Keto For Weight Loss...The Truth RevealedJan 01, 2020
The amount of information circulating about keto on the internet, social media, in bookstores, etc. is insane! There are so many different ‘experts’ out there telling you how to follow a ‘proper’ keto diet, why you need to do it this way or that way, or giving you 100 different reasons why you’re not seeing results.
I get it - trust me. Even after years of following a low-carb lifestyle, I still get overwhelmed by all the information out there and have to reel myself back in when it comes to focusing on the specific goal at hand.
Here’s the thing...keto is powerful for many different reasons. Heck, there’s new research coming out weekly on the benefits of keto for brain health, blood sugar regulation, disease prevention and treatment, anti-aging, fertility, cancer prevention and treatment...the list goes on.
BUT...huge BUT here…
If you’re implementing a ketogenic diet for the main goal of losing weight (or more importantly, losing body fat), then you have to understand that keto is NOT a ‘magic weight loss pill’ and I’m sorry to break it to you, but...
Being in ketosis does not necessarily = weight loss
Ketones themselves are not the cause of fat loss, they are simply the result of fat metabolism.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking...then why would I follow a keto diet if my main goal is to lose weight?
Well, following a low-carb, keto diet (and being in a state of ketosis) can make it easier to lose weight for several different reasons that I'll get into in a minute...
Realize though, every person is different and in my coaching experience, there seems to be a spectrum where keto works great for some people, and not so great for others.
Generally speaking though, I think everyone can benefit from going through a period of fat adaptation (AKA getting into a state of ketosis and hanging out there for a while) because this helps to build metabolic flexibility.
Metabolic Flexibility is simply the ability to respond or adapt to conditional changes in metabolic demand. In basic terms, this just means that your body has the ability to efficiently shift back and forth between the two primary fuel sources: fat (in the form of fatty acids and ketones) and carbohydrates (in the form of glucose).
Okay, back to the spectrum I was talking about...
On one side of the spectrum, we have those who are sedentary and overweight/obese.
On the other side, we have those who are active and lean.
And then there's obviously people floating between the two extremes.
Generally speaking, if you're closer to the side that is sedentary/overweight, you'll probably thrive using keto as a weight (fat) loss tool. If you're closer to the other side and generally active and leaner, then keto may not be the best option when it comes to fat loss.
To piggyback off the above, there tend to be differences as well when it comes to males vs. females and their overall success with keto. This is one of the main reasons why I created my Keto For Women program, to help women pinpoint some of the areas that may need a bit more TLC compared to males.
But again, we're talking in general terms here -- there will always be outliers and specific scenarios that warrant different approaches.
So does that mean those who are leaner and more active should never try a keto diet? No, that's not at all what I'm saying (hence everything I mentioned earlier about metabolic flexibility).
Plus, there are some people who are closer to the right side of the spectrum (lean/active) who do struggle with things like blood sugar control, carb and sugar addiction, and may overall feel better or adhere better with lower carbs.
BUT, in the context of fat loss, someone who is on the leaner side and more active, may do better with more carbs in their diet because if they are trying to drop more body fat and are already pretty lean, they probably actually should be focusing on building more muscle and fueling recovery so that they can build a leaner, more 'defined' physique. Again, we're talking in the realm of fat loss here.
Anyways, no matter where you fall on the above spectrum, it's probably a good idea to understand some of the practical benefits of a keto diet for weight/fat loss.
So let's chat about 'em...
Practical Benefits of a Keto Diet for Weight Loss
1. Appetite Control and Increased Dietary Compliance
Trying to lose weight + constantly hungry throughout the day = recipe for disaster.
Those who struggle with blood sugar regulation and/or notice that carbs/sugar tend to increase hunger may benefit from a keto/low-carb protocol.
Controlling appetite is the #1 step in any successful fat loss protocol. If we’re hungry all day long, how the heck can we expect to follow through with sustaining a diet?
