Many people find it difficult to get involved in ketogenic diets or simply keto diets. We get it, it seems contradicting on the surface … I can eat all the fatty foods I want – even bacon – and drop tons of body fat? That makes no sense!
For many people, however, "keto" has resulted in rapid weight loss. The question is, is it a healthy weight loss? And is keto the right diet for athletes who want to lose body fat without losing muscle and strength gains? Our resident nutrition expert is addressing these issues to help you make a decision.
Selected expert: Susan Lopez, RD, CSSD, LD, is a tactical performance nutritionist who specializes in working with military, fire, police, and first responder athletes. Lopez is a military veteran and special operations spouse whose unique experience and knowledge help elite war fighters and community heroes stay fit and healthy. She is also the team dietitian for Bravo Sierra.
If I Eat More Fat, Will I Burn More Fat?
I get this question in so many forms, such as, "Does keto help me lose weight or does eating fat make me fat?"
The body is such a complex organism and amazing in its ability to adapt to whatever we humans like to throw at ourselves.
The body has various metabolic pathways through which our cells can be supplied with energy. Any macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) can be used to produce energy, although the body's preferred source of energy is carbohydrates. The least preferred way of producing energy in the body is by breaking down proteins into amino acids, which are then converted into glucose through the process of gluconeogenesis. If your body needs to break down proteins for energy, it is likely that your diet will need some help.
Fat can be oxidized in the body to produce energy, and when rested, a healthy person can use fat fairly well for energy production. And yes, eating more fat in the absence of adequate carbohydrates increases fat metabolism. Just because you metabolize fat doesn't mean you aren't storing fat. And when your rate of fat storage is higher than your rate of fat burning, you get fatter.
Just as calories ingested must be lower than calories to lose weight, fat storage must also be lower than fat oxidation to lose fat. You probably need to be in a calorie deficit to lose fat as well.
In diets like keto, increased intake of nutrient-dense foods and decreased intake of overprocessed or high-calorie foods can result in a calorie deficit, although the calories from fat may be higher and this often leads to fat and weight loss. r is there conclusive evidence that a low-carb diet is more beneficial than a low-fat diet when using a calorie restriction.
So how do I know if my rate of fat oxidation is higher than my rate of fat storage (or vice versa)? Is it just about tracking my weight loss and / or body fat content?
In a real world, yes – there really are only physical changes that can be tracked.
Do You Recommend Tracking Calories When Following Keto? Most of the people who do keto seem to just track carbohydrates without paying any attention to calories.
Yes and no. When starting a low-carb diet for the first time, it's okay to include only one macronutrient to keep this simple. This likely results in a natural calorie deficit, especially if that person's diet was previously higher in ultra-processed foods. However, it is possible that someone who is already eating fairly "clean" needs to track calories to ensure they are in a calorie deficit for weight and / or fat loss.
Will Eating More Fat Ruin My Health? How Do I Follow a Low Carbohydrate, High Fat Diet and Stay Healthy?
A diet high in saturated fat can affect lipid levels. That said, the body needs some saturated fat to function optimally. What is more important is the ratio of unsaturated to saturated fat in the diet, the intake of cardiac protective fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, and the total intake of fiber.
Many keto diets say they moderate the protein in order to stay in ketosis. What protein intake do you recommend for someone trying to lose weight on a low-carb, high-fat diet?
On a true ketogenic diet, it is recommended that you get less than 20% of your calories from protein. This is because amino acids (the building blocks of protein) can be used to create glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. In this case, ketone production can be impaired. However, protein intake is often fat loss friendly because it offers benefits beyond muscle protein synthesis. It is filling, helpful for the blood sugar balance and necessary for many hormonal functions and general cell health.
The recommended protein intake for active individuals according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition is 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, with intake of up to 3.0 grams per kilogram per day being considered safe. (Converted to pounds, a range of 1.2 to 3.0 grams per kilogram for a 200 pound individual would mean approximately 110 to 270 grams of protein.) If you are in a calorie deficit, having muscle mass retention on the high end can be beneficial Recommendations, especially on a low-carbohydrate diet.