Original Let’s talk about fat…

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Less talk about FAT. Not that which we are trying to get rid of, but the fat we put into our mouths. There seems to be a common misconception that being keto means you can eat ALL THE FAT.
That is wishful thinking.
While many forms of the ketogenic diet are called ‘low carb\high fat,’ that doesn’t mean you have to eat as much fat as your macros say you CAN have.
Fat macro is a guideline, just like carbs it is a LIMIT. You can go under your 20g of carbs. Likewise, you can go under you XXXg of fat.
You have a choice when eating – either high carbs to preserve muscle mass, or high fat to preserve muscle mass. Protein is a constant (and a goal either way). If we get enough carbs or fat in our diet, then we don’t break down muscle for fuel. Yeh, breaking down muscle is a bad thing.
BUT, if you overdo either fat or carbs, you do have the potential of not getting the results you are looking for.
No weight loss.
There’s a lot of talk out there that ‘fat doesn’t make you fat’ and to a degree, that is true. Eating fat doesn’t AUTOMATICALLY make you fat. Eating too much fat or carbs can STORE FAT.
That means you cannot go wholesale and eat 10# of bacon slathered in butter with a side of lard and wash it down with a BPC containing 1/4 cup of heavy cream and 2tbsp coconut oil. As fun as that sounds, it doesn’t work that way. Excess fat calories HAVE to go someplace. That means STORED. Yeh. Body fat. Calories do matter. No, calories in\out isn’t as simple as some make us believe, but in the same breath, they cannot be discarded. I’ll touch on that at the end of this post, before I do, let’s talk more on fat.

So, you are probably thinking – ‘Ok Hobbit-san, so what are you trying to tell us??’
Use dietary fat INTELLIGENTLY.
Yes, Grasshoppah, BALANCE.

In order to preserve muscle mass (remember, muscles burn calories just by existing, fat doesn’t), we need to make sure we are getting enough. How much is ‘enough?’

You need 0.39g of dietary fat per pound of lean body mass to protect protein (enough energy to function without breaking down muscle). So, let’s use this example. We have a 200lb, 5’5″ woman. Their body fat percentage is about 50%, meaning their lean body mass (you, minus the fat) is roughly 100lbs (102lbs to be exact but we like simple math 🙂 ). The minimum fat they need a day to stay healthy is going to be 39g.

I’m going to guess many of you are eating a lot more than that.
That’s not a bad thing… but remember BALANCE.

You do want to eat more than that because you want to make sure you get enough calories to go above your BRM (basal metabolic rate – the number of calories a day your body uses just to stay alive) as long as you haven’t slowed your metabolism down too much by dropping your calories too low. See this article on why too few calories is as bad if not worse than too many. So, yes, after you’ve had ALL your protein, you want to make sure you have enough fat to keep your calories up to a safe level WITHOUT HAVING TOO MANY as well as keep you from chewing off your arm out of hunger. Looking at our 200lb person above, their BMR for their CURRENT size is 1533 calories, while their TDEE (total daily energy expenditure, all the calories they use in a normal day) is 1840. What that person wants to do to lose weight is to eat LESS than their TDEE but MORE than there BMR. Since they should be getting a minimum of 84g protein a day (344 calories) and they need at least 39g fat (351 calories), that gives them a minimum of (1533-695) 838 calories to have for the rest of the day between carbs and fat, since carbs should be 20 or less (20×4=80), they can eat another 84g (758 calories) of fat and LESS than 160g (maintenance calories). Typically this means their macros they were given\calculated would have a fat gram range of 112-142g for a safe deficit. Looking at these numbers, we can now see that she doesn’t need to eat ALL the fat, just eat enough to be healthy. She can occasionally go even lower – moving calories around keeps the metabolism guessing which isn’t a bad thing – as long as she doesn’t make it a constant thing (yes, this is one of the reasons that fasting and intermittent fasting works so well). She will also want to change these numbers as she sheds the fat and gets more healthy. Weight loss and healthy living isn’t static, things change. So should your macros.

Another reason you should watch out for fats, many people who are overweight are leptin resistant and ghrelin sensitive. These two are ying and yang of each other and work with serotonin and dopamine to regulate hunger. Leptin tells you when to stop eating and raises serotonin to satiate you, Ghrelin does just the opposite. Ghrelin is a hormone found in the gut and THRIVES on saturated fats, so for some people, the more fats they eat, the more they want to eat. It’s not an ‘addiction’ but a hormonal imbalance. Try lower fat, slightly more protein, and incorporating but insoluble and soluble fiber into your diet (with plenty of hydration). Doing this might help as well as allow you to tap into the 4th macro.

The 4th macro?
This is the macro you REALLY want to mobilize, right? If you are using everything you eat for energy, you’re not using body fat.

