Starting with this as it comes up a lot. Calories are the primary determining factor as to whether you lose fat or not. You NEED to be in a calorie deficit to lose fat. Now – we know we need x amount of protein per person to retain lean body mass, and we are already restricting carbs to get into ketosis, so where does our deficit come from? We LIMIT our dietary fat intake, which creates our calorie deficit and forces our body to get the remains of its calorie needs from our BODYFAT.
Shoveling in fat for the sake of it is just throwing empty calories at our body that have to go somewhere – and whilst we are using these for energy, we aren’t using our bodyfat. To add to that, fat is incredibly energy dense at 9 calories per gram, and it’s very easy to overeat. Again, overeating calories will lead to fat gain, even if initially you see losses on the scale (the initial losses are from the glycogen and water that gets dumped when your body enters ketosis).
Another common one is percentages are all that matter. I’ve already explained why calories matter above but let’s put it into practice. Typical keto macros will call for upwards of 75% fat. 75% of how much? 500 calories? 5,000 calories? 15,000 calories? If you eat 15,000 calories, I’d put money on you gaining, irrespective of how perfect you might be on your percentages. This brings us back to calorie balance and why it is so important. Hit protein, limit carbs, and use fat per your goals.
So where did the percentages come from? They’re used for medical/therapeutic ketosis – namely to treat conditions like Epilepsy etc.
#2 – BPC/Fat Bombs are great for fat loss – Eat to Satiety
BPC and Fat Bombs are a terrible idea – they are just a waste of calories with little to no nutritional value. If your goal is fat loss you are already eating at a deficit – don’t WASTE those calories on something so devoid of the micro nutrients your body craves, and then limit REAL FOOD to fit it in. Completely counter productive to fat loss.
The idea that BPC/FAT BOMBS will help with satiety is flawed on two parts. Firstly, fat isn’t the most satiating macronutrient – protein is. Secondly, eating to satiety isn’t a sound strategy for fat loss. Most of us became overweight by eating to satiety. Especially when first starting out it takes time for us to become accustomed to portion control and what is actually in our foods. Eating to satiety could mean over eating, which results in no fat loss or even gains – leading people to think that keto is at fault. Really, they’re just eating too much.
#3 – Keto = Automatic Fat Loss – Higher Ketones equal faster fat loss
Ketones are a byproduct of carbohydrate restriction. It’s entirely possible to gain fat on a ketogenic diet if you eat at a calorie surplus. There are many diets that work for fat loss, but the premise is the same – calorie deficit.
Higher ketones do not equal faster fat loss. It’s still calorie deficit. When protein and calories are accounted for, studies show no difference in rate of fat loss between different diets. Chasing higher ketone numbers won’t lead to greater fat loss. It’s also why you don’t need to spend your time or money peeing on sticks, and should spend the time tracking and weighing food.
#4 – I need to get Keto flu – Keto flu is a right of passage
This is crazy. Supplement your electrolytes from day one and there’s no need to feel like a sack of crap. Keto flu is entirely optional. When you transition into ketosis your kidneys go from retaining sodium to rapidly excreting it. This throws your electrolyte balance way off, and leaves you feeling horrendously ill. Good news is, it’s easily fixed by supplementing your sodium intake (with salt), and if needed potassium & magnesium (though these are more easily reached through diet alone).
Electrolytes can be confusing, so check out our electrolytes infographic which should help get you started.
#5 – You won’t lose muscle on Keto – Too much protein turns to sugar
This is another dangerous one that gets spread frequently, and is usually pushed by the ‘eat fat to lose fat’ crews. Unfortunately, it’s not true – it’s very possible to lose muscle on keto, if your protein intake isn’t reflective of your lean body requirements. Some of the more common signs of inadequate protein can be hair loss and weak fingernails. Long term – muscle wastage, reductions in bone density, and potential damage to organs etc. Protein intake is critical in any diet, but even moreso when eating at a calorie deficit. We want to make sure that what you lose is FAT and not MUSCLE – so recognizing the difference between losing weight and losing fat is vital!
It’s also important to keep in mind that losses to lean tissue will also lead to a lowered resting metabolic rate. Essentially, to continue losing fat, you’ll need to keep cutting calories until there’s nothing left to cut. Then what? This is often where we see people come to us after long term stalls, sometimes looking ‘skinny-fat’ or gaunt, because they’ve lose a lot of their muscle mass and have even started gaining fat because they no longer have the muscle to support the food they are eating.This is why we say, ‘its very possible to lose weight, but end up fatter’.
Further to this – Keto can be a very unhealthy way of eating if you do it wrong. This is why we encourage and harp on about tracking so much, because it’s important to your health and well being – and most of us who have had a problem with weight will likely need to spend some time weighing and tracking their food, to learn what their portion sizing should look like with respect to protein etc, but also what is actually in the food they eat.
As for too much protein – When protein turns into sugar via gluconeogenesis it is a demand driven process by the bodies need for glucose, not a supply driven process from eating too much protein. It takes zero grams of protein to “trigger” GNG, as your body is triggering it as it needs it anyway. Your body can and will create glucose from the glycerol backbone of a triglyceride. The amount of protein you’d need to eat for GNG to be an issue is absurd. DO NOT be afraid of protein.
