Am I still fat adapting or is keto not for me?

(UneTomate) #1

Looking for some advice here.

I’ve been doing a very low-carb diet for four weeks now (probably not strict enough to be called “keto - I estimate <50g carbs/day) to try to treat some PCOS-like symptoms. I haven’t restricted my food/calorie intake at all, I’m getting in tons of good fat, and have been feeling fine until the past five days - but now I feel incredibly weak.

I work a physical job, and when I went in on Wednesday, I just felt drained. Everything was so much effort, and my muscles were shaking with exercise I would otherwise be fine with. Same story on Thursday, if not worse. It’s now Sunday and I’m so fatigued it’s a struggle hold my phone to type this. Once I rest for a while I feel okay, but after five minutes on my feet I feel like I’ve gone for a run: out of breath, weak at the knees, fatigued.

I’m not mentally tired at all, though. I don’t want to sleep, I just can’t use my muscles!

I haven’t changed my diet at all in the past week so I’m wondering what’s up for me to be feeling this way now. I’ve read that it can take some weeks to be fully fat-adapted, but why did I feel fine before and not now? Is this my body telling me that keto is not for me? It sure feels like it! If it doesn’t improve I feel like I’m going to have to get off of low carb for the sake of work, so I’m just throwing this out here to see if this is normal and will pass.

I know salt can be a problem. I was very vigilant about salt in the first week to avoid keto-flu. As of yesterday I’ve been lacing my food with salt, drinking lots of water and I took a magnesium supplement this morning. However, I don’t feel any the better for it.

I’d really like to still continue with the diet, but I’m on the fence because I feel so tired that it’s impractical. I’d very much appreciate any advice/shared experiences. Ultimately, I’m wondering if this is a phase, or if low-carb does not work for me and I need to quit.

Thanks in advance!


<50g is definitely enough for a benefit from most things, but it may also be enough to stop you from adapting. What you described is your metabolism walking the line in between the carb and fat powered worlds. Easy enough way to test that, eat like 100g carbs one day and see if you feel better, if that’s what it is, you’ll feel it almost immediately. If that’s the case than you’re going to have to drop your carbs down more (preferably to keto levels) at least until you adapt. Then if you wanted you could come up a little. Your metabolism and level of physical activity dictate how many carbs you can get away with.

Really can’t make that call until you eat keto! From your description you’re eating LCHF, but not Keto.

“Tons” is too much! Fat isn’t unlimited even for Keto. When you’re carb powered you can’t eat unlimited carbs right? We’re no different!

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #3

The borderline between “LCHF” and “Keto” is pretty nebulous. The tags are simply convenient terms for a level of carbohydrate intake that in either case is still supposed to be below your personal carbohydrate tolerance threshold. That threshold is the level above which your insulin response to your carbohydrate intake inhibits ketogenesis in the liver and the free flow of fatty acids out of adipose tissue to be metabolised.

As long as you eat below your threshold, you will be producing ketones. You have to, because there won’t be enough glucose (carbohydrate) coming in to meet all the body’s needs, so some of the slack will have to be made up with ketone bodies.

It sounds as though you are going through the period of metabolic adaptation we call “keto-adaptation” or “fat-adaptation.” Two things (at least two, anyway) are going on: the mitochondria in your muscles are recovering from years of oxidative damage from a glucose-heavy diet, and the metabolic pathway that metabolises fatty acids is being reawakened (it shuts down after a period of disuse). In the meantime, your muscles are limping along (so to speak) on ketones, when what they really want is fatty acids. This process of adaptation cannot be rushed, alas, but you should be starting to feel a bit better soon, and back to your old level of strength by the time you’ve been eating a ketogenic diet for six to eight weeks.

In the meantime, you can try increasing the quantity of fat you eat, to see if the extra energy helps. This is not the time to be stinting on calories. You’ve already done the other things I would have suggested.

Only you can decide whether going through keto-adaptation works for you or not. A lot of athletes have decided it was worth the trouble, because it increases endurance phenomenally, rendering you essentially bonk-proof. But just as many other athletes have decided not to switch to a ketogenic diet, because it would mean performing less well for a few events before their performance returned, and they couldn’t stomach that idea.


This video might be helpful.


It does have a huge chance you aren’t fat adapted yet… Even if you eat below your personal ketosis carb limit (we don’t know that, 50g is high for maybe most of us), 4 weeks may not be enough. Most of us need more as far as I know (and it can change for a long time as I’ve read but couldn’t experience. I had a single sudden change after 7 weeks).

It’s VERY early to decide “keto isn’t for me” when you probably don’t even do keto, it was only 4 weeks and who knows how you eat and what your body prefers? Ketosis or fat adaptation isn’t a switch that makes things better (okay, fatigue is not just not better but worse, there are reasons for that on keto in the beginning), many of us experienced that simply keto (or simply being <50g carbs and whatever own rules you had this far) isn’t enough for us. Maybe you eat too little or too much or not the right amount of protein or not the right type of food… Even without conscious restrictions, some people eat too little. I don’t know your energy need or what “tons of fat” means for you. Some people need to cut out certain items many others gleefully eat on keto.
I would be more patient but maybe I would search for a way to make my woe better if I see a way. I like experiments as I am not patient with not feeling right.
Maybe if you tell us how much and what you eat and your stats, we may spot some potential problems. Maybe not, these things may be very individual, see the problematic items for some people that is fine and dandy on keto for others. There are trigger foods. Or maybe too satiating ones that keep us eating enough. Listening to hunger/satiation signals is nice but they aren’t always reliable. I know what food to choose to have the same perfect satiation while eating way less, way more or the same as my energy need. At least temporarily, my body has the habit to catch up soon if I eat too little but I tricked it for a while a few times. Some people manage to undereat for a long time on keto and losing fat even when they are already have no excess fat to lose. Others can eat insane amounts of some food items on keto, seriously overeating. So our signs aren’t always reliable.

