My Nutritional Ketosis Success: Is It The Calories Or The Ketones?

My Nutritional Ketosis Success: Is It The Calories Or The Ketones?

My Nutritional Ketosis Success

The past seven months I’ve had an amazing ride: I’ve conducted my n=1 experiment of “nutritional ketosis” (NK). This concept is outlined in several books written by Drs. Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney, two highly-respected low-carb diet researchers, including their latest The Art & Science Of Low Carbohydrate Performance. Concentrating on eating lots of healthy high-fat foods, eliminating key mistakes I had been making in my low carb lifestyle, and differentiating this low carb approach from the Atkins diet, have helped me lose over 60 pounds so far while increasing lean muscle mass and improving my cardiometabolic health. My weight and health are improving by the moment; I’m a whole lot better off than I was. With all of my success with NK, you would think everyone would be celebrating with me. You would be wrong.

Now that I’ve been doing this low carb experiment with Nutritional Ketosis long enough to see measurable, spectacular results, everyone has their own theory about why it is working. I’ve stated that I believe it’s the increase in blood ketone production and the associated benefits, which I’ll discuss in a moment. Here are a few prominent voices sharing their alternative hypotheses on their respective websites in recent weeks:

  • Because of the two tablespoons of fish oil I’m taking daily, self-experimenting blogger and author Seth Roberts says I might be doing his Shangri La Diet in disguise. When I began my nutritional ketosis experiment, I increased my fish oil consumption from 1 tablespoon to 2 tablespoons daily on the advice of a respected physician for heart health.
  • Richard Nikoley from the “Free The Animal” blog notes that NK is “just a good diet hack” and not really necessary to shed body fat. New Zealand sports nutritionist Jamie Scott from the “That Paleo Guy” blog concurs adding that “people just aren’t addressing the basics” in every aspect of their lifestyle if they aren’t seeing the results they are wanting. I would counter that NK is doing an excellent job of not just helping me lose the weight and improve key health markers, but also perhaps bringing back in line various parts of my lifestyle that were off kilter.
  • Regina Wilshire came out of hibernation on her “Weight Of The Evidence” blog to say that I’m merely in a calorie deficit now, and that the overall reduction in intake of all three macronutrients – fat, protein and carbohydrate – has resulted in the weight loss I’ve experienced. There’s only one problem with this conclusion: my fat calories have been increased significantly while protein and carbs have been reduced. But Regina’s column along with Paleo diet mega-voice Robb Wolf’s recent shift in nutritional thinking bring up a really great opportunity to address a question that I’d like to explore further:

    Is it the calories or the ketones that are responsible for my nutritional ketosis success?

    This question gets to the heart of why I believe NK is an incredibly effective strategy for fat loss and improving health. This point is just too important to gloss over with a simplistic explanation. And in all honesty, this debate is almost as futile as arguing which came first, the chicken or the egg. But let’s take a stab at it, and dive right into why I contend that eating the proper number of calories becomes instinctive rather than forced when you eat sufficient fat and little enough carb and protein to produce an adequate level of blood ketones.

    Let’s begin with the calorie argument. Conventional wisdom says that if you consume less energy in the form of food while expending more energy in the form of exercise, then you will create a calorie deficit sufficient to produce weight loss. In other words, calories in, calories out. From a logical standpoint, this seems like a compelling method for shedding the pounds. But let’s take a closer look at what happens to an overweight person who begins a typical calorie-restricted diet:

    • Cuts calories by eating smaller portions
    • Preferentially slashes fat because it has 9 calories per gram
    • Increases (cardio) exercise to “burn” more calories
    • Insulin and leptin resistance issue not addressed
    • Increased exercise causes hunger
    • Musters up the willpower to not eat despite hunger
    • Anger, irritability and outbursts become the norm
    • Metabolism slows, causing sluggishness and fatigue
    • Forces exercise to produce calorie deficit
    • Resists natural urge to eat, sleep enough
    • Despite cutting calories perfectly, scale stops moving
    • Frustrated by weight loss stall, gives up
    • Concludes s/he’s genetically programmed to be fat

    Sound familiar? Yep, if you’ve been pursuing what most dietitians, doctors and weight loss experts consider the “prudent” way to lose weight, then no doubt this scenario has played itself out more times than you care to admit. Why do we do that to ourselves? One reason is that nobody has ever come up with a viable challenge to the calorie theory in the mainstream of public thought.

    Nutritional Ketosis vs. Calories In / Calories Out

    So let’s take a serious look at the nutritional ketosis argument. Since we now know that calories aren’t the entire weight loss picture and that not all calories are created equal, perhaps there’s more to this story than we’ve been told.