#6 – You ‘need’ to fast – XXX won’t break my fast
You don’t need to fast to start keto – all that is required is the restriction of appreciable amounts of carbohydrates. Fasting can be a useful calorie restriction tool, but it’s also important to recognize that it can be dangerous if done improperly. Fasting longer than 18 hours is generally not recommended (LBM losses really ramp up at this point), and you need to ensure you can eat adequate protein within your eating window, whilst eating enough calories in general to keep fulfill your micronutrient requirements.
In terms of what will and wont break your fast. Any nutrient that starts an enzymatic process in the liver will stop autophagy. Fat doesn’t spike insulin as much as protein or carbs, but to think it has no impact on other digestive and metabolic pathways is negligent.
The second problem is it’s impossible for everyday people to test for these what may or may not break their fast at home on a meal-by-meal basis, also noting that our thresholds may very per individual, activity, energy demands, etc.
If your main goal with fasting is fat loss, then it’s not as much stress provided calories are accounted for and your diet is nutrient dense, but don’t be fooled to think you are still fasting – you aren’t. If your goal is autophagy then almost everything will break your fast except water and maybe black coffee/tea.
Adding fats to your fast in the belief they wont break it is both counter productive from a calorie partitioning point of view, but also counter intuitive as it stops one of the benefits of the fast, the increase in growth hormone secretion to protect LBM (noting it doesn’t negate LBM losses, just lessens them). You’re essentially negating the protective aspect of the fast.
#7 – You need MCT oil/Exogenous ketones to be Keto
Whilst you can’t store the calories from MCT – your body still needs to use them. What does that mean? It means that fat burning from adipose (your bodyfat) is halted, so whilst you are using the MCT for energy, you aren’t actually losing any bodyfat. To put it another way – say I need to empty my petrol tank to take it to the mechanic, but my car also has LPG. If I continually run my car on LPG, I’ll never empty the petrol tank.
As for exogenous ketones, their use can actually inhibit endogenous ketone production – that is, they can stop you from entering the very state you’re hoping to, Keto! For the same reasons as MCT, they’re largely counter productive for fat loss, and their benefits only really lie with people that need to chase ketones for medical reasons (Epileptics for instance). There may be some benefits to elite/endurance athletes, but these are the outliers.
#8 – Fat is the most satiating macronutrient
Protein always has and always will be the most satiating macronutrient. It will keep you fuller for longer, but it’s also very forgiving. You’re less likely to overeat protein, and if you do it has a higher thermic effect (your body spends energy breaking down and using the protein), and only four calories per gram (as opposed to fat at 9 calories per gram). Focus on wholefood sources of protein (meat, eggs, fish, etc) – you’ll find them far more filling than shakes and bars. Protein to a large degree is the secret to losing body fat without constantly starving, and unless you have existing kidney problems, there is no reason to fear it!
#9 – Keto food lists – That’s not keto!
We’ve heard it before. You can’t have carrot or pumpkin. Nothing from below ground. Blah blah blah.
Ketosis is a metabolic state, and it’s induced by the restriction of appreciable amounts of carbohydrates. What’s that mean? It means that if you can fit carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, etc, into your macros – go for it. They are still wholefoods and full of fantastic micronutrients – but you’ll need to keep an eye on the amounts as the carbs can add up quickly.
Now, what’s important to keep in mind is just because it’s keto or fits your macros, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Your judgement and what you want out of your health and nutrition will dictate what you’re willing to have, but we’ll always advocate for wholefoods here. Keto can be an incredibly healthy way of eating when done right, but it can also be tragically unhealthy if you aren’t careful.
#10 – Keto isn’t sustainable long term – Keto will ruin your health
This mainly seems to come from people that see the ‘gorge on fat’ keto groups that push the eat fat to lose fat mentality. I agree, that isn’t sustainable long term unless you’re using it to treat a specific condition (in which case it’s a cost benefit scenario).
That’s not what we believe nutritional ketosis to be though. We don’t advocate you fill your plates and cups with fats and oils. Rather, your fats should be coming along for the ride – mostly from your protein sources, and from some avocado, nuts etc.
Now, there are some things to keep in mind. When eating at a calorie deficit, it’s normal to see a jump in LDL cholesterol levels as stored cholesterol is released into the bloodstream from adipose (your bodyfat). These will normally settle down within a few months, alternatively a stint at maintenance will also see this fall back into line. As more research comes out, we are seeing cholesterol isn’t the all ending monster it’s been made out to be – but that’s a topic for another day.
So – what else? Most people will see their blood sugars lower, as well as becoming more stable – with major improvements for both type one and type two diabetics. Blood pressure can also be improved. You’ll generally see improvements to mood, energy levels, and sleeping patterns. Many people can see improvements in their various auto-immune conditions, reductions in visceral fat (the fat in your abdomen that surrounds your organs), reductions in inflammation, and there’s a whole heap of other benefits.
All this getting healthy must be really hard to sustain though, right?
Not at all. It’s common to over complicate this way of eating by using long recipes, trying to ketofy different foods, etc. This is where keto can get confusing and expensive, and whilst you can do that, it’s far easier to go back to basics. Plan your meals around your protein, let your fat come along for the ride and colour your plate with vegetables. Tracking these won’t take you more than a few minutes a day, and when you see your results, when you FEEL the differences in your body, you’ll wonder WHY you hadn’t started sooner!
Good health, delicious food. Sounds pretty sustainable to me.