We’ve all heard the numerous success stories with keto weight loss, and many of us want to utilize this powerful tool for our own health. However, there is one fundamental concept that you must understand in order to have real success on the ketogenic diet.
I had it all wrong
Most people start the keto diet without knowing this valuable principle, and there is a lot of misleading information on keto. I am certainly guilty of this myself. For months, I thought I was following a low carb, keto-type diet, but I had it all wrong. I was missing something important. No wonder I wasn’t losing weight!
In this post, I am going to teach you this principle. Hopefully, it will help clear up exactly how to do a ketogenic diet. You may even find that being keto is not what you thought it was.
But First, What is Keto?
If you are new to keto, you’re probably wondering what exactly is the ketogenic diet. Simply put, it is a way of eating that triggers your body to use fat for energy instead of sugar, carbs, or protein. You body uses fats and converts them into what are called ketones. Ketones can then be used to make energy. This is called being in ketosis. (hence the name ketogenic diet)
For keto weight loss, you want to be using stored fat for energy and not necessarily fats from your diet.
The general guidelines for a ketogenic diet is to keep your intake of carbs and sugar to a minimum (20-30g) while eating moderate a amount of protein.
Want To Learn More About Keto?
If you want to learn all about the ketogenic diet, check out the book, “Keto: The Complete Guide to Success on The Ketogenic Diet, including Simplified Science and No-cook Meal Plans”. This is the book that taught me all about Keto and really cleared up all the misinformation I read prior.
I interviewed the authors on episode 03 of The Happy Healthy Family Podcast. You can subcribe on your favorite podcast player or listen to the full interview below.
Keto Weight Loss: Not A High Fat Diet
Many people think that the keto diet is a high fat diet, and this was my mistake too. I was not losing weight, and I kept reading different articles that said I needed to add more fat if I wasn’t losing weight.
Avoid My Mistake
I thought I had to eat tons of fat in order to be in fat burning mode (ketosis), but that is not necessarily true. Remember, we want to be using stored fat for energy, so if you are eating lots and lots of fat, then your body will not need to tap into fat storage.
Fat bombs are all the rage now, and they are great when you want a tasty treat to enjoy without all the carbs and sugar. However, for keto weight loss, you don’t want to add these fat bombs just because you think you need more fat. If you do, you may be stalling your weight loss.
Keto Weight Loss:
The Fundamental Concept You Need To Know
If you want to be successful with keto weight loss, then you need to understand how your body prioritizes macronutrients. Macronutrients, or as the cool people say “macros”, are simply nutrients that provide us with units of energy (ie. carbs, fats, proteins).
When you eat, each of these fuel sources need to be used or stored one at a time. There is also a specific order that the body deals with these fuels. This is called oxidative priority. We have 5 different energy sources for our bodies. In order of priority they are:
Oxidative Priority of Food:
The body likes to keep a tight control over the amount of energy in the bloodstream at one time. After we eat or drink, we have a surplus of energy circulating, so the body must deal with this oversupply. It does this in order of oxidative priority.
Let’s take a look at each of these macronutrients and gain a better understanding of what a good keto diet for weight loss should look like.
Oxidative Priority #1 Alcohol
Did you know that alcohol has 7 calories (or units of energy) per gram? We have no way to store the energy from alcohol, so it must be dealt with immediately. Alcohol is a toxic fuel source, and the body has to burn it off or remove it from the blood before moving onto the next energy source.
Unfortunately, this also means that if you eat while you’re enjoying your wine or beer, all the energy from that food will likely be stored as fat.
Oxidative Priority #2 Exogenous Ketones
Remember, our body turns fat into ketones in order to use them for energy. Many people in the keto community like to boost their ketones by taking something called exogenous ketones.
These are ketones your body does not make from fat. They are taken in supplement form to artificially raise blood ketone levels. Because MCT oil can quickly be converted to ketones, it is also a form of exogenous ketones.
People who take these supplements falsely believe that it puts them in fat burning mode. Sure, they are technically in ketosis, but they are not using stored body fat. I like to think of this as “fake ketosis”.
When To Take Extra Ketones or MCT Oil
There is a benefit to taking ketones as a supplement. When you’re body is running primarily on ketones, you do get a boost in energy and brain power.
However, when you goal is weight loss, you want to use stored fat to create ketones. If you are taking extra ketones, then your body has no reason to tap into its fat reserves.
If you’re just starting on the keto diet, exogenous ketones can be a valuable tool to help you become fat adapted faster and reduce the effects of keto flu. You will want to start reducing extra ketones after a couple weeks.
Bottom Line on Exogenous Ketones
For keto weight loss, save your money and avoid using exogenous ketones (they’re quite expensive). You can still use MCT oil for cooking or keto desserts. Just don’t overdo it.
Oxidative Priority #3 Protein
Protein can be a source of energy, but in order for it to be used as energy, protein must be first converted into glucose (sugar). Therefore, the body prefers to use protein for building, healing, and repair.
There is very little storage capacity for the body to store proteins. If you eat an excess of protein, then your body must turn it into sugar. Then, it will likely be converted again into fat and added to our fat storage. Of course, this is the opposite outcome we want with keto weight loss. We want to reduce stored fat not add to it.
What To Do About Protein?
It’s actually quite hard to over consume protein(not to mention expensive). You want to eat just enough protein to provide the construction materials for any building or repairs the body needs to make. Essentially, you eat enough protein to satisfy your lean body mass.
Honestly, this is the hardest part of the keto diet for me, and it’s what i was doing wrong the whole time. I was loading up on fats to the point where it was probably 85-90% of my calories.
