Do you experience spurts of energy that peak after a meal and dip drastically when you go too long without eating?
Do your friends and family stash snacks around, so you never cross into the hangry zone and become a monster?
I get it.
I was there too.
Before I knew any better, I followed the age-old advice that you should eat five or six small meals throughout the day. Yet somehow, the only time I had enough energy to do anything was when I was eating.
While several different factors can affect how tired you feel, your diet may need an adjustment if you can relate to the situation I just described.
So to help you do that, I’ll share what could be to blame and how to fix things in today’s guide.
I’ll also touch on how your energy levels change as you transition to a keto diet to understand better what to expect.
To start, it’s important to understand what’s going on first.
How A High-Carb Diet Makes You Tired
In the Standard American Diet (SAD), carbs are king.
If a meal doesn’t start with a carbohydrate base (think: pasta or rice), it usually has them on the side (i.e., mashed potatoes, corn or beans).
The problem is a high intake of this macronutrient can be detrimental to your energy levels.
When you eat carbs, the starches found in them are converted to simple sugar molecules or glucose.
Your body then absorbs the glucose and gives you an energy boost.
But to do this, it needs insulin, which is produced by your pancreas, to move that glucose from your bloodstream to your cells to use them.
So as your blood glucose levels rise post-tacos, insulin is released to help carry this new influx of energy to important cells in your body.
This process also helps lower your blood glucose levels back to normal.
Once your body has enough, it will signal your liver and muscle tissues to store the extra energy or glucose later. Insulin also sends another signal to your liver, knowing your glucose stores are now full.
But this is only if everything goes well. If you have insulin resistance or reduced insulin sensitivity, your body struggles to absorb this energy.
It also has a hard time handling insulin properly and needs more of it to get the job done and usher those glucose molecules into your cells. Your pancreas senses this problem and creates a surge of insulin to keep up with the demands and level out your blood sugar levels.
Even still, it’s not always enough to tackle the job. Sometimes you’re left with excess glucose in your bloodstream.
When this happens, you experience a huge surge in energy right away, but a big drop quickly follows it in the opposite direction.
You’re left feeling sluggish and craving more energy in the form of sugar and carbs.
And you don’t need to have insulin resistance (IR) for this to happen. In my case, I felt every bit of the insulin spike after I ate, but after many tests, I was still not considered insulin resistant.
So since I kept experiencing these crazy highs and lows throughout the day, and I always felt tired and hungry, I decided to do a little experiment:
I tapered my carbs and added healthy fats in their place to see how things would change. And they did.
I noticed a drastic improvement in my energy levels. I no longer experienced afternoon energy slumps that made it impossible to concentrate and finish my work later in the day.
I didn’t need to snack 24/7 either.
And I had sustained energy instead of being unwillingly strapped into the carb-powered energy roller coaster I was used to.
So how and why does this virtual switch from carbs to fat give you more energy?
The Science Behind How a Ketogenic Diet Improves Energy
With the normal SAD, your body is taught to run on carbs.
It becomes the primary fuel source, and you feel tired and sluggish until you get your next refuelling of carbs (aka sugar).
This way of eating creates a vicious cycle that can lead to overeating, low energy and fat storage.
You’ll face zero of these issues on a ketogenic diet.
Instead of fueling with carbs, you’ll be draining your body of its excess stores and fueling it with healthy fats.
The average person with SAD eats around 225 grams of carbs every day. A keto diet limits this to less than 50 grams.
This forces your body to switch to a “fat adapted” state, relying on fat stores instead of carbs for energy.
Your body won’t scream at you for more energy; it can tap into its stores (your fat).
You’ll enjoy a constant, steady stream of keto energy instead of dips throughout the day because you’re not spiking your blood sugar levels.
Then you’ll be able to kiss those afternoon energy slumps and the dreaded hangry annoying your family and coworkers goodbye. But to get to this glorious point, you need to transition from relying on carbs for fuel to running on fat.
If you’re considering a keto diet, check out this guide to get started on the right foot.
To give you an idea of what to expect, let’s talk about your energy levels during your keto transition next.