You might notice something else, I’m talking grams and not percentages. There’s a reason for it. I could go into a whole Hobbit discourse but Lyle McDonald put it so simply, I’m going to use his explanation:

“When someone puts protein, carb, or fat requirements in terms of percentages only for a diet setup, it doesn’t necessarily have any relevance to what that person actually needs. For example, it’s not uncommon to see diets for bodybuilders set up with 25-30% protein. Others take a more conservative 15% and use that across the board for athletes or general intake. But what do those percentages actually mean? Obviously nothing unless you also know how many calories that person is eating.
Let’s use our 200 lb example individual above and look at his protein intake. Let’s split the middle value for weight training and say he actually needs 150 g/day of protein and put him at two different caloric extremes: 1000 cal/day (a starvation diet) vs. 10,000 calories/day (Parillo style). Let’s set protein at 30% which most would say is sufficient (or excessive depending on who you’re talking to).
1000 cal/day at 30% yields 300 calories from protein, or 75 grams of protein. He’d need 60% protein on 1000 cal/day to get 150 grams of protein per day. 10,000 cal/day at 30% yields 3000 calories from protein, or 750 grams of protein. Although both diets are 30% protein, the first is half of what our guy actually needs (75 g/day vs. 150 g/day); the second diet has 5 times as much protein as he actually needs. Yes, these are extreme examples and deliberately chosen that way. But they point out that the percentage itself has no relevance whatsoever to what our guy’s actual requirements are.”

Ok, what about calories in\out?

Calories in\out isn’t a myth, it is a misunderstood, WAY over simplified, and often misquoted theory.
Calories in\out is real. What many miss are not all calories are equal. The law of thermodynamics is real. It’s the UNDERSTANDING of it that is wrong.

If you are in negative energy balance, your body will burn some of its own energy. If you are in positive energy balance, your body will store energy. These are irrefutable conclusions that logically follow from the laws of physics, specifically the first law of thermodynamics.
As a result, being in an energy deficit equals weight loss and being in an energy surplus equals weight gain, right? Yet it’s wrong to equate energy balance with weight change. Within the context of a sedentary individual on a balanced diet that only changes his or her energy intake, it is generally correct. However, as a law, which is how most people perceive it, it is false.
The logical error is that not all bodily mass corresponds with stored energy. For example, when you go on a ketogenic maintenance diet, you will almost certainly lose body mass without being in a deficit. The lost bodyweight will mostly be water as a result of the lower carbohydrate content of your diet and changes in your body’s electrolyte balance. Foods that cause abdominal bloating and water retention can similarly cause weight gain without a caloric surplus. Not to mention diuretics, the menstrual cycle, drugs, changes in mineral consumption, colon cleanings, creatine, etc. There are many ways to change your weight long term without changing your body’s amount of stored energy.
Moreover, you can be weight stable while being in a deficit You can gain muscle (technically lean body mass, but that’s what most people mean when they say �?gain muscle’) just as fast as you’re losing fat and a a result your weight will remain the same. This invalidates the idea that energy balance dictates weight change, since evidently being weight stable does not mean you are in energy balance and being in a deficit does not mean you will lose weight.
If someone gained more muscle than he lost fat, he was in a caloric surplus by definition.” This was the objection I received from several people when I tried to explain the above earlier. As we saw above, however, this is based on the flawed assumption that energy balance dictates weight change.
This isn’t just a semantic argument where people just have different definitions. The energy balance equation is a mathematical principle.

Change in body energy = Energy intake – energy expenditure

With the metabolizable energy densities of fat and lean body mass we can precisely calculate the deficit or surplus someone was in based on that person’s body composition change. Someone who gained 3 pounds of muscle and lost 1 pound of fat must have been in a net energy deficit of 1810 calories. Taking this a step further, you can lose fat in a surplus(!) Fat loss occurs during a surplus when you gain muscle fast enough to offset the energy your body receives from the fat loss.

Following the same logic, you can also gain fat in a deficit. If you lose muscle 5.2 times as fast as you get fat, you gain fat while remaining in a deficit. Unless your weight loss program really sucks though, I should hope this only ever occurs if you stop training, you have a serious medical condition or there are drugs involved.

The TL:DR summary:

Energy balance and weight change are almost wholly distinct from each other.

Your weight can change without any change in bodily energy storage due to changes in water weight and mass in your digestive tract.
You can be weight stable yet be in a deficit. So you can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.
If you’re gaining weight, you may still be in a deficit, because you can gain muscle faster than you lose fat.
If you’re losing weight, you may still be in a surplus if you lose a lot of muscle mass.
You can lose fat in a surplus if you rapidly gain muscle.
You can gain fat in a deficit if you rapidly lose muscle mass.

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  1. Kaye Heptinstall Banister

    What is going on? I dont recall ever getting emails from you and now suddenly I am getting 30 a day. What on earth? I hate to unsubscribe but will have to if this happens again

  2. […] carbs the lowest. This doesn’t mean that fat is free and you can eat all that you want. We know this. We’ve talked about this. I’ve posted about it. Calories matter. Fat levels matter. Yes, fat is a throttle, but just like driving down the freeway […]

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