Ketosis | Can Eating Fat Help You Lose Weight?

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What is it that makes us accumulate fat; to gain unwanted weight?

For years we’ve been conditioned, taught, re-enforced, and marketed to that eating too much and not moving enough will make you gain weight –  it’s calories in vs. calories out – it’s simple thermodynamics.

Is it enough to tell someone that they’ve gained weight because they’ve eaten too much? Or is this only scratching the surface?

If it’s a simple caloric imbalance, why does it seem like this principle doesn’t apply to everyone in precisely the same way? How does metabolism come into play? There are unending questions and complexities.

“Some obesity experts are intuitively aware of this problem, which is why they’ll say, as the National Institutes of Health does on its website, that “Obesity occurs when a person consumes more calories from food than he or she burns.” By using the word occurs, they’re not actually saying that overeating is the cause, only a necessary condition. (It’s like saying “a crowded restaurant occurs when more people enter than leave.”) They’re just saying that when one thing happened – obesity –the other thing also happened – consuming more calories from food than we expend. And now it’s up to us to say, okay, so what? Aren’t you going to tell us why obesity occurs? Rather than tell us what else happens when it does occur.”
– Gary Taubes, The Inanity of Overeating

 

Is There More to it?

As research advances, there is growing consensus that fat accumulation is not simply a caloric imbalance. Our understanding of insulin may help to explain further.

“Glucose, a simple sugar, provides energy for cell functions. After food is digested, glucose is released into the bloodstream. In response, the pancreas secretes insulin, which directs the muscle and fat cells to take in glucose. Cells obtain energy from glucose or convert it to fat for long-term storage.”
– NIH Study Shows How Insulin Stimulates Fat Cells to Take in Glucose, National Institutes of Health

“Like a key fits into a lock, insulin binds to receptors on the cell’s surface, causing GLUT4 molecules to come to the cell’s surface. As their name implies, glucose transporter proteins act as vehicles to ferry glucose inside the cell.”
NIH Study Shows How Insulin Stimulates Fat Cells to Take in Glucose, National Institutes of Health

Simply put – when we eat food that contains or converts to glucose, it raises our blood-sugar levels. In defense, our body secretes insulin from the pancreas. Insulin then blocks fat from leaving fat cells and allows the excess glucose to leave the blood stream to be stored as fat.

A fitness guru I have recently discovered, Jason Wittrock explains this really well. Check out his video, “Calories in VS Calories out | Insulin Resistance | Ketogenic Diet“.

 

Ketosis

With this knowledge of insulin, being mindful of what we eat and how it’ll affect whether our body burns or stores fat can have a huge impact on fat accumulation. If we can avoid foods that make our blood-sugar rise, and instead shift our metabolism to burn fat, we can begin to consciously control when our body stores and burns fat – a status known as ‘ketosis’.

Ketosis /kɪˈtəʊsɪs/ “a normal metabolic process, something your body does to keep working. When it doesn’t have enough carbohydrates from food for your cells to burn for energy, it burns fat instead. As part of this process, it makes ketones.”What is Ketosis? WebMD

In order to achieve the metabolic status of ketosis, many opt to follow a ‘ketogenic’ diet whereby “your entire body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat. Insulin levels become very low and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy to access your fat stores to burn them off.”What is Ketosis?, DietDoctor

 

Macronutrients

“The human body uses carbohydrates in the form of glucose and it can convert both simple and complex carbohydrates into energy very quickly.
– Monique Laberge, Macronutrients

Therefore watching what we eat at a macronutrient level can help us to determine whether our body is burning or storing fat, or whether it is in ketosis. I’m talking about carbohydrates, protein and fat.

The following illustrates each macronutrient’s relationship with the ketogenic diet:

  • Carbohydrates are 100% anti-ketogenic, they raise both blood glucose and insulin
  • Proteins are typically ranged at 45% ketogenic and 58% anti-ketogenic since insulin levels rise from over half of the ingested protein being converted to glucose
  • Fats are 90% ketogenic and 10% anti-ketogenic, due to the small amount of glucose that is released in the conversion of triglycerides

 

metabolicpathway– Craig, Macronutrients & The Ketogenic Diet

Find The Fat

“As you eat carbohydrates, your body must produce more insulin to keep up with increased levels of glucose in your body. In some cases, this eventually leads to insulin resistance, and then Type 2 diabetes. This may often go along with high LDL cholesterol (“bad”), low HDL cholesterol (“good”), higher triglyceride levels and increased inflammation. 

When you eat less carbs, less insulin is required to be secreted into your bloodstream and regulate your blood sugar and as a result, less fat storage.” – Martina Slajerova, Ketogenic Diet FAQ: All You Need to Know

If we look further into macronutrient information, we can see that a gram of each macro differs in terms of calorie count.

There are way more calories per gram from fat (9.44), than protein (5.65), or carbohydrates (3.94). Based on the simple ‘calories in vs. calories out’ principle – it’s no wonder millions of people on their weight-loss journey shy away from eating fat due to the comparatively high calorie-punch it packs. Looking at pure calories would incline people to eat more carbs and protein, than fat.

The ketogenic diet flips this approach on its head – encouraging followers to eat high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates throughout the day. Guidelines suggest those following the ketogenic diet strive to achieve the ratio: 60-75% fat | 15-30% protein | 5-10% carbs.

While it’s challenging for most to cut their carb consumption, I think what is even more challenging is the shift in mindset to feel comfortable eating lots of fat on a daily basis, to think of fat as energy, to constantly be looking to find the fat in food sources.

 

My Relationship With Ketosis

Through years of martial arts training, I’ve dieted in order to make my weight category for competitions. Cutting carbs was always my go-to for a quick drop in weight – and after I weighed in, I’d carb-up.

This is a yo-yo lifestyle, it’s not sustainable…or enjoyable. And what I’ve come to realise is, my propensity to yo-yo has damaged my metabolism over the years.

For the last three months, I’ve been experimenting with the ketogenic lifestyle, and it’s allowing me to enjoy food, burn fat, and feel full.

I’ve also been slowly upping my calories to help re-optimise my metabolism. Read more about this here.

While there are so many theories, pros and cons – I’m feeling good, eating more than ever, enjoying food, and my energy levels are great. I’ll continue to research and provide some of my favourite keto recipes right here on laurajreeves.com

Just because I’m currently following a very low carb lifestyle, it doesn’t de-validate all the delicious clean-eating recipes I’ve shared with you over the years. Like delicious cacao pancakes, frozen berry cake, or sweet potato brownies. These are wholesome and nourishing, but still contain high-levels of carbs and sugar that will kick you out of ketosis.

It all depends on your goals, if you’re looking to reach a goal weight once and for all, I’d try adjusting your macros in line with ketosis. If you’re at a healthy, happy weight for you and want to make sure you’re enjoying a varietious, rich diet then incorporate some of the lovely clean-eating recipes. It’s all up to you!

If you’re interested in calculating your macros for ketosis – I recommend the KetoDiet Buddy.

I’m monitoring my progress on MyFitnessPal, check out the live ticker below. As always I love to hear your thoughts and feedback on Twitter and Insta @laurajreeves.

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