Do you understand where calories and energy are derived from in your diet? When you better understand the breakdown of your meals, you will be better able to understand why healthy fats are important on a low carb diet. Here’s a simple breakdown of fat for energy on a ketogenic diet.
Understanding Energy In Your Low Carb Diet
According to the energy balance equation, your body gains energy when you intake more energy through your diet than you expend through physical activity. That’s why the main point of most diets is to limit your energy intake through counting carbs or calories.
It seems like a few years ago all of the diets were about counting calories and now they’re all about limiting carbohydrates. But you should you limit carbs or calories? And, if they’re both units of energy what’s the difference? This article will discuss the difference between carbs, fats and calories, how they impact your diet, and how or why you should watch them.
How do you start the keto diet? What can you eat on the diet? What are some easy meal plans and recipes I can follow on the keto diet? Get the answers to your questions on our Keto Diet FAQ page here.
Calories Are Energy, Right? Yes.
To set the record straight, carbs, fats
Calories are the units of energy, not carbs. A single calorie is the amount of energy that it takes to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. This is a very small amount of energy, so when you read the nutrition label on your food, what they call “Calories” (with an upper-case C) is actually the number of kilocalories (that is, one thousand lower-case c calories).
It takes 3500 of these Calories to make 1 pound.
Carbs Are Energy, Right? No.
As mentioned above, the carbohydrate is not a unit of energy like the calorie is. The carbohydrate is a class of nutrient, along with proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are all called macronutrients aka “energy-yielding nutrients” because the body can break them all down to release calories.
Of the energy-yielding nutrients, proteins and carbohydrates both release 4 calories per gram, while fat releases 9 calories per gram.
So Why Are Healthy Fats So Special?
You might be wondering, if fat contains more than twice the calories per gram, why do all of these diets have us watching carbs? And that’s a good question.
The first reason is that the average person has much more carbohydrates than fat in their diet. We tend to think of carbohydrates as coming from grains, like pasta and breads. These are sources of carbohydrates, but carbohydrates also come from sugars.
Grains are a source of complex carbs, which your body breaks down over time. Sugars are a source of simple carbs that your body doesn’t have to break down.
Sugars are naturally occurring in sources like fruits, but they’re also added to just about everything. If you put a store-bought sauce on your pasta, you’re putting carbs on carbs. If you put jam or jelly on your bread, you’re putting carbs on carbs. And don’t even get us started on sources like soda and junk food.
We eat A LOT of carbs.
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When you eat whole grains, you’re not just getting carbs. You’re getting fiber, vitamins
Fat, on the other
While some fats are better than others and you should be careful about how much you get of each kind, carbs are simply more expendable in our diets as their nutrients can be found in foods that are much healthier for us.
Eating healthy fats from whole food sources like nuts, grass-fed butters, coconut oil and avocados are a far better option and you will also be consuming vitamins and nutrients that the body needs to function.
What Fat Does Inside The Body
While fat has more calories, 9 per gram versus the 4 per gram in both protein and carbs, it’s more important to understand what it does inside the body. Find out more about using fat for fuel here.
When you are young your metabolism and high activity levels may allow you to eat carbs and fats and maintain a healthy weight, but as you get older and activity levels and metabolism slow down the weight may start to creep up.
If you are already overweight and your diet is filled with carbs, it makes it very difficult for the body to use stored fat for energy because it always defaults to carbs for that purpose.
- Greatly reducing carb intake promotes the body’s ability to burn fat stores for energy resulting in healthy weight loss.
- Unlike carbs, fat also promotes satiety and fullness, helping to regulate the appetite so you actually eat less. In fact, you have to eat two times more carb calories as fat calories to reach the same level of fullness.
- Unlike carbs, fat has little impact on blood glucose, which keeps blood sugars stable, eliminating out of control cravings and hunger that comes after eating carbs.
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Optimal Fat Intake
Remember, the goal of fat is to provide satiety, boost energy, increase metabolism and support the enjoyment of food as fats make everything taste better.
Of course, healthy fat options will always be better than fat from other sources.
It is not advisable to eat so much fat that you send your caloric intake through the roof. The following guidelines can help you get an idea of daily fat intake; of course, body size will determine the portions, as larger men will eat more than smaller women will. You can choose fats in any combinations you see fit.
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Daily Fat Intake Guidelines:
- 2 to 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil when cooking or for salad dressings
- 2 ounces of cheese
- 4 to 6 ounces of meat, chicken, seafood, or fish at each meal
- ½ an avocado or 10 olives
- 1 to 2 ounces of nuts or seeds (depending on your ketotic state and as long as they do not take you out of ketosis)
- Use canola, peanut and grapeseed oils for pan cooking and stir-frys
- Use full fat mayonnaise, canola oil mayo is a good choice
- Coconut oil contains ketosis-boosting MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). A tablespoon a day is fine in replacement of another fat. You can also get a purer form of MCTs in supplement oil form.
- Avoid low fat foods, including reduced fat dairy. These foods typically contain carbohydrates, and chemical compounds that have not been well studied as to risks for human health.
- Replace milk in coffee with heavy cream, which has less than 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon, while milk is very high in natural sugars
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Hopefully, this article has helped you to understand the difference between carbs, fat
Eating low carb is an easier, more satisfying way to reduce weight and some lifestyle diseases, allowing you to live a longer more fulfilling life.
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