If you have been calorie counting for a while and still not able to see the six packs, then keto might just do the trick.
Keto diet unlike other diets or eating protocol, forces your body to use body fat as fuel and it does this without the need to strictly count calories everyday.
Before we dive into what makes Keto so different than other diets, lets understand the Ketogenic Diet. If this is your first time dieting, I recommend reading our complete guide on losing weight and keep it off forever. It talks about all aspects of losing fat and will definitely make your weight loss journey.
What is Keto Diet?
The Ketogenic diet is a very low carb and high fat diet. Protein is kept moderate on this diet. The diet is radical in a sense as it involves drastically reducing carbohydrates to 50 grams (or even lower).
When the body gets deprived of carbohydrates (glucose) as it’s primary fuel, it is forced to switch to fat for energy. Fat offers more bank for the buck than equal amount of carbs. 1 gm of Fat provides twice as much energy (calories) than carbs.
Fat (1 gm) = 9 calories
Carb (1gm) = 4 calories
Protein (1gm) = 4 calories
However, our body cannot use fat directly for fuel. Our liver breaks down fat and produces ketones which works as a very efficient fuel for the body. Our brain though needs some glucose, which is where mighty liver again comes to the rescue. It can easily convert glycerol from fatty acids to glucose.
When and How Keto Diet Originated?
Keto Diet was first introduced in 1920 to treat children with difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy.
On a traditional diet, carbohydrates are converted into glucose which is then used as a fuel. It has been medically established that Glucose (Carbs) intake in epileptic patients leads to epileptic seizures. When these children were switched to a high fat, low carb diet, the seizures dramatically reduced.
Decanoic acid which is produced along with Ketones on a Ketogenic diet is what researchers believe to arrest the seizures in these children. Ketogenic diet is still used by many medical practitioners to treat epilepsy.
Research is still ongoing on its affect to fight cancer. Sugar is believed to fuel the cancer cells and depriving body of sugar may help to arrest cancer cells from multiplying.
Now that you know what is Keto diet and its benefits in medical science, let’s find out what makes Keto stand out from all other diets when it comes to losing weight.
Calories from all foods are not equal
The first law of thermodynamics (or the law of conservation of energy) states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Let’s apply this law to human body.
Weight Gain/ Loss = Energy (calories) in – Energy (calories) out
Or to put it simply,
Energy Surplus = Weight Gain
Energy Deficit = Weight Loss
At the surface, this law still applies when it comes to losing weight. But what most people don’t realize is that a calorie coming from carb doesn’t have the same response as calorie coming from fat in our body. Carbohydrates have very acute insulin response, whereas fat has the minimal among all macro-nutrients.
Insulin’s function is to move glucose to the cells in our body and store any excess glucose as body fat.
When you eat too many carbohydrates, your body is not able to utilize all of it. Our body just needs 1 teaspoon of sugar at any given time.
With insulin being high, your body doesn’t have any other option, other than storing the carbs as fat in the body.
Now, let’s change the situation where you are only consuming fats without any carbs.
Using fat as Fuel through Keto Diet
The insulin returns to baseline in presence of fat (and absence of carbs). Your body will try to utilize the fat for energy. Any excess fat can still get stored as fat, however it doesn’t happen easily:
- Fat takes time to digest by the body. Hence, all the fat that you eat doesn’t hit the blood stream at the same time. Fat provides a constant and steady source of energy when compared to carbohydrates.
- You must have observed this yourself that you can go longer between meals when you eat a meal high in fat. When insulin is at baseline, our blood glucose stays stable. Our body tries to utilize both fat coming from food and stored fat for energy.
- When insulin is low (at baseline), our body becomes more sensitive to ghrelin (hunger hormone) and leptin (satiety hormone). This means that you only get hungry when your body runs out of fuel. Also, when you eat and get full, your brain is easily signaled to stop eating.
- Most foods that we eat on Keto are also high in protein. This is specially true for fats coming from animal sources – fish, eggs, meat. Protein is very satiating macro, even more than fat. Also, protein has a highest thermic affect of food. What this simply means is that a good portion of energy that comes from protein gets ultilized in digestion process. This automatically helps you to get into a caloric deficit.
Looking at the above mechanism of digestion of food, we can safely say that it is difficult to overeat on a Keto diet.
So does that mean that you don’t have to count calories on Keto? The answer is yes and no. 🙂
Step by Step Approach For Getting Best Out of Keto
- When first starting out with Keto, you need to count calories for atleast a week to ensure that you are eating enough fat. Remember, you need to consume atleast 70% fat and keep your carbs under 5% to stay in ketosis. Rest of the calories can come from protein.
- Once you have fair idea of macro distribution of foods that you eat daily, you can stop counting calories.
- There will be a time, when you will hit a weight loss plateau. Trust me everyone does. Neither weight gain nor weight loss is a linear process. You cannot expect to see the scale going down everyday or every week. When this happens, you will have to start tracking your calories again.
- You would need to check your maintenance calories through an online calorie calculator. Once you determine, the calories that you need to maintain your current weight, start reducing your calorie intake. It is advisable not to cut down your calories by more than 20%. Even a modest 200-300 calories reduction in your daily calories, will restart the weight loss process.
Expert Tip: When you hit a weight loss plateau, you can try advance dieting methods like intermittent fasting. Push out your breakfast by 2-3 hours and you will start seeing the scale going down again.
Ketogenic diet is an advanced weight loss protocol and should be used only when you have at least tried cleaning up your nutrition.
You can easily benefit from small changes like cutting out sugar, processed and fast foods. The next approach for you should be to limit carb intake only from whole food sources. This in itself will put you on a good weight loss path.
Once you hit a plateau, it might be time to adopt advanced dieting protocol like Keto Intermittent fasting.
Your body doesn’t want to lose fat easily and resists losing weight on every diet protocol. It is through improvising with different diets that you can force your body to continue losing weight. That’s how I have done it and continue do it whenever I get above a certain body fat level. I am confident that you will benefit through this as well.
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- Influenced by article posted at HVMN – https://hvmn.com/blog/keto-diet/do-calories-matter-on-a-keto-diet#Volek2016
- Image attribution –Alpha Stock Images License: Creative Commons 3 Original Author: Nick Youngson Original Image: http://www.picpedia.org/highway-signs/c/calorie.html