Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
The ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight, improve mental cognition, balance hormones and treat various diseases like diabetes and epilepsy. But how long does it take to get into ketosis and what can you do to accelerate the transition?
When you enter a state of ketosis, your body switches from using glucose to using mainly ketones for fuel. This has several health benefits, including:
- Healthy fat loss
- Reduced hunger and cravings while staying full longer
- Reduced risk of diseases such as heart disease, type II diabetes and even cancer
- Higher energy levels
- Fewer blood sugar spikes
- Overall better well-being
But how long does it take to experience these benefits? The short answer: it varies from person to person.
Here’s your guide for what to expect when entering ketosis and how to do it quicker:
You cannot simply jump into ketosis in a 24-hour timespan. Your body has been burning sugar for fuel your entire life. It will need time to adapt to burning ketones for fuel.
So how long does it take to get into ketosis? This transition could take anywhere from 48 hours to one week. The length in time will vary depending upon your activity level, lifestyle, body type and carbohydrate intake. There are several ways you can speed up this process, like intermittent fasting, drastically decreasing your carb intake and supplementation.
Remember: Once you get into ketosis, there is no guarantee you will remain in ketosis. If you eat a carb-laden meal, practice carb cycling, or increase your carb intake for athletic performance, your body may start burning glucose. To get back into a fat-burning state, follow the same methods you did to get into ketosis initially.
Follow these steps to get into ketosis faster:
#1: Drastically Cut Carbs
The general carb limit for the keto diet is around 30 grams per day. If you’re an athlete, this may increase to 100 grams.
When starting a low carb diet like Atkins or keto, some people find comfort in cutting out carbs gradually. However, if you want to get into ketosis fast, drastically reducing your carb intake is a necessary step. Track your carbohydrate intake during this time, not letting any hidden carbs slip under the radar.
Going low carb is easier than you think, even when you’re eating out or traveling. Perfect Keto founder Dr. Anthony Gustin (@dranthonygustin) often makes special requests at restaurants to make his meals low carb, like this porchetta and egg sandwich without the sandwich. Follow him for more keto tips!
#2: Increase High-Quality Fats
Healthy fats make up a large component of any keto meal plan. If you’re new to keto, it may take time to transition to this way of eating. Make sure your fat intake accounts for 70-80% of your total calories. This will help your body transition to using fat as its primary fuel source, although if your goal is to lose weight, it’s preferred to decrease your fat intake slightly to allow your cells to burn fat stores instead of dietary fat.
Consume these healthy fats to get into ketosis quickly:
- Oils like coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, MCT oil or powder, avocado oil or macadamia nut oil
- Fatty meats, egg yolks, butter or ghee
- Fatty nuts and nut butters (but be careful on these)
- Plant fats like avocados, olives or coconut butter
#3: Take Exogenous Ketones
Exogenous ketones are supplements to help you get into ketosis faster. The most effective exogenous ketones are those made with beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB ketones). BHB is the most abundant ketone in the body, making up to 78% of total ketone bodies in the blood. It’s also a more efficient fuel source than glucose.
Taking exogenous ketones helps your body get into ketosis faster (sometimes in as little as 24 hours). You still need to eat a low carb, ketogenic diet, but supplementation can decrease the amount of time it takes and decrease unpleasant side effects.
#4: Try Intermittent Fasting
Fasting is often used in conjunction with keto. It poses a number of health benefits, including improved concentration, faster weight loss, and reduced blood sugar levels. It has also been associated with decreasing symptoms of various diseases. When used in combination with a ketogenic diet, it can help you get into ketosis faster, and aids weight and fat loss.
If the thought of intermittent fasting intimidates you, try these other two approaches:
- Fat fasting involves eating low-calorie (usually around 1,000 calories), with roughly 85-90% of those calories coming from fat, for a few days.
- Fast mimicking mimics the effects of fasting within a short time frame. During this brief time span, you still eat high-fat foods[*].
#5: Exercise More
Exercise helps deplete the body of glycogen stores (stored glucose). When glycogen reserves are low, and not being refilled with carbohydrates, the body turns to burning fat for energy. Therefore, increasing your exercise intensity can help you enter ketosis faster.
#6: Take MCT Oil
MCT oil, more than coconut oil, butter, or any other fat, can boost your blood ketone levels significantly.[*] Taken together with exogenous ketones, it can help you enter nutritional ketosis in a matter of hours.
