You’ve probably heard the typical advice about long-term weight loss—you have to cut your calories, especially your fat intake. But if you’re looking to lose weight quickly, the best advice may be the opposite. Strategically eating foods with the right kind of fat can actually help you lose weight quicker than some traditional diets.
The high-fat ketogenic diet is a popular weight-loss philosophy that taps into the body’s ability to burn fat faster in the absence of carbohydrates. But before embarking on this weight-loss strategy, it’s important to understand how the body’s natural fat-burning process works.
Calorie Burn Basics
Any time your body expends energy, you need to consume and break down food to make up for that expense. Metabolism is how the body converts foods to energy. The more energy you expend, the more calories you burn, and the more food your body needs to replace them.
While you can burn calories through workouts, your diet plays an equally important role in controlling your weight and body fat levels. Because the body processes the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) differently, the type of foods you eat will dictate how efficiently the body converts what you consume into energy.
- Carbohydrates are the easiest for the body to process and its first choice for energy, but they’re burned most efficiently during high-intensity workouts. Your body stores glucose in your body as a molecule called glycogen, which is available for immediate energy when the body works hard.
- When you consume fat, the body breaks it down into fatty acids that enter the bloodstream for use by “hungry” cells. However, if the body doesn’t need the fatty acids immediately, it packages and stores them into fat cells with unlimited capacity.
- The body can also burn protein for energy if you don’t consume enough carbohydrates or fat. This most commonly occurs when individuals embark on long-term fasts or have difficulty consuming food. When the body uses protein for energy, it can deplete muscle mass.
Focusing on Fats: Food
Ketogenic diet principles suggest that the most effective way to lose weight quickly is to cut out carbohydrates while boosting healthy fat and protein intake. If you follow the keto diet’s strategic food guidelines, the body will break down healthy fats for energy, burning fat and trimming your waistline while preserving and building muscle mass.
Eating a protein-rich diet will help you feel full faster while burning fat. High-protein foods like meat, fish, and eggs also contain healthy fats and minimal carbs.
When eating foods that are high in fat, being selective can make a world of difference. To hit ketosis, keto dieters often consume medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a categorization of fats based on their molecular size. Due to their relatively short carbon chains, the body can break these fats down quickly. In the absence of carbs, the liver converts MCTs into ketones to use for energy, promoting ketosis.
Ultimately, cutting out carbs and loading up on MCTs creates the optimal conditions for burning fat fast through ketosis. To maximize their fat-burning abilities, keto dieters often consume foods that naturally contain MCTs, such as coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and milk from certain mammals. Or, they use MCT oil, a supplement made from pure, concentrated MCTs.
Aside from following the keto diet, you can also burn fat more effectively through intermittent fasting. Using this technique, you only eat during specific times and fast for the remainder of the day. After several hours without food, the body will deplete its carbohydrate stores and shift to burning fat for energy. By extending the time that your body focuses on breaking down fat cells, you can lose weight faster.
Focusing on Fats: Exercise
If you want to maximize your body’s fat-burning potential, you may have to let go of some long-held beliefs regarding workouts. The more intense workouts aren’t always the most efficient at burning fat because the body relies on easily-accessible carbohydrates first.
To focus on burning fat, you should reduce or eliminate carbs from your diet and prioritize slower, longer forms of exercise. For example, taking a brisk hour-long walk can be more effective for weight loss than running. If you’re looking to build muscle or endurance at the same time, a high-intensity cardio workout combined with a slower warm-up and cool-down will hit the sweet spot.
No matter what route you take, losing weight is never easy. It requires dedication to both diet and exercise. The key to losing weight is striking a balance between your diet and exercise efforts and working smarter as opposed to harder. If you coordinate your efforts to create the optimal conditions for fat burning, you can lose weight as efficiently as possible.