You may be wondering why the keto diet is so great for weight loss. It is true, many people lose weight very easily when adopting a vegan keto diet. But I would like to point something out before I explain why that happens. A vegan keto diet, whilst amazing for losing weight, shouldn’t simply be seen as the next fad diet.
A vegan keto diet, properly planned, is a vehicle for a long and healthy life. it is a way to minimise the risks of many fatal diseases. It is a tool for excellent fitness and muscle development. Weight loss is simply a happy side effect of this healthy and sustainable lifestyle choice.
So please don’t see this as a short term fix to shed a few lbs. It certainly will help with that, but it will also provide you with so much more if you stick with it long-term.
What is Keto for Weight Loss?
To answer this question, let me explain what ketosis actually is first. Ketosis is a natural metabolic state where the body uses fat and ketones as its fuel instead of glycogen from carbs (glucose).
The body’s preferred fuel is glucose. This is because it is usually present in abundance. In fact, there is usually too much glucose present in the average diet. The excess glucose not used as fuel gets stored as glycogen to be used at a later date. When the glycogen stores are full, as often happens with people who over eat carbohydrates, the body will store the excess glucose as fat.
Glucose Reduction and Fat Loss
When you remove a large portion of the carbohydrate intake from the diet (keto is low carb, not zero carb), you are preventing two things. Firstly, the storage of excess glucose as fat, because there isn’t any excess glucose. Secondly, the body from using glucose as fuel, because there isn’t enough coming in via the diet.
So when the body’s glycogen stores are depleted, the body will begin to use fat (both stored and dietary) as it’s main fuel source, along with ketones produced by the liver. As time goes on, the body will become more adept at using fat as fuel, and the liver will produce less ketones.
This is a perfectly natural and healthy metabolic process, evolved over thousands of years to ensure that whenever food was scarce, the body would be able to survive.
Other Reasons Keto for Weight Loss is so Effective:
- Eating food higher in fat leads to satiety and therefore a lower overall caloric intake
- Keto diets result in low insulin levels and the body is able to use fat as fuel (consumed and stored)
- The body stores excess carbs (especially sugar) as fat – not a problem on a keto diet
- Little to no food cravings, so ‘cheating’ isn’t usually an issue
- Sustained energy throughout the day means you are more likely to exercise
- Better sleep means better hormone regulation (less hungry) and less risk of carb-stuffing for quick energy
- Ketoers are more likely to make food from scratch resulting in less processed junk food consumed
- The body can easily utilise protein consumed, and transform it into muscle, increasing metabolic rate
Keto for Weight Loss and Ketones
The liver produces ketones when glucose sources are limited. Ketones as well as glucose fuel the brain. Ketones are present when the body is using fat as fuel. We can measure ketones by several methods, including urine, breath and blood tests. This enables us to track our progress. But bear in mind, as the body becomes fat-adapted (better at using fat for fuel), it will produce less ketones.
There are three types of ketones:
- Acetoacetate: The primary ketone that is derived from fat
- Acetone: The byproduct of acetoacetate production
- Betahydroxybutyrate: Synthesised by the liver from acetoacetate, the main energy source for the cellular mitochondria as it gets converted into ATP (adenosine triphosphate)
Low Fat Diets of the 80s
If you were around in the 80s and 90s you will remember the low fat diet craze (along with aerobics, legwarmers and neon leotards!). Leading nutritional bodies told us that dietary fat was the cause of weight gain, and to limit our fat intake.
Experts knew that eating a diet high in saturated animal fats led to health issues. These include weight gain, high cholesterol, clogged arteries, and ultimately, heart disease and early death. It was much simpler to tell the public to reduce its general fat intake than trying to explain the differences between saturated animal fats and healthy plant fats.
Processed Low Fat Products
Because of this, there was a surge of processed low fat products that entered the market. The problem with these products was that they often contained the same number of calories (therefore not creating a calorie deficit which is needed for weight loss). They simply substituted fats for sugars, resulting in foods high in processed and refined carbohydrates.
Low Fat Diets and Obesity
People were unaware that consuming excess sugar and carbs led to fat storage and many other health issues. So they ate these products in abundance, and it is now thought that this was the start of the obesity epidemic we see today. Farmers have known for centuries that in order to fatten animals, you feed them grains. Skimmed milk is fed to pigs to increase body fat because it is mostly sugar. The same processes apply to human animals too.