    The Smarter Science of SlimThere is. Health and fitness researcher Jonathan Bailor, author of The Smarter Science Of Slim, harps against the calorie hypothesis, stating that it really comes down to four major points: hunger control, hormonal impact, nutritional value and macronutrient variability. These factors combine to explain why eating in a way that’s right for your body and lifestyle, rather than aiming for a randomly-chosen set number of calories, is a much more effective way to see the results you want in your weight and health, while avoiding the suffering that comes from simple calorie-counting.

    The Ups & Downs of My Nutritional Ketosis Journey

    Let’s take a look at what has happened to me over these past seven months since I started consuming a high-fat, moderate protein, low carb nutritional approach producing an adequate level of blood ketones:

    • Deliberately eating more dietary fat
    • Moderating absolute amounts of protein consumed
    • Limiting carbohydrates to my personal tolerance level
    • Consuming the highest quality foods possible
    • Blood sugar drops 20-25 points naturally
    • Hunger disappears, mood improves, mental clarity increases
    • Because of satiety, spontaneous intermittent fasting
    • No cravings at all and pattern of 1-2 meals daily
    • Completely satisfied and never thinking about food
    • Regular restful sleep of 7-9 hours a night
    • Pimples/acne have virtually disappeared
    • Skin tags are healing and shriveling up
    • Lipid health markers have improved dramatically
    • Key inflammation marker C-Reactive Protein decreased
    • Lifting weights after 18-24 hour fast with no issues
    • Exercising more often from fast recovery time


    So has all of this improvement in my weight, health and fitness happened simply as a result of cutting my calories? Perhaps there has been some benefit from the calorie reduction.

    But the more likely explanation is the ketones produced by a well-formulated high-fat, moderate protein, low carb diet are at a sufficiently high level that calories are automatically kept in check without really worrying about them because both my insulin and leptin levels have normalized.

    Likely I was resistant to both, but they are now right where they need to be. As long as I continue to pay attention to my personal satiety signals and allow my body to tell me when I need to consume more blood sugar-controlling food, blood ketones will remain high enough for fat-burning to happen. And that, I believe, is the secret behind why my low carb, nutritional ketosis success has happened.

    What say YOU? Do you still believe it’s the calories? What’s your experience with Nutritional Ketosis in your low carb dieting? Let us know in the comments below.

    More Low Carb Articles by a former CarbSmart contributor

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  1. Jimmy,

    Your assessment is right on. I know that peeves many religiously following the calories in – calories out dogma. Do you really think our ancestors (even 2 generations ago, let alone paleo) would take one second to ask themselves how many calories they are consuming at each meal? When your body is in hormonal balance it NATURALLY will tell you when you are hungry or full. What a concept! Ain’t the body a wonderful thing!

  2. Jimmy, I applaud you and your success. I have done the low carb for just about three years now. I dropped 35 pounds and hit my goal weight of 107. I was able to get off of my BP and cholesterol meds even though my total cholesterol is around 299. My HDL and triglycerides are very good. I can’t wrap my head around what a typical meal is like with the higher fat and lower protein method. Can you share a day or two of the actual foods that you eat. Again, thank you for inspiring me to get where I am today.

  3. Trust. Your. Leptins. Stop blocking them with thrice-daily insulin overload! I’ve lost 31 pounds in 16 weeks effortlessly (and I had *never* succeeded on any prior diet).

  4. I too think this all makes sence, i too am haveing a hard time wrapping my mind around what i should eat. If you could just give a typical day of your meal or two that would help me to understand how to go about this.

  5. I am not so analytical, but I will say this that of course calories count! But to what end?

    With all we know about the human body are we really saying that the inevitable result of excess calories is to turn to fat? That seems like pretty lousy design to me once a certain reserve level is fulfilled.

    Our body is layered and loaded with many mechanisms to prevent this sort of imbalance.

    When I ate zero carb the effect of added extra surplus calories was it made me compelled to move more NOT store more. Ketones are a very special type of carb, or rather it is more correct to say that many carbs are a type of ketone. They make you feel good when you burn them, it makes you want to burn them when they are present. It needs to be experienced.

    Children treated by Dr. Lustig given insulin suppressing drugs also experienced this. Without the fat storage hormone couch potatoes and Nintendo kids suddenly were joining sports teams and swim teams. He detailed this on a Podcast with Alec Baldwin, truly great stuff.

    So yes the body has ways to deal with added calories besides storing them. Our body has decision systems, design logic, alternative uses. As often pointed out is weight gain caused by added calories, or are we adding calories because we are gaining weight? Nobody has truly even settled that much yet.

    Ketones are a great “tool” and even a lifestyle choice that will give you specific, knowable results. Thanks to blood ketone meters and those who test diligently, we have one more wonderful choice for people who may struggle with things such as hunger spikes, low desire to move, low mental energy, low motivation, love of fatty foods even! Things that would hold you back on other weight loss stratgies, ketones address head on.

    We will all be further ahead when people stop looking for “one fix” and realise there are many strategies that work rather then this tired, pointless debate about calories vs (issue of the day).

