The ketogenic diet has emerged as the weight-loss plan for women who want to shed fat fast, and for good reason: This very low-carb, high-fat way of eating is proven to help followers slim down quickly, and it delivers an array of impressive health benefits — from decreasing levels of heart-harming triglycerides by 300 percent, to improving memory by 62 percent, to boosting mood by 52 percent. But despite how popular the diet is, many women who try it report seeing little to no results from their efforts. In fact, some even gain weight or feel completely terrible. What gives?
New science suggests that many keto dieters fall short of the fat intake needed to optimize weight loss and wellness on the plan. Keto calls for getting at least 70 percent of calories from fat in order to stimulate the body’s production of ketones — a super-fuel that is produced from fat that cells use to generate energy. This allows for the body to burn more of its own fat stores for fuel. But studies show that women tend to underestimate how much fat they should eat to hit their goal, often getting just 30 to 40 percent of their total calories from fat.
“Fat has been looked upon as an enemy for decades, so it’s no surprise that we subconsciously believe we should dial back our fat intake,” says neurologist and weight-loss expert David Perlmutter, MD, author of The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan: Boost Brain Performance, Lose Weight, and Achieve Optimal Health ($13.95, Amazon). Without enough dietary fat, however, the brain and muscles don’t get enough fuel to keep metabolism humming — and keto dieters end up feeling tired, foggy, achy, and ravenous.
Many keto dieters turn to protein to ease uncomfortable symptoms and speed slimming, but that can backfire. “There’s a misconception that loading up on extra protein will help you burn more fat,” notes Dr. Perlmutter. “But in fact, excessive dietary protein actually enhances the body’s production of sugar.”
He explains that when we consume more protein than the muscles need to function, the body turns that extra protein into glucose. As a result, blood sugar spikes, triggering a release of insulin that stops the production of ketones, shifts the body into fat-storage mode, and slows metabolism to a crawl. Consume enough healthy fat, though, and wow! “Eating plenty of dietary fats paves the way for weight loss,” says Perlmutter. He explains that once the body is supplied with enough fat to produce ketones efficiently, metabolism kicks into high gear and cells begin to burn stored fat for fuel within just five days.
Researchers at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, found that keto dieters’ resting metabolic rate was as much as 10 times higher than those on a standard American diet. Another benefit: Researchers at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, report that eating fats decreases the body’s production of hunger-promoting hormones and increases the production of satiety hormones — and the combined effect reduces calorie intake by 40 percent for four hours. All told, these effects helped FIRST readers who followed a fat-powered plan lose up to 17 pounds every week without experiencing the hunger pangs or plateaus that are common with other low-carb diets.
Effortless weight loss is just the beginning. “Within the first week, you’ll feel the payoff,” says Perlmutter. In fact, studies show that burning fat for fuel boosts energy levels by 88 percent and improves sleep quality by 21 percent. Eating plenty of healthy fats has also been shown to ease aches, stimulate hair growth, and erase wrinkles.
How to Eat More Fat on a Keto Diet
Consuming enough fat to shift the body into slim-down mode can be downright delicious. In her work with thousands of dieters, nutritionist Kellyann Petrucci, ND, has seen great results when her patients enjoy “fat bombs” on a keto diet. These decadent low-carb snacks deliver a concentrated dose of healthy fats to kick-start ketone production and shift fat burning into high gear. “They’re actually treats that taste out of this world and they’re good for you — as long as you have them as part of a low-carb diet,” Petrucci says.
Adopting a high-fat ketogenic diet meal plan can fire up metabolism and help break stubborn plateaus to make slimming effortless — plus deliver an array of benefits including sky-high energy, clearer skin, and sunnier moods. To get started, aim to eat a diet composed of 70 percent fat, 25 percent protein, and five percent carbs (about 20 grams) daily.
That means loading your plate at each meal with four ounces of protein (like chicken, turkey, steak, or salmon) as well as a variety of leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables (like broccoli and peppers that have been cooked in healthy fats like ghee). “No matter which fats you choose, don’t short yourself.
