There are many ways to lose weight, and following the ketogenic diet is one of them. This doesn’t mean, that a high-fat, low-carb diet is ideal for everyone that is aiming for weight loss.
The Obesity Epidemic
More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or have obesity in the United States. In other words, being overweight or obese is the new normal for Americans.
Unfortunately, carrying more than a few extra pounds is an epidemic throughout the world as well. Since 1975, the prevalence of obesity in the global population has tripled. Now, more than 1.9 billion adults aged 18 years and older are overweight. Of these adults, over 650 million are obese.
Each one of these people carries an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders (e.g., arthritis and low back pain), cancer, type 2 diabetes, and depression. What’s even more frightening is that as the weight continues to increase so does the risk for these noncommunicable diseases.
And yet, despite how obvious it is that being obese is unhealthy, obesity rates are still climbing. Simply telling people to eat less and move more isn’t enough — one of the primary causes of this issue runs much deeper than self-control.
The Potential Causes of The Obesity Epidemic
As a result, humans and most other animals tend to eat much more than necessary in an attempt to store extra calories and other nutrients away for times when food is scarce.
More specifically, we are wired to seek out foods that contain different combinations of fat, carbs, protein, and salt. More food variety means more nutrients and better survival.
We will then act out our ancestral programming by eating the most calorie-dense foods (i.e., pizza, french fries, cookies, cakes, etc.) and eating much more of those foods then what our body needs to energize itself until the next meal.
The irony in all of this is that the very genes that provided us with this astounding ability to create our own food environment have not been given enough time to adapt to the abundance that the majority of the human species created for themselves.
The Best Diet For Weight Loss
Health is so complex that there is no “best diet for weight loss.” Every person requires unique dietary and lifestyle changes so that they can lose weight and keep it off for the rest of their life.
What we do know for certain is that calories matter. (The human body cannot escape the laws of thermodynamics.) If you eat more than your body needs to maintain itself, then you will gain weight. Conversely, if you eat less than your body needs, then you will lose weight. It’s a simple concept, but it comes with a ton of nuances.
Your daily caloric needs are not set in stone — they vary slightly from day to day. Because of the unpredictable nature of our calorie requirements, many scientists have posited that they don’t matter as much as other things like hormones.
The carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis, for example, proposes that the primary cause of the obesity epidemic is insulin stimulating foods like sugar and starches. The logic behind this hypothesis is based on one of the many actions of insulin.
When carbs are consumed, insulin is released by the pancreas. Once insulin interacts with fat cells, it prevents fat from being burned as fuel and triggers fat storage.
Because of this phenomenon, the supporters of the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis tend to believe that all you need to do to lose fat is restrict carbs. However, this is a reductionistic view of obesity that doesn’t account for the complex nature of the human body.
The truth is that there are multiple mechanisms for fat storage in the body that depend on calorie intake, not insulin. Insulin has also been shown to play a role in regulating our metabolic rate, which increases our caloric output to a minimal degree.
To sum up what we learned in this section here’s a helpful way to think of weight loss:
- Calorie intake makes the biggest impact on whether you gain or lose weight.
- Other factors like exercise and insulin also matter, but to a much smaller degree.
The current literature argues between calories and carbohydrates. Below, we discuss it further.
Calories or Carbs? What Matters Most?
In 2017, Drs. Kevin Hall and Juen Guo published a meta-analysis of controlled feeding studies that compared diets of equal calorie and protein content with variations in carbohydrate and fat content. By designing the study in this way, the researchers could finally find out whether restricting carbs or limiting calories is more important when it comes to weight loss.
After investigating 20 controlled feeding studies, Hall and Guo found that both low-carb and high-carb diets had similar effects on body fatness and energy expenditure. The results of this meta-analysis provide us with high-quality evidence that supports the fact that calories matter much more than the fat or carbohydrate content of the diet.
Instead of focusing on switching out carbs for fat or vice versa, we should focus on sticking to a diet that naturally decreases our calorie intake.
How can we naturally decrease our calorie intake? The two most effective ways are:
- Eating a diet that consists of protein-dense and fiber-rich foods because of how satiating they are.
- Eliminating all calorically-dense processed foods from your diet because of how easy it is to binge on them.
One of the diets that implement these principles is the low-carb ketogenic diet. It primarily consists of highly-satiating foods like meat and low-carb vegetables while cutting out all carb-ridden, highly-palatable foods. By eating in this way, most people experience tremendous amounts of fat loss — not because it lowers insulin levels, but because keto dieters tend to eat significantly fewer calories than high-carb dieters without realizing it.