Keto Energy: Here’s What You Can Expect During the Transition
Depending on how carb-heavy your diet was, to begin with, the transition to keto can be easy, or it may be a bit of a challenge, and this can affect your energy levels.
Suppose you’re one of the unfortunate few. In that case, the transition can cause you to experience the keto flu, which feels just like the normal flu (think: stomach aches, nausea, irritability, confusion, brain fog, etc.).
This is just your body’s way of transitioning from using carbs for energy to ketosis.
You may not feel your best during this time, and you probably won’t have much energy.
It’s best to take it easy and go light on mental and physical activities as you make the transition.
This period may last one or two days or as many as several weeks for some. But the fact to keep in mind is that it’s only temporary.
Once you switch to ketosis, you won’t experience these symptoms or drastic changes in energy levels.
With that said, most people start to notice a difference in their energy levels right after they’ve made the transition.
This means you could start to feel better within a few days or in about two weeks.
And, unlike carb-induced energy spikes, this newfound energy will continue to last for as long as you stay in ketosis.
I have a word of caution for my fellow female readers, which I’ll go over in the next section about timing their keto transition with their menstrual cycles.
Guys, you can skip ahead to see how exogenous ketones can help you on your keto journey.
Keto Energy and Female Hormones
If you’re in your childbearing years, your cycle can cause huge fluctuations in your energy levels.
In the first two weeks leading up to ovulation, your estrogen levels are higher, which means you’ll have more energy, a better mood, and, for some, you’ll even be more outgoing. But once ovulation hits and you start to enter the third and fourth weeks of your cycle, all bets are off.
As your body drops in estrogen and increases in progesterone, your energy levels usually take a nosedive.
You’re also more likely to be hungrier and crave carbs and sugary fixes during this time too.
This is why it’s especially important to up your intake of fat and protein (only slightly here) to combat pesky carb cravings in the third and fourth week of your cycle.
But it’s also a good idea to avoid transitioning to a keto diet during this timeframe.
Since you’re already low on energy, it’s not the smartest to tax your body further by forcing it to switch energy sources simultaneously.
You’re better off transitioning during the first or second week of your cycle, so by the time your third week rolls around, you’ll have the sustained energy to get through it without needing quick carb fixes.
But if you need a little help, there’s also one more secret to making the keto transition much easier: exogenous ketones.
Everything You Need to Know About Supplementing with Exogenous Ketones
When your body stops using carbs for energy, it starts producing ketones from stored fat.
You can learn more about ketones here, but for our purposes today, know these are produced when your body breaks down fat for energy.
The molecules are then used as fuel for both your brain and body.
So when you reduce your carb intake, your body creates these ketones to give you energy. However, this only happens once you’ve made the keto transition.
Until then, your body will still try to figure out what’s going on and which energy source to use. This is exactly what leads to the crummy keto flu.
One super-easy way to combat this sometimes-sluggish transition is to supplement with exogenous ketones.
Exogenous means “outside of the body”, so exogenous ketones are simply ketones you can add to your diet to help facilitate ketosis faster.
This will help you feel better physically and give you more energy; it can also combat the brain fog and low mood that may come with the transition.
You don’t have to wait to have the physical and mental energy keto promises to deliver.
Exogenous ketones are also ideal for when you go a little overboard on either protein or carbs (hello, holidays!).
By supplementing with them, you can transition back to ketosis faster, reducing those uncomfortable transition side effects along the way.
Keto Energy is the Sustained Energy You Need Right Now
Now that you have a better idea of how carbs can affect your energy levels, you’ll be better equipped to fix the situation ASAP.
So if you’re tired of feeling tired and want nothing more than to kiss the hangries goodbye, switch your primary fuel source from carbs to healthy fats, and you’ll enjoy sustained energy in keto.
Ladies, keep in mind that while it may be tempting to switch to a keto diet right away, if you’re doing so in the third or fourth week of your cycle, it will make the transition much harder.
Reconsider this idea and shoot for your first or second week instead, and thank me later.
You may also find that your energy levels aren’t as high as you expected during the transition, and that’s okay — your body is transitioning fuel sources, which is no easy feat.
Give it some time, and make sure you’re hitting both your macros and calories, and you’ll be in ketosis in no time.