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Keto: It’s Not About the Calories — or Energy in or Energy Out

It seems like everybody these days is talking about going keto, where your body learns to burn fat instead of carbs for fuel. But what does that mean? And is it really true that the old paradigm of energy in, energy out (i.e., just burn more calories than you take in) is one you should think twice about?

The Keto Diet, a blog by someone who’s living the keto life, explains how counting calories simply doesn’t make sense. Using a 900-calorie diet of Coca-Cola versus a 900-calorie steak as an example, the blog talks about why the soda calories add up to an insulin “high,” leaving you hungry and wanting more while the steak calories slowly break down as you burn fat and protein — which also happens to leave you fuller, longer.

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The blog also talks about leptin, insulin, glucagon and grehlin and the parts they play in hunger and insulin resistance — and why these hormones matter when it comes to a keto diet.

The bottom line is a calorie is not just a calorie. It doesn’t matter what soda or candy company commercials say about the “secret” to losing weight being only that you expend more calories than you take in — if you don’t give your body the right types of food, you’re going to end up insulin-resistant and starving.

This is because one of the keys to long-term weight management is healthy metabolism and mitochondrial function. If cutting calories is your goal, rather than trying to exercise off whatever calories you take in, pay attention to WHEN you eat and WHAT you eat to steer your body in the right direction.

Once you understand that more than 700 weight loss studies confirm that eating healthier produces greater weight loss results than exercise, then you can see why diet and exercise actually complement each other, rather than compete with each other.

Next, you can begin your healthy eating food plan with this simple mantra: Keto is about burning fat for fuel, plain and simple. But, contrary to what some may say, it’s not about switching sugar for protein either. Put a different way, there are several variations of the types of a ketogenic diet, but “going keto” does not mean just eating steak the rest of your life.

A standard keto diet focuses on high consumption of healthy fats comprising 70 to 85 percent of your total daily calories. For your protein intake, the general rule of thumb is to follow the formula of 1 gram of protein for every kilogram of your lean body mass. And, your net carb intake isn’t zero, as some no-carb diets try to aim for, but rather, should comprise 4 to 10 percent of your daily calories.

Keep in mind that there's no set limit to the fat, because energy requirements vary from person to person, depending on their daily physical activities. However, the majority of your calories still need to come from fats, and you still need to limit your consumption of carbohydrates and protein for it to become a standard ketogenic diet.

Once you understand the concept of what a good keto diet is, then you can incorporate a fasting program in which your body downregulates protein catabolism and upregulates growth hormones in response to fasting.

If that seems like too much to swallow all at once, then know that your body will feed on fats and feast on calories when you follow some simple guidelines on fasting. The first rule of thumb is that fasting does NOT mean starving. There are several variations to fasting, which you can employ based on where you are with your keto diet, but intermittent fasting is a strategy that works quite well with a keto diet.

In simple terms, intermittent fasting means following a meal-timing schedule where you're fasting for at least 16 hours every day and eating all of your meals within eight consecutive hours.

There are also other intermittent fasting plans where you dramatically cut back on your calories for a certain number of days each week, while eating normally during the remainder. The 5-to-2 intermittent fasting plan is one such example. The fasting mimicking diet, developed to match the effects of water-only fasting, is another. Most if not all of these plans have similar benefits.

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