    “Ketoner’s” can’t win this at times to it seems. If we do not eat enough calories, we are told our weight loss is due to limited calories. If we eat a lot of calories, we are told our ketones are not bodyfat but from the fat in our diet and our weightloss “must” be from some other reason.

    In the end the data and results will speak which I think is why he has the sense to show before and after pictures. Most people are going to see that and not really care that it was by calories or ketones, they are going to see that they can lose weight, feel better, and control hunger all at once if they follow the system as prescribed, and thats what matters.

    As for whether its a hack or a lifestyle? I do not even see if its relevant. Its a lifestyle so long as someone is living it, it ceases to be when someone stops. That same is true for all ways of eating and moving.

    LOL gee I guess I had a rant in me 😉

  6. Hi,

    Great post! You know where I stand on this 🙂

    I’ve actually thought about this issue a GREAT deal. Here are two podcasts I did to address this Q specifically. Regina et al are falling victim to the fallacy of the Magical Energy Gnomes. The CICO position is not only “likely wrong” but logically untenable. Here’s why:

  7. I really love what you say here. I’ve been doing NK since mid-October. I absolutely cannot get into a really good ketosis (usually 0.4 to 0.8) no matter what I do, but I think I know why now. Apparently I’ve developed basically Type 1 diabetes. I don’t have an absolute lack of insulin but very little. The new doctor I’m seeing thinks my pancreas got hit with a toxin and it will recover. She applauds what I’m doing. Frankly, I’d be on insulin if I hadn’t already been low carb, then found you. The increased blood sugars and sudden weight gain after losing nearly 80 lbs are why I started this. Right now, I’m doing as close to 85% fat and 12-14% protein as I can. Most days carbs are 3 or less. This may be extreme for most people but it’s better than insulin 🙂 When I go over about 40g/protein per day, my fasting blood sugars go well into the 90s and a few times higher. Even without being able to get into a higher ketosis, Fasting blood sugars have dropped into the 80s most of the time and barely go over 100 after eating. I lost 13 of the 20 lbs I’d gained very quickly…things have been stalled for several weeks but I’m not giving up. Overall, I feel better, have more energy, sleeping better, mental status better. Even without weight loss I am losing inches. I have other problems that prevent exercise but I am still succeeding 🙂 I only eat once or twice a day; don’t think about food most of the time. I agree that there isn’t one fix that will ever apply to everyone but I am finding your “fix” seems to be fixing me. I can’t thank you enough.

    • A former CarbSmart contributor

      Oh wow Patty! If you are a Type 1 and your blood sugars are stable without a lot of insulin, then that’s pretty amazing. WAY TO GO!

      • That’s what I say. If a friend hadn’t sent me your links, I’d probably be on insulin. What this doctor said was that when a low risk adult suddenly develops Type 1 (I definitely don’t have type 2 as insulin is below lowest cut off both blood and saliva <5) that they are finding some kind of toxin has hit the pancreas. The good thing is that I can recover pancreatic function over time. I had lost nearly 80 lbs on HCG. but last 2 rounds, immediately gained what I lost back even with low carb (20 to 50g/day). Then in August I suddenly started gaining, rapidly but had done absolutely nothing different. I started tracking blood sugars and they were in the 140s-150s FASTING. Eating 4 oz sweet potatoes put me close to 200 for hours. I was kind of freaking out needless to say so a friend, who has been following you sent me your links. So, NK is literally saving my life I believe. I thank God I found a doctor who both believed me and gave me hope. I'm generally stuck using the VA and that doc's response when I asked for glucose strips: It's normal for blood sugar to go up to 200 after eating. You don't have a problem….even though I told her over and over I was eating no processed carbs and very low carb, period. She then said "nobody" eats that way. With all this, 2 months after starting NK my HgA1C is 5. I want 4.5 but I'm happy with that. No clue what it was before this.

  8. I agree completely that your success is working hand in hand with the reductions of calories through effortless fasting and a high fat diet producing Ketones. What makes other diet’s fail so terribly is that it fails to stabilize blood sugar’s. You end up working out and working off the sugar stores before you even remotely hit the fat stores. Unless of course your way below the calorie deficient daily. Although, that doesn’t stave off hunger for long. Constant hunger pangs are exactly why a high carb diet likely fails. I know in my personal experience when doing a low calorie, high carb diet that you virtually think about food 24/7 and count every bite you take. That is not how I want to live my life. Then when I fail at losing weight or go off the diet, I end up beating myself up for days or weeks, throwing myself into a depression, then giving up.

    So as you have said, why not do the diet that naturally works with your body and not against it. It’s like hitting your head against a wall… No one wants to do that. Why would anyone want to do that? Using your own natural body fat as the body’s primary energy source is what God intended when he made humans. Even Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone” when speaking to the Devil in the desert while being presented with bread during his fast. What made it possible for him to fast for so long was the fact that he was using his own energy stores to do it. And today our body’s are no different. Sure we could starve ourselves to get to that degree of fat burning faster but in order to maintain a good healthy body composition, we wouldn’t want to do starve and lose muscle mass while were at it.

