Can you really eat fat to lose fat? While this concept flies in the face of popular dieting wisdom--and aisles of products marketed as “low fat,” or “no fat”--numerous studies show that a low-carb, high-fat diet is highly effective when it comes to weight loss.
Put simply, your body has two options when it comes to fuel for energy production: sugar or fat. A keto diet helps the body withdraw from dependence on sugar and begin producing the necessary molecules in the liver to process fat (both stored and consumed) for fuel.
Why Is Keto Ideal for Weight Loss?
When most people think of dieting, white-knuckled self-control and deprivation come to mind. The ketogenic diet, on the other hand, is just the opposite experience. Without the rollercoaster of sugar spikes and crashes, intense “hangry” cravings, and wildly fluctuating energy levels, it’s easy to manage portions, eat only when you are truly hungry--and do it all with a smile.
When glycogen (sugar) stores are depleted, the body begins producing molecules known as “ketones” in the liver, for the express purpose of converting fat into fuel. With a sustainable, accessible source of energy, cravings for sugar disappear, replaced by a sense of satiety that allows you to eat only when hungry.
Optimizing the Keto Diet for Weight Loss
There are a few things you should pay particular attention to if you want to lose weight with a keto diet.
When you begin a keto diet, avoid counting calories and focus on your body’s hunger signals. Eat when you’re hungry, stop as soon as you’re full, and stick to the diet. For many people, this is enough to facilitate consistent weight loss. If you find yourself at a plateau as time goes by, take a look at the following areas first, before you restrict calories.
Hit the Sweet Spot with Protein
If weight loss is your goal, you’ll want to make doubly sure that your protein intake isn’t falling short of 15% or in excess of 30%. Not only is protein sating, but it helps you preserve and build muscle mass (critical for weight loss and general health). Excessive protein can, however, be converted into glycogen stores.
Further Reduce Carbs
Everyone is a little different when it comes to carb tolerance. While you’ll definitely want to keep carb intake below 50 grams of net carbs per day, many people find that reducing carbohydrate intake to 20 grams of net carbs per day, especially during the initial months of a keto diet, can improve weight loss.
Pay Attention to Carb Creep
It can be all too easy to nibble at high-carb foods, thinking that the tiny amounts won’t make much of a difference. Don’t be fooled by “sugar free” labels, and don’t “cheat,” since even small amounts of carbohydrates can make a big difference over time.
Adding more medium-chain triglycerides--most commonly coconut oil--to your diet can help spur weight loss during a ketogenic diet. Why? MCTs are easy to digest, unlikely to be stored as additional fat, and encourage ketone production in the liver.
Make Sure You’re Staying in Ketosis
Use blood tests, urine strips, or a breath analyzer to make sure you’re consistently staying in ketosis. If you’re not, take a look at carb and fat intake, carb creep, and try taking BHB supplements to boost your levels of ketones.
Take a close look at the type of calories you’re consuming. Are you eating real, unprocessed foods that align with the macronutrient percentages of a keto diet? If not, readjust and realign. If your diet is on target, try reducing the quantity of calories you consume gradually.
Keto Diet Expectations and Reality
What can you expect from a keto diet and weight loss? It’s important to stay positive and remember that weight loss isn’t a straightforward process. Try not to gauge your success in terms of a number on a scale, but rather in how how your clothes fit and how your body composition changes.
Expect Some Weight Fluctuation
You should expect some fluctuations as your body adjusts to the keto diet. Keep in mind that even minor increases or overages of carbohydrates can impact how much glycogen--and water--your body stores, which can cause rapid spikes in weight gain. There’s no need to worry though--as you reign in your carb intake, your body will release the stored glycogen and temporary water weight.
Chances are, your body has been accustomed to relying on carbohydrates and sugars for a long time. Be kind to yourself and patient with your body as you work toward your goals, and remember that your body may just need some time to adjust to the keto diet before you see results.
Consider Your Target Weight
Expect weight loss to naturally slow and taper as you reach your target weight. Pay attention to your body’s signals, your body’s composition of fat and muscle, and take your health into key consideration as you decide whether or not you want to push beyond a particular weight plateau.
Remember the Stress and Sleep Factors
Keep in mind that your success in losing weight with the keto diet is tied to several other important factors, including your stress level (stress is directly correlated to an uptick in cortisol, which facilitates fat storage) and how much sleep you’re getting each night. In addition to following a keto diet, make sure to manage your stress and get plenty of sleep.
The keto diet has helped many people reach their weight loss goals through changing the way they use energy--not white-knuckling it! If your goals include fat loss, a high-fat, low-carb diet may be right for you.