Becoming Keto adapted

There’s a lot of terms thrown around in the nutrition sphere. To help you understand the science behind Recal and how to best make use of this programme we’re going to break down some of the more confusing terms.

The first, and most important, term to understand is keto adaptation. This term is used interchangeably with fat adaptation.

So, what does it mean?

Keto adaptation is the process the body goes through on a ketogenic diet as it changes from using primarily glucose for energy to using primarily fat for energy.  It is when the glycogen stores get low enough that the body begins the process of keto-adaptation.

Our bodies are always using a mix of fat and glucose for energy. However, in a non-keto-adapted state where a person has a steady stream of dietary carbs, the body reaches for glucose first, since only low amounts of ketones are normally generated during fat metabolism whereas glycogen is abundant. Since the brain cannot utilise fatty acids directly - though it can function on ketones - it is dependent on glucose when we are in a non-keto-adapted state.

The benefit of being in a keto adapted state is that your body always has a steady stream of energy available regardless of whether you have eaten or not. When you burn ketones for energy, your body will use dietary fat first before moving on to using the energy stored in your fat cells.

Conversely, eating more carbohydrates than our bodies can use or store as glycogen results in an overabundance of insulin - our fat storing hormone. So, instead of burning body fat you will store it.

So how do we become keto adapted, and how long does it take?

In the 1980s Dr Stephen Phinney undertook the first rigorous research into keto adaptation and athletic performance. One of the studies was of highly trained bicycle racers.

At first the performance of the cyclists declined on the diet. They experienced symptoms similar to keto flu. However,soon the decline began to reverse, until by the end of four weeks they were able to accomplish the same amount of cycling that they had at the beginning, but with noticeably less fatigue. This decline and recovery was dubbed "keto-adaptation".

There is a fair amount of individual variability in the time it takes for keto adaptation. However, the process actually begins after the first few days on a ketogenic diet. Then, after about a week to ten days, many people on a low card diet begin to start to feel the positive effects of keto-adaptation. They report improved mental concentration and focus and sometimes more physical energy as well. In insulin resistant people, blood pressure and blood sugar have usually begun to normalise by 2-3 weeks.

By the end of the second week (sometimes up to 3 weeks), the body has usually accomplished the majority of its work in adapting to using fat for energy. By this point, hunger and food cravings are diminished and people often feel they have more physical energy.

This phase is critical for long term health and body composition changes. Until this 3 week mark it is often advised to eat enough fat to help the keto adaptation process, while preventing you from feeling hungry. However, once you’re keto adapted, you can reduce the amount of dietary fat you consume to a level that is palatable and leaves you feeling satisfied. A common mistake we see is people keep consuming vast quantities of dietary fat. While the absence of carbs means these people don’t gain weight, it doesn’t allow their bodies to burn their stored body fat.

Long term keto adaptation brings more subtle benefits and changes. For example, it gradually becomes more conserving of protein, so that people often notice a lessening of a desire to eat lots of protein. Athletes also often notice is less lactic acid buildup in their muscles with long training sessions.

Keto adaptation can take up to 12 weeks to occur.

Can I Do Anything to Help My Body Adapt?

A lot of the tips in our keto flu article link can be helpful in assisting your body through the change from being a glucose-burner to being a fat-burner. Dr. Phinney and other experts also emphasise the importance of getting enough salt in the first two weeks, as the body lets go of a lot of sodium and it can leave a person feeling weak and tired.

Eating more dietary fat in the initial few weeks before reducing this amount is also helpful.

You don’t need to be perfectly in nutritional ketosis the whole time for the process to occur. That being said, the diligence to which you commit to the protocol along with your level of metabolic dysregulation (type 2 diabetes) will determine the speed at which you are adapted. Remember there’s a big difference between the insulin required to process refined grains and a sugary dessert than a carrot or an apple. So if you find you’ve gone off plan a little, try not to make it a lot.

Shout out if you have any questions or let us know what you think about this blog. 


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