The New Year is here and if you are new to the ketogenic diet then it is likely that you want to shed some pounds and improve your body composition for your new year’s resolution. The ketogenic diet allows your body to switch to using fat as its primary metabolic fuel, making it a great weight loss tool. The purpose of this article is to lay out what you might expect when starting a ketogenic diet and the potential mechanisms in which weight loss can be seen when properly done.
Weight Loss During Keto-Adaptation
While weight loss on the ketogenic diet can be rapid, don’t be fooled by the number on the scale. It is not uncommon to lose several pounds the first week of starting a ketogenic diet. It is true that some of this weight loss is stemming from fat mass, but it is important to note that a lot of this weight loss can be a result of initial water and glycogen depletion. If you haven’t read Dr. Holland’s article on keto-adaptation than be sure to check it out. Dr. Holland does a great job summarizing weight lost during the keto-adaptation phase and her explanation is summarized in the graphic below. When carbohydrates are restricted (like during a ketogenic diet), insulin secretion by the pancreas is lowered and this can initially lead to not only increased water excretion by the kidneys, but also increased glycogen utilization (1) which also adds to water lost. These are likely large contributing factors for the initial, rapid weight loss experienced.
Fat Burning Following Keto-Adaptation
This is the part of the diet that many of the New Year’s resolution goals are concerned with. One you have made it past the adaptation period, you will be in a state that is prime for fat burning. When insulin is lowered via carbohydrate restriction, the pancreas secretes a peptide hormone known as glucagon. Glucagon exerts its efforts on adipose (fat) tissue causing the body to release stored fatty acids into the blood stream where they can be taken up by tissues and burned for energy or metabolized and converted to ketones in the liver. Many people have a hard time believing that a diet comprised primarily of fat can lead to such great loses in fat mass. However, the research has demonstrated that a low carb diet trumps a low-fat diet for weight loss, furthermore, fat loss (2).
The ketogenic diet can produce positive benefits for body composition through ways other than just enhanced fat burning. Reduced hunger is a fundamental feature of being in a state of ketosis and this can be great for not only staying in a caloric deficit, but also sticking to the diet long term! One of the biggest issues with other dietary methods is that it is often accompanied with increased hunger making long term adherence rather difficult. Due to controlled blood sugar and the interaction between ketones and the hunger center of the human brain, you can be in a calorie deficit and still experience feelings of satiety or fullness!
Ketogenic.com also has a great article highlighting the muscle maintenance benefits of the ketogenic diet. There are plenty of diets out there that can produce rapid weight loss and allow for you to reach your body composition goals. However, it is essential to always consider the composition of the weight that is lost. Far too often, people just look at the numbers on the scale as a marker of improvement or success with a diet. Nonetheless, improvements on the scale can come at the expense of hard earned muscle mass which is far from optimal and not what we are striving to achieve. Elevated ketone levels can help preserve muscle mass through several proposed mechanisms (3,4).
This is especially true when exercise is added and has been supported throughout the research (5).
Be Sure To Go Keto
There are plenty of low carbohydrate diets out there but if you are trying to reap the benefits of being in ketosis, it is important not just to follow a low carbohydrate plan, but rather a ketogenic diet plan. A study looking at different levels of carbohydrate restriction found that diets restricting carbohydrates to 30 grams produced high ketone levels and greater fat loss than other “low carbohydrate” diets (6). For more information on how to get started, check out the Keto for You application on the site.
Not Just For Weight Loss
Nearly 50% of American adults make a New Year’s resolution each year and weight loss is one of the top 3 goals each year. Unfortunately, people choose weight loss diets at the expense of their happiness, but with the ketogenic diet that does not have to be the case! In fact, the ketogenic diet can provide benefit beyond weight loss which makes it an option for those with goals not related to body composition. Being in a state of ketosis can improve your general health and quality of life! Looking to get your blood sugar in check? Finally considering taking your blood results from the doctor serious? How about that big project you want to start at work or school for the new year? The ketogenic diet can exert its benefits through a variety of ways and may be just what you need to make 2017 your best year yet!
- Weight loss can be rapid initially resulting from reductions in fat, glycogen, and water.
- Once adapted to the ketogenic diet, the body is primed for burning fat as its primary fuel source.
- Maintaining a ketogenic lifestyle becomes easier than other diets due to appetite suppression.
- Keto can be a great way to maintain muscle mass while reducing fat mass.
- Weight loss is not the only benefit of being keto!
- Bilsborough, S. A., & Crowe, T. (2003). Low carbohydrate diets: what are the potential short and long term health implications?Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 12(4), 397-404.
- Yancy, W. S., Olsen, M. K., Guyton, J. R., Bakst, R. P., & Westman, E. C. (2004). A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-fat diet to treat obesity and hyperlipidemia: a randomized, controlled trial. Annals of internal medicine, 140(10), 769-777.
- Nair KS, Welle SL, Halliday D, Cambell RG. Effect of β-hydroxybutyrate on whole-body leucine kinetics and fractional mixed skeletal muscle protein synthesis in humans. J Clin Invest. 1988;82:198–205.
- Kadowaki M, Kamata T, Noguchi T. Acute effect of epinephrine on muscle proteolysis in perfused rat hindquarters.Am J Physiol. 1996;270:E961–7.
- Volek, J. S., Quann, E. E., & Forsythe, C. E. (2010). Low-Carbohydrate Diets Promote a More Favorable Body Composition Than Low-Fat Diets: Strength and Conditioning Journal, 32(1), 42–47.
- Young, C. M., Scanlan, S. S., Im, H. S., & Lutwak, L. (1971). Effect on body composition and other parameters in obese young men of carbohydrate level of reduction diet. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 24(3), 290-296.