I for one don’t think keto is for everyone just that it’s very early to decide it’s nor for you. Maybe you need more time, maybe you need some changes, probably less carbs…

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #6

Other than that you haven’t said anything about yourself, so it’s difficult to give you specific advice. You’ll need to tell us lots more: for example age, sex, size/height/weight, health issues, etc. Although Phinney and Volek define nutritional ketosis as ‘sub-50 grams of carbs per day’, that’s just an arbitrary number for normally healthy/fit people. The max carbs you can consume and remain in ketosis may be far fewer. It depends just how insulin resistant you happen to be and that depends on how much damage you’ve suffered from eating SAD for years/decades. The general recommendation on the forum is sub-20 grams per day, but many folks find they must go even lower to remain consistently in ketosis, some right down to zero carbs.

My guess is that you’re not in ketosis and have not yet been or at best in/out. The fatigue you’re experiencing is most likely due to what I call ‘running out of gas’. You’ve cut carbs to the point where you’re not getting sufficient fuel from them but your glucose/insulin levels remain sufficient to prevent ketosis and fat burn taking up the slack. @lfod14 suggested you eat 100 grams of carbs to see if you feel better. I think you certainly would, but even 100 grams of carbs is only going to give you 400 kcal and you’ll still run out of gas within a few hours.

Your better alternative is just go immediately to sub-20 grams of carbs (the fewer the better) and spend another couple of days feeling lethargic. That will pass as ketones first and then fatty acids kick in to fuel your activities. You will definitely notice when it starts to happen. Don’t expect a miracle, though, it will take time for your muscles to recognize ketones and fat as fuel, so for a while (weeks, months) they will utilize it only inefficiently. They will utilize it, so you won’t keep running out of gas every day. But more importantly your brain and heart will start using ketones immediately and efficiently.

Best wishes.

(UneTomate) #7

Thank you to everyone for your replies! I will address your individual questions, but first it seems I should give you more information about myself.

I am 23, female (obviously). I’m not overweight or trying to lose weight by going low carb (5ft 7in, 130lb). I would consider myself fit but I’m not an athlete or aspiring to be. I have a family history of PCOS and have been showing all the right symptoms, but the doctors want to medicate me instead of cure me. So, I’m trying to cure myself before getting on drugs for years.

I am severely allergic to dairy and gluten, and so I’m not coming off the SAD and onto keto. I’ve been eating no dairy, no gluten, no refined sugar for a couple of years, and the number of processed foods I can even eat is very limited due to my allergies (no “may contain”s or “produced in a factory with”).

I wanted to try keto/low carb, but due to all my of my food issues I can’t spend even more time/energy weighing and counting exactly how many grams of macros I eat a day. I already have to use seperate plates, cutlery, and cupboards from everyone else in the house! Any more would be unsustainable.

So, I say I eat less than 50g of carbohydrates a day simply because I don’t know but it seems like a reasonable guess. It may well be less than that. The two basic rules I’m going by is:

  • No fruit (apart from a small amount of berries), only above-ground vegetables (apart from swede/rutabaga or carrot when making stock). Apart from that, I eat as much meat as I want and make sure that I cover everything in fat.
  • If in doubt, eat foods with less than 15% net carbs.
    My only real exception is peanutbutter! I’m used to sticking to diets strictly, so I haven’t really deviated from it. Quantity-wise, I eat just as much as I did before.

So, a typical day for me:
Black coffee and a hadful of nuts (pecans, walnuts, brazils).
Bacon x2 and omelette with added coconut cream.
Soup (e.g chicken w/ green beans, leaves, peas) + veggies and mayo dip.
Tea and a spoonful of pb.
Stew and veggies (beef, lamb, mushrooms, beef tallow, with a little onion/tomato paste - roasted broccoli and cauliflower with olive oil).
Possibly 3 or 4 straw/raspberries.

I feel like I’m in ketosis because I experience many side-effects people often talk about (insomnia, keto-flu, decreased sugar cravings, bad breath, a changed feeling of ‘hunger’, did I mention insomia?). I think I lost a couple pounds of water weight at the beginning but I doubt it’s true weight loss.

Taking all of your comments together, it looks like I might need to try going even lower carb or just stick it out with what I’m doing. I want it to work for me, it’s just difficult practically!

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #8

Thanks for further details. Based on those details, I suggest you do the following, assuming you don’t want to weigh anything. Cut out all remaining fruit and veggies. Cut out all nuts. Cut out the coconut cream and mayo dip. Cut out peanut butter. All of these foods might/can contain significant carbs. So if you don’t want to weigh them, the easiest thing is just stop eating them.

I still think you haven’t been in ketosis or at best maybe in and out, mostly out. If you eliminate everything I suggest, I think you will get into ketosis. You need to stay in ketosis consistently for a few weeks to give your metabolism time to start adapting. As you adapt, you will start feeling less lethargic. Then you can start trying to add back the stuff I suggested you cut out. A little at a time!

Search and read labels! Coconut cream can contain a little or a lot of carbs! Nuts all have a lot of carbs, but macadamia has much better fat/protein ratios and less carbs than other nuts. Peanut butter is probably a loser. If you want a veggie, try bok choy. Some folks say berries are OK, but just remember, all fruit is just sugar water.

If you want motivation to do this, as @collaroygal suggested above, check out this. Keto is worth the effort!