Low-fat or Keto? Which Is Better for Weight Loss in Real World Scenarios?
As a result, the researchers concluded that the ketogenic diet “may be an alternative tool against obesity.” These findings fall in line with another meta-analysis on 13 randomized controlled trials that compared low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets.
As a result, the researchers concluded that “low-carbohydrate/high-protein diets are more effective at 6 months and are as effective, if not more, as low-fat diets in reducing weight and cardiovascular disease risk up to 1 year.” These two meta-analyses (and the other research you’ll find in this article on keto & weight loss) provide us with a look at the real-world significance of low-fat and low-carb diets.
Ketosis for Weight Loss
Ketosis for Weight Loss When carbohydrates are restricted for a couple of days, the body will start to produce ketones.
This alternative fuel source comes with many benefits for the brain and nervous system, while it simultaneously promotes weight loss.
Rapid Weight Loss on the Ketogenic Diet
Rapid Weight Loss on the Ketogenic Diet Typically, during the first week of the keto diet, people see a very quick drop in weight — anywhere from 2 to 10 pounds.
How Fast Will You Lose Weight with Keto?
As you get closer to your goal weight and your overall body weight decreases, weight loss will slow down.
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The one factor that leads to the most significant and consistent weight loss is a calorie deficit. The human body is designed to prevent massive amounts of weight loss during times of starvation via mechanisms that make long-term fat loss much harder to achieve and maintain. Muscle mass also plays a vital role in weight loss because it helps keep your metabolic rate from dropping significantly as you lose weight. This can help stabilize your weight loss rate and may even prevent a dreaded weight loss plateau.
Conversely, those who start with more muscle and decent metabolic health that are disciplined enough to stick to their diet plan, maintain a calorie deficit, and increase their physical activity levels will typically lose weight more quickly and get the results they want.
In general, everyone’s health and lifestyle are different, which means the weight loss rate for each person is going to be different too.
How Much Weight Loss Will You Get from Following the Keto Diet?
You will know that you are following a well-formulated and healthy keto diet for you if these four variables are trending in the right direction: Your mood, energy levels, and sense of well-being Your body composition Relevant biomarkers (e.g., blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels) Your ketone levels For more information on how to create a keto diet that is healthy and effective for you, we recommend checking out our recent article on the topic.
How to Break Through Plateaus and Boost Weight Loss on the Ketogenic Diet
How to Break Through Plateaus and Boost Weight Loss on the Ketogenic Diet Plateaus are an inevitable part of every diet. This simple habit will take your results to the next level because you’ll have an objective way of knowing if you are eating the right amount of carbs, fat, protein, and calories every day. If you are still struggling, try implementing a technique called the fat fast. It normally consists of a three-day window of low caloric intake and high amounts of fat to kickstart fat burning and increase fat loss.
It’s much easier to eat fewer calories and maintain higher levels of ketosis when you eat fewer meals. Recent research found that obese men who took 2-week breaks from being in a caloric deficit lost more fat than the men who maintained a calorie deficit. To implement a diet break, simply follow the ketogenic diet for two weeks while you maintain a calorie deficit. After those two weeks, calculate what you need to eat to maintain your body weight, aim to eat that many calories, and repeat — recalculating your calorie deficit after each calorie maintenance phase. Researchers hypothesize that this method of dieting helps keep your metabolism from slowing down, allowing you to burn more calories while you are in a calorie deficit.
How To Avoid Muscle Loss On Keto
The most important macronutrient for preserving and building lean muscle is protein.
How To Avoid Muscle Loss On Keto Here is the protein intake that we recommend for keto dieters: If you exercise, protein levels should be hovering around 0.8g – 1.0g protein per lean pound of body mass a day.
If you are sedentary, then your protein intake should be between 0.6g – 0.8g per lean pound of body mass.
How to Track Your Fat Loss on the Ketogenic Diet
There are many methods you can use to evaluate your fat loss, but the two simplest ways are by visually estimating your body fat percentage and by plugging your waist circumference, height, and weight into a body fat calculator.
How to Track Your Fat Loss on the Ketogenic Diet Although this isn’t particularly accurate, it will provide you with a reasonable estimate of your body fat % that you can track while you are dieting.
Putting it all Together — Losing Weight on Keto
The bulk of research suggests that the ketogenic diet is more effective than conventional diets in helping you lose weight and shed body fat. One of the reasons why the ketogenic diet provides such reliable weight loss results is because it consists primarily of highly-satiating whole foods like meat, high-fat dairy, and low-carb vegetables while removing all carb-rich, sugar-laden processed foods from the diet.