By stabilizing and improving blood sugar and hormonal regulation, it allows for reduced cravings, increased satiety, and usually, less of a struggle to go longer periods of time without eating [*] -- which could contribute to an easier time sustaining a calorie deficit for fat loss.
Keto is very powerful at training your body (and mind) to be able to fast for longer periods during meals. It’s literally a ‘fast-mimicking diet’ in the sense that it mimics the benefits of fasting while still eating tasty, nutritious foods. Some people thrive with incorporating fasting into their diet, others might not...again, it's very individualized.
2. Elevates and Stabilizes Energy, Mood, and Focus
Once you get past the first few days of limiting carbohydrates and start to produce ketones, you begin to feel the effects of what I like to call ‘keto euphoria.’
Because fat and ketones provide a readily available source of energy, and keto helps stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels in your body, you don’t have those constant dips and spikes in these levels throughout the day. This leads to not only appetite regulation as discussed above, but also a higher, more stable energy level, increased focus, and enhanced mood [*].
Some people even argue that being in a state of ketosis allows your brain to function at its most optimal level. The human brain is made up of nearly 60% fat, so it’s no surprise that our brains may actually prefer and thrive off of ketones.
I don’t know about you, but feeling good both mentally and physically throughout the day makes adhering to any diet protocol much more attainable.
When we feel good, we tend to do better at any task or challenge presented to us -- that’s just human nature.
3. Can Make Body ‘Recomposition’ Easier
Do you really just want to lose weight? Or do you want to lose body fat, feel lean and strong, look great in your clothes (and naked), age gracefully, be strong and resilient, etc.?
Achieving the above comes down to not only fat loss, but muscle growth and retention.
Ultimately, changing your body composition entails two primary goals -- gaining lean body mass (particularly muscle mass) and losing body fat.
The cool thing about keto is that research has shown that ketones can actually be muscle sparing or anticatabolic (protect muscle mass in the body from being broken down) through mechanisms such as:
- Decreasing the breakdown of leucine, the primary amino acid responsible for muscle growth and preservation [*].
- Acting as potent anti-inflammatory molecules that can reduce oxidative stress. Research suggests that ketone bodies, particularly beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), may help reduce inflammation-driven catabolic pathways [*].
Being fat-adapted and consuming sufficient amounts of protein puts your body at a metabolic advantage -- you can lose body fat while preserving (and even potentially gaining) muscle. I actually showed this in my own study on the implementation of keto in non-elite, 'average joe' CrossFit athletes.
Again, as I mentioned earlier in this post, people who are on the leaner/more active side of the spectrum may see better body recomposition from incorporating some more carbs (especially peri-workout) to help build/maintain muscle mass in a fat loss phase. However, there are lots of different ways to go about this and also lots of different types of low-carb diets to experiment with.
4. Exposes Your Body to a Different Fuel Source (literally changes your metabolism)
When you allow your body to experience being in ‘a state of ketosis,’ you become less reliant on burning sugar and carbs all day, every day. Instead, you start to train your body to use fat and ketones for fuel.
Why is this important? Because again, it puts you on the fast track to becoming more metabolically flexible.
In my opinion, metabolic flexibility is the ultimate goal we should all be striving for, especially when it comes to successfully maintaining fat loss while still living in the real world and benefiting from ketones while also consuming more carbohydrates.
I chat all about metabolic flexibility in this blog post if you’re interested in learning more.
So, to wrap this up...
Keto can be very powerful for a lot of people when it comes to fat loss (for all the reasons mentioned above).
But again, simply 'getting into a state of ketosis' does not mean you will automatically lose body fat and it's smart to consider the side of the spectrum you are closer to when it comes to implementing keto for fat loss specifically.
If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of keto, and more importantly, incorporating a plan and strategy that fits into YOUR specific lifestyle, check out more details about my programs HERE.
And if you're not sure what approach is best for YOU or you've struggled to see results in the past while following a keto diet, apply for one-on-one coaching with me so we can dive into all the specifics and get you a plan that makes sense for YOU.
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