The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat, high-protein diet linked to weight loss and prevention of age-related mental decline.
When followed correctly, your body starts burning fat for energy instead of carbs. It results in the rise of blood ketone levels and reduction in insulin.
This process, where the body breaks down fat instead of glucose to create a compound called ketone body is called ketosis. It is often experienced during starvation and prolonged fasting.
During ketosis, the liver takes fatty acids from your body to produce ketones to supply energy to your brain and muscle tissues.
While your body undergoes biological adaptation to the ketogenic diet, it can often be hard to know whether you are in ketosis or not.
Here are ten common symptoms of ketosis to look out for, both positive and negative.
1. Bad Breathe
Halitosis, or bad breathe, is one of the most common symptoms of ketosis.
Many people on a low-carb or ketogenic diet report fruit loop breath when they reach full ketosis.
As our body’s metabolism changes, the ketone levels elevate and results in increased production of acetone that expells via urine and breath.
While bad breath is not a good sign for your social life, it is a positive indicator that your ketogenic diet is effective.
It is also not as bad as it sounds.
Most people notice bad breath when they wake up — so make sure you brush your teeth daily. You can also chew sugar-free, keto-friendly gums as an alternative if you are overly concerned.
Also, check the label for carbs if you are using gums or sugar-free drinks. If your carb intake rises, your blood sugar level increases and it reduces ketone levels.
For most people, bad breathe usually goes away after a week on a diet.
2. Weight Loss
Several studies have shown that weight loss is the first and the most obvious symptom of ketosis.
It also can be deceptive sometimes because most people don’t experience the same amount of weight loss that they expect during ketosis.
Weight loss can happen because of various reasons, and you likely will experience a fast weight loss in the beginning than in long-term when on a ketogenic diet.
When you switch to a low-carb diet, your body starts to experience a decline in glucose levels, and your muscle cells begin to lose water.
Since carbs bind water molecules to muscles, a decline in the intake of carbohydrates results in the dumping of water from your body cells resulting in weight loss.
As your body water weight starts to decline, the body fat level also falls if you maintain your diet and remain in a calorie deficit.
3. Loss of Appetite
As soon as you decrease carb intake, the metabolism of your body acts crazy — you don’t get as hungry.
Many people report suppression of appetite while on a ketogenic diet.
Remember, insulin or carbohydrate consumption does not directly relate to experiencing hunger. Insulin makes you satisfied, not hungry.
If you are eating high glycemic carbohydrates like rice and potatoes, a strong insulin response is generated that causes blood sugar crash.
As the blood sugar level elevates, the hunger signaling response gets screwed up leading to an increase in another compound called Ghrelin which is responsible for signaling hunger.
During ketosis, you have a very low carb and high protein intake. Your brain cells respond to hunger hormones at a much better rate during ketosis, and you only eat what is required.
It is natural to experience a loss of appetite as you go down on a ketogenic diet.
4. Increased Ketone Levels
If you are in ketosis, you experience an increase in ketone levels. This is the most obvious sign of ketosis that you can track with high accuracy.
With the reduction in blood sugar levels, your body starts to burn fat and releases ketone bodies in the blood.
Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is one of the three primary ketones that gets released into the bloodstream.
The measure of this compound through a specialized meter is how ketosis is determined. You need to make a small pinprick and draw blood to measure ketone levels.
Testing an increased ketone level through blood is also one of the most accurate ways to determine ketosis.
In fact, most ketogenic experts say that you need to have blood ketone level from 0.5-3.0 mmol/L to have nutritional ketosis.
You can also see signs of ketosis in your breath and urine.
Though not very reliable, you can use breath analyzer to monitor the level of acetone that gives an idea about the body ketone level. On the other hand, a ketone strip is used to assess the ketone level in your urine.
5. Short-term Fatigue
As your body transitions to ketosis when you switch to the ketogenic diet, your body starts to lack glucose and lose water.
It takes some time, at least a week, for your body to produce enough ketone bodies to keep you energized. Not just that, you also lose a lot of electrolytes through urine.
During the initial ketosis period, side effects like short-term fatigue and weakness are completely normal. Your body is trying to adapt to a new diet, so give it enough time to reap the long-term benefits.