After reading this book, I had to cut my fat intake dramatically in order to hit my protein goal without feeling stuffed. This meant I had to say goodbye to my beloved bulletproof coffee.
Find Your Protein Goal
In their book “Keto”, Craig and Maria Emmerich offer a simple calculation to find your protein goal. Simply multiply your lean body mass (total weight minus body fat) by 0.8. If you do not know your body fat% (who does, right), find a link to a keto calculator at the end of this article.
If you’re following oxidative priority, then you’re avoiding alcohol and exogenous ketones while keeping protein moderate. Your your body is primed to burn sugar or fat for energy.
Oxidative Priority #4 Carbs
Carbs A.K.A. sugar, is one of 2 preferred fuel sources for the body. The body can actually store about 300-500 grams of glucose which is quite a bit of sugar. However, this glucose storage is likely already full unless you are a marathon runner or hardcore crossfitter.
The body likes to keep a steady supply of glucose in the bloodstream. (about 4 grams or 1 tsp) Blood sugar is tightly regulated, so whenever we eat, insulin is triggered. Insulin’s job is to take the extra glucose out of the blood. When our glucose storage is full, then all the extra blood sugar will be stored as fat.
Whenever insulin is active, fat-burning is turned off, so for keto weight loss, carbs and sugar intake need to be kept low in order to keep insulin low. You want to keep daily carb/sugar intake to 20-30 grams.
All Carbs Matter: Count Total Carbs
Another thing many people are also missing is they only count “net carbs”. You want to count total carbs instead. Some fiber can actually have an impact on blood sugar, which then affects whether or not your body is in fat-burning mode.
Be Smart: Don’t Be Like Me
The last few months I’ve eaten the same lunch: a giant salad. In the salad was half a can of salmon, ⅓ cup homemade mayo, 2 snack packs of guacamole, and 1 head of romaine lettuce.
Here I was thinking it was the perfect keto lunch. It was full of fat, had protein, and it was low carb….or so I thought. In actuality, this salad had about 35 carbs, and I often ate 2 of them each day. That’s 70 carbs in just salad!! (my daily goal is 20-25)
My point in telling you this is to make sure you know what you are eating and the nutritional content of what you are eating. I had no idea there were carbs in avocados/guacamole, and I severely underestimated the amount of carbs in romaine (20g).
Don’t assume that something is low carb without double checking, and make sure you are counting carbs from veggies too!
Oxidative Priority #5 Fat
Last on the oxidative priority list is fat. Fat may actually be the bodies preferred energy source. It packs more units of energy per gram than any other macronutrient, and the body has ample storage space for fat. I simply need to look at an old picture of myself to see the body’s fat storage capacity.
Once you become keto-adapted, you will be able to utilize both stored and dietary fat equally. However, our goal is to weight loss, so keep the amount of fat you eat down. This is most people’s #1 mistake. They eat tons and tons of fats thinking it doesn’t matter because they are keto.
Remember, there is no need to burn stored fat for energy if you are providing plenty of energy by eating a high fat diet.
Keto Weight Loss:
Putting It All Together
By now, how to be successful with keto weight loss, should be a little more clear, but let’s put it all together to help you be the most successful.
2-Avoid Extra Ketones
4-Low carbs (20-30g)
5-Enough fat to keep you feeling good and satisfied (70-100g)
Keto Weight Loss Protocol
When weight loss is your goal, you want to do everything possible to trigger the body’s fat-burning mode. The best way to do this is to clear the oxidative priority. This means no alcohol or extra ketones. Eat just enough protein to maintain your muscle mass while eating very few carbs. Then, eat just enough fat to control cravings and satisfy your hormones.
Keto Weight Loss Macro Targets
At first you will want to track your macros. I know this is pretty annoying, but after a few weeks you won’t have to think about it anymore. Calories do matter. I was also in the camp that believed that calories did not matter. However, when you want to lose weight, you still want to have a calorie deficit each day.
Here are the macros that I am shooting to meet each day to give you a better idea. Remember, everyone is different and you should customize your macros ensure keto weight loss success.
Total Calories: 1,112
These macro figures come straight from this Keto Calculator. The creators of this calculator are people I trust and are the authors of the book that taught me so much about keto. You can click here to help you determine your macros.
As you can see, the keto diet I am now following is quite calorie restricted and its designed to help me be in fat burning mode most of the day.
Need More Help and Support?
|Maria and Craig Emmerich, (or as I like to call them the Keto Batman and Robin) have created a “Keto School”. If you are really serious about healing and/or weight loss and want to have tons of support every step of the way, check out their program.
In addition to a full course on the ketogenic diet, their Keto School gives you meal plans, cooking videos, and at the VIP level gives you weekly webinars where you can get your questions answered. It’s like having a personal keto nutritionist.
One Last Thing:
It is so important that you pay attention to food quality in addition to your macros. Being keto is not an excuse to eat copious amounts of low quality bacon, cheese, and dairy. To truly improve your health, focus on eating whole foods that are the best quality foods you can possibly afford.
Make sure your meats are grassfed or pasture raised, and it may be a good idea to avoid dairy all together. Dairy (and nuts also) are highly inflammatory, so if you have any health issues at all, it’s best to avoid these.
Just The Beginning
I’ve only been strictly following the ketogenic diet for about a week now (although, I thought I was somewhat following it for months). If you want to follow my progress and experience with keto, I welcome you to subscribe to my blog and follow me on Facebook or Instagram.
Do you feel like you better understand how to lose weight on keto after reading this?
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For “just a Dad” this is a great article…simple, concise and explains the Keto diet much more clearly than any other article I have ever read on the topic.
Thank you! Good luck with keto!!
Thank you Cheryl! Good luck with Keto!!