This series has been created to help you kick start your keto journey so you can lose weight, feel healthier, and get closer to your goals each and every day. We will be breaking down the basics of the keto diet, how to get started and how to guarantee your success so that you stop starting over. In Part 2, we will be discussing how calories work on a keto diet, why net carbs are important, how much you should be eating, and how macros work on a keto diet!
What are calories, and how do they work on a keto diet?
A calorie is a unit of energy. In nutrition, calories refer to the energy people get from the food and drink they consume, and the energy they use in physical activity.
For a long time people talked about weight loss as a simple “calories in, calories out” equation. The idea is that if you just burned more calories than you ate, you should lose weight. If you burn an average of 1,800 calories through your day-to-day activities, and you eat 2,000 calories per day, you will gain weight because you’re giving your body 200 extra calories each day. Whereas, if you ate 2,000 calories and in addition to the regular day-to-day activities you do you added in light exercise that burned an extra 300 calories per day, you’d burn 2,100 calories per day, putting you at a deficit of 100 calories. Eating at a deficit is helpful for weight loss because your body will tap into stored resources for the remaining energy it needs.
In theory, this makes sense, and fundamentally it still holds true. However, just to make things a little complicated, not all foods affect your body the same way, and not all calories are created equal. Your body will burn protein, fat, and carbs differently, and use a different amount of energy to burn what you feed it. Some foods will also increase your hunger and cravings… have you ever eaten some lollies (candy) and found it hard to stop at one because you feel like you needed more and more?!
If you want to avoid cravings like this, then you need to consider what you’re eating. Because different foods can have a significant effect on how full and satisfied you feel, they can also have an effect on whether you feel cravings, and as a result make it more difficult to stick with healthy eating.
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. After eating a protein-rich meal, you will most likely feel more full and be less likely to reach for a sugary snack. Sugar, on the other hand, can trigger an addictive-like reaction in some people. It is easy to imagine the difference you would feel if you ate a 200 calorie protein-rich snack, instead of a 200 calorie sugar-filled snack.
If your goal is weight loss, then you need to be aware of calories, even on a keto diet.
When you’re eating keto, it’s normal to notice a natural decrease in appetite. Many people end up eating less because they feel more satisfied with less food and are no longer fighting sugar cravings. A ketogenic diet is also quite thermogenic (foods that your body can metabolise and convert to energy faster!)
Keto can make you feel more satisfied with less food, while also increasing the calories you burn per day, which is really helpful for achieving your weight loss goals.
However, if you do end up eating more calories than your body needs, they’ll still get stored as fat, even if you’re in ketosis and following a keto diet. This is where, at a fundamental level, “calories in calories out” holds true, and is why we have a macro calculator for you to understand how many calories you should be eating each day for your goal of weight loss.
Note: if you are participating in a Shred Challenge, then the meal plans are set to have an even bigger calorie deficit to help boost your weight loss efforts. You can customise the meal plans to add in additional snacks, or serving sizes of the meals, to ensure that there are more calories if you need those!
What is the deal with “net carbs”?
You may hear the term “net carbs” and “total carbs” thrown around, but what’s the difference? The difference between total carbs and net carbs is that total carbs include all of the different carbs in a meal / food item. This includes dietary fibre, sugars, and sugar alcohols. Net carbs refers to the amount of carbs a meal / food item has once you have subtracted the fibre.
In New Zealand and Australia our food labels only show “carbohydrates”. Under our food labelling laws, the amount of carbohydrates listed are the net carbs.
In America, the food labelling laws are different, and their labels show “total carbs”, “sugars”, and “dietary fibre” separately.
The reason why we track net carbs on keto is that fibre is a type of carbohydrate that our body cannot digest, so it doesn’t count towards the amount of carbs that can trigger an insulin response, which could prevent your body from being in a ketosis state. The amount of net carbs that each individual person should have to feel their best can be completely different, but generally speaking for women wishing to follow a keto diet the amount is roughly 20g – 25g of net carbs per day, and for men anywhere from 25g – 35g per day. This will differ based on age, lifestyle, and hormones, so play around with the amount you have and increase your net carbs (by including more non-starchy veggies like cauliflower, tomato, etc, and berries).
How much should I be eating for my goals?
Keto is an amazing tool for weight loss. It can help you feel full with less food and it will speed up metabolism to help you burn more body fat. However, that doesn’t mean calories don’t matter. If weight loss is a goal, then you should still be mindful of the amount of food you are eating.
Weight loss is always hard, but keto makes it significantly easier to lose the weight, and then to maintain the weight loss. If you’re struggling to lose weight, it’s worth your time to try keto.
And if you don’t already know how many calories you should be consuming every day, our Macro Calculator can help you figure out exactly how much fat, protein, and carbohydrate to eat for sustainable weight loss, and this information will be saved against your Welle Club user profile.
Are all macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, protein) important to have on a keto diet?
It is still important while following a keto diet to get the right balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, protein) every day so your body has the energy it needs. For example, some people experience hair loss while following a keto diet. This is actually not a side effect from following keto, rather it is that the person is not having an adequate amount of protein in their diet for their body’s needs. It is really important to continue to fill your plate with veggies, healthy fats and proteins! In Part 3 we delve deeper into what foods you should be eating, and what you should be avoiding while following a keto diet!
In Part 3 we will be sharing how to avoid the keto flu, and what you can eat – as well as the foods you should avoid – when following a keto diet!