You might have heard of people using keto for weight management—but how does it work?
For many people, the keto diet is an effective way to stay at a healthy weight and get some great health benefits, like burning fat and feeling sharper.
Read on to learn how ketosis helps satisfy hunger and boost brain power, and get tips to help maximize fat burning.
You might associate weight management with crash diets, watching your calorie intake and feeling hangry. For many people, the ketogenic diet is an easier way to stay at a healthy weight. This low-carb, high-fat diet kick-starts your body’s fat-burning metabolism, leading to impressive benefits like fewer cravings, sharper cognition and lasting energy. Read on to learn how keto helps support weight management.
In ketosis, your body burns fat, not carbohydrates
When you follow the keto diet, you drop your carb intake and replace high-carb foods with more fat and protein. Your body stops relying on using carbohydrates for energy, and it starts to metabolize dietary fat for energy instead—and yes, that includes burning your own body fat. Cool!
This fat-burning system is called ketosis. It’s a metabolic state where your body turns fat into molecules of energy called ketones. When your body is in a state of ketosis, you’ll experience other benefits besides fat-burning, like increased energy and satiety.
All of this combines to create a style of eating that helps you feel less hungry and more energized, with fewer food cravings—all while burning fat. Here’s how:
Ketones help you feel less hungry and more satisfied
Ketones affect the hormone cholecystokinin (which helps you feel full) and ghrelin, which some people call the “hunger hormone.”
Cholecystokinin: Your intestines release cholecystokinin after you eat. This hormone tells your brain that you’re full, and it’s a powerful regulator of food intake. Ketones help balance cholecystokinin levels so you actually feel satisfied sooner after eating. Ghrelin: Ghrelin is released from your stomach and intestines when you haven’t eaten in a while. When you finally eat a meal and nutrients start circulating in your blood, ghrelin levels drop again. Lucky for you, ketosis suppresses the increases in ghrelin levels that occur when you haven’t eaten, which is why many people experience a reduced appetite on keto.
Here’s another way to curb cravings and satisfy hunger: Bulletproof Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil, the most ketogenic MCT oil. It boosts ketone production and adds more quality fats to your diet.
Keto takes the power away from insulin
One of the downsides of eating carbs is that they make you crave more carbs. That side effect is thanks to insulin, a hormone triggered by your carbohydrate-burning metabolism.
When your body converts carbohydrates into sugar and sends them into your bloodstream, insulin floods in to regulate your blood sugar and direct any leftover energy to fat storage. So, after you eat a bagel or a donut, your insulin spikes to try to keep your blood sugar balanced. As your blood sugar drops, your body craves another hit of carbs to keep it going.
Think about how you feel after eating a white bread sandwich and kettle chips for lunch. You’re ready to raid the fridge a couple of hours later—or you feel tired and don’t know why. Keto is different. Instead of a sandwich and chips, you might eat a Low-Carb Thai Salad with Grilled Steak and feel satisfied for hours.
Why? You don’t spike your blood sugar when you eat high-fat, low-carb foods. Insulin isn’t involved in fat metabolism. And that can translate to big benefits (and stable energy levels) if you want to stay at a healthy weight.
Insulin is bossy. It tells your body when to store unused glucose as fat. As your body processes carbohydrates into glucose, insulin is there to wrangle the unused glucose and direct it to the fat cells to be stored. When you stop eating carbs, you put insulin out of the fat-storage business.
Insulin also blocks leptin, the hormone that signals to your brain when you’ve eaten enough to meet your energy needs. That means insulin can keep that “I’m full” signal from getting to your brain before you’ve had a second helping of mashed potatoes. When you eat fat, insulin doesn’t get involved in metabolism, so leptin can do its job, and your body gets the signal when it’s full.
Eat more healthy fats to feel more satisfied
Finally, fat is naturally satiating, helping you feel fuller, longer. On keto, you can eat some grass-fed steak with butter-drenched steamed vegetables, and you’ll power through your afternoon without any distracting cravings.
It might sound strange to think about eating more fat to stay at a healthy weight. This doesn’t mean eating cheese and bacon for every meal. On the keto diet, you want to prioritize quality fats from nutrient-dense whole foods like eggs, fatty cuts of meat and fish, avocados, nut butter, coconut oil and olive oil.
Related: What Is the Keto Flu? What to Do When Keto Makes You Crash
What does a keto meal plan look like?
Don’t worry—there are plenty of keto-friendly foods you can eat while achieving your weight management goals on keto. What matters is that you hit specific macronutrient goals: Eat mostly nutrient-packed fats (about 75% of your daily calories), some protein (about 20%) and a very small amount of carbs (about 5%) that primarily come from low-carb veggies.
Here’s a sample day of keto:
Get more inspo with this seven-day keto meal plan.
There’s no single “right” way to do keto, and this style of eating doesn’t work for everyone. On a standard keto diet, you’re eating as few as 20 grams of net carbs per day, but some people do better when they eat around 150 grams of carbs per day. Pay attention to how you feel as you experiment with a low-carb diet.
Here are some tips to stay in ketosis and support fat loss:
The bottom line is that the keto diet supports weight management in a few different ways, from your hormones to your energy levels. As with any diet plan, talk to your doctor or dietitian before you make the switch. What matters is that you find what works for you and helps you feel your best, whether that’s low-carb or simply low-sugar. For more meal ideas, check out these delicious keto recipes.
Read next: What’s Dirty Keto and Should You Be Doing It?
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