Eat about a tablespoon of fat at each meal — that’s a thumb-size portion,” says Petrucci, author of The 10-Day Belly Slimdown: Lose Your Belly, Heal Your Gut, Enjoy a Lighter, Younger You ($17.70, Amazon). You can also enjoy fat-rich snacks (like hard-boiled eggs, nuts, and seeds). Make sure to avoid grains, sugars, and processed fats to help the pounds melt away.
To ensure you’re hitting your daily fat quota, you’ll also enjoy “fat bombs” made with healthy fats (like coconut oil) once or twice a day when hunger strikes. “Fat bombs curb appetite and rev metabolism,” says Petrucci. “Many people report that fat bombs give them an extra boost of energy.”
If a treat loaded with coconut oil or butter sounds greasy and unappealing, take heart: We were pleasantly surprised by the taste and texture — and successful slimmers agree! “Everyone else can have their cake, and I don’t even care because I get to eat fat bombs. They make eating plenty of good fats easy,” says HeavenlyHomemakers.com blogger Laura Coppinger, who credits fat bombs with helping her slim and curing her son’s eczema.
For Vicki Bales-Humble, who lost 92 pounds, these tiny bites are a big treat. “I have a fat bomb as dessert after any meal that doesn’t have enough fat,” she says. “I eat them right out of the fridge and they keep me satisfied.” Most successful slimmers prefer to make a big batch of fat bombs so their snacks are ready to grab and enjoy as needed. To whip up your new favorite treat, follow the five easy steps below.
How to Make a 'Fat Bomb' to Meet Your Daily Quota
1. Choose your fat. To make a batch of about 20 fat bombs, start with 1 cup of room-temperature healthy fats such as coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut cream, nut butter, cream cheese, or grass-fed butter. Melt any solid fats gently in a double boiler. Combine different fats to vary the flavor and nutrients.
2. Boost the flavor. Choose up to three of the following delicious picks, which deliver nutrients that help increase fat burn to speed results: one teaspoon of cinnamon or ginger, three tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, one tablespoon of citrus zest, 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen strawberries or raspberries, or four ounces of melted dark chocolate.
3. Make it sweet. To give treats more concentrated flavors and subtle sweetness, add up to two tablespoons of a flavor extract (like vanilla, almond, lemon, or peppermint). Or for an extra sweet touch, add 1/4 teaspoon (about 10 drops) of liquid stevia, or experiment with the same amount of flavored stevia.
4. Include texture. For extra crunch and a dose of omega-3 fats, add 1/3 cup of chopped nuts. Or if you prefer a bit of chew, select 1/4 cup of shredded coconut. For a more decadent bite, add in 1/4 cup of cacao nibs. (You can stir these picks into the batter at the last minute or add them at the end).
5. Blend and chill. In a food processor, blend your chosen healthy fats, flavor boosters, and sweeteners until well-combined. Next, stir in your texture ingredients. Roll the mixture into golf-ball–sized rounds, or pour into mini muffin cups filling each cup with about one tablespoon of mixture. For even more texture, you can roll the balls in (or sprinkle cups with) your crunchy pick. For a little something different, some women like to press a single hazelnut, pecan or macadamia nut into the center of each fat bomb. Refrigerate treats for four hours (or freeze for two hours), until the mixture is solid. Store the treats in a resealable container in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to one month.
Our Favorite 'Fat Bomb' Recipes
Mint Chocolate Bombs: In a bowl, whisk 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, 1/2 cup cocoa butter, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, and 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract. Roll mixture into 20 balls. Freeze.
Berry Cheesecake Bombs: In a food processor, blend 3/4 cup cream cheese, 1/4 cup cashew butter, 1/2 cup berries, and one tablespoon vanilla extract. Roll into 20 balls. Coat with coconut. Freeze.
Tart Lemon Bombs: In a food processor, blend three tablespoons melted coconut oil, three ounces cream cheese, two tablespoons butter, one ounce fresh lemon juice, and two teaspoons lemon zest. Roll mixture into about 20 balls. Freeze
Chocolate-Orange-Walnut Bombs: In a food processor, blend 3/4 cup coconut butter, 1/4 cup melted coconut oil, five ounces melted dark chocolate, one tablespoon orange zest, 1/3 cup walnuts, and five drops stevia. Pour into 20 muffin cups. Freeze.