Fat Burning vs Carbs Burning
As the world turns, we learn more damaging information about how eating grains, highly sugary fruits, and starchy vegetables is bad for us. We learned that foods such as bread, pasta, rice, etc., are basically like eating straight glucose. The amazing damage this misleading information that led the “heart health” fantasy for over 60 is years now over. We now know that obesity, heart disease, metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are all caused by this extremely unhealthy “heart health” hypothesis. Much misleading information is still out there but the new generation of people see past that and there is hope for recovery. However, not everything is rosy.
A large number of people turn to LCHF (low carbs high fat) or ketogenic (even more low carbs and higher fat with moderate protein: no grains, no fruits and only leafy veggies as carbs) or the zero carbs (no fruits, grains or veggies at all just meat and cheese sort of foods), and there are new “fake it to make it” propositions also in abundance. And that is a new generation of bad stuff.
I feel I need to clarify a few things to those of you who want real health and not “fake it” health. After all, what is the point of, for example, getting ketones in your urine if you are really not in ketosis? Who is getting fooled and what is the goal?
To explain what ketones are for those of you who have no idea what I am writing about, here is a very short explanation.
There are two metabolic processes for the human body:
- carbs burning (burning glucose for all energy) and
- ketones burning (burning fat for all energy with exception of the iris and the cornea of the eyes, that need glucose, which can be derived from protein so there is no need for any carbs).
There is no third metabolic process for humans and there is also no “in between” process either, meaning your body cannot be burning both glucose AND ketones at the same time for energy with efficiency. Protein also becomes glucose and burns as such, hence its limitation in the ketogenic diet, which is a fat burning nutritional approach. While many people use these nutritional approaches for weight loss—hence “diet”—they are actually not for weight loss. That just happens to be a desired benefit.
Here I only want to talk about the basic concepts of carbs burning (regular American diet) versus fat burning (ketogenic diet) to bring home a very important point. The point is: ketones.
Those who eat high fat, moderate protein and very low carbs (understand minimum 80% of your calories coming from fat, about 15% from protein and 5% from carbs maximum), have their bodies switch to fat burning mode. When your body burns fat, it does not burn glucose.
Ketogenic Diet is the Default Human Diet. Carbs Diet is An Evolutionary Survival tool for Times of Food Scarcity!
The reason why we can burn ketones is important: the ketogenic diet is a nutritional approach for times of normalcy, which still happens today in the societies of many (though forever shrinking) peoples. When humans have ample food, the most nutritious and fastest way to get all nutrition needed is eating fat and meat.
The goal of the body is survival in times of scarcity is to eat whatever may provide some energy and so fruits and vegetables and tubers become a resource to pass the times of no food availability. We have a huge reserve of body fat and fat per gram gives more than twice the energy of carbs or protein. Thus fat burning is an efficient procedure whereas carbs and protein burning is not so efficient. If you were to eat the same amount of calories from carbs as from fat, you would need to eat 2.25 times as long a day–this is a luxury when predators are everywhere! The faster you can get your energy, the better.
Can we create ketones in our body today even though our lifestyle today includes mostly carbs? Sure! We have two ways of creating ketones:
- reduce carbs and protein and increase fat. It is as simple as that.
- eat coconut oil. Eating coconut oil after eating an entire cake creates ketones similarly to how the body creates ketones in the process of burning body fat. However, just because you ate coconut oil and created ketones, it does not mean your body is burning fat! This is fake ketosis!
Let me repeat: eating coconut oil will produce ketones that show up as ketones in your urine but this does not mean you are in ketosis.
Real ketosis is used for therapeutic treatment for reversing metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, CNS disorders such as seizures, migraines, MS, and other conditions in which neurons have damaged myelination (insulation) from the voltage the brain cells have to pass on. It is also used to treat cancer. Thus ketogenic diet has many health benefits; it is a serious nutritional tool to achieve a health goals!
The ketogenic diet fad is used for weight loss only. And that is too bad because as a fad, it is used wrong, may hurt hundreds of people, and that will kill all chance for research.
Ketogenic dieters can use three processes by which they can measure their level of ketogenic progress.
- Measure the level of ketones in the urine;
- Measure the level of beta hydroxybutyrate in the blood by special blood testing equipment, similar to glucose testing kits,
- Use a breath acetone level measuring device.
Of these three, only blood beta hydroxybutyrate is accurate. The three types of “ketones” represent different byproducts of the ketogenic burning process. The acetone breath, for example, is an evaporating byproduct. It doesn’t represent how well one burn ketones; it merely demonstrates that ketones are burned as fuel.
How Urine Ketones Fool You
Ketones are only one of the two products our bodies use. Just as a diabetic mellitus patient will have sugar in her urine as a result of inefficient glucose absorption, ketone bodies will be found in the urine only as “leftovers” meaning they don;t represent how well one burns fat for fuel; rather they represent how inefficiently one burn it. The more ketones in your urine, there is a chance the less beta hydroxybutyrate is in your blood! Be aware! The only accurate test is the blood test so invest in a blood testing kit made specifically for ketogenic dieters.
