If you ever thought about trying a new diet or wanted to slim down, you likely heard about the keto diet at some point in your online research or from a nutritionist. But the keto diet feels wrong at first glance.
How can a high-fat diet that includes everything most of us are told to cut back on somehow help us burn fat?
Doesn’t eating fat make us fat?
The keto diet isn’t a free-for-all, it’s a careful eating system meant to change the way your body processes food. It also challenges us to find our own body’s balance and learn what amount of healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein work to help us burn fat. Most people try out the keto diet to slim down, but it’s essential to know your body and what it needs before you can get the most out of your keto diet.
Here’s what you need to know about how the keto diet may help you lose weight.
Calories are little units of energy that we can store or burn in our bodies. However, not all calories or types of food are created equally. Ideally, we could eat a 300-calorie cupcake and then do a workout to burn those calories off. But anyone who exercises regularly can tell you that calories from a frosted cupcake don’t fuel a workout like those from a lean chicken breast with a side of broccoli.
Macronutrients, (or macros), are a more nuanced way of looking at your food. The three macros are fats, protein, and carbohydrates. A keto diet challenges us to shift our macros and consume more fat than protein or carbs. The idea is that, as high-fat foods have more calories, we’ll feel full faster and therefore eat less. We’ll also stay away from sugary or processed foods as they’re high in carbs.
But something else happens when we introduce a higher fat level into our daily meals. We enter into something called ketosis.
Ketosis is a method of fat burning that happens when your body doesn’t have a lot of glucose to use instead.
Glucose is the sugar released by foods like bread, pasta, sugary fruits, and drinks. Glucose is the body’s first choice as a source of energy. But, if we deny our bodies glucose and give it fat instead, our body switches to ketosis - an intense fat-burning mode that helps us slim down. Most people, even those on high-protein diets, function on glucose as a main source of fuel. Diets high in protein help the body convert those servings of lean meats into more glucose inside the body. People on high-protein diets may eat whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and limited fats. For some, this works perfectly and they have no problem losing weight. But for many others, a state of ketosis is a better option. Ketosis means your body uses fat as a main source of fuel. This includes seeds, nuts, olive or avocado oil, and some dairy and animal proteins. However, the main focus is fat, not protein and many vegetables and fruits are limited to keep glucose levels low.
When the body doesn’t have access to high levels of glucose, it starts to look for fat as a main source of fuel. The body burns fat rather than keeping it stored around our mid-sections and we begin to lose weight.
Diets of any kind require in-depth knowledge of your own body and what it needs. Even people on the keto diet eat a limited amount of carbohydrates for brain function. You need to know exactly how many macros of carbs, fats, and proteins you need to feel great and lose weight.
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