Ketosis: What is the ideal blood ketone level for weight loss?


Should you be chasing down high ketone levels
in order to optimize weight loss? Is there a blood ketone level sweet spot which will
maximize your fat burning? If so, what is it? Let’s find out. Hey Carbdodgers, my name
is Dr Dan Mags. Thanks for visiting my channel where I help people achieve long term sustainable
weight loss through low carb real food nutrition. I struggled with my weight pretty much my
entire life back until 2016 when I went from being officially obese to being a normal way
and just six months and I’ve maintained it ever since. I love to be your guide and show
you how to do the same. I release new videos here every Tuesday, so I’d love it if you’d
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So, when people discover the power of Ketosis for weight loss and it is awesome, it can
be pretty normal to think if some ketones are good, then more ketones must be better.
And so, there’s this idea that you can find it optimal ketone level that will help you
lose weight at an optimal rate, but is this true and if so, what is that level?
So many so called Keto experts would have you believe that you should be aiming for
high blood ketone levels simply because that means that you’re burning more fat and that
will speed up somehow weight loss or optimize your weight loss and you may well have been
advised to cut back on the protein and increase the amount of fat you’re supplementing with
in order to get high ketone levels. As we’ll see in this video, that advice will get you
higher ketone levels, but is it really something you should be aiming for? I’m going to argue
that it doesn’t actually make any sense and in fact it may actually be detrimental. Now,
I’ve always been keen to experiment on myself and this graph shows my lean muscle mass.
When I tried to stay in a high level of ketosis for a six-week period, I lost about five pounds
of lean muscle in six weeks. Not Ideal. Definitely something you don’t want to do. Now, there’s
definitely different groups of people who may benefit from running pretty high levels
of ketones, so just therapeutic diets for epilepsy, certain cancers, certain neurological
disorders. You’ll also find that certain athletes prepare, prefer to run higher levels of ketones
relating to their needs for their sport and there’s also some cognitive benefits to higher
levels of Ketones, but there is also one group of people who definitely shouldn’t be chasing
high ketone levels and that’s type one diabetics. Now I don’t want to go into why this is here
on this video because it will take too long, but if you want to find out more about that,
then check the blog post that accompanies this video.
You’ll find the link in the description below this post that we’re focusing on today that
most people get interested in Ketosis, fat loss. Many of the websites and YouTube channels
promoting ketogenic diets will tell you the following. Naught 0.1 to naught .5 means you’re
not in Ketosis. naught 0.5 to 1.5 is that a light ketosis,
1.5 to three is kind of the optimum sweet spot for pick doses and anything above 3 doesn’t
really add anything. Now we’re talking about blood ketone figures
here now because by far the most accurate way to measure ketone levels is using blood
ketone readings. Urine keto sticks don’t really give us that
much information about how high the level of Ketosis is and they tend to be less accurate
after several weeks of being in ketosis. So it’s blood ketone levels that we’ll be talking
about in this video. Now it’s all very well giving me a set of
rules to live by and you can take those numbers I gave you earlier for what you will, but
personally I’m never really going to fully embrace a set of rules until I understand
the why behind them. So, I did some thinking. I saw those numbers and I thought we need
to dive deeper and really try and understand, you know what? What do they mean? So I’m going
to take you through step by step and you might be surprised by the outcome. In order to get
started, we need to understand what do ketone levels really tell us? What do they mean?
Well, to answer these questions, we need to go back a step and understand the following
things. What factors affect our blood ketone levels, the levels of ketones and anything
for that matter is really dependent on two different things.
The rate at which ketones are being produced versus the rate at which ketones are being
used up. What affects the rate at which ketones had been produced? While ketones are being
produced by the body all the time just at really low levels. If you test the blood ketone
levels of someone who is a carb burner, you’re going to get a reading of naught 0.1
ketones are produced by the liver and in order to produce them in any great amounts, we need
to not be burning dietary or stored carbohydrates for fuel. In fact, we need to have a low insulin
levels and raised glucagon levels. Now we’ve talked about insulin a lot on this channel.
