How Long Can You Stay in Ketosis Safely?
Can It Be Permanent?
I started my journey to ketosis about 5 years ago, and while the initial attempts resulted in quite a few failures, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Once I managed to come up with a great meal plan and satisfy my cravings for treats without getting kicked out of ketosis, the benefits took over, and I never looked back.
However, like most keto dieters you come to a stage where you wonder if you can and should stick to a permanent ketogenic state. Is it safe or are there reasons to stop it on a regular basis?
These are all questions that I really struggled with, but over the years I have managed to get some great advice from other ketoers, dieticians and nutritionists.
And I thought it was well overdue that I share that information.
How Long CAN You Stay In Ketosis?
This is the big question that goes beyond working out how much weight you want to lose.
While some people only stay on the diet until they reach their optimum weight, others get so used to the food and mental energy that they decide to keep going with it.
So, what is the right answer?
There are a lot of debates if this type of diet should be a long-term plan due to the lower carb intake.
The argument is that in human history, such prolonged periods of low carb intake never really existed.
It’s certainly a good argument for choosing a seasonal approach to keto where you alternate between regular and low carb diets. It’s what our hunter-gatherer ancestors did when winter months meant very little carbs through plants, fruit and nuts were available.
However, studies have shown that the Inuit lived their lives in a permanent state of ketosis. There are also a few other Great Plains tribes that were at least seasonally on a ketogenic diet for their entire lives.
Children with epilepsy commonly go under keto therapy,  which has a profound effect on the frequency and intensity of seizures. Many of them stay with the diet for as long as 12 years to gain control over the symptoms.
So, there are indeed many examples of extremely long diet durations.
On the other hand, some health experts share that while a low-carb/keto diet (learn more) can produce short-term results, there can be various health issues related to staying on a low-carb diet.
The USDA’s recommendation is that 80% of a person’s food should typically be vegetables, fruits, and grains, and 20% should be protein. These non-protein foods are important for issues like micronutrients, digestion, and immune system.
So, here’s what I generally recommend.
Come up with a healthy weight loss goal and stick to the diet until you get there. As long as you don’t have any lasting side effects (see them here), your body will adapt.
And it’s just a matter of time for you to work out your food intake to get all the nutrients you need.
Once you have achieved your weight and general health goals, then it’s not a bad idea to take some intermittent breaks.
It adds diversity to your diet, and as long as you don’t start binging on candy bars and fast food, you shouldn’t see any major negative effects.
Also, if you work out a lot, especially high-intensity training, then extra carbs are necessary.
The occasional carb boost from healthy veggies is not going to be the end of the world, and can actually play a major role in boosting your immune system for the winter months.
Personally, I stuck to keto for 2 years before taking my first break. These days, I spend 9 months on keto and take 3 months off in the summer.
It’s a balance that works for me, and the best thing you can do is work out what works for you.
How Long SHOULD You Stay In Ketosis?
While permanent ketosis can result in weight/fat-loss, if it isn’t done correctly it can also cause some health hazards.
For example, some people can develop ketoacidosis which is a combination of very high levels of ketone and blood glucose at the same time.
In this condition, the blood becomes acidic and the person could risk experiencing major health complications.
This mainly affects people with a history of diabetes or alcoholism, but in rare instances can be triggered through excessive ketone supplement and carb intake over a prolonged period.
Generally speaking, ketosis is a state that you should continue until you hit your weight loss and health goals. This could be for several months or even years. The important thing is to stick with it as long as you don’t suffer lasting negative effects.
The keto diet does require some careful monitoring and planning, but once you manage to get all your nutrients from alternate low-carb sources, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue.
How to Stay in Ketosis and Maintain It
A lot of people say that staying in ketosis is actually harder than getting there in the first place. I first heard this while trying to get through a few days of the keto-flu and really had no idea how anything could be more difficult.
But in many ways it is true.
There are obvious things like giving in to cravings for a donut or candy bar.
Or maybe you just want to enjoy a couple of beers on a hot day?
However, there are other simple mistakes you can make with your meal plan and snacks that will very quickly kick you out of ketosis.
That’s why keto is more than just switching to low-carb foods. It’s a lifestyle that requires a commitment to many small changes.