MCT oil can do this because the medium-chain triglycerides in it are quickly metabolized and used for energy by your cells, unlike long-chain fatty acids which take longer to be broken down.
#7: Keep Protein Up
Going keto doesn’t mean you have to drastically reduce protein. You don’t.
Eating enough protein is crucial for feeling your best on keto. It provides many of the nutrients you need to be healthy, helps satisfy you, and helps prevent muscle breakdown.
Going into keto focusing only on fats sets you up for failure because you can start experiencing negative side effects from the lack of nutrients that adequate protein provides.
As a rule of thumb, you should be consuming at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass.
Plus, high-quality proteins like grass-fed beef also provide healthy fats.
#8: Find Keto Staples
Finding keto-friendly foods and easy recipes is key for sticking and enjoying your keto diet. The easiest way to fall off the wagon on keto is to not have safe keto options around when you’re hungry and need energy. So here’s what you can do:
- Go shopping for keto-approved foods
- Find easy keto-friendly recipes
- Choose healthier on-the-go keto snacks
#9: Watch Your Snacks
More challenging than being keto at home, is to stay keto on the go. When you’re at work, on the road, or the airport, it can be almost impossible to find keto-friendly foods.
Having the right portable snacks with you can make the difference between staying on track to becoming keto-adapted or falling off the wagon.
Some of the best keto snacks include:
#10: Make Healthy Swaps When Eating Out
When you’re eating out, making healthy swaps is easier than you think. You don’t have to throw away your efforts just because you’re having lunch with a friend.
Most restaurants can accommodate requests such as:
- Burger without a bun
- Salad without dressing (dressing are often loaded with carbs)
- Tacos without tortillas
- Unsweetened beverages
If you start off your keto diet following these 10 tips, you’ll have an easier time transitioning to fat-adaptation.
If you tried all of the above methods and still haven’t entered ketosis, these most common underlying cause is excess carbs.
Carbs can creep up in your daily diet and prevent you from or knock you out of ketosis — and this tends to be most common reason new keto-ers feel they’re doing everything right and still not enter ketosis.
Hidden carbs can from:
- Restaurant meals. For example, most sauces have sugar in them.
- “Healthy” snacks. Most snacks, even those considered low carb, have cheap ingredients and syrups that raise your blood sugar and kick you out of ketosis.
- Too many nuts. Nuts are a perfect keto snack, but some of them are higher in carbs than others. Eating handfuls of nuts without measuring can take you over your car limit.
When your body enters ketosis for the first time, it’s switching its preferred fuel source. This transition can cause flu-like side effects in some people, including fatigue, headaches, dizziness, sugar cravings, brain fog and stomach trouble. This is often called the “keto flu.”
Supplementing with exogenous ketones can help negate these unwanted symptoms. When supplements aren’t enough, try these tips:
#1: Stay Hydrated
Many people experience a flush of water weight when they switch from eating a standard, high carb diet to keto. Therefore, it’s important to stay hydrated. Plus, hunger is often confused for dehydration. Avoid this by drinking water often, especially when you experience cravings or hunger.
#2: Take Electrolytes To Avoid The Keto Flu
Alongside drinking more water, it’s important to take electrolytes to help make up for the loss of fluids and replenish all the electrolytes being flushed out with it.
#3: Get Enough Sleep
Proper sleep is important for hormone function and repair of the body. Not getting enough sleep is tough on the adrenals and blood sugar regulation. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep per night. If you struggle with quality sleep, create an environment that is conducive for rest. This could be keeping your room cooler, turning off all electronic devices one to two hours before bedtime or using a sleep mask.
If your goal is to get into ketosis as fast as possible, you have to test your ketone levels. Why? Testing helps you recognize what foods or habits kick you out of ketosis.
There are three primary methods to test your ketone levels:
- Urine testing: While this is one of the most affordable methods, it’s also the most inaccurate. Unused ketones leave the body through the urine — meaning, you are essentially measuring unused, unburned ketones.
- Breath testing: This is a far more accurate method than urine testing, but still not the best. This measures the amount of acetone (another ketone body), when you should try to measure the amount of BHB.
- Blood testing: This is the most highly-recommended, most accurate way to test your ketone levels. With a small prick of a finger, you can measure the level of BHB ketones in the blood.
Get Into Ketosis
If you test your ketone levels regularly, follow the 10 steps outlined above, supplement when necessary and keep an eye on your carb intake, you’ll no longer be wondering how long it takes to get into ketosis. You’ll be in it, burning fat and energetically reaching your health goals in no time.