Does a Carnivore Diet Put You in Ketosis?

Many people are familiar these days with the Ketogenic diet and have read about ketosis, which is also known more in context specifically with the diet. What's more interesting is that we all are in a form of ketosis, even though very minor, while we sleep away the night. Does a Carnivore Diet Put You […]
Josh Koop
January 7, 2020

Many people are familiar these days with the Ketogenic diet and have read about ketosis, which is also known more in context specifically with the diet. What's more interesting is that we all are in a form of ketosis, even though very minor, while we sleep away the night.

Does a Carnivore Diet Put You in Ketosis? Yes, as the carnivore diet is basically a near-zero carbohydrate diet this will be sufficient to ensure you reach ketosis almost without effort. This is a key benefit to giving you access to your body fat stores for additional energy on an as necessary basis.

Let's explore some more into what ketosis is, what benefits it can provide you and any limitations you may expect in changing your diet. You may find out that Ketosis has some major benefits you weren't aware of before and that you feel better physically.

Does a Carnivore Diet Put You in Ketosis

What Is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a built in function of your body to help out when you have no stored glucose available for energy. It is a function which burns stored fats instead which results in ketone bodies being released into the body. Ketosis became more widely known with the ketogenic diet becoming more mainstream along with other low-carb diets.

Those ketones that were released which we spoke of above are used directly by the body to power itself. This process is very similar to how our body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. Ketones bodies are produced by breaking down those fats, to measure blood ketones you can use a ketone meter. Also the guideline to technically to be in ketosis requires that this measured ketone level be greater than .5 millimolar/L.

Once your body starts to enter ketosis it will begin to produce ketones at an accelerated pace. The ketones are created within your liver from any consumed fats, then from body fat to meet the needs of the body.

This is why you will hear people talk about plate fat versus body fat, to burn off more body fat you need to lower the amount of plate fat you consume. This is frequently overlooked by those new to ketosis thinking you can "eat all the fatty food they want" and still not gain weight or body fat.

Josh

The three ketone bodies are beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), acetoacetate, and acetone, these are thought of as different but actually acetone is a product of the breakdown of acetoacetate. Frequently the urine test strips that people will measure with do to the lower cost per use will stop reading useful values. This is due to your body becoming more adjusted the levels of acetoacetate and using the excess instead of excreting it which makes the value lower.

This is why if you plan to measure then you will want to get the blood meter to give you quality results each time.

But Doesn't Your Brain Need Carbs?

One of the largest points brought up by non-carnivore diet followers, like vegan, vegetarian and standard american diet is that "your brain requires carbs to run". This is really a truly misguided understanding and belief that the brain requires glucose from an outside source to survive capably.

If you speak to many dietitians how many carbs you should consume at a minimum, they are more than likely going to answer with 130 grams per day. This is due to their understanding that the brain needs a steady supply of glucose to properly function.

Whats interesting is this is taken at the belief that somehow humans through evolution always had a steady drip of carbohydrates available to eat every day. If this was true we would never have thrived as a species, we would have gone out like other animals.

Josh

While your brain does have a intensively high overall energy need or demand which does need glucose, at least in part, while you are in ketosis the generated ketones will fulfill a large portion of this energy need. As to the glucose need, your liver is always generating the glucose amount that is "required" for your brain function, even when you are starving.

This process is known as gluconeogenesis which translates to "making new glucose". This process can also provide glucose for other systems if they need it, such as the red blood cells and a portion of the kidneys. This glucose is made from fat or from protein, and is is a demand driven process and not constantly changing your protein into cake.

This complex set of bodily systems is what allowed our hunter-gatherer ancestors to survive long periods without eating, they had access to a virtually unlimited fuel source at all times: personal stored body fat.

What Are The Benefits To Ketosis?

While there are many N=1 self studies where people list off reams of benefits there are some very solid, science proven, benefits to being in ketosis. The first of which is that it enhances the mitochondria, power plants to our cells, in delivery of energy throughout our body which reduces the oxidative stress and inflammation commonly seen in higher carbohydrate diets.

This change in the metabolic system also appears to help our bodies spend less time fighting inflammation and instead building defenses to help combat disease and handle daily stressors without the common ill effects.

Appetite Regulation

One this most carnivores will notice once they hit ketosis is that their once crazy hungers and thoughts about the next meal virtually disappear. Many who get into ketosis will sometimes need to remember to eat instead of being driven by the hunger. For those who prefer science there is research which has shown that being in ketosis suppresses appetite.

