To be as lean and strong as possible, you have to do more than just exercise properly. Your nutrition needs to be based on science. The ketogenic diet is lauded for its impact on fat loss and muscle building, but many who claim to be ‘on keto’ never actually reach a state of ketosis. Learn how much fat you really need on a keto diet, what the best fats are for keto, and how to avoid common keto mistakes.
About the Ketogenic Diet
Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, or simply be as healthy as possible, the following recommendations apply:
- Eliminate sugar
- Eliminate simple carbs
- Practice intermittent fasting
- Implement a ketogenic diet
When glucose is available, it’s what the body uses for energy because it’s easily accessible. However, when we aren’t consuming enough sugars, the body turns to fat for energy instead. Flipping this metabolic switch puts us in a state of ketosis. When the body is in ketosis, dietary and stored fat becomes our primary energy source.
Ketosis occurs anytime the quantity of available carbohydrates is low enough. There are two ways to achieve this:
- Via intermittent fasting
- Eating a low-carb, high-fat diet
It seems simple enough, but many who claim to be on the keto diet are rarely in a state of ketosis.
Common Keto Mistakes
Both the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting are praised for freeing us from counting calories or macros. But eliminating carbs or narrowing your eating window doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want, in any amount, when it’s time to eat.
If you’re having trouble losing weight or building muscle on keto, you may have fallen victim to one or more of these common keto mistakes:
Inconsistent Intermittent Fasting
Most people need to fast for 12–16 hours before the body enters a state of ketosis. If you’re cheating on your fasts or not fasting for long enough, you might never reach ketosis.
Eating Too Many Carbs
Ketosis requires consuming fewer than 20–50 grams of carbohydrates per day. This equals two slices of whole-wheat bread or one cup of cooked oatmeal. But vegetables, nuts, and even fat sources contain carbs, so it’s easy to lose count and overdo it.
Eating Too Many Calories
When we consume more calories than the body needs, excess is stored as fat. It doesn’t matter if those calories came from fat, carbs, or protein. If you’re cutting carbs but eating too much fat or protein, you won’t lose weight.
Intermittent fasting won’t help you lose weight either if you’re overeating outside your fasting window.
The Best Protein-to-Fat Ratio for Keto
You’ve likely seen differing opinions regarding the optimal protein-to-fat ratio for a ketogenic diet. Few of these recommendations are based on science. You reach ketosis by eliminating glucose as an energy source. Beyond that, there’s no magic protein-to-fat ratio.
We recommend the following:
- Eat enough protein to build muscle
- Eat enough fat to maintain energy
To measure exactly how much fat you need for keto, plan for your protein needs first.
Plan for Protein First
Protein and fat are the only essential macros1 your body needs to become lean and strong. If you focus on getting the right amount of protein, whatever fat comes with that will likely be sufficient. This is especially true if your protein source is meat.
In his book, Weight Lifting Is a Waste of Time, Dr. John Jaquish recommends 2.2 to 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for muscle growth. Following a carnivore diet makes it easy to reach these numbers without consuming excess calories or carbs.
What You Need to Know About Fat and Keto
To avoid consuming excess carbs or calories, Dr. Jaquish eats meat only. For him, this is the easiest method for reaching daily protein and fat requirements. If you like more variety in your diet, you’ll have to be careful about consuming too much, or too little, fat.
Eating Too Much Fat
Eating too much fat on a keto diet is tempting because fat is satiating and it tastes good. But too many calories from fat will work against your weight loss and muscle building goals.
Not Eating Enough Fat
Eliminate dietary fat and you’ll feel tired and hungry all the time. This puts you at risk for overconsumption of carbohydrates and calories, which will quickly kick you out of ketosis. Because keto uses fat for energy, you need to consume healthy fats.
The Best Fats for Keto
Contrary to what many of us have been taught to believe, the healthiest kind of fat may be animal fat—and by this we do mean saturated fat2
Sources of fat to minimize or eliminate include the following:
- Trans Fats
- Processed Vegetable Oils
- Seed Oils
If you want to add fat to your diet for variety, taste or energy, do. But remember, even the best fat sources (listed below) also contain carbs.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (no carbs)
- Coconut Oil (no carbs)
Fat and Keto: The Verdict
Deciphering how much fat to eat on keto is simpler than you think. As long as carbs are no longer available, your primary energy source will switch from glucose to fat. So to reach keto, you can use intermittent fasting, eliminate carbs, or both.
Once you eliminate carbs, make sure you consume the protein you need for muscle gain and the fat you need for energy. Commit to the carnivore diet, and there’s little you need to calculate. Animal-based protein sources offer the perfect protein-to-fat ratio for maintaining ketosis.
Optimize your health through science