to three months of being in a consistent state of ketosis. 

 

Understanding Carbs, Sugar And Glucose

 

When we talk about carbs, we need to understand that carbs are also called sugar or glucose. All carbs are broken down into sugar and stored in our bodies as glucose. Where we mention carbs, keep in mind that it is the same thing as sugar or glucose.

In the blog post where I write about macronutrients, I describe the function of the three macronutrients, protein, fat and carbs. Carbohydrate’s primary role is to provide the body with energy. 

A trendy way people describe being in ketosis is by saying, “you can either be a “carb burner” or a “fat burner“. 

How are Ketones Formed?

 

Ketones are formed from the breakdown of body fat. It is also referred to as “fatty acids”. These fatty acids are too large to be taken up directly by our organs and brain as an energy source. Because the body can’t use these fatty acids directly, they are first transported through the bloodstream to the liver. The liver then converts these fatty acids into ketones. Ketone molecules are tiny and water-soluble, making them more accessible for the body and brain. 

ketogenesis

The process where ketones are formed is called ketogenesis. 

What are Ketones?

 

By now, I am sure it is pretty clear that the process of restricting carbs puts the body in a state of ketosis, and ketones come from body fat. The topic of ketosis gets more interesting as we delve into the different types of ketones the body makes

In short, the ketones are:

  • Acetoacetate (AcAc)
  • Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB)
  • Acetone
Types of ketones

Understanding Ketones

 

Ketones are metabolic products produced from fatty acids. Ketones are also called ketone bodies. Acetoacetate is the first ketone body and beta-hydroxybutyrate the second. 

It is helpful to understand these ketones by knowing how to test for them. 

Beta-hydroxybutyrate is the ketone body found in our blood and what we pick up when we do a finger prick test.

Acetoacetate is the ketone body picked up in our urine when we test with urine sticks. It has a distinctive fruity smell commonly associated with the first few days of being in ketosis.

Acetone is created as a by-product of acetoacetate and expelled through our lungs. Some people describe the taste of this ketone body as a metallic taste in their mouths, also referred to as stinky keto breath. 

Understanding Ketones

 

Ketones are metabolic products produced from fatty acids. Ketones are also called ketone bodies. Acetoacetate is the first ketone body and beta-hydroxybutyrate the second. 

It is helpful to understand these ketones by knowing how to test for them. 

Beta-hydroxybutyrate is the ketone body found in our blood and what we pick up when we do a finger prick test.

Acetoacetate is the ketone body picked up in our urine when we test with urine sticks. It has a distinctive fruity smell commonly associated with the first few days of being in ketosis.

Acetone is created as a by-product of acetoacetate and expelled through our lungs. Some people describe the taste of this ketone body as a metallic taste in their mouths, also referred to as stinky keto breath. 

ketogenesis copy

Why We Use Ketones

 

As part of understanding what ketones are and why it is a valuable energy source, we can consider the vital role ketones play in early development. 

Ketones are present in the body during gestation and in early infancy. This period of development is crucial and relies heavily on ketones. 

Soon after birth, human babies are in a mild state of ketosis and remain so while breastfeeding, irrespective of the mother’s diet. The purpose and presence of ketones in gestation and early stages of life is to provide for the brain’s high energy demands. Breast milk contains around 15–17% SCFAs (saturated fatty acids), which are highly ketogenic.

“In human fetuses at mid-gestation, ketones are not just an alternative fuel but appear to be an essential fuel because they supply as much as 30% of the energy requirement of the brain at that age.” (Adam et al., 1975)

newborns in ketosis

In Conclusion

 

Being in ketosis is a normal metabolic process of life as well as times of starvation. This “fail-safe mechanism” and the body’s ability to generate ketones from fatty acids can be considered a protection mechanism to serve as an alternative energy source in the absence of glucose and food.  

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on print
Print

Check out my latest posts and recipes

KETO DINNERS

Keto Casserole Recipes

As soon as the temperatures start dropping, clients start asking for casserole recipes in their meal plans. Here is a roundup of my top Keto go-to Casserole recipes.

Read More »
Keto Macadamia fudge
KETO SNACKS

KETO MACADAMIA FUDGE

This Keto Macadamia Fudge is absolutely divine! Very easy to make and perfectly okay to have if you are feeling like having something sweet without the guilt.

Read More »
Keto Carrot Cake1
KETO DESSERTS

KETO CARROT CAKE

Keto Carrot Cake? Yes! The moment one says carrot cake, people will say “but that’s not keto”. Even though carrots are higher in carbohydrates, this Keto Carrot Cake only contains one cup of grated carrots, and a single serving comes to less than 6 grams of carbs.

Read More »
Keto Granola
KETO BREAKFASTS

HOMEMADE KETO GRANOLA

I like to add protein powder to my granola recipes. It’s not only a great way to add different flavours to the granola, but it adds a little protein to!

Read More »
Ham and Egg Cups
KETO BREAKFASTS

HAM AND EGG CUPS

Delicious and easy ham and egg cups! Make a few varieties by adding any type of vegetables like peppers, broccoli or spinach.

Read More »
Scroll to Top