Decline In Overall Inflammation

When you move into ketosis most will start to notice a large decrease in overall systemic inflammation which caused sore joints, helps decrease recovery time from workouts and similar quality of life improvements. This can be a major victory for people who have arthritis or other ailments which are exacerbated by having high inflammation levels.

Reversal of T2 Diabetes and PreDiabetes

Another powerful change which occurs when you are in ketosis is for people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Being in ketosis can help you normalize your blood sugars and insulin response, which can potentially lead to lowering medications or the possibility of discontinuation of your diabetes medication.

Energy Stability

With a diet which puts you into ketosis you will start to find you don't experience those points, like after lunch blues, where your power appears to dump and you becomes overly lethargic. When you reach ketosis your body is able to convert and use the body fat as needed to ensure your energy level doesn't move too low.

For athletics, a state of ketosis may provide a beneficial and extremely long-lasting fuel supply. This can be a tremendous help during aerobic sustained exercise in both high-level and recreational athletes

What Are The Drawbacks To Ketosis?

While there are numerous positives to ketosis there are some initial hindrances that can be taken as drawbacks. These are typically due in large part to your cells having to make a change from a primarily glucose driven metabolism over to a fat based metabolism.

Initial Lethargy and Keto Flu

When you are in the first month of your carnivore diet you will more than likely hit a wall, commonly referred to as "keto flu" which is really an issue with your overall electrolyte levels. When you start having low or no carbs your body will start to release the excess water from the cells which manages inflammation.

This cellular water though also contains your excess electrolytes which are used to keep your body in balance. When this water is released you lose access to these additional resources and your body takes a while to save more of them, what you need to do is increase the intake of these electrolytes to help while you transition, a favorite of mine is LMNT from Elemental Labs.

Initial Decrease In Anaerobic Energy

This issue comes from the change from glucose driven systems and will take much longer to fully recover, this is due to the fact that you mitochondria have almost never in your life had to use your stored body fat for energy since we are never short of available due to grocery stores and civilization.

Over time, without cheating and adding in massive glucose levels, many sports athletes have been able to get back to their pre-diet energy levels along with the added benefit of endurance on top.

What About Ketoacidosis?

Nutritional ketosis we described above and diabetic ketoacidosis are entirely different from one another even though they share part of their names. Understand that while nutritional ketosis is safe and beneficial for health, ketoacidosis is a medical emergency! though in the current atmosphere many healthcare professionals don’t really grasp nor understand the big distinction between the two.

What is frequently misstated is that Ketoacidosis occurs most frequently in Type 1 Diabetics when they don't take their insulin. This is due to their inability to process out blood sugars which leads to a high level of both blood sugar and ketones which disrupts the acid to base balance inside your body.

People in Ketoacidosis feel extremely ill and experience profound dehydration, vomiting, abdominal pain, and weakness. DKA requires hospitalization so that IV fluids and insulin can be given to gradually and safely lower blood sugar.

Diet Doctor - Ketosis

The levels of ketones in nutritional ketosis will typically remain below 5 mmol/L. This is even during times of extreme energy use, the self regulating system will generate more for power but without other health issues this tops out around 7-8 at a peak and drops fast after effort is complete due to a healthy pancreas being capable of making insulin which shuts down further ketone production.

However a person experiencing diabetic Ketoacidosis will often have BHB levels at 10 mmol/L or higher. This being directly related to their bodies inability to produce insulin. The graph below shows the range of ketones in the blood from nutritional ketosis versus Ketoacidosis:

Nutritional ketosis bar showing range to ketoacidosis - Does a Carnivore Diet Put You in Ketosis
Nutritional Ketosis and Ketoacidosis

Final Thoughts

I hope that this has put you more at ease as to the state of ketosis and why it is massively beneficial to your carnivore diet and how it can help you be more healthy than ever before! I also hope the information on ketoacidosis puts the real details and information instead of the mass media version and that it has nothing to do with nutritional ketosis.

If you read this far you are amazing! I would love to hear from you in the comments below if I helped you gain knowledge and useful information, additionally I would like to know if I got anything incorrect that you believe should be researched more and updated. As always to get the word out please join our new Carnivore Rx group on Facebook and share this out on social media!

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