    All in all, this way of eating seems so natural and real to me that I follow it to the letter if I can help it. I am never disapointed with the alertness, energy, and bliss that I feel regularly while on this diet. Maybe this is why the Bible tells us to fast regularly. I used to think it was a stupid idea. “Yeah starving, feeling weak, and not able to think ALWAYS makes me feel better. **sarcastic tone** Now I see that there is a different, natural way to fast to make a huge improvement in your over all mental and physical well being that un-surpasses all other ways!

    I think personally you have ultimately unlocks the secret cure to many ailments of our current society’s health and well being. Even if I don’t drop a ton of weight, I will continue to eat this way because it makes me feel the best day in and out. With the hectic and busy lives we all have, we need the energy levels that this diet effortlessly provides. That’s the truth!!!

  9. Regardless of whether it’s the calories or the ketones, the fact that it IS working is a big relief to me. As we follow your LC journey, and I saw your weight being regained, it really left me in a funk, fearing that LC might not be “the answer” after all. However, since you’ve seen spectacular success with NK, you’ve given me renewed hope again. After months of “just giving up”, after seeing your success I IMMEDIATELY started a NK regimen and have already seen the effects of steadier energy levels and the cessation of the relentless, gnawing hunger sensation that has plagued me on and off for years. Thanks again for your pioneering efforts! May I have the same tenacity as yours.

    • A former CarbSmart contributor

      It had me bummed too, Michael, because I knew low-carb was right for me. But this addition of testing to make sure I’m optimizing it has been the key to my success. WAY TO GO on your success. YOU CAN DO THIS!

  10. You seem to be on the right track but you’ve still got a way to go. I am thin, 140 pounds and 6 feet tall. I’ve been like this for 4 years now. I have been high fat low carb for 5 years now. I lost 60 pounds in weight 6-7 years ago. I have not had any grains , minimal sugar, maintain my vitamin D levels at 75 ng/ml and try to avoid omega 6 and optimize omega 3 with lots of fatty fish, sardines, wild salmon etc. My calorie intake is high, mainly from grass fed butter and EVOO, carbs from basmati rice and potatoes.
    My shortcomings are not enough resistance training , but I walk 30-40 miles a week.
    I believe we are all gluten/gliadin intolerant, to varying degrees. Dr. Tom O’Bryan explains it in the best way.
    I am definitely not calorie restrictive in my diet. I drink too much red wine, which makes not one jot of difference to my weight. If I drank the same amount of alcohol in beer, I would pile on the pounds. Dr. William Davies comes in here with wheat/beer belly.
    If you carry on as you are, you should get down to 180 pounds max. That’s with muscle building training included.
    I don’t know if you have excess skin issues, but I would say that if you do get down to less than 200 pounds and maintain it, you will naturally tighten up, but it may take 5+ years….
    You are relatively young (I’m 58) which is in your favor. I hope that your precious wife will follow the same regime and see the same benefits. Maybe the fertility issues will resolve for you two.
    We’re all on an N=1 journey, and not many try to do anything about it.
    I believe I know the path I should take, whether I achieve it is down to me and nobody else.
    Same for us all.
    I hope you get down to below 200 pounds. I will follow your progress with interest.
    I hope you can achieve your goals by the end of 2013, just remember that some repairs like your skin can take years.
    All the best.

    • A former CarbSmart contributor

      180 pounds would not be prudent for me to shoot for. If I weighed 215-220 on my 6’3″ broad shouldered body, then that’d be perfect. But honestly I’m not shooting for any particular weight goal. If I keep this going (as I plan to do) and I reach 180, so be it. The fertility issue is beyond being fixed at this point for a variety of reasons. Christine is doing VERY well in her low-carb lifestyle. I’m patient on the changes that will happen. Excited to see how it progresses in 2013.

  11. I was inspired by you to do my own nutritional ketosis experiment after Thanksgiving and it has been an awesome ongoing journey! I LOVE comparing notes with what you post. I haven’t been able to get above 2.3 mM/L with the blood ketone meter so far but average between 1.0 and 2.0 mM/L when I’m in fat-burning beast mode. Subjectively, I’ve noticed not being fatigued when playing some competitive racquetball. Instead of going only an hour at a time, I’m able to go 2 to 3 hours without a decrease in intensity throughout, both physically and mentally. And compared to my low-carb, higher-protein days, the hunger following such intense bouts of physical exercise is blunted even more so, which has been odd and amazing. Normally, about an hour after exercise, I’m starving after racquetball! Also, I’ve discovered that I can eat about 130g of protein in one feasting and still remain in nutritional ketosis several hours after (i.e 0.5 mM/L), and that it takes 5 days of strict low-carb keto to get back into NK (I got back into it today after a planned Christmas evening carb-binge).

