High-fat diets: The paradox of eating more fats and losing weight fast


Last Updated July 12th, 2019

What is a high-fat diet?

A high-fat diet is a diet that is rich in fats. It is normally recommended for quick, sustained, and mostly healthy weight loss. It works if it is coupled with low carbohydrate and sufficient protein intake. It is sometimes rich in fiber as well.

How does a high-fat diet help in weight loss?

And who expected this to happen—eating fats to burn more fat. This is how it works. Normally the body has a healthy intake of carbohydrates. We get them from cereals, some starchy vegetables, and dairy products, etc. The body generally breaks down the glucose obtained from the digestion of carbohydrates for energy.  At least this is what happens when we are on a high-carb diet. However, what happens on a high-fat diet? In a high-fat low-carb diet, the body does not have enough glucose for energy, so it breaks down stored fat. As fat is broken down for energy, gradually a person will lose weight on a high-fat diet.

There is another way the high-fat diet helps weight loss as well. Normally, eating carbohydrates will only make the person hungry after a while. Whereas, a diet rich in fats and proteins will help the body feel more satiated and reduce the person’s hunger for a while. This means the person will want to eat less and the extra protein that he can now eat will help in boosting the body’s metabolism.

What is a good way to start a high-fat diet?

Drastically reducing carbohydrates in your diet may not always be a good idea. If you have a medical condition, you might want to consult a doctor before you go on a high-fat diet. A high-fat diet, though it has its benefits does lead to rapid weight loss, which may not always be good for the body.

Besides consulting your doctor, you can do something else. You could cut down on processed foods that contain carbohydrates and your daily consumption of sugars. Instead of processed foods, you could eat whole grains and fresh fruits, legumes, and vegetables that contain carbohydrates in good amounts.

Meal planning

Meal planning is crucial before you start any diet. Without a proper plan, you might actually end up eating a lot more than you wanted to or needed to.

Meal planning can help a person:

  • By buying only the food they need. This way they can improve the health and reduce costs and wastage.
  • Avoid consuming the same foods repeatedly.
  • Reduce the intake of high-carb foods.

The result of meal planning is that the glycemic index of a person is lowered.

What are the popular high-fat diets?

There are two very popular low carb high-fat diets. They are the Atkins diet and the Keto diet. Both of them recommend no more than 50 grams of carbohydrate a day. There are four phases in the Atkins diet. They are Atkins Diet and the Keto Diet.

The Atkins Diet

Popular physician Robert C. Atkins discovered the Atkins Diet in 1972. The Atkins diet was initially considered very unhealthy. This was mainly because of its high saturated fat content. New studies, however, suggest that saturated fat is not harmful to the body. Not only this, but further research has shown that the Atkins Diet is more beneficial than ever. It leads to greater weight loss, lower LDL levels and triglycerides. The Atkins diet involves four phases:

  • Phase 1: Eat 20 grams of carbohydrates for the first two weeks. You must follow a diet that is rich in protein and fats and very low in carbohydrates. Possible food choices for carbohydrates are leafy green vegetables, as these are low in carbohydrates.
  • Phase 2: You can now add low-carb foods. Examples are fruits, nuts, and vegetables that are low in carbohydrates.
  • Phase 3: You will be approaching your goal weight in this phase. You will soon be able to consume the carbohydrates that you want to consume. But add them slowly and step by step to your diet.
  • Phase 4: Focus on your weight in this phase. You can eat as much healthy carbs as your body wants, but try to keep track of the total calories that you consume in a day.

There is also no hard and fast rule regarding how these phases are to be followed. These phases can be complicated and might need minor modifications from person to person. For instance, some people avoid the first phase and move to the second phase directly. However, this may not be helpful, as the body needs to be on low carbs for a while to get into ketosis. In some cases, people just stick to Phase 1 continuously until they achieve the desired weight loss.

There are processed foods that claim that they would help you with the Atkins diet. This may be okay in some cases. However, in most cases, such foods that claim to be of the Atkins diet contain sugar or sometimes even artificial sweeteners. It would be a good idea to include only whole-grain foods in your Atkins diet when you are trying to get your carbohydrates.