Isn’t a High Fat Diet Unhealthy?
We now know after decades of research that saturated animal fats cause high cholesterol, clogged arteries, heart disease and inflammation in the body.
Plant fats consist of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They have many positive effects on our health, including lowering bad cholesterol levels, reducing inflammation, improving brain function and preventing memory loss, regulating hormone production and assisting the absorption of essential nutrients.
Medium chain triglycerides from coconut can actually speed up the metabolism and help the body burn fat. The liver converts MCTs into ketones for fuel. Coconut MCTs are also thermogenic – meaning they increase the body’s fat burning capabilities, resulting in more calories burned.
So, while a diet high in saturated animal fats isn’t healthy at all, receiving the bulk of your calories from healthy plant fats like coconut, avocado, olives, nuts, seeds and cold pressed oils is very beneficial to the body.
Many ketoers use intermittent fasting (IF) to increase weight loss results, and for general health and longevity. Being in a fasted state is very natural for humans. In the hunter-gatherer days, we would go for extended periods of time without food.
IF and Cellular Health
Our bodies are designed to function this way. They use the non-feeding time to eliminate toxic build up, regenerate and repair. When protein or carbohydrates are restricted, and when fasting, the process of autophagy (where the cells eliminate damaged proteins, microorganisms, toxins and other harmful substances) takes place. This process is essential for long-term cellular health and the prevention of cancer and premature ageing.
In our modern day society, we never have to go even five minutes without food. Our poor over fed bodies never get a break from digesting and assimilating food.
IF and Fat Loss
When we are in a fasted state, the liver naturally produces more ketones, and the body will use its stored fat as fuel, thus reducing body fat percentage.
Another reason intermittent fasting helps fat loss is by reducing overal caloric intake. We know that to lose weight we need to consume less calories than we expend (calorie defecit). If we consume more calories than we expend (calorie surplus), we will gain weight. By reducing the number of hours we are able to consume food, we will usually eat less calories overall. This is because the body can only take in so much food at one time. It is simply a matter of volume.
IF for Muscle Gains
Intermittent fasting isn’t just beneficial for fat loss and cellular health. Studies have shown that combining intermittent fasting with resistance training can increase muscle gains compared with not fasting. Not only that, but IF can also help prevent the muscle loss that often happens when losing body fat. Training in a fasted state increases training performance. IF also helps to induce a better response to post-workout feeding, thus benefitting muscle repair and gains.
There are several ways we can utilise IF our benefit:
- Eating windows – No, not literally! This is where you condense your feeding into a small time frame. Numbers such as 16/8 or 20/4 represent the fasted time and the feeding time. So for 16/8, you would fast for 16 hours of the day and only eat during an 8 hour window, for example 12-8pm.
- Delaying breakfast – This is a simpler version of an eating window, you are just delaying the start of your eating time to have more fasted time.
- Fasting between breakfast and dinner – Some people prefer to have breakfast and then fast until dinner, thus reducing the number of meals and snacks consumed.
- 24-48 hour fasts – When you have some experience of IF using one or more of the above methods you can try this. Once you feel comfortable, you can try a 24 hour water fast. Consult your doctor before fasting if you have any health issues. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers shouldn’t fast, and neither should children.
Intermittent fasting, when combined with a ketogenic diet can be a really useful tool for health and weight loss. People often find it very easy to combine IF with their keto diets. This is because a keto diet increases satiety and decreases food cravings and extreme hunger pangs.
Keto for Weight Loss Summary
- A plant-based keto diet is not simply a weight loss fad. It provides long-term and wide reaching health and fitness benefits.
- Reducing carbohydrate intake allows the body to switch to burning fat (stored and dietary), and ketones for fuel instead of glucose.
- The body cannot store excess glucose as fat because there isn’t any!
- A keto diet usually results in lower caloric intake, less food cravings, feeling more satisfied and lower insulin levels.
- Ketones can fuel the brain instead of glucose.
- Low fat diets increase weight gain and other health issues.
- Saturated animal fats are not good for the body and are not necessary. However, plant fats are essential to healthy bodily function and help prevent dangerous issues such as obesity, brain degeneration, heart disease and high cholesterol.
- Intermittent fasting is a technique that is often combined with a keto diet to enhance weight loss health and longevity.
If you have any questions about the topic of keto for weight loss, please post them under this article. I will get back to you asap.