    I’m going to try different variations with my NK experiment by adding in some coconut oil and then also L-carnitine (I currently supplement with 200 mg of CoQ10, krill oil, magnesium, vitamin D3, and probiotic pearls). Have you tried to see if L-carnitine and/or CoQ10 (Dr. Sanatra’s favorite supplement recommendation) would affect your NK?

    • A former CarbSmart contributor

      Great job Charlie! Maybe that 1.0-2.0 range is great for you…I tend to do better when ketones are higher. The energy even in a fasted state is way cool doing NK. And NO HUNGER?! Who knew? Great job on knowing your body and how what you eat and how you move impacts you. Not many people know (or care). Let me know how the changes work for you. I take CoQ10.

  12. “I’m merely in a calorie deficit now, and that the overall reduction in intake of all three macronutrients – fat, protein and carbohydrate – has resulted in the weight loss I’ve experienced. There’s only one problem with this conclusion: my fat calories have been increased significantly while protein and carbs have been reduced. ”

    What’s the problem? You can still be in calorie deficit no matter what your macronutrient composition.

    “eating the proper number of calories becomes instinctive rather than forced when you eat sufficient fat and little enough carb and protein to produce an adequate level of blood ketone”

    So, you are admitting here that the object of the diet is to reduce caloric intake.

    Then you give a model of what happens “to an overweight person who begins a typical calorie-restricted diet” and give a tale of misery, woe and failure. It is true that that does happen to many people. But many people also fail on Low Carb. The typical arc of the LC diet looks like this:

    Morbidly obese person goes on LC diet
    Morbidly obese person reduces calories without realizing it and gets sucked into the magic world of “effortless weight loss.” Morbidly obese person goes from 400 to 300 pounds.
    Now non-morbidly but still medically obese person hits a plateau.
    Medically obese person starts an account on a low-carb dieting forum and posts endlessly about why they aren’t losing weight, despite cutting carbs to near zero.
    Medically obese person posts obsessively about her cream cheese and macadamia nut consumption….confused as to why these high-protein and high fat foods aren’t magically melting the pounds away.
    Medically obese person fiddles with diet further. No dairy, no this, no that. Maybe tried a “Kekwick fat fast.” Asks whether or not…it’s the calories maybe? And gets the reassuring answer: IT’S NOT THE CALORIES.
    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    It happened to you. Why are you on this diet? Because you gained back 76 of the 180 pounds you lost LCing.

    Let’s see where you are in a year before we call this latest experiment a success.

    • It has been a success inasmuch as it has helped me shed more weight and improve metabolic health markers. I’m the first to admit I still have more work left to be done–and I’m doing it!

  13. Honestly, I’m just glad that you’ve found a method that’s worked for you.

    I don’t know why people get so up in arms when others find methods of diet, lifestyle, and exercise that clash with their own expectations. I think that maybe NK isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay, just as those who do NK and feel amazing are okay, too.

    Coming from a world of disordered eating, I’ve found that we, as a culture, really focus on the wrong things. People who aren’t in your shoes are trying to shoehorn themselves into your diet and lifestyle (and vice versa) because they want the same results. And then, because we’re all individuals with different needs, different histories, different futures, etc., they get upset when things don’t work out the same way for them or when they can’t get you to validate that their way is the only way.

    I wrote a little about that on my blog ( in a post called “Comparing Apples to Bacon.” I think everyone needs to take a chill pill and just congratulate you for your continued commitment to your own health–and to your support of those who seek is as honestly and earnestly as you do.

  14. come on man, you just admitted that it’s a calorie deficit that has produced the weight loss! how you get there is your choice, i’m glad NK works for you, but you’re obfuscating if you admit that the answer is lowered calories, yet still pretend there’s some sort of debate between whether it’s ketones or calories.

    • No, I don’t think that’s what I said. Let me state it again: using the calorie hypothesis, the increased ketones from eating a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb nutritional approach has produced unmatched satiety, energy and spontaneous intermittent fasting that naturally makes my caloric intake go down. However, simply cutting my calories arbitrarily would not have worked as well because I meed this proper mix of macronutrients for me that has given me the qualities I am looking for–appetite control, satisfaction with meals so I don’t think about food and results in weight and health. Counting calories alone would not have done this for me. Period.

      • With all due respect, you are admitting to reducing your caloric intake. “eating the proper number of calories becomes instinctive rather than forced …”

        OK, fine. It is absolutely true that no normal human being wants to starve. No normal human being wants to feel deprived, day in, day out, long enough to lose significant excess weight. Eventually the body will demand to be fed the food it wants. We agree on that. The issue is – how does the body shed excess fat? By caloric deficit.

        You are accomplishing this by eating a diet whose macronutrient mix is unorthodox. Doesn’t matter – the reason for your weight loss is the caloric deficit.