Insulin is the main fat storage hormone, but Glucagon is like the opposite. It encourages
fat breakdown so we can achieve these states by a very low carbohydrate diet or intimate
and fasting or probably both. And under these conditions, the liver will
produce ketones from our bodies stored fat, but ketones can also be made from dietary
fat. Many of you all know that medium chain triglycerides switches from coconut oil can’t
be stored by the body and are therefore turn into ketones by the liver. It’s one of the
reasons that coconut oil has become so popular, but increased dietary fat in general will
lead to higher levels of ketone being produced by the liver.
And you’ll find many people across the internet telling you to increase your fat intake in
order to increase your ketone levels. And yes, it works, but is it the right thing to
do? Whilst Ketosis is great because it tells us that we’re burning fat. It doesn’t tell
us where that fat is coming from. Is it your body fat or from fat that you’ve eaten?
The level of Ketosis can’t tell you the difference between the two. Let’s now look at things
that cause a lower production of ketones. So obviously too many carbohydrates, it goes
without saying, but can this mean too many carbs will mean your body will largely shut
off ketosis. Secondly, the dawn effect, you will naturally
produce less ketones in the early morning due to the dawn effect. Now, the dawn effect
occurs due to a surge of hormones such as cortisol, which will produce more blood glucose
from protein in the early hours of the morning. It does so in order to prepare your body for
the day, there’s not a lot you can do about this, but it is a good reason not to check
your ketone levels first thing in the morning. And thirdly, protein intake is often said
that consuming a lot of protein may also cause lower levels of blood ketones as our bodies
create glucose from the protein that we consume. In fact, we now know that protein consumption
actually has very minimal effects on levels of blood glucose due to the different way
that protein is being used. While the body is in a state of ketosis, but the level of
ketones in the blood isn’t just dependent on the rate that they’re being produced by
the liver. We also have to think about how fast they
are being used up by the body. So, what affects the rate that ketones are being used up?
Well, ketones are an energy source for tissues of the body. So, if the body is using them
in increased amounts, then you’d expect lower levels. So, what would cause this?
Well, firstly and most obviously exercise. We see lower levels of ketones in the blood
after exercise. Test it for yourself, just check ketones before and after an intense
workout. Secondly, Keto adaptation. If your body has
been burning carbohydrates for fuel or it’s life your cells won’t burn ketones as efficiently
as they will after a few weeks or months in Ketosis.
There are changes at the cellular level, which will mean increased burning of ketones when
you become adapted. So now we can answer the question what the high levels of ketones actually
tell us. We now know the things that increase and decrease our blood ketone levels. And
so, we can work out that you couldn’t raise your blood ketone levels by consuming more
fat. Now your body isn’t just going to let your
ketone levels rise and rise. That would be dangerous. So what is it going to do? Well,
it’s going to start to down regulate the amount of fat that is being released from your own
fat stores. Now if you’re trying to lose body fat, then downregulating the use of your own
body fat for the sake of increasing ketone levels isn’t exactly ideal number to do. Less
exercise, doing less exercise for the sake of keeping your ketone levels high as perhaps
more obviously counter intuitive. But I have seen people on the Internet telling
people to reduce their exercise specifically to keep their blood ketone levels raised.
Seems crazy, right? So, I say do that exercise, burn those ketones, build those muscles, make
your muscles more insulin sensitive and your body will have to upregulate the quantity
of ketones is producing and will in fact increased body fat breakdown in order to compensate.
And number three, cutting protein intake. This is perhaps the most concerning piece
of advice that I heard. You need, how much protein you need. You can’t just reduce protein
below this level without causing some harm. Now, protein is important for several reasons.
Number 1, most notably muscle repair and tissue growth. Secondly, proteins also really a very
filling nutrient and thirdly, most sources of proteins are also important sources of
micronutrients. That’s the vitamins and minerals that make up the rest of everything.
When we take macronutrients out of the picture, the amount of protein that you need will be
based on several things including your activity levels and the type of activity that you do.
So, for example, if you lift lots of heavy weights, you’ll do more muscle damage. Therefore
you will need more for repair and growth. The last thing we want to do is consume too
little protein in order to chase high ketone levels. If we do, we run the risk of not having
sufficient protein intake to maintain lean muscle mass.
