Gluconeogenesis vs Ketogenic, it’s a comparison you might be thinking of if you’ve dived into the popular keto diet plan as of late. Maybe you’ve always been a fan, but let’s look at these two ideas a little closer, shall we?
Gluconeogenesis may be what is keeping your body into the state of ketosis, which is one the most common reasons that people end up struggling to lose weight on the keto diet. If you are looking to follow along with the keto diet but find that you are one of the people that are struggling, monitoring your protein intake is absolutely critical.
Eating too much protein will cause your body to continue to run off of glucose, which will keep your body out of ketosis. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you don’t eat enough protein, you will begin to lose your lean muscle mass, which will cause your body to take an even longer period of time to get into ketosis.
Figuring out which times are the best to consume your protein is also very important to help ensure that your body enters (and stays) in ketosis. If eaten at the wrong time, protein can cause spikes in your insulin levels, which will keep your body from eating at your fat stores for fuel. Once you learn how your protein intake changes your state of ketosis, you should be able to get a better understanding of when the best time for you to consume protein is.
What is gluconeogenesis?
Gluconeogenesis is ‘the formation of new glucose molecules in the body as opposed to glucose that is broken down from the long storage molecule glycogen. It takes place mostly in the liver, though it can also happen in smaller amounts in the kidney and small intestine’ (Source 1).
In other words, during gluconeogenesis, your body will turn non-sugar sources like lactate, glycerol, and amino acids into sugar, so that your body can run off of this sugar for fuel. When your body’s sugar stores are low (glycogen stores), your body will turn to the amino acids that you consume from protein and your muscle mass to convert to fuel for your body to use; this is especially common when your protein intake is too high or if you are under stress.
When your body starts to use protein as a source of energy, it will keep your body from entering the state of ketosis. This reason is actually why some new ketogenic starters sometimes see an increase in their body fat percentages and a decrease in their muscle mass percentages during the first few weeks of following the keto diet. Even if you decide to cheat on your keto diet and have a high carb day, your body will have to go through the entire process of entering and exiting gluconeogenesis before entering the state of ketosis.
Why is gluconeogenesis stopping me from being in ketosis?
Simply put, eating too much protein while following the keto diet will keep your insulin levels high, which will limit the results you may be expecting to get from following the ketogenic diet. You may find that your weight loss is stalling, you aren’t gaining any muscle, or you may find that you aren’t losing any fat; this can all be explained because your body is running off of protein rather than running off of your fat stores and your ketones.
Even though you’re not consuming carb that make your insulin levels spike, your insulin levels will still spike a bit while you’re following the keto diet (in comparison to your blood sugar levels while you’re fasting). This is because some of the types of amino acids that are in the proteins that you’re eating will cause insulin to be released after you’ve consumed the protein.
When your insulin levels are higher than they normally are, your body will have a harder time getting into ketosis, since insulin keeps fat stores from being used up by your body for energy. When your body isn’t getting its energy from glycogen (sugar stores) or fat, the only other source it has to turn to for energy is gluconeogenesis.
Should I just stop eating protein?
This doesn’t mean that you should stop eating protein entirely- you still need protein to be able to maintain your muscle mass and keep your body healthy. The key to staying in ketosis is finding the balance for your body- figuring out what your macros are and sticking to those macros. If you are looking to get out of ketosis, all you need to do is consume enough protein for your body to go into gluconeogenesis, which will replace your once depleted glycogen stores. But if you’re looking to stay in the state of ketosis, finding enough protein for your body to run off of fat but still maintain your muscle mass is absolutely essential to healthy weight loss.
How much protein should I eat to stay in ketosis?
If you’re not an endurance athlete or you don’t spend a whole lot of time being active, you generally will follow along with these macronutrient percentages for the ketogenic diet:
- 75% fat
- 20% protein
- 5% carbohydrates
- You can figure out your personalized macro percentages by using a macro calculator or a keto macro calculator
- Once you figure out how many calories you should be eating on a daily basis to lose (or maintain) your weight, enter the above macro percentages; doing this will allow you to figure out how many grams total you can eat in each nutrient group.
- After figuring out your macros, you can keep track of your ketone levels to make sure that your macros are getting you into and keeping you in ketosis. Make sure that you stick your macros every day because even with the smallest variation or smallest cheat, you will risk the chance of your body going out of ketosis.
These percentages are a general rule of thumb and shouldn’t count as what you specifically follow, because your personal macronutrients are based upon your own personal measurements and lifestyle.
Here are some steps that you can take to help you figure out what specific macros you should be following:
As you lose weight, your macros will change, so make sure that you keep re-calculating your macros and your calorie needs to ensure that you’re keeping up with your changing body; I would recommend re-calculating bi-weekly.