        You would probably lose weight faster if you cut the fat and upped the proteins, within the matrix of a caloric deficit, due to dietary thermogenesis. In any case it all comes down to caloric deficit. Whether its Twinkies, potatoes, or sticks of butter, you will lose weight if you take in less than you expend.

        • Your reasoning is based on exactly the conventional wisdom that has plagued dieters for decades. “Eat less and you will lose weight.” That’s fine until your body figures out what you are doing and will use its inherent genetic coding to do everything it can to slow down metabolism because it perceives the reduction in calories as starvation. And no – eating twinkies and potatoes will not yield the same result. It’s ALL about they type of calories you eat, not the amount. In other words, it’s all about insulin and leptin resistance. If you have not done so. please read Gary Taubes books, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why We Are Fat.” Also Dr. Rosedale has many scientifically based articles on this very subject.

          • “Your reasoning is based on exactly the conventional wisdom that has plagued dieters for decades. ”

            Yeah, the truth hurts. This reasoning “plagues” dieters because they want a magic bullet, when there isn’t any.

        • Diana,

          Please be kind, what might work for you isn’t necessarily the one an only way it works for everyone. As he is trying to clearly state it makes a difference for some people what kind of calories are consumed. In my experience I lived a low-fat, low-calorie life for many many years always struggling with an extra 20 – 25 pounds. I switched to the low-carb lifestyle, increased my caloric intake while switching to different foods and the weight came off almost effortlessly. I now consume at least 25% more calories than before and have never felt or looked better. So, for everyone it is NOT about calories alone.

          • Excuse me, but you didn’t read what I wrote. I said that the kinds of calories consumed DO make a difference – didn’t you see that? No?

            Without seeing accurate records, I can’t believe that you weren’t interspersing your low-cal, low-fat Spartan lifestyle with periods of binge eating. This is a common behavior pattern with the overweight. I agree that low-fat low-cal sucks. I hated it too. But eventually I had to admit that creating a calorie deficit was the only way to lose weight. You say that you eat 25% more calories on low carb. I have two responses: one, you like the diet and you don’t binge. Two, you are not being accurate about your calorie counts. Three, dietary thermogenesis.

            Fact remains that metabolic ward studies prove that calories count. If you can cite me one that doesn’t, I’d appreciate it.

            Lastly, I’ve already read Taubes, Eades and all the rest. Now that I lost weight eating carbs and cutting calories (and upping exercise) I can see how they twist the facts. Taubes treatment of the Pima was complete distortion.

        • A former CarbSmart contributor

          “…it all comes down to caloric deficit. Whether its Twinkies, potatoes, or sticks of butter, you will lose weight if you take in less than you expend.”

          That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life! This totally ignores the hormonal impact of each of those foods and simply focuses foolishly on calories. Eating 1500 calories of butter, eggs and meats is a whole lot different than eating 1500 calories of Twinkies! Nobody would seriously argue the latter would respond exactly the same in the body as the former. Anyone?

          • Indeed, there have been several clinical studies that have demonstrated that calorie expenditure changes with macronutrient balance.

          • I didn’t say that the body responds the same to Twinkies and/or potatoes as it would to steak. I said that if you create a calorie deficit, you’ll lose weight. You know about the guy who lost weight on Twinkies and the one who lost weight on potatoes so I won’t rehash that here. The point is they created an energy deficit on those foods and they lost weight.

            @Dana – Yes, I referred to that when I mentioned dietary thermogenesis. Protein is harder to metabolize than carbs, which are harder to metabolize than fats. Also unprocessed foods are harder to metabolize than processed. It is easier to create a calorie deficit with a diet based on unprocessed foods and/or protein.

            I would never suggest that anyone live on Twinkies, heaven forbid. And I never said that the body processes macronutrients the same way – in fact I have repeatedly said the opposite.

            What I am saying is that the way the body loses excess tissue using fat weight as energy, is by creating a calorie deficit.

          • So what about the college professor that lost weigh by eating twinkies, a few veggies, and a protien shake? He lost weight AND improved his health markers. And yes he was eating about 1500 calories a day of twinkles.

            • Of course he lost weight. He was undereating calories, and most of them weren’t actually “food” calories (Twinkies aren’t food. They’re chemicals.) There’s so much more to the picture than initial weight loss, and it kills me that we’re only focusing on that part of the equation.
              I think you have to ask yourself:
              a) is that a sustainable diet?
              b) what are the health implications?
              And then consider why this (and similar) arguments are constantly thrown around to discredit suggestions for sustainable, healthy, long-term change.

      • thanks for taking the time, but now allow me to state it again. the calorie deficit has produced the weight loss. “how you get there is your choice.” you didn’t make a deliberate, conscious cut, the ketones enabled you to do it – good! but the calorie deficit it what produced the results. i’m glad you found a way to do it without difficulty. counting sucks. but it doesn’t change the science, and you should admit as much.

