Using A Ketogenic Diet For Weight Loss
Weight loss is a billion dollar industry for one major reason, people are not getting sustainable results. If you are looking to lose some stubborn fat and you have stumbled across this article, chances are you have been doing your research. The internet is filled with millions of opinions on how to lose weight and get healthy.
With skyrocketing rates of obesity and related health conditions in the US, eating less and exercising more usually just doesn’t cut it. Fortunately, you are in the right place now. Based on the latest research and my experience, I am going to explain to you why you should consider the ketogenic diet for weight loss.
I love the ketogenic diet for so many reasons. Not only can it boost your mental and physical performance, but it naturally and safely promotes fat burning as well. Another plus is that following a ketogenic diet, in my opinion, is not as limiting as some other diet strategies. I’m here to tell you that losing weight is possible while still enjoying delicious food!
Most people, especially those who have unsuccessfully experimented with a new diet, cringe at the thought of adopting a new way of eating. The way they see it, they have to starve themselves, avoid all their favorite foods, and be satisfied with limited results. To me this is a ridiculous way to live your life and why the ketogenic diet is such a game changer.
On a ketogenic diet, you simply reduce carb intake and increase your consumption of healthy fats until your body learns to burn fat for energy over sugar. This metabolic shift is advantageous for the body, your metabolism, your hormones, and all while keeping you full naturally.
Because fats are such an efficient fuel source, you get hungry less often, you cut cravings, and enjoy a more stable and elevated mood every day!
When you add in the fact that you can now make amazing delicious desserts that help you burn fat… how can you pass that up?!
Feeling Controlled By Your Eating Habits?
When your body is metabolically adapted to burning sugar as its primary fuel source, your behavior is largely dictated by your blood sugar levels. Sugar is a quick energy source but it is also burned up quickly which means you need to eat more often.
This cycle of ups and downs in your blood sugar drives your eating patterns. This is what results in food cravings and the infamous hangry feeling you get when you don’t eat for a while
In addition, rapidly fluctuating blood sugar levels contribute to other health problems like hormonal imbalances, chronic inflammation, increased risk of developing atherosclerosis, and an overall lowered sense of wellbeing (1).
When you become keto-adapted this all goes away as you experience stable energy levels from healthy fats.
How Ketosis Puts You Back In Control
Speaking from the simple caloric viewpoint, fat provides more energy per gram than sugar. This means you need much less of it, compared to sugar, for the same amount of energy.
Many people who are on a ketogenic diet that I work with always report the same thing: they rarely think about food anymore.
This is awesome from a diet standpoint because many people find themselves obsessively fixated on their next meal. From a biological standpoint, the human body perceives hunger as a primary objective to be fulfilled.
This means that when you are hungry, you will likely notice that it becomes difficult to perform higher level functions like concentrating on your work or even socializing with friends. This is because when your blood sugar is low, your body begins shifting into survival mode. In this state, higher mental functions are shut down as your primary focus is to search out food.
By converting your body to a fat-burner, stable energy allows you to free up your brain for higher mental functions. This means following a ketogenic diet can literally help you have a deeper experience of life as you are no longer controlled by your hunger!
How To Get Into Ketosis
The body can either run on sugar or fat for energy. Most people, as a product of the standard American diet, are chained to sugar as their primary fuel source. By drastically cutting sugar and carbs from your diet while getting the bulk of your calories from fats, you can reteach your body to burn fat.
The fundamental strategy for getting into ketosis is to burn off excess sugar and drop insulin low enough that your body decides to start converting fats into ketones for energy. For most people who are former sugar-burners, it takes about 2-4 weeks for the cells to relearn how to make energy from ketones.
There are a few strategies for getting into ketosis:
1. Following a Ketogenic Diet (5-10% Carbs/20-30% Protein/60-80% Fat)
This is the most gradual and safest way of getting into ketosis and takes about 2-4 weeks to become fully keto-adapted
2. Intermittent Fasting w/ a Ketogenic Diet
This strategy drains sugar stores more quickly and may speed the keto-adaptation process
3. Following a Ketogenic Diet w/ MCT oil or Exogenous Ketone Supplementation
Here you follow a ketogenic diet while providing the body with additional ketones to essentially “prime the pump” and speed up keto-adaptation
Keto-adaptation is the name for the process that takes place as your body shifts its metabolism towards burning fat. Once carb intake is lowered and fat intake is increased a few things must occur before you are fully keto-adapted.
First, blood sugar must drop and signal the body that sugar is not available. Then, this signal will prompt the metabolism of fatty acids into ketones as an alternative fuel source. Finally, the cells must learn to metabolize ketones and convert them into ATP (the energy molecule that every cell uses).
The time it takes to become keto-adapted is therefore limited by the rate at which these steps occur. This is why intermittent fasting and supplementing with ketones/MCT oil is sometimes used to speed up the process by dropping blood sugar and providing the body with ketones at a much quicker rate.
I recommend monitoring your ketone levels to keep track of your adaptation to ketosis.
Success Tip: There are certain side effects that you may experience during the initial adaptation period that can make the first few weeks difficult. Check out this article to understand how you can avoid them and increase your chances of success!