If you feel weak, make sure to drink enough water. You can also find specialized drinks or add a supplement to replenish your electrolytes. We prefer Mio Electrolytes Berry Blast with water as it tastes great and is easy to carry around.
You also need to make sure you’re taking 2,000 – 4,000 mg of sodium, 1,000 mg of potassium, and 300 mg of magnesium if you consider taking a supplement.
Don’t worry even if you suffer from tiredness and low energy. As your body adapts to a low-carb diet, your body will learn to run on ketone and fat in a few weeks.
6. Increased Focus and Energy
We just talked about short-term fatigue and tiredness, right?
While you experience brain fog, fatigue and tiredness in the initial days, long-term ketogenic dieters report increased focus and energy during ketosis.
As soon as your body starts to overcome ketone flu, you burn more fat for energy instead of carbs.
Since ketones are incredibly potent to supplement energy to brain and muscles, dieters also notice increased focus and energy.
Reduction in carbs also controls and stabilizes glucose production that directly correlates with improved brain function and neuroprotective benefits.
7. Digestive Issues
The initial switch to the ketogenic diet involves a significant change in the type of diet you take. It can be a deal breaker for most dieters because of the digestive modifications our body experiences.
Constipation is a common sign of ketosis. Some people use bathroom less frequently than before.
If it is less frequent in your case, make sure to take a stool softener or add more fiber or magnesium to your diet.
Another common symptom of ketosis is diarrhea. With the addition of more fat and protein to your diet, you might have to run to the bathroom more frequently.
Make sure you are drinking enough water and taking fiber-rich diet or a supplement.
8. Dry mouth
With the reduction in glucose levels and carb intake, your body muscles start losing water. Urination is more frequent in the initial days of ketosis, and you experience bad breathe because of acetone.
The diuretic nature of protein causes your body to lose more water which might also lead to an electrolyte imbalance in your body.
Make sure you brush your teeth twice a day and drink more than what you usually do to keep yourself hydrated.
You can also add a little pinch of salt as it’ll help your body retain water for an extended period. You can find sugar-free mints and gums to ease dry mouth if it prolongs for more than three weeks.
Dietary factor like a change in diet plays a huge role in our sleeping patterns. Though anecdotal, several dieters report a change in their sleeping habits and insomnia while in ketosis.
When you drastically reduce carb intake, the glucose level in your body decreases and you start craving for sugar.
Since carbohydrates are “comfort foods,” it is normal to experience difficulty in sleeping during the initial stages of ketosis.
Not only does glucose provide energy, but it also improves entry of the L-tryptophan amino acid which produces serotonin that is responsible for calming your body and helping you sleep.
With the elimination of the dietary source for L-tryptophan, some keto dieters show signs of insomnia.
Also, as your body water weight decreases, you feel the urge to urinate frequently which might wake you up at night.
However, many long-term dieters report that they sleep better after they get adapted to the ketogenic diet.
If you are having difficulty in your sleep for a prolonged period during ketosis, you can also try L-tryptophan supplements. Also, make sure to see your doctor.
10. Heart palpitations
Some dieters report health palpitations during the early phases of ketosis.
The change in dietary intake causes mineral imbalance, glucose level adjustment, and loss of water.
Because of hypoglycemia, our brain goes into an emergency state of starvation causing sugar cravings which lead to burning of stored glycogen and cause HPA axis dysregulation.
Also, the reduction of minerals, especially potassium is responsible for a decrease in blood volume and pressure causing blood vessels to pump faster.
When potassium level in our body is low, blood cells cannot repolarize as easily, and the cardiac muscles and nerves may not function normally causing a change in heartbeat rate.
The Bottom Line
Every human body is different and a switch to the ketogenic diet might affect one person differently than the other. If you are following the ketogenic diet guidelines properly, you should already be in some form of ketosis.
While the signs and symptoms listed above are the most common ones during ketosis, some dieters also experience muscle cramps, a decrease in performance, headache, and irritation.
There is also no step-by-step guide to get into ketosis. But if you want to accurately measure the ketone levels in your body, opt for a blood, or a urine test.
That being said, make sure you eat a healthy ketogenic diet and focus on your daily exercise routine to maintain your body in a great shape.