        • I realize everyone is different but I want to chime in here with all the “calorie deficit” stuff. I GAINED weight on 400 to 700 calories/day. Most of you will call me liars, just like every doctor did. I kept scrupulous journals, no lying, no cheating. I first changed my eating lifestyle in 2007 and lost 50 lbs in less than 5 months. During that time, my calories increased to 1200 to 1500/day. I had lived low fat for close to 20 years. Most of that weight loss was due to going gluten free I found out later. Anyway, fast forward to NK beginning mid October. I had gained 20 lbs in 2 months eating low carb. Switched to NK and lost most of that fairly quickly. Did not chance total calorie intake as I do track that on a site but did dramatically cut protein and increase fat. I’m still losing albeit more slowly. So, for me anyway, there’s no calorie deficit feeding the weight loss. I usually eat about 1200/day but occasionally as high as 1500. Due to physical problems, I am quite sedentary so this is sufficient calories.

          • “I realize everyone is different but I want to chime in here with all the “calorie deficit” stuff. I GAINED weight on 400 to 700 calories/day. Most of you will call me liars, just like every doctor did. I kept scrupulous journals, no lying,”

            Yes, I will call you a liar. There has never been a documented metabolic ward case where a person starved and gained weight. If there has been, please point one out.

            I have heard of anorexics whose bodies got so good at conserving energy that tiny amounts of food produced weight gain. But those truly are people whose metabolisms are deranged by prolonged starvation.

            • I knew someone would call me a liar but family and everyone around me during those years can vouch for the truth. I was not eating good food. I had no money and was eating one grilled cheese a day or peanut butter toast and diet sodas. I did not know better at the time. In that 2 years I gained over 50lbs. Yes, your body goes into starvation mode and conserves everything. Also, due to a serious injury I was pretty immobile at that time. I realize I am different from most people for a lot of reasons. All I am trying to say is that every single person is different. There will never be a one plan fits all. NK is working for me and it has nothing to do with calories. I totally believe the calorie deficit for weight loss is full of fallacy. For one thing, the human body is not a standardized laboratory. Again, in 2 months, my total calorie intake has not changed nor has my activity level but I’m losing weight. Diet sodas with artificial sweeteners, in fact anything with artificial sweeteners are now known to cause weight gain. I’m not going to keep arguing/harping on this. I just wanted to say that for me, personally, NK is working and it has nothing to do with calories in my case.

            • She is NOT a liar. I joined Weight Watchers, faithfully counted my points, went to the gym, 30 mins cardio, 30 weights every week day, tracked every morsel and began losing about .5 -1 lb a week.

              Great! So I thought I would up the ante by remaining within my point allowance AND keeping my calories under 1250 per day. That should have had me losing even faster !. The result?

              I gained 5 lbs in 2 weeks, without even realizing it. I started to get that “wet Pampers” feeling in my butt that I get when I am overweight. YES< YOU CAN GAIN WEIGHT ON A CALORIE RESTRICTED DIET.

              Since I was tracking with My Fitness Pal as well, I decided to take a good look at the Nutritional composition of what my 1250 calories actually was. To my surprise, I was eating approx 189 grams of carbs per day! Hence the rapid weight gain.

              Back to WW on a low carb, high fat plan, and I have lost 2 lbs in one week. That is fine for me = because it is high fat, I am going a bit over my WW daily points, but luckily, am still within my points allowance for the week, as I am allowed 49 extra to play with.

              Note that although WW works, going on my low carb plan has accelerated my weight loss, although the calories have definitely increased. I eat about 1500 a day now.

              Not everything works the way you think it should, and you ought to have learned that in kindergarten!

              • re: MyFitnessPal

                Exactly right, thank you for bringing this up. MFP is a nice tool IF you customize the goals and the columns to take your low carb/high fat intake into account. If you let it set your goals for you, which is the default, you will end up VERY high carb even if you program in a 500 calorie daily deficit.

  15. A simple question. So are you eating more or less calories than before (NK)?
    A direct answer would be appreciated.

    • A former CarbSmart contributor

      I don’t know because I’m not counting them. But my guesstimation would b I’m eating less which makes sense considering I weigh over 60 pounds less now than I did then.

      • again, you’re inability to admit that you’re eating less (calories! that dirty word), is kind of staggering jimmy. just own it! NK is great, and has enabled you to effotlessly eat fewer calories. why mince words?!?

        • A former CarbSmart contributor

          I haven’t “minced” any of my words buddy. But I’ll say what I’ve already said in my column to you again: I’m producing an adequate amount of ketones to enable an effortless and spontaneous reduction in calories. If it’s the reduction in calories that is producing the weight loss and other health results, then it is my contention that it’s the ketones that enabled that to happen. At the end of the day, the fact that it did happen when it wasn’t happening before is all that really matters to me.