How are my glucose levels different when I’m eating keto versus when I’m eating a normal diet?
When you follow the average American diet, your body receives plenty of glucose from all of the starches and carbs that you consume, from flour to potatoes to corn to donuts. Even if you were already following a healthy diet, there are a lot of naturally occurring sugars that you can find in fruits and such that contribute to the process of gluconeogenesis in your body.
By following the ketogenic diet, you are not only cutting back on your starch and sugar intake but rather you are cutting back on your entire carbohydrate consumption. When your body isn’t being fed carbohydrates, your body will start to create glucose from other resources. This process uses a lot of excess energy from your body, which will quite literally reserve the process of how your body normally got its energy.
How much protein should I eat if I want to be in ketosis?
Depending upon your macros, the protein requirements that your body has changes depending upon your lifestyle and how many calories from fat and carbs you’re consuming. When you follow the ketogenic diet, you’re consuming your carb intake, which means that you have to eat more protein to help ensure that you’re maintaining your muscle mass.
You can always use a macro calculator to help you figure out what your specific macros are, but here’s a general rule of thumb about how many grams of protein you should be eating depending upon your daily activity level:
- Looking to build muscle mass
If you are someone who is sedentary, it’s recommended that you eat between 0.6 grams and 0.8 grams of protein per a pound of lean muscle mass.
If you are someone who is active, it’s recommended that you consume between 0.8 grams and 1.0 grams of protein per a pound of lean muscle mass.
If you’re looking to build your muscle mass, it’s recommended that you consume between 1.0 gram and 1.2 grams of protein per a pound of lean muscle mass.
Keep in mind that these ranges are numbers that are recommended to a general audience; you may have to experiment with these ranges to find the right amount of protein for your body. If you don’t eat enough protein, your body is going to maintain muscle mass. However, if you eat too much protein, your body is going to run off of gluconeogenesis, keeping your body out of a ketogenic state for a longer period of time.
How do I get my body out of gluconeogenesis and into ketosis?
Gluconeogenesis is the process your body uses to turn non-carb resources into glucose to use for energy. While this process can help to save your life if you are in a sort of starvation situation, it can be the reason why you aren’t losing fat, gaining muscle, or entering the state of ketosis.
One of the simplest ways that you can get your body out of gluconeogenesis and into ketosis is by making sure that you’re eating the right amount of protein every day. Getting your hands on a macro tracking will really help make the entire macro tracking process a lot easier and a lot more accurate, in comparison to you just guessing. It’s recommended that you eat between 0.6 grams to 1.2 grams of protein per a pound of lean muscle mass every day, depending upon your activity level.
Another great tip to use if you’re looking to switch your body from gluconeogenesis into ketosis is to try out intermittent fasting paired with a low-carb/high-fat diet. Intermittent fasting helps to not only improve your body’s insulin sensitivity but will run through your stores of glycogen; burning through all of your glycogen stores will help to increase your body’s chances of burning off of ketones and fat for energy, rather than burning off of protein for glucose.
How long will take for my body to get into ketosis?
It takes your body a longer period of time to get into ketosis than it does for your body to get into gluconeogenesis. Your body has been trained for its entire life to find its fuel through carbs, so it will take your body a lot more time and effort to train itself to start running off of fats and ketones. The estimates we have listed below are exactly that- estimations. Depending upon your activity level, what your daily diet looks like, and how long you’ve been following a low carb diet, it may take your body a little bit longer (or even less time) than the numbers we have listed down below.
Stage one of getting your body into ketosis: 6 to 32 hours of eating extremely low amounts of carb
While you’re getting through these first six to thirty-two hours, your body is going to be finding its energy by glycogen.
Stage two of getting your body into ketosis: Two to ten days of eating extremely low amounts of carb
While you’re getting through these next few days, your glycogen levels will become low and gluconeogenesis will be the process that your body uses to provide itself with energy. The time frame for this second stage is so large because it can vary depending upon how much protein you’re eating and if you have a lot of fat to burn (or not). If you are someone who is at a healthy weight, your body will take more time getting into ketosis.
Stage three of getting your body into ketosis: After ten days of eating extremely low amounts of carb
Your body will begin to slow down in breaking down protein for energy and will start to increase its use of fats and ketones for energy.
If you’re having a hard time getting your body into gluconeogenesis, the answer may be because you’re eating too much protein. Keeping track of your daily macro intake to ensure that you aren’t eating too much protein is critical if you’re looking to get your body into ketosis. However, eating too little protein will make you lose muscle mass, which will add onto the length of time that’s needed to get into ketosis.
MEDICAL REVIEW COMMENTS FROM DR. ROBIN WALSH, BASC, ND
Gluconeogenesis and Ketosis
Last updated: December 16, 2019
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