It’s fat you want to lose, not muscle, so are more ketones really better. Now I agree
that under naught 0.5 you’re probably not really burning many ketones at all. You might
still be losing weight, but perhaps not as much as you could be, but really above naught
0.5 you’re definitely in a light ketosis and really anything greater than one is fantastic.
It should be easy to achieve these levels by eating a well formulated low carb diet
such as what I’m going to describe to you shortly. I wouldn’t go increasing your fat
intake and decreasing exercise or reducing protein intake in order to purely get to higher
levels of ketones for the sake of it. And if it’s still less than one and you’re still
losing weight, well you’re still losing weight. Great stuff.
Unfortunately, I think the word keto has come to mean consuming fat for the sake of consuming
fat in many circles, often at the expense of getting adequate protein, vitamins and
minerals from good quality, unprocessed sources of food. Carb should be a level which doesn’t
turn off your fat burning and turn you into a carb burner locking your those fat stores
so they can’t be used and that level is different for all of us.
Protein should be at a level which your body needs. Even if this costs you a few points
on your ketone readings. If you’re like me and you do quite a lot of resistance training,
you want to really prioritize getting your protein in above anything else. Fat, should
be used to satisfy your hunger and not just added to boost ketone levels for the sake
of it. If the amount of fat you need to keep full
results in levels of ketones or 2 or 3, then that is fine, but don’t chase the higher figures
just for the sake of it. Much better to focus on real food sources which will give you loads
of great vitamins and minerals along with it. That’s why I tend not to recommend things
like bulletproof coffee. The exception to this is in the first few weeks or months of
switching to a ketogenic diet when adding, in fact can help your body get used to using
fat as the primary source of fuel. Things like bulletproof coffee or fat bombs
can be really useful at this stage, but they’re usually pretty lacking in other vitamins and
minerals, so I don’t find this to be a useful long term strategy. Before we finish, I want
to share with you something that illustrates the problem that I’m talking about. I found
this comment on another YouTube channel while I was researching this video, which I think
really illustrates the problem, and so this guy in the comments says:
I was just having this problem. I’ve been on keto for three and a half weeks and I’m
down 17 pounds, but my ketone levels dropped over the last five days. I’ve gone from pretty
steady one to 1.8 all the way down to naught 0.5 I’m going to try upping the fats and see
what happens. Now, this person is clearly getting great
results on their to genetic diet, but they’re focusing on their ketone levels.
Instead of keeping doing what they’re doing, which is helping them to lose weight because
they’re chasing ketones, they’ve identified reduced ketones as the problem. Despite that
the fact that they’re losing way and they’re trying to fix the problem with the key, which
isn’t a problem. Just for clarification, I’m not saying that these high ketone levels are
bad per se, and you shouldn’t be worried if these are the readings you’re getting. I’m
just saying that if you’re getting readings of worn or even less, if you’re achieving
your goals, then don’t stress out about aiming for levels of two or three just for the sake
of it, especially if it means cutting down on your protein and consuming extra fat. So,
in summary, be in ketosis, but don’t chase those higher figures. Try to remember what
you’re trying to achieve. If you’re trying to lose weight, then the main thing you should
be tracking is your weight. If you’re trying to lose size, then the most
important thing to be tracking is your physical measurements. And if you’re trying to improve
your type two diabetes, then you’ll want to be checking your blood glucose levels and
your HBA one c levels, chase the results you’re after, not the ketone levels.
They can easily mislead you. By all means, use them for a bit of troubleshooting. If
you’re finding you hit a plateau or you’re not achieving your goals, but they’re most
useful for checking whether you’re not in ketosis at all, in my opinion, but if you’re
achieving your goals, don’t stress about it. I didn’t check my ketone levels once during
my weight loss journey and I still managed to consistently lose weight for six months.
I don’t check them on a regular basis now either. Thanks for watching. I hope you found
this video useful. Please give it a thumbs up if you have enjoyed it. I here every Tuesday
with new video, so make sure you hit the subscribe button down below this video. I’ll see you
next week.

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