Something that is widely misunderstood by the media and many followers of a ketogenic diet is that calories, or more specifically types of calories, still do matter. I know everyone thinks of Keto as a “magic bullet” to having to manage their food intake.
By any means I do not believe myself to be an expert but just well read. I used to think the same way and many online will talk about this themselves too as it keeps you coming back for more. It absolves them and the dieter of any common sense and is pretty much patently false.
Do calories matter on keto or just carbs? Yes, calories matter as to achieving overall fat loss for anyone. The perception that you can eat “unlimited” on keto is just plain wrong and incorrect. If you eat more calories then you expend you will gain weight, just as if you eat less you will lose weight.
Below we are going to expand into this topic to give you more information about each part of why calories matter and how you can use this knowledge to enhance your progress in fat loss. I know everyone can do this way of eating if they are willing to put in the effort to learn some of the tools.
What Do You Mean By The Term Fat Loss Instead Of Weight Loss?
I feel that a majority of people looking into the Ketogenic diet are looking to lose weight they have gained over a lifetime. This is where you have to learn to shift your perspective and possibly the hardest thing next to body image to manage.
You are specifically targeting FAT loss. Losing weight confers muscle and fat loss simultaneously. You MUST limit, as much as possible, the loss of lean muscle mass. If you don’t then the weight you lose will include muscle and will undoubtedly end up slowing your BMR. This will then cascade into issues with losing the actual fat mass itself.Josh
So I want you to change your focus, if the scale goes up 3 pounds in a day there is no DAMN way that is fat, that is water weight which fluctuates non-stop. Stop using a number value to determine your happiness and apply yourself into Keto.
Learn and begin to broaden your understanding as to that while this diet very often causes fat loss it is also healing decades of abuse on your system. Sometimes that healing process will appear as a “stall” on that scale. Don’t abruptly change what you are doing because of this. Don’t jump on bandwagon “beef and butter fasts”, “egg fasts”, and the like.
If the scale starts holding steady I suggest you move to measuring yourself with a tape measure, or if you are handy I know people who just use string and then track through string measurement each week on their waist. I personally tape measure as if this is getting smaller then you are moving in the right direction.
By moving I don’t mean inches per week, unless you have a great volume of fat to lose you more than likely will not be a crazy 30 pounds a week person. You are you and unique and your battles are going to be different from anyone you know who is on this plan. Please don’t compare yourself or your results to them. Please keep that in mind!Josh
If you continue and your inches aren’t changing either then you will need to readjust your macro-nutrients and recalculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) to see if after losing the additional fat are you now possibly over consuming calories again.
What Is Total Daily Energy Expenditure?
I’m not a scientist by any stretch but I have read and understand that this is typically a mathematical equation based on some physical traits to let you know the approximate amount of calories (energy) your body burns in a given day.
This TDEE value is made up of multiple other data points which give you a better picture. Below we go into the details of each part of the building of values to get a Total Daily Energy Expenditure level.
TDEE = BMR x Activity Level
Activity Level Standard Values:
- Sedentary (little to no exercise) BMR x 1.1
- Lightly Active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) BMR x 1.275
- Moderately Active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) BMR x 1.35
- Very Active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) BMR x 1.525
What Is Basal Metabolic Rate?
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest. This is typically referred to via shorthand as your body’s metabolism. This makes any changes to your metabolic rate, such as exercise, will increase your BMR.
As noted though this covers only “At Rest” and I am pretty sure most of us are not even close to at rest a part of the day. This is why we need to know this number through a metabolic chamber which can measure everything in and out, or you use the mathematical version which isn’t perfectly accurate as people aren’t exactly the same.
What Is The Thermic Effect Of Food?
The general formula is to multiply the total calories you eat by 10%. For example if you eat 2000 calories a day, you’ll burn about 200 calories digesting that food.
This is a little misleading though as more TEF occurs during protein consumption than fat or carbohydrate. In fact it is as much as double either of them in total calories burned just processing the protein.
Just ensure you eat enough protein daily to maintain your body musculature if not working out hard and wanting to incur fat loss. TEF changes very little calories overall but over time that can add up to help you on your journey to health!
What Is NEAT?
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is basically the miscellaneous activities like fidgeting and other mostly non-aware movements which your body can do which can increase your overall calorie expenditure.
NEAT is a reason why I think people are always confused on the calories in, calories out (CICO) discussion. They argue you can’t measure the expenditure well so the whole calculation is unusable. This is a valid point to a certain level but you can use the numbers if YOU TRACK them to find your number and make excellent results.
Ketogenic Diets Can Experience Fat Loss Without Counting Calories
I know I can hear you saying…
But person 1 and person 2 I know said they lost 100s of pounds eating anything they want on Keto…Most Dieters Somehow Have Heard This Story
…and that can be true. It is true though as they were eating less calories overall then they were burning. Also remember when you have more to lose you will lose faster on average because your intake need is normally higher.
A large singular benefit to a Ketogenic diet that isn’t spoken about much is satisfaction in the foods you eat. Fats and protein together are very satiating and that can last a very long time, this means overall calorie intake can be low without that familiar starving feeling.
Reasons Why You May fail At Self-Maintaining Without Tracking:
- Faulty hunger signaling leaves you thinking that you aren’t full and begins the signalling everyone is familiar with, grumbly tummy, that starts you searching for more food to add.
- This eating can become somewhat habit forming as your body will then signal at that time again the next day as it got food when it did and can start a cycle.
- Trained from young age to eat/snack 6+ times per day. Three are studies which have shown that there is no benefit to multiple small meals. Try to start eating larger, more fulfilling meals, to extend the time that you go between meals.
Benefits To Increased Lean Body Mass Ratio
- Increase in Basal Metabolic Rate Which Increases TDEE. When your muscle mass increases this can improve the metabolism, this is what everyone working out daily is striving to achieve.
- Increase in energy output. It is fairly common the more weight someone loses the more active overall they become, this may appear small but daily can help burn many calories a month leading to less body fat without dedicated efforts.
You must remember to never eat back exercise calories if you are trying to lose fat. Your body stores hundreds of thousands of calories in the form of fat to use in need. If you eat then you are no longer “in need” so it will utilize that food again before moving to stored body fat.
Final Thoughts on Do Calories Matter on Keto or Just Carbs
When you choose to follow a ketogenic diet don’t fall into the trap of believing it is a eat anytime and as much as you want plan. You must still make sure to track how much you eat and if you overeat you will gain weight back.
Well I hope you walk away today more knowledgeable on the subject and now have some questions you would love to have answered. Please feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to respond and if it helps others I may append it into this post to ensure the most eyes get to see it!
Please share this out if it has helped you or if you know someone who could use the reality check on their current eating!