Ketones - Your Weight Loss Friend

April 06, 2015

Ketones: 101 

 Reference: Do Ketogenic Diets Really Suppress Appetite? 

 When you lose weight, you want to lose it from fat, right? When you are losing weight from fat the broken down pieces of the fat are called ketones.   They are typically about 4 carbons long and the most common one is called beta-hydroxybutyrate. So, why does your doctor freak out when you talk about wanting to have ketones? That’s because most of us were trained in the era of understanding dangerous diabetes in the hospital, not weight loss in the home. When diabetics are completely out of control and their insulin has disappeared, their bodies grab fat to try and get energy and they swirl up into more and more ketone burning, which they can’t turn off.   So, ketosis is dangerous for insulin-dependent diabetics.   (Note: your insulin level in diabetic ketoacidosis is either zero or you have something to make your insulin resistant, like a bad cold.  Net effect: zero insulin.)

Big deal for first-year medical students, studying physiology in the hospital. For the rest of us trying to lose weight, it is desired.   We have two buckets of energy in our bodies. Our carbohydrate bucket is about 1500 calories big (its called glycogen) and as long as we eat some carbs three times a day, we will keep that bucket topped off. We will also be secreting insulin to help store any extra carbs that exceed that 1500 calorie tank. And that insulin will keep your fat cells shut tight. Hence, ANY DIET that has even modest carbs in it three times a day, will never ever, ever, ever lose weight from fat, because insulin will seal fat cells shut. And you are living off of that 1500 calorie bucket. 

Your fat bucket is much bigger. Most women are 33% fat, which comes down to 150,000-300,000 calorie buckets.   To lose weight from fat, you must have ketones in your blood: chopped up fat molecules.  The first step to achieving that is to get your brain to run on ketones and transition your body from running on carbs to running on ketones.   Your brain actually thrives on ketones, once used to it.   Some gurus have made a living off that concept.   That’s the trick, getting your brain to feel happy with ketones. 

The switch from carbs to ketones takes some 5-7 days, though we don’t have good human studies. We do have studies in rats fed precisely measured low carb, high-fat diets.   The higher the fat content compared to protein resulted in the least weight gain compared to rats fed high carb rat chow.   In us humans, the evidence appears to be accumulating that we need to be modest in the amount of protein we eat too. To lose weight, we have to induce ketosis, and that happens best when we eat more fat than protein, and less than 20 grams a day of carbs. (Note: in dieting ketosis, your insulin level will be < 5, or even as low as 1-2.  BUT not zero.  The instant your insulin level spikes up to 7-8, your ketones instantly disappear and your body switches back to burning carbs.  Then you are in a real dilemma.  Your fat cells are shut but your carb tank is actually empty because you were just in ketosis.  What do you have to do?   Gorge on carbs to fill up your glycogen tank so that you get some glucose in your blood.  Your diet just failed.)  

So, put it all together. Ketones are what your body naturally makes when you eat fat, and when you are losing weight from fat. Ketones are what our bodies lived off of every winter in most of human history.   (Either fatty animals we hunted or our own fat stores.) In the modern era, to lose weight from fat means we must eat like we used to in winter, a millennia ago – BC (Before Carbs or Before Civilization). You don’t need to be afraid of ketones, you should embrace them as the intentional process of controlling your weight. 

 WWW. What will work for me? I believe humans have had ketogenic diets every year for 6 months as long as we have been humans. It is only with civilization and the storing of carbs to have year around that we got away from eating fat, with a bit of protein.   When I eat fat, I don’t get as hungry as I do when I eat carbs. Try it for yourself.  I also measure my ketones and glucose with my monthly fast mimicking diet and my ketones take 5 days to peak. 

 Pop Quiz

  1. To lose weight from fat, you must eat fat. T or F                        Answer:   True
  1. Rat studies show that we have the least weight gain when we eat the most fat.   T or F.  Answer:  True
  1. Many doctors are afraid of ketones because they were trained to be wary of ketosis in diabetics, where it is dangerous. T or F                        Answer:   True
  1. If you were told that the Institute of Medicine recommended that we eat 150 grams a day of carbohydrates, you could assume that was not a weight loss diet. T or F                   Answer:   Again, true.
  1. America keeps getting fatter, probably because we are eating even more than 150 grams of carbs a day. True or false.                    Answer:   You are on a streak - true
  1. The Atkins diet is a low-fat diet.   T or F                      Answer:   False. It's a low carb (20 grams) and modest protein (< 25%) diet.