Ketosis: What It Is, and 9 Common Signs You’re In It

If you’re reading this article right now, odds are you’ve heard about the keto diet, and how it can give you more energy, help you lose weight, and contribute to a healthier lifestyle. Sounds like a great idea, right?

“Sure,” you may say, “but how does it work? And how would I know that it’s working?” Don’t worry: we’re here to answer those questions for you. To begin, let’s talk about an important concept that has given the keto diet its name: ketosis.

Ketosis: What Is It? How Does it Work?

In a nutshell, ketosis is a process in which your body gets energy from fat cells instead of carbohydrates.

In general, our bodies use carbohydrates for fuel. Carbs are easy to process into energy; and because the body goes through them so quickly, it may send out hunger signals over and over again — “Give us more carbs!”

In the state of ketosis, however, the body no longer has easy access to those yummy carbohydrates. Instead, it has to break down the cells in your fatty tissue, and convert those fats into energy. Ketones are the compounds that result from this process, and they’re the “alternative” source of fuel for your body. Once your body has “switched over” to consuming ketones for energy instead of carbs, you’ve officially entered that state of ketosis.

But how do you know when you’ve gotten there? Here are 9 common signs that people may experience when they begin ketosis.

1. Thirst

A woman sitting at a table with a laptop and a stainless steel water bottle.
As your body flushes out water at the beginning of ketosis, you’ll likely get thirsty.

When you begin the keto diet, your body will start converting the leftover glucose in your muscles into fuel. As a result, your body will begin to flush out a lot of water — and that means you’re gonna get thirsty!

This isn’t a big deal as long as you stay hydrated. It’s probably a good idea to drink at least 2 litres of water per day during this initial phase of your diet. Try to add some more electrolytes into your diet as well — seasoning food with Himalayan pink salt is one easy hack to make that happen. And if your thirst is really bad, you may need to ease up on the carb restrictions, at least for the present.

2. Tiredness

An analog alarm clock displaying a time of 2:40 on a bedside table near a man lying awake in bed.
Don’t worry – the insomnia you may experience in the early stages of ketosis won’t last long.

There’s a definite transition period for your body to switch over from carbs to fats as its primary source of fuel. That means you’re going to feel some fatigue in the initial stages of ketosis. This may mean that you’re physically and mentally tired.

Obviously, you don’t want to push yourself to the brink of passing out. Don’t be a “keto fanatic.” But if you’re just dealing with a little fatigue, don’t get overly concerned about it. Again, stay hydrated. Don’t over-exert yourself. Don’t expect to match your regular performance when working out. This symptom will likely run its course sooner rather than later.

3. Lots of Urination

Remember how we said that your body will start flushing out water when you start a keto diet? Well, guess where that water has to go!

For the first few days of ketosis, expect to pee a lot more than usual. On the plus side, you’ll start losing quite a bit of “water weight” — at least until your body has adapted to consuming ketones for energy instead of carbs and sugars.

4. Bad Breath

If you’re having a conversation with someone, and they suddenly offer you a mint and quickly back away, take it as a sign that you’re squarely on the path to ketosis. While your bad breath may be a by-product of dry mouth, it’s more likely a result of your body excreting acetone (one of the 3 main components of a fat cell).

This should go away in short order, but in the meantime: Stay well-hydrated (are you sensing a theme here?), use plenty of sugar-free gum, and brush your teeth regularly.

5. Weight Loss

Sports woman weighing on the scales with healthy food around. Weight loss, healthy food and sports lifestyle concept

If you’re doing the keto diet correctly, you’re almost guaranteed to lose some weight in the first week or so. Granted, most of that will be water weight, but you could start shedding some fat towards the end of the week, too. Once your body adjusts to the fat-heavy diet, you may experience more gradual, sustained weight loss — provided you limit your daily calorie intake.

6. Constipation or Diarrhea

We hate to tell you this, but stomach issues are a possible side effect of starting the keto diet. Since carbohydrates are a primary source of fibre, some people may experience constipation once they reduce their daily carb intake. Others may experience diarrhea as their body performs that “water flush” we talked about. (Still others may not have any stomach problems at all. Lucky dogs.)

Again, the most important thing you can do if you experience stomach issues is to stay hydrated. Your body just needs some time to adapt to the “alternative fuel source” of fat, so these symptoms shouldn’t last for too long.

7. Insomnia

You may lose sleep over the first several days of your keto diet due to an increase in your body’s stress hormones. (Your body gets tense when it doesn’t have its carbs!) However, this too should pass quickly. In fact, many keto advocates say that they’ve gotten the best sleep of their life on the diet.

8. Decreased Hunger

This is a positive sign that indicates you’ve entered the state of ketosis. The fact is, your body has tons of energy stored up in its fat cells — and once it has switched over to fat as its primary fuel, it can easily tap into these stores. As a result, you’re going to experience fewer strong cravings and a decreased feeling of hunger going forward. (This also means it will be easier to control your portions and manage your weight.)

Not too shabby, huh?

9. Increased Energy

Girl is running with a dog (Beagle) on a leash in the autumn time, sunny day in forest. Copy space in nature

The pièce de résistance! Perhaps the number #1 benefit that the keto diet offers is a significant boost in energy. Once you get past the initial tiredness stage, you’ll likely enjoy a marked increase in your physical ability, your stamina, and your ability to concentrate. And you won’t have to worry about that “2:30 feeling,” or experiencing a “sugar crash” anymore!

Sure, there’s a learning curve when it comes to entering ketosis. But decreased appetite and stable energy levels are a couple of the key benefits that come from taking the plunge. So stick to it, and enjoy the results!

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