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Does Keto Work to Lose Weight?

Ketogenic or keto diet is a very low carbohydrate, high fat diet which has increased its popularity in recent years.

It has been shown to provide many impressive health benefits including weight loss. Thus, many people turn to this form of eating to achieve their weight loss goals.

Although research has shown that diet can help to remove body fat, long-term studies that support its effectiveness are lacking.

This article reviews the potential of the keto diet to help lose weight.

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When using the traditional keto diet, your carbohydrate intake is limited to less than 5-10% of your total daily calorie intake (one).

This allows your body to enter ketosis, a condition where ketones are produced in the liver, using fat instead of carbohydrate as the primary fuel

Reduced carbohydrate intake is usually done by increasing fat intake to 70-90% of calories or 155–200 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet (one, 2nd).

Protein intake, usually up to 20% of calories or 100 grams (100%) for a 2,000 calorie dietone, 2nd).

Although long-term studies are lacking, there are several recommended weight loss mechanisms associated with the ketogenic diet.

Can reduce hunger

One of the main weight loss mechanisms associated with the Keto diet is probably the ability to reduce hunger (4, 5).

Following a ketogenic diet, it is linked to reduced ghrelin levels, one of the main fasting hormones in your body (6).

Reducing ghrelin levels and hunger can lead to fewer calories during the day, which can lead to weight loss (6).

In fact, a study of one in 20 people with obesity following the keto diet correlated the way of eating and drinking with the way in which they eat (Figure 1).7).

Therefore, the keto diet can be an effective strategy to regulate your hunger level, but long-term safety needs to be considered.

Water can promote weight loss

Another potential weight loss mechanism of the Keto diet is water weight loss, accompanied by a significant reduction in carbohydrate intake.

This is because carbohydrates retain water stored in your body (8, 9).

Therefore, when you reduce your carbohydrate intake, as in the initial phase of the keto diet, the stored carbohydrates are released with additional fluid and cause various amounts of weight loss.

Calorie balance

In order to determine whether the Keto diet helps to lose weight, it is important to examine traditionally how weight loss is achieved.

To lose weight, you should get less calories than you burn, also called calorie deficit.

In a study of 17 obesity or overweight men, the keto diet was found to be associated with a small increase in the number of calories burned. However, this did not lead to an increase in body fat loss compared to a traditional basic diet (3).

These results show that the ketogenic diet is not necessarily superior to a conventional diet to lose weight when matched calorie intake.

The weight loss effects of the Keto diet are, therefore, much more likely to be the result of low calorie intake due to changes in the satiety signals associated with the high fat, very low carbohydrate diet.


Although the exact mechanisms remain unclear, the keto diet has been associated with weight loss. Studies have shown that weight loss associated with the keto diet is likely due to calorie deficiency, decreased hunger levels, and water weight loss.

Since the popularity of the keto diet has increased, a number of nutritional supplements for keto dieticians have emerged on the market, and some can help in weight loss.

The best keto supplements with recommended functions:

  • MCT oil. This fat containing medium chain triglycerides can help keto dieticians add more fat to their diet and stay in ketosis. It is digested faster than conventional fats, but may have side effects on the digestive tract.
  • Exogenous ketones. These are ketones from an external source, as opposed to naturally produced endogenous ketones. They can increase blood ketone levels and help you get a faster ketosis (10).
  • Keto protein powders. These protein powders are formulated to have a low carbohydrate content.
  • Keto electrolytes. Electrolyte depletion is common when starting a keto diet due to initial water weight loss. Electrolyte supplements can help prevent general electrolyte deficiencies such as sodium, potassium and magnesium (11th).
  • Digestive enzymes. Because of the high fat content of the Keto diet, some people may experience digestive problems. Digestive enzyme supplements, particularly lipase, can help break down fats.

Studies are limited when it comes to the weight loss effects of ketogenic supplements.

A study in mice looked at the viability of exogenous ketones as weight loss supplements. He found that several exogenous ketones and MCT fat can help reduce weight by reducing hunger and naturally consuming fewer calories.12).

Nevertheless, human research supporting these claims is lacking.

Although keto supplements are not necessary, they can help keto dieticians to adopt this highly restrictive eating pattern and increase the tolerability of the diet.

However, these supplements should not be used solely to lose weight because the data are insufficient and their long-term side effects are unknown.


MCT oil and exogenous ketones can help you get into ketosis more quickly and avoid many of the side effects associated with the transition. Although they reduce appetite, they are not recommended to use as a weight loss supplement.

When following a keto diet for weight loss, some other factors need to be kept in mind to improve.

Your exact carbohydrate intake

When starting a ketogenic diet, it can help keep track of how many carbohydrates you consume daily.

This helps you get into ketosis relatively quickly and helps you avoid symptoms associated with “keto flu”, a group of symptoms including headaches and brain fog associated with starting a keto diet.

If you consume too much carbohydrates, you cannot stay in ketosis and the potential benefits of diet, including weight loss, are reduced.

For most people, it is enough to consume less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day to stimulate ketosis (2nd).

Get enough sleep

Sleep is a frequently overlooked aspect of any diet. Research shows that lack of sleep and chronic stress may adversely affect weight loss outcomes. This applies when following the keto diet13).

Studies also show that sleep deficiency may adversely affect hunger hormones such as ghrelin and leptin. This prevents hunger-reducing effects of the keto diet by increasing appetite (14).

Making sure you have time to unwind and sleep at least 7 hours per night can help support the benefits of a ketogenic diet (15).

Whether you are physically active

Combining it with an appropriate exercise regimen may improve this effect, while only the keto diet allows to lose weight (16, 17).

When adapted to your diet, your body can use fat as the primary fuel source for exercise. Research shows that this is most useful in endurance-based sports (18, 19, 20).

Keep in mind that a keto diet should be well tuned before doing moderately intense exercise to avoid negative side effects.


When weight loss is involved in the keto diet, other factors such as carbohydrate intake, sleep and exercise routine should be considered.

One of the major disadvantages of the Keto diet – especially for weight loss – is long-term sustainability.

Given that the diet is very restrictive, some people may find it difficult to comply.

It creates difficulties especially when eating out or gathering on holiday with family and friends, because a new way of eating should be adopted and potentially affecting social interactions.

In addition, studies on the health effects of long-term follow-up of keto diet are also lacking (21).

These factors should be considered before starting.


Due to its restrictive nature, the keto diet may be difficult to stick to in the long term. Eating out and other social situations may require special care and preparation.

The Keto diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that has been shown to provide various health benefits, including weight loss.

Exact weight-loss mechanisms are still under investigation, but weight loss is caused by caloric deficit, decreased hunger levels, and water weight loss.

Keto supplements can reduce hunger and help you get into ketosis faster, although they are not used to increase weight loss.

Although the weight loss benefits of the Keto diet seem promising, it is important to consider the potential side effects, negative aspects, and lack of long-term research.

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