Here are a few things that I recommend people do to help them achieve and stay in ketosis:
1. Moderate Your Protein Levels
This is a very common mistake for people that are trying to maintain ketosis. Eating too much of that steak will definitely get you out of the diet. Why?
Because when your protein level is too high while your carbohydrates are too low, your body will start to run gluconeogenesis.
This means that your body will start breaking down all the protein and then turn it into fuel.
To avoid this, you will need to up your intake of healthy fats (hint: the omegas and MCTs) so that your body will use it instead to make energy for your body.
2. You Need To Track Your Carbs
This might seem obvious, but when I talk to people who are struggling with getting to or maintaining ketosis, they generally cannot show me their food diary.
It was one of the first tips I ever got and is as important as coming up with a detailed meal plan. If you don’t write down exactly what you eat and drink on a daily basis, then it’s impossible to work out your carb intake.
Get into the habit of keeping a diary and working out at the end of the day how many carbs, protein, and fat you have taken in.
If you want to get really fancy, you can chart this out in a spreadsheet (that’s my inner nerd talking there).
3. Test Your Ketone Levels
Here is where it gets easier. The ketogenic diet is not like any other diet in the world, it's not something that you just keep doing blindly, you can actually measure it.
Our bodies produce ketones which burn the fat and turn it into energy, and guess what? We can measure ketones in our bodies by using simple urine test strips.
We review some of them right here if you haven’t got some already.
By using these strips, you can keep track of your ketone levels and see exactly how your body reacts to some changes in your meal plan.
With these, you aren't just flying blindly, and you can actually see the goal that is maintaining in ketosis. These strips are particularly helpful in the early stages when you might not know what the other signs of ketosis actually are.
I also found them highly motivating as I watched the changes appear each day.
4. Take Advantage Of Supplements
This is one of the biggest mistakes I made when I started out. I was so adamant that I would get there without any fancy supplements that I ended up struggling far longer than necessary.
Many ketone supplements are ideal for taking at different stages of your new lifestyle. In the first few days, they will give you that energy boost to clear the brain fog and constant fatigue.
At later stages, these supplements will help boost your ketosis, which is particularly helpful once your body fully adapts to ketosis and weight loss actually stalls (learn more here).
As long as you get high-quality supplements with 100% natural ingredients and no crap added in, then they will actually be extremely helpful with your goals.
How to Stay Motivated
If you're reading this, then you're probably looking for some keto motivation which is sometimes hard to come by especially considering how difficult it can be for some to abide by the rules of the diet.
First of all, don't stress out too much. Many people have failed to get into ketosis on their first time so it's not a big deal.
Throughout my keto years I have had my time of struggles and failures, but I did learn a couple of things that I would love to share with you all.
Here are some tips that I used to stay motivated throughout the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is ketosis bad for you long term?
No, ketosis is not bad for you in the long term, and in most cases it is far better than the now standard blood sugar rollercoaster.
All it means is that your body has adapted to sourcing energy from fat rather than glucose, and this is a state that can be maintained long term. It does require careful monitoring of your food intake to make sure you get all the important nutrients, but this is something you will learn with time.
How long does ketosis last?
Ketosis lasts as long as you maintain a low-carb diet.
As soon as you increase your carb intake again, you will quickly be kicked out of ketosis. The body will then switch back to glucose as an energy source.
How long does it take to lose weight in ketosis?
It can take anywhere from a week to a month to start losing weight in ketosis.
It’s important that you don’t misinterpret the initial loss of glycogen as weight loss. The reason is that glycogen binds to 3 parts water, and you can actually lose 6 pounds or more in a few days through loss of fluids.
But the actual fat loss will kick in pretty soon after your ketone levels increase.
Can you Stay in ketosis forever?
Yes, technically you can stay in ketosis forever, as long as you make sure you get all the vital nutrients.
From vitamins to minerals and fibre, you can quickly become deficient with symptoms of sickness becoming a daily struggle. No diet is worth getting sick for, so make sure you plan your meals carefully.
At this stage, you will understand that it’s possible to stay in ketosis indefinitely. Some people continue with it for many years with no complaints. But this does mean they have perfected their food intake.
Staying in ketosis long term is a lifestyle choice that can work perfectly fine for you, or else you might adapt a little and take intermittent breaks.
It all depends on your personal weight and health goals, but with the right attitude and careful planning, you can achieve all your physical and mental health goals.