Do I Need to Count Calories on the Keto Diet?

Better Health

March 13, 2020 By Naomi Whittel

Since the release of my book, High Fiber Keto, last month, I’ve had the privilege of connecting with so many of you who are on your personal health journeys and experimenting with a keto diet. I know that many women turn to nutrition because they aren’t happy about their weight, their energy levels, their mood or their skin. And my High Fiber Keto approach is already a game-changer for so many of you.

When writing this book along with the 70+ original High Fiber Keto recipes, I went back and forth about including the calorie amounts for each recipe. On one hand, I knew that many people would ask me about the calories and on the other hand, calories are just one small piece of the pie when it comes to implementing a successful keto diet and reaching the fullest potential of your health.

Ultimately, I did include calorie counts in my book and I’ve been so excited to write this post so I can talk more about calories and why they aren’t the whole story.

Do Calories Matter on Keto? 

Before I answer the burning question “how many calories should I eat on keto?” – let’s take a step back and talk about what a calorie actually is.

When we say calorie, we are actually talking about a kilocalorie (or kcal), which is a unit of energy. If you remember back to science class, a kilocalorie is the amount of energy it takes to heat 1 kilogram of water to by 1 degree Celsius.

In the body, calories from the macronutrients – protein, carbs and fat – are used by the cells to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is the unit of energy that power your cells.

The macronutrients differ in their calories.

  • 1 gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories.
  • 1 gram of protein provides 4 calories.
  • 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories.

As you can see, fat is far more calorie-dense than carbohydrates and provides more than double the calories per gram. When you adopt a keto diet, most of your calories will come from fat while calories from carbohydrates are restricted.

This can make some people very nervous about eating “too many” calories. The truth is that we need calories in order to live, so from that perspective, yes calories on keto matter. But, your body isn’t a combustion engine. The idea that “calories in minus calories out” determine your body weight is based on old, outdated and incorrect science.

Instead, your body is a chemistry lab with inputs from food but also from stress, emotions, and the interaction between your genetics and your environmental exposures. What you eat provides information to your body and the body produces hormones and expresses certain genes in response (1). When you eat a keto diet, you have a much different chemical response – insulin is lowered, blood sugar is lowered, satiety hormones increase. The chemistry in the body as a result of keto turns out to be much more important than simply the calories that keto provides.

A prime example of this is that you can have two different diets, each with the same calorie level, that produce very different results. A fabulous study compared a keto diet to a low-fat diet and found that the keto diet produced longer-term weight loss results (2). You might have experienced this personally as have many women who tend to eat around the same caloric count, but the key is to experiment with what foods make up those calories.

The composition of the calories certainly plays a major role in how you feel and how successful you are in the longer term on a specific diet. But, as I’ve mentioned, calories are just a small portion of what it takes to be on a productive ketogenic diet.

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