How Ketosis Promotes Weight Loss
Now that we understand how the state of ketosis works, we can dive into its benefits for weight loss.
Many people believe that simply being in ketosis and using fat as energy results in the burning of body fat as well. While this is true, there are actually several benefits that all have positive effects on weight loss.
No More Excess Sugars
Fat stores largely accumulate due to excess carb intake. This is because the body stores about 270 grams of glucose as glycogen in the muscles and liver while any excess of that is either burned as energy or converted and stored as fat.
By following a ketogenic diet, you can strategically consume carbs to fill glycogen stores while preventing the weight gain caused by an excess. Contrarily, your body works in reverse to convert all that stored body fat into tons of energy!
The traditional caloric strategy to losing weight is just far too simplified. Based on emerging data, fat loss has much more to do with healthy hormone balance than it does with caloric intake.
This is because your metabolism changes with your hormones. While a calorie is technically still a calorie, the rate at which it is burned completely changes with fluctuations in hormones. At the same time, hormones such as leptin and cholecystokinin (CCK) are elevated when consuming a ketogenic diet which effectively reduces hunger levels and make you less likely to overeat.
A 2012 study looked at two groups of overweight subjects: one group following a traditional hypocaloric diet and the other on a ketogenic diet. The authors of this study concluded that a ketogenic diet was superior for weight loss, possibly due to a significant increase in adiponectin (2).
Adiponectin is a critical hormone for regulating blood sugar and supporting the metabolism of fats for energy so this is definitely a desired metabolic change.
As I just mentioned, a ketogenic diet increases hormones responsible for satiety (feeling of fullness). This means that you are less hungry on a regular basis.
At the same time, the ketogenic diet balances blood sugar levels and keeps you energized for longer periods of time. As you no longer deal with rapidly fluctuating blood sugar levels, you will also experience an absence of food cravings.
While impulsive eating behaviors are mostly related to blood sugar balance, there is a beneficial action that takes place in the brain that will actually improve your willpower while on a ketogenic diet.
Each time you consume sugar, your brain releases dopamine. While dopamine is important for motivation and willpower, chronically spiking it with sugar can cause dopamine imbalances that contribute to impulsive and addictive behaviors.
As you free yourself from this addictive cycle, you can use more brain power on staying focused on the bigger goals in your life while melting away fat easily.
Ketogenic Is More Sustainable
It is far too common to hear about an individual who started a special diet, started losing weight, only to be overcome by intense hunger followed by rapid regaining of weight (sometimes even more). This process is highly discouraging and why so many diets fail to produce long-term results.
It has been known for a long time that weight loss can lead to an increase in hunger. This makes sense because the caloric deficit that many diets rely upon make the body feel like it is starving, possibly due to chronic hypoglycemia and hormonal changes. In response to this perceived crisis your brain tells you to eat more food, or else!
What we know now is that being in a state of ketosis actually mitigates this side effect of weight loss (3, 4). This means you can continue to shed body fat while maintaining a sense of satiety that you just don’t get from other styles of eating.
The following graph comes from a study comparing a calorie-restricted, low-fat diet to a low-carb, high-fat diet. The results speak for themselves, a ketogenic diet is superior for weight loss!
Foods To Eat
While some ketogenic diet sources advocate for any food that is low in carbs and high in fat, I recommend sticking to foods that naturally maximize nutrition while minimizing exposure to toxins. For me, the whole point of a ketogenic diet is to optimize physical and mental well-being. If you are eating processed foods and damaged fats, then you are going to experience limited results.
Healthy Fats: Grass-fed Butter or Ghee, Coconut Oil/Flakes/Milk/Cream, Olives & Olive Oil, Avocados & Avocado Oil, Sprouted Nuts & Seeds
Clean Proteins: Pasture Raised Meats (including: Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Turkey, Wild Game, etc.) and Wild Caught Fish (Sockeye Salmon, Sardines, Wild Trout, Anchovies) and pasture-raised dairy products if tolerated (Eggs, Milk, Cheese)
Low-Carb Vegetables: Leafy Greens (Spinach, Kale, Chard, etc.), Cruciferous Veggies (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts), Onions, Asparagus, etc.
Herbs & Spices: Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Turmeric, Fennel, and anything that doesn’t have any sugar or artificial ingredients like MSG.
Low-Sugar Fruits (In Moderation): These include berries, lemons, limes, and granny smith apples
Implementing A Ketogenic Diet Safely
If you have decided that the ketogenic diet is something you would like to try for weight loss, it is important to have a plan and thorough understanding of the changes going on in your body. While there are plenty of plans and approaches to the ketogenic diet on the internet, there are still too many people who are not having success.
This is why I have put so much of my time and effort into compiling the strategies that work the best for the most people. For information on how to implement a ketogenic diet, check out this article. In this article, I cover different types of ketogenic diets, how to implement them, and how to track your progress for optimal results.
As I mentioned once already, there are certain side effects that many people encounter during the adaptation towards a fat-burning state. It is key to success to understand why they occur and how to help prevent them before they occur so you can stick with it and enjoy the many benefits of ketosis!