It’s pretty obvious the well-known advice to “eat less, move more” for losing weight is not working for most people — if any. In fact, at least ⅔ of dieters who lose weight not only gain it back, but often do so with some extra weight. Yikes. So the question is, can there be a real solution to this problem?
There just might be, and it’s a little-known process that more and more people are catching on to: ketosis for weight loss. Ketosis on a low-carb, ketogenic diet works because it helps suppress your appetite unlike other ways of eating. Not only that, it can also support increased focus and mental clarity.
Imagine no longer obsessing about food or worrying about eating too much because your appetite is just… under control. No more counting calories! No more cravings. No more crazy amounts of exercise. Just satiety and a regulated appetite.
Not only that, a ketogenic diet might even be able to help you lose weight faster than other methods — while keeping the weight off. If this idea appeals to you (and come on, how could it not?), you might be ready to try a ketogenic diet for weight loss. But you’re still left with some questions, so let’s cover all of the details you need to know to get started.
Weight Loss and the Ketogenic Diet
Before you can use a ketogenic diet for weight loss, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of how it works. Here are some important points about the ketogenic diet:
- A ketogenic diet is centered around bringing the body into a state of ketosis.
- Ketosis is metabolic process in which the body burns fat for energy instead of its primary fuel, carbohydrates.
- When you drastically cut down on the amount of carbohydrates or calories you’re eating, and there aren’t enough carbohydrates from food to burn for energy, the body switches to the state of ketosis.
- Once in ketosis, the liver uses the body’s fatty acids to make molecules known as ketones to burn for fuel. Those on a ketogenic diet eat a low amount of carbs to do just this.
So, why is this good for weight loss? That’s what we’ll cover next.
Benefits of Ketosis for Weight Loss
There are many benefits of ketosis for those looking to lose weight on a ketogenic diet, including:
Increased Fat Burn with Ketosis
When you eat low-carb and your body starts burning fat as its primary source of fuel, you’re essentially in a fasting state where your body is using your fat stores directly for energy. Those experiencing stalls in their weight loss or having trouble getting rid of unwanted fat can benefit from a ketogenic diet for this reason.
Hormone Regulation with ketosis
Ketosis can help sustain weight loss by regulating hormones that affect weight. After you eat, the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) is released by your intestines. CCK is responsible for stimulating fat and protein digestion and inhibits the emptying of the stomach, which reduces appetite. This makes CCK a great regulator of food intake. For example, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed people injected with CCK stopped eating their meals sooner than those without it.
On the flip side, losing weight can cause your body to secrete less CCK, leading to less satiety after a meal. But this is where ketosis can be helpful. The same study showed that just one week of being in ketosis was able to raise levels of CCK back to where it was before weight loss! That means eating a ketogenic diet can help you avoid cravings for food all the time after losing weight, reducing the chance of gaining the weight back.
Appetite Suppression with ketosis
Yep, ketogenic low-carb diets may be helpful in reducing appetite by altering the concentrations of hormones and nutrients that affect hunger. It’s no wonder ketosis is used as a strategy for weight loss; it removes the need to eat more or respond to cravings for unhealthy foods. This means you can better listen to your body’s true hunger signals without worrying about counting calories or going hungry.
Blood Sugar Regulation with ketosis
When you’re eating a ketogenic diet full of healthy fats and proteins plus an abundance of vegetables, you experience more stabilized blood sugar. This is much better than traditional diet foods that are usually high in refined sugars and other carbohydrates, leading to a spike in blood sugar that leaves you feeling hungry again soon after.
As you can see, those on a ketogenic diet have an advantage over other forms of weight loss because they increase the chance of maintaining weight loss, reducing cravings, and eliminating the need to stress and obsess over every calorie or food portions.
Now the question becomes: how do you use a ketogenic diet for weight loss? And it all starts with reaching ketosis.
How to Reach Ketosis for Weight Loss
Going into ketosis begins with analyzing and shifting your intake of carbohydrates in your diet. On a ketogenic diet, the goal is to limit your carb intake to between 20-50 grams of carbs per day, including those from processed and whole food sources.
A ketogenic diet for weight loss is usually broken down into the following macronutrient percentages:
- High fat intake making up 70-80% of total calories
- Moderate protein intake making up 20-25% of total calories
- Low carb intake making up 5-10% of total calories
These numbers might vary slightly depending on each person and factors like lean body mass, gender, height and weight, and level of activity, but generally they are around the same for most people.
Foods to Avoid on a Ketogenic Diet
In order to limit your carb intake to the proper amount for ketosis, you want to avoid or severely limit high-carb sources of food, such as the following:
Processed foods like:
- Refined grains
- Refined sugars of all kinds
- Candies, cookies, and flour-based baked goods
- Sugar-laden soft drinks and juices
- Breads and pastas
- Low-fat diet products
These foods are not only high in carbs, they’re also nutritionally empty and have no benefit to your body or weight reduction.
