Getting The Magic Without All The Effort
First of all it’s worth bringing up again just why ketosis can be so beneficial. This is the state where your blood ketones rise to take the place of falling glucose. These ketone bodies are a clean energy source with anti-inflammatory properties, and can draw on your fat stores for fuel, essentially making for an unquenchable source of energy.
If you think I’m implying that you’re carrying too much chub, very lean athletes will still carry over 10,000 calories of fat fuel. If they cut underneath that, they die.
As far as being a weight loss, this is a spot where ketones really shine. They inhibit hunger, promote satiety, increase leptin sensitivity, and reduce insulin resistance. This is just me keeping things short.
So ketosis can be seen as a productive state to be in, whether you’re gearing up for a marathon, or just trying to get your assignment handed in on time. The question is whether you can borrow those benefits for a few hours, without having to go through all of the hassles of living and adapting to a ketogenic carb-free lifestyle. Because, being realistic, that’s a process that can take months.
And to hand you the short version, it’s a little bit yes when considering short term benefits, and a definite no if you’re in it for longer adaptations. In most cases, any sizable presence of carbs in your diet is going to shut down the upsides of ketones. But there are two alternative routes that can bring you down to ketosis.
1. Intermittent Fasting
So can long-term fasts, but I’d much rather dwell on the version that can be repeated daily. That by definition makes it more sustainable and effective for taking on challenges. IF brings on ketosis simply by excluding all calories, tapering down blood glucose to the point where ketones start exerting an effect.
Cognitive and performance-wise, the later hours of IF can be pretty productive. It’s a great time for training, even if it still takes a dose of caffeine to convince the body to get going. The problem is that this surge of energy gets blunted the moment you have that first meal of the day. You return back to square one, but that shouldn’t be a worry if you’re in it for the short-term kick.
2. Exogenous Ketones / MCT Oil
Without any fasting or low carb dieting, taking ketone salts and esters have been shown to build up ketone levels significantly. To a lesser extent, so does MCT oil, which can also be bought in powder form. Taking either can definitely induce a performance increase, at least for a few hours.
Because MCT Oil is widely available, it’s an ideal supplement to keep around your cupboard in case you want to liven up your pre-workout cocktail or morning brew.
The Problem With The Alternatives
Fasting and supplements can induce enough blood ketones to gain some benefits, but the effects don’t last, which doesn’t allow the body to actually adapt to ketosis. This means you might get a spring in your step, you might start flicking through the pages a little faster, but you won’t be using the fuel to its optimal capacity.
Mentally, you might even experience a downer from the lack of carbs. The brain will still struggle to use ketones effectively, when it’s only ever known glucose. So there might be a state of energy scarcity, followed by headaches, lack of focus, and brain fog.
When looking at physical performance, the body will have a lower capacity for intensity when compared to a session on carbs. This means lifting heavy weights can go down the tank, and you’ll have to settle for adding up a million reps instead to make up the volume numbers.
But when the brain and body are given the extended time necessary in ketosis, they’ll be able to outperform or at least match up the carb state across most types of activities. The key bonus perk being the lack of systemic inflammation.
If you want the upgrade of being keto adapted, you’ll just have to dive in, ditch the cornflakes, and do the hard yards. How long adaptation takes is going to be subject to a number of things, but we can draw the lines between a few weeks and a couple of months.
For people looking to wisen up and start biohacking, this adaptation process can definitely be rushed a little by combining the ketogenic diet with IF and MCT oil.
IF in particular makes a great stepping stone for building towards keto. You can settle for dropping breakfast, even just shift it a touch later, and the body will start moving along the metabolic spectrum. Sugar adapted, towards the holy grail of being fat adapted.