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Starting January 1st-- ketosis and energy from fat, I still don't get it


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Hi all,

My wife and I decided to try the whole30 in January. We initially wanted to do December, but there were at least two days where we were going to be put in situations with work where it would have been rude to turn down food, so we spent this past month eating mostly paleo to ease the transition. It went pretty well for the most part, we have some great recipes that we like and will rotate them when we start. That said, I have a few questions:

Energy from fat-- I still don't get how it works. Neither of us are trying to lose weight, we just want to feel better. For me, I've realized that even carbs from sweet potatoes can affect my energy levels throughout the day. There were stretches where we were very low carb, I would estimate no more than 20-40g a day. For me this was fine, I felt great for the most part (although I still seemed to require 8+ hours sleep which was disappointing), my wife not so much. She had quite a bit of fatigue and had the symptoms of "low carb flu", but they never went away. I would have thought we were in ketosis but I don't think either of us were (based on what I've read). In the end she ate some milk chocolate and felt better.

My confusion lies in the fact that it seems to me (from scouring the internet) that ketosis is either on or off. Assuming neither of us were in ketosis (we had zero of the symptoms), where was our energy coming from?

Or am I confusing "energy from fat intake" and "energy from stored fat in ketosis"?

Were the differences in my energy levels and those of my wife possibly due to me being better "fat-diet adapted"?

Sorry for the large post, thanks for listening...

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The chapter on fats in the Perfect Health Diet, 2nd edition provides lots of interesting information about ketosis and fat metabolism. I am reading it now and find it very useful, though a harder read than It Starts With Food.

Your body will burn carbs as much as they are available, but makes ketones as an alternative energy supply in the liver from short and medium chain fats. Your liver gets these fats directly from the digestive system if they are coming in, but (I think I've got this right) draws them from adipose tissue too.

You may have become fat-adapted quicker than your wife, but we do not recommend eating a low carb diet for most people. It is not necessary for fat loss and unless you have a neurological disorder, I don't know why you would want to live in ketosis most of the time. There are of course people who swear by it, but the science is not favorable to the general population going extremely low carb. Most people feel and perform better while eating some carbs. I sleep better when eating some sweet potato regularly.

By the way, the Perfect Health Diet notes that ketosis may be maintained with a "higher level" of carb intake if short-chain fats are consumed. The book recommends 1 or 2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day.

Sleeping 8-9 hours per day is normal when you are healthy and your hormones are well regulated. The increased energy that many people experience when they are eating right is about steadiness while awake, not needing less sleep.

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