Foods to eat

  • High-fat dairy products like milk, cheese, etc.
  • Eggs
  • Meats, both red meats as well as lean meats
  • Avocados
  • Fatty fish and seafood
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oils rich in fats such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil

Foods to Avoid

Dieters must avoid certain foods. They are:

  • Cereals like wheat, rice etc.
  • Sugary stuff like soft drinks, candy etc.
  • Legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas
  • High-carb fruits such as apples, bananas (only during induction)
  • High-carb vegetables such as carrots (only during induction)

Benefits of an Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet helps to reduce blood pressure and blood glucose levels and is known to keep the cholesterol at optimum levels. Most people do not continue the Atkins diet beyond 2 or 3 years or up until they have achieved the desired weight loss.

Risks of an Atkins Diet

People in the early stages of the Atkins Diet have reported the following symptoms:

The Atkins diet is not recommended if you are on diuretics, insulin, or other medications. Please consult your doctor in such cases. When carbohydrates are restricted, the body starts burning stored fat. This can lead to a buildup of ketones. Pregnant or breast feeding mothers are also advised against following the Atkins Diet.

The ketogenic diet

The keto diet was first developed in the 1920s as a treatment method for epilepsy. This is because the keto diet leads to a reduction in blood glucose levels. The reduction in glucose levels reduces the risk of epilepsy. Once researchers discovered that the diet also aided in weight loss, nutritionists started recommending the keto diet. When strictly followed, the results were so favorable that it has since then steadily grown in popularity.

The ketogenic diet or keto diet also encourages a high-fat intake and a reduction of the carbohydrates in your diet. While 20% of the intake in the Atkins Diet comes from carbohydrates, in the keto diet, only 5% of the intake comes from carbohydrates. Nearly 75% of the intake comes from fats and as much as 20% from proteins.

The ketogenic diet relies on the body’s ability to go into a state of ketosis. When enough carbohydrates are not available, the body will start to burn stored fat instead for energy.  This generally happens after the body has been on a diet daily where the carbohydrate intake is only 5% of the total caloric intake for anywhere between 2 to 4 days. Though the primary benefit of this diet is to induce weight loss, it could also have other medical benefits as well. More research is needed before we can identify all of the benefits associated with the keto diet.

Foods to consume in a keto diet

You could consume many foods if you are on a keto diet. These foods are rich in fats, mostly saturated fats. Some of them are:

  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Low-carb vegetables
  • Coconut oil
  • Greek yoghurt and Cottage cheese
  • Avocados

Foods to avoid in a keto diet

You must try to avoid high-carb foods when you are on keto. Some of them are:

  • Other fruits are a strict no-no in the keto diet, especially apples and bananas
  • High carb grains like wheat, rice, etc.
  • Legumes such as beans and lentils
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes

Benefits of a keto diet

In addition to weight loss, there are other benefits for a keto diet. Some of the benefits are:

Reduces acne

The keto diet does away with refined carbohydrates, which affect the functioning of gut bacteria and cause more dramatic blood sugar fluctuations. Both of these lead to more acne.

Protects brain functioning

It was observed that the keto diet provided neuroprotective benefits. It helped to prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and even some sleep disorders.

Reduces the risk of cancer

A ketogenic diet is found to work well in instances of chemotherapy treatment for cancer. This is because the ketogenic diet naturally induces oxidative stress in only the cancer cells. It does not affect the normal cells.

Reduces cholesterol

It considers fatty fruits like Avocado to be healthy and reduces cholesterol by making just the right recommendations. It was also observed in a study that while HDL levels went up significantly, LDL levels came down.

Risks of a Ketogenic diet

Though the ketogenic diet has some health benefits, it can also have a number of risks associated with it. Some of them are:

  • Kidney stones
  • Severe weight loss or loss of muscle
  • Increased acid levels in the blood
  • Constipation
  • Sluggishness
  • Electrolyte Imbalance

Lastly, the breaking down of glucose obtained from carbohydrates into energy is the way the body originally functions. Making the body break down stored fat instead into energy may not be recommended. However, there is very little presently that science has against the Atkins diet or the ketogenic diet. So both diets are still considered safe as long as they are followed strictly.

The risks mentioned for both diets may be applicable for a few people and also when the diets are not followed properly.

If you are following the Atkins diet or a ketogenic diet, there are many resources available on the Internet that can really help you decide what you want to eat and how much.

What diet do you pick?

So, which diet must you follow then? This really is up to you. You could consult a nutritionist to learn more about the diets. He could really help you get a better idea about which of the two is better suited to your body and your eating habits. Go with the diet that suits you best. You need not also always go in for a low-carb diet. If you feel a high-carb diet that still helps you lose weight is what would work for you, you must go in for that.

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