My name is Flora and I am a new beginner and I only just find out this amazing Australian forum.
Here is my contribution - an article from the Atkins Community Forum.
Critics of low-carb eating often cite the metabolic state of ketosis as reason enough to forget about restricting carbohydrates in your diet. They offer an assortment of reasons that ketosis is dangerous and to be avoided - without acknowledging that almost everyone enters a state of ketosis at some point within a 24 hour period of time...when they sleep!
I'd like to use this edition of the Low-Carb Guru to sort the fact from fiction and provide you with information you can use to make your own decision whether to follow a low-carb plan low enough to trigger ketosis, or low enough to lose while remaining in primary glucose metabolism!
Let's start with what ketosis is. It is a metabolic state where your body "switches" from primarily using glucose for energy to primarily using fat for energy. The fat used for energy will come from both dietary fat sources and body fat. Ketosis is the natural result of limiting carbohydrates in your diet to a low enough level - you're NOT eliminating them - that your body can't meet its energy needs primarily from glucose. This is because all carbohydrates are converted to glucose for energy and if you limit your intake, the body will still need energy (calories) and will find another way to get them - ketosis - fat burning is its source of its primary energy.
But wait, you say, the body needs glucose!
And indeed it does. Which is why the body, in conditions like ketosis, will use protein to create the glucose it needs that you are not eating in carbohydrate form. It has two choices: take protein from its internal resources, or use protein from ingested sources. If your protein intake is adequate, it will not cannibalize its own protein - muscle - but will utilize the protein eaten for what is called, in metabolic terms, "gluconeogenesis". It is this process that makes it very important that you consume adequate amounts of protein each day - to insure your body has a supply of convertible protein to glucose to meet the bodies glucose needs. This leads me to the first myth about ketosis.
Myth 1: For brain function, the body needs at least 150g of carbohydrates each day!
Reality: First, the amount needed for brain function is debatable. I have seen the number stated as low as 50g a day and as high as 175g a day. The brain does not need "carbohydrates" - it needs glucose.
I readily concede the body does need glucose for brain function, but it is not necessary to consume large amounts of carbohydrates for brain function. Because those following low-carb plans are eating adequate protein, they have an adequate source of energy that can be converted to glucose. Proteins - or more specifically the amino acids they are converted to - can be converted at rates of up to 57% to glucose!
Myth 2: Gluconeogenesis is the cannibalization of muscle tissue.
Reality: In the absence of adequate intake of dietary protein, this may happen. However, if one is eating enough protein, the body will utilize dietary sources of protein for gluconeogenesis before using body tissue.
These are just the first two myths associated with ketosis. There are plenty more!
Myth 3: Ketosis will damage your kidneys.
Reality: Everyone enters into the state of ketosis any time glucose is limited - usually when they sleep through the night. It is not an unnatural state for the body and is what the body uses when it needs energy in the absence of enough glucose being readily available.
Those who state that ketosis will damage kidneys do so with the logic that those with existing kidney problems are advised not to eat high amounts of protein. To date, I have yet to find a research study linking low-carb eating or ketosis to kidney damage! If you find one (not an article that states this, but a scientific study!) please let me know!
Myth 4: Ketosis will give you Ketoacidosis!
Reality: My goodness - all these big words! Firstly, Ketosis is not Ketoacidosis nor will it cause Ketoacidosis in healthy individuals. They are two different states - Ketosis is a metabolic state, Ketoacidosis is a disorder.
I've already defined ketosis, so let's define Ketoacidosis now.
Ketoacidosis is a condition where the body is in an uncontrolled acidic state - "acidosis". Ketoacidosis happens when too many ketone bodies build up in the body. They result from 1) acute starvation as the body cannibalizes its own tissue for energy; 2) uncontrolled diabetes; 3) from a diet comprised of almost all fat, with almost no protein or carb intake whatsoever.
Ketoacidosis is not a result of ketosis - but ketosis that results from a state of utter starvation and/or uncontrolled diabetes and/or improper nutrition. All the macronutrients - fats, carbs and proteins - are critical to successful and healthy low-carb eating! And every low-carb plan that I know of recommends one eat adequate protein!
With the myths addressed, let's also look at some other realities of Ketosis!
Reality: When you're in a state of ketosis, you'll have "keto-breath" as it's affectionately called by many low-carbers in ketosis. This is easily remedied with some sugar-free breath mints, sugar-free gum, brushing and flossing your teeth properly and drinking lots of water!
Reality: Ketones are a by-product of Ketosis and a waste-product your body must flush from its system. It is critically important that you drink adequate amounts of water if you are following a plan that includes ketosis within its phases! Water will help you excrete ketones in your urine and in your respiration (see - that's how you get keto-breath!). A good rule of thumb for everyone is to drink at least eight 8oz glasses of water each day (pure water, not just fluids) and an additional 8oz of water for each 25 pounds you are hoping to lose!
Reality: Ketostix (the test strips that detect ketones in your urine) are not always an accurate measure of whether you're in ketosis. You may be in ketosis and not register on the test strips! If you have that funny metallic taste in your mouth (keto-breath), you're in ketosis whether your test strip turns or not.
Reality: A trace reading on a Ketostix is as good as a darker color reading! Yes - you read that correctly! You DO NOT have to try to achieve a darker reading. Once you're in ketosis, and limiting your carbohydrate intake, you are in ketosis. The test strips measure the ketones in your urine, not the quality of your ketosis or the kind of fat you are burning for energy.
Reality: Ketosis may not be burning body fat! Sorry to say, but true. If you're eating a very high level of dietary fat, your body may not be using any body fat for energy if it's meeting its energy requirement from the fat you're eating. Be sure you're eating adequate amounts of fat - from good fat sources! - and that you're eating enough to supplement calories you're not getting from carbohydrates....but do not try to do low-fat and low-carb at the same time! It doesn't work because you're not getting enough calories each day to avoid starvation mode (yet another metabolic response the body has in its arsenal of ways to survive!).
I liked the detailed explanation of what Ketosis is and does and what it isn't and doesn't do.