Which Ketogenic Diet Is Best for Weight Loss
Last year, the ketogenic (keto) diet was among Google's most searched diets for weight loss. The popular low-carb diet has received a cult following for good reason: it tackles the root cause of weight gain and its weight-loss benefits are backed by research. However, there's more than one way to do keto. If you want to learn which keto variety is best for your weight-loss journey, then keep reading.
About the keto diet
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet originally designed to treat epilepsy way back in the early 1920s. But today, most people use keto to lose weight. The diet is based on a strict macronutrient ratio that looks something like this:
5-10% calories from carbohydrates
20-25% calories from protein
65-70% calories from fat
As you can see, the keto diet essentially turns the food pyramid upside down. Another frequent rule of the keto diet is to keep carbohydrate intake to a miserly 50g per day, no matter your calorie intake. Eating in such an extreme way forces the body to burn fat for fuel since carb intake is inadequate to sustain your energy levels.
When your body burns fat on a keto diet, it makes molecules called ketones – a metabolic state called ketosis (fat-burning), which is opposite to your usual metabolic state of glycolysis (sugar-burning). All these metabolic changes on a keto diet are proven to cause weight loss but are also promising for diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, acne, and even cancer.
Types of keto diets
When talking about the keto diet, most people are referring to the standard one-size-fits-all approach. However, there are many other keto diet types, all developed for specific needs and purposes. The four most common keto variants include:
Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): The classic approach to doing keto, quite similar to the diet doctors originally developed to treat childhood epilepsy. It's based on the macronutrient ratio mentioned earlier.
Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): On this version of keto, you cycle between periods of eating the SKD and your usual high-carb diet. Most people on the CKD eat keto for 5-6 days of the week and do carb loading on days 6 and/or 7. This approach is most popular among athletes who want to replenish their glycogen (glucose reserves). It's also a good option for anyone who finds standard keto too difficult.
Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): On a TKD, you eat carbohydrates right around your workouts, usually an hour before or after exercising. In other words, you target your carb intake to be at specific points of the day. The goal of this is to help replenish muscle glycogen for better workout energy and recovery. However, the total daily allowance of carbs remains the same (around 50g per day).
High-protein ketogenic diet (HPKD): The ketogenic diet recommends moderate protein intake because too much protein may interfere with ketosis. The HPKD increases protein intake to make up to 35% of total daily calories. Fat intake remains at around 60% of the daily calories and carbohydrates are limited as on the SKD. This approach is most popular among bodybuilders.
There are many other versions of keto, including vegan keto, lazy keto, MCT oil ketogenic diet, and the modified Atkins diet – all things you should consider.
Which keto is best for losing weight?
Truth be told, all keto diets can help with weight loss. Which one is best for you depends on factors like lifestyle, activity levels, and your sex. Which one you should go for also depends on your exact goals. With that said, consider these facts when choosing the best keto diet for weight loss:
A SKD works for all
If you’re a keto beginner trying to lose weight, follow the SKD to play it safe. This approach, combined with modest calorie restriction (up to 300 calories) will likely help you start your weight-loss process. The goal is to get into ketosis, aka fat-burning mode, and stay there for as long as needed.
A CKD approach for athletes and women
Carbohydrates are definitely the fastest and easiest fuel for workouts. However, you can train your body to use fats during vigorous activities. After being on a keto diet for 6-12 weeks, scientists found that athletes become keto-adapted, meaning their bodies are perfectly adapted to burning fat during workouts. But for athletes who are not keto-adapted, the CKD works well. Women may also do better on a CKD.
HPKD if you want to build muscle
Some people want to build muscle in addition to losing fat. A ketogenic diet was found to spare muscle while burning fat, something not seen with other weight-loss diets. However, when it comes to building muscle, a HPKD is your best bet. It will provide your body with adequate protein and carbs necessary for muscle synthesis.
And as far as the CKD and TKD go, these also help with weight loss, but it may take longer for you to see the results with these approaches. However, they are more sustainable for the average person, so do give them a try if you don't want to fail on your diet.
How to follow keto diets for weight loss
Start by calculating your keto macros. Depending on daily calorie needs, the exact amount of carbs, proteins, and fats varies from one person to the next. A keto calculator, which you can easily find online, can help you establish a set macro and calorie limit needed for weight loss.
Besides establishing your keto macros, make sure to use a diet app such as MyFitnessPal, which will help you track said macros. These apps let you input your diet data such as meal number, types, and portion size and let you check how much you've eaten on specific days. While these apps are not 100% accurate, the numbers presented there are great to use as daily averages.
Once you're in ketosis and you're sure you're not eating more calories than you're burning, you'll be losing weight. However, you may also want to consider including intermittent fasting to your keto regimen.
Intermittent fasting (IF) involves eating within specific "feeding windows" and fasting for a period of time, usually 8-16 hours. For example, if you had your last meal at 8PM, skip breakfast the next day, and have your next meals between noon and 4PM, you have fasted for 16 hours and ate within a 4-hour feeding window.
The main reason IF works with weight loss on keto is that it helps you eat fewer calories. During feeding windows, most people eat as they normally would, so overeating is not likely. And on a keto diet, which has a strong appetite-suppressing effect, overfeeding during IF is not likely to happen.
Any keto diet is essentially good for weight loss. Which one will work in your particular case depends on your activity levels, current weight, sex, and other factors. Consider weighing out the pros and cons of each keto diet approach and see which seems to be most realistic to you, i.e. which one you know you can follow consistently and in the long-run. But whichever approach you take, keep in mind that eating fewer calories than you're burning is still necessary on a keto diet. All keto diet types simply make this easier through appetite suppression and also enhanced fat burning.