The Keto diet is known for being both low-carb and high in fat. It stands to reason that you might be wondering if a high-fat diet is right for weight loss. After all, if you eat fat won’t you gain weight? The quick answer is no, the Keto diet won’t make you gain weight. That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to help the scales move in your favor. Read on to find the answers to all of your questions surrounding the Keto diet and its relationship to your weight.
Keto diet overview
In order to fully understand how the Keto diet can affect your weight, you need to understand how it affects your body. The Keto diet is essentially an ultra-low-carbohydrate diet the restricts the carbs you eat to 20g of net carbs for men and 25g of net carbs for women. This isn’t an arbitrary restriction. There’s scientific reasoning behind the number of carbs you’re allowed to eat on Keto.
Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of fuel and it’s preferred one. They’re fast to absorb, and just as fast to burn through. When you eat a meal rich in carbohydrates your body turns them into glucose which it uses to fuel its daily processes. A traditional diet is higher in carbs which suits your body just fine. There are some drawbacks to using glucose as a source of energy. For starters, because they’re burned through so quickly your body sends you hunger signals every hour or so asking for more fuel. This hunger makes it difficult to stick to a diet plan.
Any carbs that your body doesn’t burn through right away it stores in your body as fat to be used on a rainy day. The problem is, that day never comes because the majority of us aren’t struggling to find food and we listen to our body’s hunger signals. This means that your body receives a steady supply of food and the stored fat begins to accumulate leading to weight gain and difficulty losing this weight.
Although your body stubbornly holds onto the stored fat the Keto diet has a secret weapon that can trick your body into releasing its hold on your fat so that you begin to lose weight. It does this by restricting net carbohydrates. Net carbohydrates are the carbs that your body can absorb and turn into glucose. Fiber and sugar alcohols are not counted as net carbs so you can figure out your net carbs by subtracting the grams of fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carb count.
When your body receives a very limited supply of net carbs it’s forced to switch over to its alternate fuel source. Ketones are created in your liver out of your stored fat and your body can use these in place of glucose for fuel. Because they’re created out of your stored fat you end up burning away that fat as the day goes one without feeling hungry or experiencing the sugar highs and lows that are caused by spikes in glucose levels. This period where your body begins to produce and use ketones is known as ketosis and in order to stay here, you need to keep your net carb limits low.
In place of carbs, the Keto diet allows for about 70% of your daily calories to come from healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil and coconut oil. Nuts, seeds and meats make up a large part of the Keto diet since you’re supposed to eat a moderate amount of protein and very little carbs. Leavy green veggies, low sugar fruits, and full-fat dairy make up the rest of a balanced Keto diet.
Can Keto make you gain weight?
If the majority of your calories are coming from fat then it makes sense to wonder if the Keto diet can cause you to gain weight. After all, you are what you eat, right? The good news is, the Keto diet is designed to help you burn fat. This is why the majority of your calories come from fat. In addition to accessing your stored fat, your body needs some regular dietary fat as fuel. The key is that you should be eating healthy fats because not every fat is the same.
The thing a lot of people don’t realize about fat is that it’s a calorie-dense food. This means that although it takes up very little room in your stomach, it contains a lot of calories. 100 calories of macadamia nuts, for example, are only 5 nuts. 100 calories of spinach, on the other hand, is a full bowl! This means that on a high-fat diet it’s very easy to eat more calories than your body needs. This can lead to weight gain very quickly and it’s one of the biggest reasons that people on Keto gain weight.
Reasons why you might be gaining weight on Keto
Although the Keto diet should help you lose weight, not gain weight, some people still experience weight gain on Keto. The following are a few of the most common reasons that people on the Keto diet gain weight. If any of the following applies to you then you can tweak your Keto diet just a little bit to see if the pounds start to fall off.
- Too many calories: As in any diet, it doesn’t matter what type of food you allow and eliminate if you’re still eating too many calories. As a simple rule, your body needs to burn more calories than you consume in a day in order for you to lose weight. This doesn’t change just because you’re on the Keto diet. You still need to eat a moderate amount of calories a day without going overboard. Since the Keto diet is so high in fat it can be easy to overeat without even realizing it. Try to count your calories using an app such as MyFitnessPal in order to see how many calories you’re currently eating so you can re-work your diet plan if necessary.
- You’re not exercising: Exercise is also an important component since you need to still be burning calories in order to lose weight. Just because you’re on the Keto diet doesn’t mean that you can spend all day lounging on the couch and still see weight loss. It can be as simple as a walk around the block, as long as your body is moving, you’re going to be burning calories. If you’re struggling to fit in exercise try getting up and moving once every hour, just for 250 steps. Scientists have shown that moving a little bit every hour can be just as important as exercising for larger blocks of time. If you’re awake for 12 hours and you walk 250 steps every hour then this adds up to 3000 steps by the end of the day!
- You’re eating empty calories: The next component that a lot of people miss out on is where their calories are coming from. If you’re not eating nutritious whole foods with the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that your body needs then you’re going to essentially starve it and it’ll hold onto your stored fat even harder. You can provide enough calories, but if they’re empty calories your body can still starve. This means that you need to avoid processed foods, Even foods labelled as “Keto” can be low in nutrients and high in preservatives and unhealthy fats so stick with whole foods that don’t need a nutrition label.
- You’re eating too many carbs: Not everyone can eat the same number of carbs and keep their body in ketosis. The 20-25g of net carbs daily is a suggestion, but some people will be able to eat a lot more, while some people will have to eat less. If you want to know your own individual limit for carbs then you can pick up a simple at-home urine test. The test will show you quickly whether ketones are still present in your body. Start with a low number of carbs and after you pick up on ketones in your body you can slowly increase the number of carbs you eat until ketones aren’t present anymore. This will tell you your own individual limits.
- You’re not sleeping or you’re overly stressed: Believe it or not, sleep plays a large role in whether or not your body releases stored fat. The less sleep you get, the more stressed out your body becomes. It begins to produce cortisol which is the enemy of weight loss. Historically, during times of stress, our ancestors had a hard time finding food. This evolved into a biological response in our bodies where when we experience stress our body interprets it as a possible food shortage and it holds onto stored fat.
- You’re building muscle: When people begin a new workout routine they often gain weight due to swelling and water retention. This is temporary; however, the muscle created during this time is not. Muscle is denser than fat and this means that it’s possible to lose weight, gain muscle and gain weight. Try looking at other measurements such as the number of inches of your waist, hips and chest. This will give you a better indication as to whether you’re building muscle. You could also look at how your clothes fit. If your weight has gone up but your jean size has gone down then you’re losing where it matters.
The Keto diet is designed to help you lose weight, gain energy and increase your mental clarity. However, there are still a few things that you need to do to ensure that your weight loss efforts are successful. If you’re having trouble losing weight on Keto look at the above suggestions and see if there isn’t an area where you can improve. If you’re still struggling then talk to your doctor to see if there might be an underlying medical issue. Done correctly the Keto diet can be a fantastic tool for weight loss once you understand how it works and what you need to focus on in order to maximize your success!