Everyone is raving about Keto for weight loss right now. You’ve probably seen the before and after images on social media with friends and celebrities showing off their “Keto transformations”.
Sure, it’s inspiring. And looking at the pictures, it’s hard not to feel a little envious.
Maybe you have a big event coming up. That could be your success story, where you show up and surprise everyone with the “new you”. They ask for your secret. You say “All I did is switch to Keto!”
Still, it’s piqued your curiosity. Can the Keto diet actually help with weight loss? Is this just another fad diet? And what can you expect if you do go low-carb? Keep reading.
What Is The Keto Diet?
The basic premise of the Ketogenic diet (or Keto diet) is simple. You eat high-fat, moderate protein, and very low-carb.
Specifically, you eat about 60-70% of your calories from fat, 20-30% from protein, and 5-10% from carbohydrates.[*] Keeping your “macros” (fat, protein, and carbs) in these ratios tells your body to enter a unique metabolic state called ketosis.
Think of ketosis as fat-burning mode. In ketosis, you burn body fat to produce energy and ketones.
We won’t talk much about ketones today, but understand that these tiny molecules serve as fuel for your brain and body in the absence of carbs.[*] Basically, on a Keto diet you stop running on carbs and start running on fat and ketones. This metabolic shift, the research suggests, comes with the neat “side effect” of weight loss.[*]
How Keto May Help With Weight Loss
There are several ways by which Keto helps promote a healthy weight. We’ll need to cover a little science, but don’t worry, we’ll keep the scientific jargon to a minimum.
#1: Increased fat burning
When you restrict carbs, it helps prevent spikes in blood sugar. This means that insulin, your “blood sugar boss” hormone, stays suppressed.
This low-insulin state is the key to fat burning.[*] By lowering insulin, the Keto diet helps you access stored body fat—especially visceral belly fat—as a usable fuel source[*] And when you can access body fat for fuel, sustainable fat loss becomes an achievable reality.
#2: Hunger management
It’s hard to overeat on the Keto diet. Why? Because its two primary macros—fat and protein—are more satiating than carbs. An example will help illustrate.
Imagine eating 750 calories of gummy bears. How long will those gummies keep you full? Not very long, due to the inevitable crash in blood sugar that will follow. Now imagine eating 750 calories of an omelette. In the omelette, there’s lots of fat and protein to keep you satisfied for hours on end—easily carrying you between meals.
This isn’t just imaginary. Keto has also been shown to reduce your hunger hormone, ghrelin.[*] Ghrelin is the hormone that signals hunger to your brain and makes snacking seem mandatory.
With ghrelin kept in check on Keto, you’re less likely to overeat. Less overeating, less weight gain.
#3: Fewer cravings
Carb cravings are real. Your brain literally gets addicted to sugar, and you lose all self-control.[*]
That’s where Keto comes in. On a low-carb diet, you deprive your brain of it’s carby rewards, and the cycle of carb craving eventually gets broken. And when you aren’t eating empty calories from processed carbs, it becomes easier to lose weight.
What To Expect When You Go Keto To Lose Weight
Many folks experience rapid weight loss soon after going Keto. But is this initial weight loss actually fat loss? Probably not.
More likely, it’s water loss. The thing is, when you cut carbs, your body uses up its stored sugar (called glycogen), and this process releases lots of water to be excreted in urine.[*]
Sustainable fat loss takes longer to rev up. Your cells need time to go from burning carbs to burning fat—about 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the starting point of your metabolism. This is called becoming “fat-adapted”.
The delay in fat-adaptation likely explains why many people hit weight-loss plateaus days or weeks into Keto. Remember, sustainable fat loss takes time.
Evidence For Weight Loss On Keto
Here are some weight loss studies that provided sufficient fat-adaptation time on Keto:
- Over a six month period, obese women lost more fat on a Keto diet than women on a low-fat diet.[*]
- Over 12-weeks, military personnel experienced a marked improvement in body composition (including 43% loss of abdominal fat) on a Keto diet, without any compromise to physical performance.[*]
- A 24-week Ketogenic diet showed significant weight-loss, and improvement in other health-markers including cholesterol, in obese individuals.[*]
- Over twelve weeks, sixteen adolescents lost more weight low-carb dieting than low-fat dieting.[*]
To be clear, these studies don’t prove Keto will help you (or anyone) lose weight. But they do suggest it’s an effective diet for this purpose.
Troubleshooting Keto Weight Loss
You might be feeling motivated to try Keto for weight loss at this point. But before diving right in, here are some problem areas to watch out for, along with recommended solutions.
#1: Hidden carbs
It’s not easy to cut out carbs, especially if they’re a big part of your diet. But with a little help, it’s possible.
Carbs are sneaky. They’re hiding everywhere, like candy-filled eggs in a sprawling Easter egg hunt.
These hidden carbs don’t care about your health goals. They’ll kick you out of fat-burning mode and leave you kicked out for hours.
To avoid hidden carbs, get in the habit of reading labels. Almost everything has added sugar, even salad dressing, tomato sauce, and soup.
But the real trick to carb cutting is to log all of your foods using an app like Carb Manager. This not only helps you detect hidden carbs, but also helps you stay accountable to your weight loss goals. You can even scan nutrition labels to get an instant “Keto grade” for anything you’re thinking about eating.
#2: Poor sleep
It’s hard to lose weight when you’re sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation increases the hunger hormone, ghrelin, which leads to bleary-eyed munching.[*] We’ve all been there.
Sleep is also crucial for insulin function. Remember insulin? It’s the hormone that tells your body whether to burn or store fat. Getting enough sleep keeps the dial twisted towards “burn”.[*]
When you’re stressed out, your adrenal glands release the stress hormone: cortisol. This is not a positive development for your Keto goals.
Why? Because cortisol increases blood sugar and stimulates fat storage.[*] It’s like Keto kryptonite.
Because of this, stress management should be part of any Keto weight loss program. Namaste.
#4: Overeating or undereating
Once you get settled into a Keto routine, you’ll be able to eyeball your portions and simply eat your fill. But before that happens, you’ll want to track calories.
The goal is to eat a Goldilocks amount of food. Not too little, and not too much.
Calorie restriction may cause short term weight loss—but it also can permanently slow your metabolism. That’s why contestants on the Biggest Loser tend to regain their lost weight after the show.[*] While studies have shown[*] that it is often easier for those following a low-carb diet to naturally eat less due to it’s satiating nature, a similar slow in metabolism may also occur over time. If your Keto weight-loss plateaus, it may be helpful to be mindful of this and adjust your calories and macros accordingly.
Too many calories (even Keto-approved calories) will, of course, inevitably cause weight gain, though one study[*] has shown that low-carb diets may allow for a higher calorie maintenance level than a corresponding high-carb diet.
Use the Carb Manager app to find and maintain your perfect level of daily calories (and macros) for your Keto diet and weight-loss goals.
Did this article cover everything required to succeed on Keto? The whole shebang? Of course not.
But it did cover how Keto might help with weight loss. And the knowledge and tips here should provide the foundation for further exploration.
To continue along this path, inside the Carb Manager app you'll find the tools you need to dial in your Keto diet, including meal plans, a macros tracker, a video course to get you up to speed, and thousands of low-carb and Keto-friendly recipes.
It’s like having a supportive health coach right in your pocket—an ally for your journey, onwards and upwards, towards better health.