Do Calories Matter on Keto Diet?

While carbohydrates are the fuel giving source of the body, the keto diet uses fat for energy. By that principle, do calories matter on keto diet? The answer lies in the quality of calories more than the quantity.

Calorie counting

The keto diet has been riding on a popular wave with its promise of weight loss even on a high-fat diet. While carbohydrates are the fuel giving source of the body, the keto diet uses fat for energy. By that principle, do calories matter on a keto diet? The answer lies in the quality of calories more than the quantity. Calorie counting can be useful but only as a secondary tool to achieve weight loss goals.

Calories certainly play a part in weight loss but the more you learn and understand about calories you will realize that they are not the end-all and be-all of any weight loss story.

What exactly are calories?

A calorie is a unit of measurement for energy-giving fuel needed by the body to be able to perform. One unit is measured as Kcal and this pertains to the amount of energy different foods can produce for the body. The body’s voluntary and involuntary movements are all dependent on the energy produced by the food we consume. Daily, a person will need a certain amount of energy or calories burned — to keep these movements going and in top form. A person’s age, gender, and body frame influence the body’s ability to burn calories into energy. This is known as your basal metabolic rate or BMR. An active lifestyle will require more calories from an individual while someone with a sedentary daily routine can live with fewer calories. 

Getting To Know Your Macros

Keto dieters are conscious of keeping track of their daily macronutrient intake to ensure they stay in ketosis. Calories can be found in carbs, protein, and fat.

  • Carbohydrates: 4 calories in every gram
  • Protein: 4 calories in every gram
  • Fat: 9 calories in every gram

This is why keto dieters rely on fat for calories because it has twice the number of calories compared to carbs. Calories from fat are denser hence why it is much more filling as well as it curbs your cravings. Protein has been known to be the most satiating of all macronutrients. People looking to lose weight and build muscle look to protein shakes for meal replacements to be able to fill the body’s protein and calorie needs. However, protein only targets cell repair and muscle build-up and growth. Its calories are not the best source for energy because it still has to go through a process in the liver where t protein is converted into glucose to be able to use it as fuel for the body’s needs. An excess of protein in the body is also not such a good thing as it can cause intestinal discomfort and indigestion. Too much protein in the body is also linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer. Anyone with liver issues should not go on a high protein diet.

Calories from fat are better than those that come from protein sources. Certain food such as eggs pack on a healthy amount of macros and calories. Two eggs can provide as much as 146 calories: 4 calories coming from carbs, 52 calories are from protein and 90 calories are from fat. 

An average adult can easily burn 1800 calories up to 2600 calories each day depending on their level of activities and lifestyle. The energy burned from these calories can come from food consumed or stored fat in the body. It is important to know how your body burns calories to be able to effectively lose weight.

Vital Role Players In Weight Loss

The goal of losing weight is to enable the body to use stored fat as its source of energy. If your body does not use these stored fats for fuel then all these fats will just remain where they are. The key is to get the body to eat and move that will enable it to burn fat and keep it from storing fat. Hormones may have a lot to do with how your body manages fat. Among all the hormones that participate in our daily bodily functions, there 3 major players that can greatly influence fat storage. 

Insulin

Insulin is also called the fat-storage hormone. It works against every effort of the body to breakdown fat. An individual with high insulin will have a difficult time burning fat as the body will use the sugar in the blood to burn instead. Insulin acts as the cleanup manager whenever insulin levels are high. It converts excess glucose into energy or stores it as fat as a defense mechanism. To keep insulin levels low — blood glucose needs to be kept at a low level.

Glucagon

Glucagon is released only when insulin levels are low. As soon as glucose levels drop, glucagon takes over in the blood and taps onto the liver to release glucose for fuel. When glucose levels are kept low, glucagon will release fat from the body’s fat cells and tosses it over to the liver to convert it into ketones. The ketones are then used for fuel. High levels of insulin bring the body to store fat, and high glucagon tells it to burn fat. The trick is to keep insulin low and avoid high carb foods to prevent insulin levels to spike. 

Leptin

It is a hormone produced by fat cells in the body It signals your satiety buzzer to let you know that the body has enough fuel. Leptin keeps the body from overloading and overheating. The fat cells utilize leptin hormones to send messages to the brain and let the body know it has enough fuel to burn. However, some may have Leptin resistance. Where the brain does not recognize that it is releasing enough leptin. This, in turn, will lead your brain to think that it needs more food for fuel and keeps you hungry. The cycle goes on and in turn, continuously stores fat.  

All Calories Are Not The Same

The principle of having to burn more calories more than what you consume leads to weight loss may make absolute sense but it is not as simple. The body is a complex fortress that has built-in defense mechanisms. 

Certain factors such as the thermic effect of food can also affect how your body burns calories. It is much harder to break down protein in the body than carbs. The thermic effect of food for protein is 25 % — this translates as 25% of calories consumed from protein-rich food are used for breaking it down. Carbs only need 8%. When you eat 100 calories of protein, your body burns 25% of those calories and leaves you with 75 calories. Whereas for 100 calories of carbs leaves you with 92 calories more to burn. 

The body has several options to choose from on how it prefers to burn energy. It follows a hierarchy called the oxidative hierarchy, where the body ultimately chooses which fuel to burn first. 

Below are the different macronutrients of food broken down into their respective places of which the body prefers to burn first. :

  • First level: Alcohol
  • Second level: Carbs/Glucose
  • Third level: Protein
  • Fourth level: Fat

Different foods can have different effects on the body. When a person drinks alcoholic beverages, carbs, and fat burning come to a complete stop while the liver is processing alcohol. Alcohol is not stored in the body because the liver does a rapid process of eliminating alcohol. The body concentrates on breaking down alcohol first and instead of burning fat next, the body burns the calories from those mixed drinks. If you are on a diet, this is one of the top reasons to stay away from alcohol. 

  • Sugar is another story. They say that sugar can be more addictive than alcohol, nicotine, or drugs. Most sugar addicts are also carb addicts. Carbs are the preferred source of energy of th the body. Excess carbs are converted into sugar or glucose which in turn are converted into stored fat.
  • Keeping yourself satiated is the trick to sticking with a diet. Some foods do trigger satiety, and others leave you with unstoppable cravings. Protein induces satiety and keeps you from craving snacks. Many dieters swear by this as protein also helps heighten the body’s sensitivity to leptin when it signals the brain that you’re full.
  • Fat is in the base level of hierarchy due to its capacity to be stored in the body. It is the last macronutrient of choice by the body to be burned for energy and the hardest to breakdown.

Do Calories Matter on a Keto Diet?

Calories are always a key factor in any diet. The keto diet typically leaves you with fewer moments of hunger and cravings, which eventually does make you want or need less food and of course, consume fewer calories as a result. However, keeping a close count of your daily calorie intake is not the only answer to achieving weight loss. The kind of food you eat and its macronutrient value is where calories matter. Quality is always better than quantity. 

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