So you just ate a huge cake followed by a half a watermelon, drank a sugar full of soft drink, and a tall latte with whipped cream (meaning about a half a pound of sugar). Now you take a bunch of coconut oil pills, and voila! Fake ketosis!! You will have ketones in your urine! Note you will NOT have beta hydroxybutyrate in your blood.
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, there is no way on earth you can achieve ketosis while eating only vegetables because all vegetables are carbs (complex carbs but carbs and convert to glucose). However, you sure can fake ketones in your urine by eating fat bombs or special ketone supplements. Who are you cheating with that? Yourself, of course.
I have a Marathon runner in my migraine group who is a carbs burner but because of the extreme energy requirements of running a Marathon, midway through the Marathon a runner’s body runs out of carbohydrates and switches to the ketogenic mode, turning on the ketones burning process. In her case I recommended to take with her coconut oil pills for the Marathon and as she felt bonked (out of energy) toward the middle of the run, and take coconut oil pills. It helped her then because her body switched to ketones burning and with this help she was able to use the energy from the highly saturated fat coconut oils and thereby shave 26 minutes off her best time ever, She also did not get a migraine, and was not pooped like usual after the run. You can find her story in two parts: part one here and part two here.
This approach is not fake ketosis; this is how to take advantage of ketones when one is not otherwise in ketosis but the body experiences stress and needs help.
However, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, a major sweet tooth or live off of rice, pasta or any high carbs food, and after eating coconut oil you find ketones in your urine, I have one thing to say: go check your blood! End faking it! Not only are you potentially hurting research on the ketogenic diet but you may also get sick!
Comments are welcome, as always.
I test ketones with the mojo blood test. I only 3 days ago came off a bad carb binge. Back to keto. Last night I test 1.8 . I’ve lost 2 pounds but inches are slow to none in the past 4 months. I’m trying to learn as much as I can to be healthy…I’m 61 and belly fat is not attractive or healthy.. so if this 1.8 is blood tested I should start to see results!???? I’m shooting for the optimum 2.5 level.. thank you for your help, knowledge, and advice..
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A single measure like the 1.8 mmol/L reading is not very meaningful. Having ketones in your blood doesn’t equate to “being in ketosis” and using ketones as your primary fuel or being “keto adapted”. It just shows you have that much ketones available to be used, but you may end up not using it, and urinating it out. Losing weight without losing inches is representative of water loss and possibly also muscle loss. Shooting for a specific ketone level makes little sense. Being in constant low-level ketosis, say 0.5-0.8 mmol/L, is perfect for health and weight loss.
Increased ketones represents increased fuel available but not that you are actually burning that much. Of course, if you are starving, the ketones will increase in your blood but it still doesn’t mean you will burn more than 0.5 mmol/L given your lifestyle.
You will start to see results when you stop binge-eating and when you start burning ketones for all the fuel your body can use ketones for, including sitting by your digital device reading this as well as when you are in the middle of a strong exercise.
I have been on a high carb low fat vegan diet, no oils whatsoever, no coconut oil…..and for some reason doctors keep saying I have ketones in my wee…I don’t know why though…
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Ketones in your urine means your body entered starvation mode and so it is burning your stored fat since you are not eating any. This is not a good solution since as an oil-free vegan, you are also short on the necessary amino acids and your body will burn proteins–whether you eat it or not. This is called cannibalism. It is not a healthy state.
I am not anti-vegan by any means but not everyone thrives as a vegan. I work with several vegans–one even had a heart attack! Veganism is an ethical point, which is well taken and I completely understand it. However, there is a limitation on what the human body can sustain healthy life on (survival is not an equivalent statement to healthy). Contrary to whatever you have read or heard of, all you have to look at is our stomach, intestines, and colon to see that humans are not herbivores.
We have acid for digestion and not fermenting chambers–we are not vegetarians but are carnivorous. Actually our stomach pH level puts us as scavengers. Our intestines are relatively short and narrow in the ape world and have no fermenting chambers and no fermenting bacteria in our intestines. So everything plant goes undigested all through to the colon.
Our colon is very short–much shorter than fermenters. We can only ferment in the colon. However, note something VERY important: the gut flora we have break fiber (cellulose) down into butyrate. Butyrate is a ketone precursor. Butyrate is a very important nutrition for our cells as it can enter the cells directly and be used for energy. Animals, such as cows, that graze all day on grass (cellulose) and ferment, live on butyrate!
So when you are an oil-free vegan, you basically force your body to live on fermentation alone and that is not possible so you end up in starvation mode. It is very unhealthy. I don’t know how old you are, but age dependently, this can even stunt your growth and development.
I hope this helps,