      • So if you don’t even know if you are eating less calories or not, how would it be possible to answer your own question?

  16. I’m 100% on your site when it comes to NK. Only now have I read Robb Wolf’s article on paleo & low carb and his new position surprised me a lot. I believe the discussion would benefit if the fathers of NK, Phinney & Volek had a chance to speak directly to Wolf and Kresser. Why don’t you set this up for one of your podcasts?

    • Wouldn’t happen. All parties involved are deeply engrossed in their own work. Won’t say I won’t try, but don’t hold your breath.

  17. 2007, while in the midst of the low-carb community anger at his snark during his affiliation with Kimkins.

    “The main difference this time compared with three years ago is I am slightly cutting back on the amount of fat as a means for naturally reducing calories. While I don’t count calories, they certainly still count when it comes to shedding the pounds. Furthermore, let me be very clear–there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with consuming dietary fat, even saturated, as it serves a great purpose inside your body.

    But since there are 9 calories for each gram of fat compared with only 4 calories for each gram of carbohydrate and protein, it makes good mathematical common sense to reduce ever so slightly your fat intake from the very high levels you may have been consuming on other low-carb plans for TWICE the calorie savings. This is one of the major reasons Kimkins has worked so well for me.

    So far, I’ve lost 34.5 pounds and counting in the first 40 days. ”

    Post # 407 in this thread:

    Of course he’s losing weight because he’s cut calories again, he’s eating less. Ketosis isn’t the cause of weight loss, it’s the symptom of burning fat (body or dietary) for energy.

  18. Ok..putting aside the debate or a moment, I’m interested in ketone blood testing. Like many low carbers I have used the “pee sticks” (admittedly sometimes obsessively). Apparently somewhat a waste of time LOL. I’d like to consider the blood test alternative. I’m unclear on the process and not being a diabetic i dont have the advantage of knowing blood testing best practices. can you elaborate for me – best time of day to test? Frequency? Clearly the cost of the strips would prohibit obsessive checking (at least as compared to urine testing) but I’d love a little best practice guidance on the testing process. Thanks!

    Oh, as far as the debate I fall in the camp that the success is a combination of both calorie restriction AND high fat. Number and kind matter, I’m living proof of that. i can restrict and lose but very slowly. I can restrict and control carbs (higher fat) and lose relatively rapidly. Feel like crap on the former and feel like a million bucks on the later. Enough proof for me.

  19. I’ve read so many different conflicting things on this that it is quite confusing. I see so many people say that weight loss is just a matter of calories in vs calories out. But I do believe that different foods affect our bodies in different ways.

    Interesting article!

  20. Thanks for writing this article (and sharing your experiences with keto). I’m ketogenic for 30 days now and I’m down 10.6 lbs and NEVER hungry. I had to adapt to this new lifestyle… stop eating out of habit and listening to my hunger signals has helped the most. The hardest part is finding high-fat foods at the grocery store. Your advice has been extemely helpful in choosing foods, and ways to add fat to the foods I’m already eating. You’re right… tons of issues clear up when you eat this way… the most important for me tho, is losing this horrid fat. I’m starting to see results and I’m loving my body and myself more these days.

  21. This calories thing is crazy. The calorie figures are obtained by burning food in a bomb calorimeter, which is a box with two chambers, measuring the energy given off. You can do it with anything that will burn. But humans are not a box!

    So just because you come up with a number by burning something in a box, does not tell you exactly how it will affect the human body. It is an absurd idea. And for your information, you can definitely gain weight when eating ZERO calories. You can in fact do it really quick. Just drink a gallon of water!

    So people should stop judging food by what it does inside a box and just parroting this calorie is a calorie nonsense. Try eating 3000 calories of fiber. You can’t really digest it. The calories DON’t count! Same with fat, carbs, protein and alcohol. They all affect the human body differently, regardless of the figures they give off in a box. Point proven. Cased closed.

  22. I have been trying the Shangri La diet with LTOO. I think it has caused appetite suppression. I usually take 3 tblsp early AM. Would switching to MCT oil in coffee and some non dairy non caloric creamer have a similar effect? Also, would adding MCT in coffee to the 3 tblsp of LTOO be too much. I am trying to lose about 10 pounds – currently at 167 (5’10”).

    Also, have you found a relationship between calories and flavor?


  23. So if I go by your diet percentages (which My Fitness Pal won’t let me set exacts), 5% carbs 10% fats and 85% fats. If that doesn’t work, what should I adjust? I’ve not lost in months but still doing low carb but not counting any more because of the lack of weight loss. I haven’t gained until recently adding exercise and more water. To me not gaining is s victory considering diabetes in my family. All my numbers and acid reflux in check but Im 5’2″ and 158 pounds would like to lose more. Tia. I started low carb April 2014. I lost 30 pounds but only in the first 6 months and have stalled since. Desperately needed guidance.

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