Whole food carbs like:
- Whole grains including wheat, oats, rice, corn, rye, and barley
- Fruits like apples, bananas, citrus fruits, with the exception of small amounts of berries
- Beans and legumes including chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, lentils, and peas
- White potatoes and other starchy vegetables including sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips
Now that you know what to avoid, let’s talk about everything you can enjoy on a ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic Diet Foods to Eat
- Meats including: beef, chicken and other poultry, pork, lamb, goat, turkey, veal, and fish sources like salmon, sardines, catfish, tuna, trout, etc
- Eggs (preferably free-range)
- Dairy products including: cheeses, sour cream, yogurt, and heavy creams
- Low-carb vegetables including: spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, peppers, and onions
- Fats and oils including: nuts and seeds (whole or as butters), high-quality oils like olive oil, sesame oil, or high oleic sunflower and safflower oils, ghee, and grass-fed butter
- ONLY lower-sugar fruits including: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and avocados (and only in small amounts)
- Herbs and spices as long as they have no added sugars
Measuring Ketone Levels
When ketones are produced, those that aren’t used for energy will spill into different areas of your body. And when using ketosis for weight loss, the best way to ensure you’re staying in a ketogenic state is by measuring the amount of ketones present.
There are three main places to measure ketones:
- In your blood (measured with a glucose meter)
- In your urine (measured with a urine strip)
- On your breath (measured with a breath meter)
Generally, measuring your blood is the best determinant of accurate ketone levels in the body, with the urine test being the less accurate but also most affordable option for those just starting a ketogenic diet.
To find out more about measuring ketone levels in each area, check out What is Ketosis?
Ketogenic Diet Vs Other Diets
For the last several decades, the dieting community has put a big emphasis on low-fat foods, stressing that fats are harmful and should be avoided. But the latest research is showing that this just isn’t the case: fats are not bad or harmful.
In fact, research shows a low-carb diet can be more successful for weight loss than other dieting plans. Other advantages of the keto diet may include:
- More long-term weight loss
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced cholesterol
- Less cravings
- More satiety after each meal
- Improved insulin resistance
Less inflammation: Since a ketogenic diet doesn’t raise glucose levels like a higher carb diet does, it can help reduce inflammation much better.
Reduced heart disease risk: A keto diet has been shown to raise the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol while also reducing total triglycerides in the body, which are the biggest factors in determining risks for heart disease.
Additional Ketosis Weight Loss Tips
As you’ve seen from the above information, ketosis can be a fantastic tool for weight loss and health. For those struggling with implementation or plateaus, here are some additional tips to keep in mind when using ketosis for weight loss.
Only eat when hungry. Although a nice benefit of the ketogenic diet is not having to count calories, it’s still important to listen to your body. This is much easier for those on a keto diet because of the high level of satiety, but those who struggle with emotional eating might need the reminder to listen to their true hunger and stop when full.
Get enough sleep. This is hard for a lot of people, but sleep is so important. Even if you have a healthy diet, being chronically low on sleep can have a negative impact on your weight and health. So get in those Z’s as much as possible!
Avoid fruit. If you’re still struggling with some extra weight after implementing the ketogenic diet, you might need to cut out all fruit from your diet, even berries, as they do still contribute to your carbohydrate intake.
Cut back on nuts and dairy. Although full of healthy fats, nuts also contain a decent amount of carbs, and dairy contains the milk sugar lactose. Too much of either might be responsible for impeding weight loss.
Avoid beer. Yep, this is a hard one for some people. It’s tempting to kick back with a cold one on the weekend, but the truth is that beer and alcohol isn’t doing your weight loss efforts any good: most beers contains a ton of digestible carbs. If you’re going to have some alcohol, better choices are red or dry white wines, which are low-carb, or pure spirits like brandy, vodka, or whiskey that are no-carb.
Don’t just rely on the scale. If you have a good amount of weight to lose, you’ll likely see a significant change in numbers from a ketogenic diet. However, total weight is only part of the equation. If you’re working out and building muscle while following the diet, you might put on muscle weight that doesn’t reflect the fat loss you’ll also experience. You can get a far better indication of fat loss is by measuring changes in your waist circumference instead.
Try intermittent fasting. Some people find intermittent fasting, or not eating for specified amounts of time to be helpful for busting weight loss plateaus. There are a few different forms of intermittent fasting, but the most common and often recommended version involves only eating within an eight-hour window (and thus fasting for 16 hours at a time).
For those with weight loss goals who have been unsuccessful so far, the ketogenic diet can be a great solution for healthy, long-term weight loss. If you’re looking for the best weight loss solution, trying a ketogenic diet might just be the last one you ever have to try.