Before I explain about the amount of time required to be in the ketogenic state I thought it would be useful to explain the physiological concepts first – so it becomes apparent what is important when making these considerations.
The ketogenic state – in fitness terms – really relates to getting the body to rely mainly on the fat-burning metabolism, instead of the on-demand glucose metabolism system. Individuals who follow high carbohydrate diets or who eat carbs regularly throughout the day will never enter into the ketogenic state except by calorie deficit – consuming less total calories than they need. But that calorie balance is actually the bottom line when it comes to fat burning. Those of us who follow a low-calorie diet will generally enter into ketosis regularly – especially overnight, when we are not eating anything. But if our total calories are in surplus to our energy expenditure, we will not lose fat because there is a calorie surplus.
More on the ketogenic state, first. The main determining factors in relation to entering the ketogenic state are hormonal and are determined by the average insulin levels in your body for most of the time. This is the ‘bottom line’ for all ketogenic and fat loss diets – low average insulin levels for most of the time. You will experience insulin peaks from time to time, regardless of how you eat, but what matters is what goes on for most of the time.
Because sugar levels in the blood can only rise at a specified pace – based on what you are eating – unless you stuff yourself with pure sugar for a full hour, there is a set rate at which your stomach and intestines will digest the food you eat. This rate of digestion will determine the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream and this rate of sugar entry into the bloodstream will determine how much insulin is produced to counter the sugar in the blood and to force it into your cells for use – or for storage (and sometimes for conversion to fat).
This is a slow process, so if you observe a low insulin state for most of the day then you will exist in a ketogenic state for some of the day and your body will be fuelled by free fatty acids produced by breaking down its fat stores during this ketogenic state.
The question many people ask is “how long do you need to be in a ketogeneic state?” We really should ask ourselves how long we should be in a low insulin state – because that is more important and will determine how much fat we burn. I will explain in more detail.
The true ketogenic state only occurs after a period of fasting – usually for 8 to 12 hours. So, in order to experience a true ketogenic state, you would need to fast for about 12-24 hours (during which time the true ketogenic state would arise and persist from about the 12 hour point, onwards). This is a valid way to go about things, but it doesn’t suit everyone. I use it myself – it’s termed “intermittent fasting” – and it is very effective.
However, the more conventional way of getting a similar fat burning result will involve a ‘pseudo-fast.’ This ‘pseudo fast’ will involve eating low calories for the entire day, via small, low calorie and low GI meals. This means you will exist in a low insulin state almost all day long – except at the times you have your small, low calorie, low carb and low GI meals. Even when you do eat you will produce insulin in high quantities for just a short time, before dipping back into the low insulin state. When you do this frequent, multiple meal eating plan correctly, you return to the low insulin state very quickly.
The only time you will ever enter into genuine ketosis will be overnight when following multiple small meal diets, because you will go for 8-10 hours without food when you sleep (and a bit before, because most of us don’t go to bed immediately after eating a big meal). If you are already in a low insulin state at bedtime (because of the ‘pseudo-fast’ I described earlier) you will enter into a fasting state very quickly and will become truly ketogenic before you awake the next day. This is when fat burning will take place for you.
Those are the options. Many people use the low-calorie diet option (although it takes great willpower to do this properly, hence the numerous queries around how to get diets to actually work). Many of us are also beginning to use the intermittent fasting option, nowadays – which is actually easier to implement because there are fewer battles of willpower at mealtimes. It’s your choice. What counts, in the end, is calorie balance – calories taken in versus calories used.
If there is a calorie deficit then fat is lost and if there is a calorie surplus, fat is gained. That’s the equation which really matters. What goes on in the blood and ‘behind the scenes’ should not be at the forefront of your mind all the time. Results matter – physiology just helps us to keep faith in the methods we choose to balance the calorie equation.
However, to ensure you are in ketosis for effective fat loss, there are supplements such as Boss Lady and Keto Fuel to help. These supplement fast tracks the process of going into ketosis and also provide necessary minerals for hydration. If you struggle to keep focus when exercising due to a keto-based diet, supplements such as Keto High Octane have extra ingredients to assist with energy and focus, perfect to take before a workout or busy day.
One final bit of trivia – those who’ve trained for marathons and long endurance events can actually tell when they have gone into the ketogenic state during their training – the urine goes very dark and sometimes even brownish (and this is observed at the end of training – or if you use the loo during training. It only ever happens if you run for about 2 hours, so many people will not witness this phenomenon.
I hope that all helps.