I had a great conversation with a client of mine the other day. She was asking about Keto, it's benefits, and if cutting out carbs would help her lose more weight.
I explained to her that Keto works just fine for weight loss. But it comes with some pretty aggressive downsides, one of which is...
...No CARBS at ALL.
Sorry if that was dramatic, but giving up carbs for the sake of weight loss doesn't sound like the juice is worth the squeeze. I'll explain why in a moment.
When you take a look at the Keto lifestyle, it seems easy enough. I mean, look at all the bacon they get to eat.
But just think- every time you're offered a beer, a piece of birthday cake, or like, a banana, you have to say, "No thanks, I'm avoiding all carbs for absolutely no reason at all."
(Note: some people are prescribed ketogenic diets for medical reasons. This is a different conversation.)
Here's the thing: Keto works just fine for weight loss, but it works for the same reason as any other diet that produces results:
A Calorie Deficit
More calories going out (through the workings of your metabolism and daily activity) than are coming in (through your mouth).
"You still need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight on Keto?" my client asked.
It's a fair question. I mean, Keto diet advocates claim it shifts your body into 'Fat Burning Mode!' Surely, as someone who wants to burn fat, that's a good thing.
Well, the answer to her question is "Yes." You need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight. Period.
And the claim that a Ketogenic diet shifts your body into 'Fat Burning Mode!' is true, but the language is a bit misleading.
Fat Burning Mode!
This is how it works: Carbs are your primary fuel source. Your body loves 'em, and burns them up like jet fuel. But when you eliminate them all together, it needs an alternate fuel source.
Take away it's carbs, and eventually, it shifts to fat as it's primary source of fuel. It's not ideal for building strength or muscle, but it works.
This is what's meant by 'Fat Burning Mode!' It's simply the primary nutrient your body uses for fuel, and doesn't necessarily mean the fat starts melting off your body as soon as you enter...
Fat Burning Mode!
If you want to burn fat from your body, you need to create a Calorie deficit.
A calorie deficit can certainly be accomplished on a Ketogenic diet. In fact, for many people, eliminating an entire macronutrient makes achieving a calorie deficit easier. But for others, it just makes them miserable.
And when the same weight loss results can be achieved without cutting carbs, the whole idea of 'Fat Burning Mode!' loses its bluster.
So go ahead, eat the banana.
Hold on Mitch...What about Sugar? Surely, Sugar Makes Us Fat.
I mean, sugar spikes your insulin levels. Insulin is a storage hormone, which means it slows down your body's breakdown of fat, and encourages it to store more.
I get it. This sounds like bad news. But it's not as bad as it sounds.
Let me explain.
Your food is made up of protein, carbs, and fat. When you eat, your body breaks them down (protein to amino acids, fat to fatty acids, and carbs to glucose). And these nutrients are now floating through your bloodstream, ready to be stored in your body.
Every time you eat, your pancreas pumps out some insulin, which signals your muscle and fat tissues to suck up those nutrients. Amino acids are stored in the muscles, and fatty acids/ excess energy are stored in the fat cells.
During this time, your body is in a fed state, which decreases the breakdown of body fat, and shifts to storing it instead.
I know, this sounds like a nightmare, but bear with me.
Eventually, all those nutrients are absorbed, and you shift back into a fasted state. Your insulin levels decrease, your body slows down the storage of body fat, and it goes back to breaking it down as energy.
How long do you spend in a fed state each day? It depends on how many calories you eat overall.
In fact, your body is shifting back and forth between fed and fasted states all day long. If you're eating more calories than you need to maintain your body weight, you’ll spend more of your day in a fed state, and you'll pack on the pounds.
Likewise, if you're eating fewer calories than you need to maintain your body weight, you’ll spend more of your day in a fasted state, and you’ll lose weight. Even if some of your calories come from sugar.
It's important to note: how much time you spend in fasted and fed states has nothing to do with when or how often you eat your meals, and everything to do with how many calories are coming in vs. how many are going out.
So, to sum this up, insulin causes fat storage, but it doesn't make you fat. Too many calories overall does that. Whether those calories are coming from Gummy Bears, McDonald's fries, or coffee with butter in it, it doesn't matter. If there's more coming in than are going out, you'll put on weight.
(It's worth noting that protein also causes spikes in insulin. But if you ever see protein demonized on the internet, you'll know the world has truly gone mad).
Besides, if sugar was to blame, this chart would be tough to explain:
Good nutrition can be summed up by checking off a few boxes:
1. Eat the right amount of calories for your goal.
2. Eat enough protein to build/ maintain lean muscle tissue (0.8-1.25g per pound of body weight)
3. Get most of your food from whole, quality sources (which means Gummy Bears can have their place, they just can't run the show).
Focus on these 3 things, and you're officially crushing it. If you need help, or have any questions about any of this, shoot me a message and we'll chat.
Author- Mitch Heaslip
Canadian born, but based out of Fort Worth, Tx. Mitch helps people all around the world achieve leaner, stronger bodies and healthier lifestyles through an all-inclusive approach to fitness.