At Konscious Keto, we know a visibly marbled rib eye steak is a high-quality fat option to eat on a ketogenic diet, or a deliciously decadent choc keto pudding, but the question is: can we eat fat without limits on a ketogenic diet and do calories still impact our weight once we drastically reduce carbs from our meal plan on a ketogenic diet?
More specifically, does keto enable us to consume an unlimited amount of calories and still lose fat or gain lean muscle? And is keto the answer and end to all the sage weight-loss guidelines trusted by the masses of this modern age (e.g., caloric surpluses result in fat storage while deficiencies produce weight loss)?
Well, yes and no. Before we confuse you, rest assured that we're looking to offer clarity rather than add to the confusion; keep reading as we will unpack and simplify some of the complexities around fat, how it affects our bodies, and how to determine how much of it to eat on a ketogenic diet.
So, while a fatty steak is advisable on a ketogenic diet, whether eating that food in a given portion will contribute to fat release or storage is directly related to your total current daily caloric intake and total energy expenditure.
The key is that your goal is central to determining the ideal amount of fat to consume on a ketogenic diet. Simply put, create a caloric deficit if you want to lose fat and consume more calories than needed if you're going to increase body mass.
With that being said, keep a keen eye on eating quality fat and protein sources to ensure optimal nutrition for the body and the best result with regards to body recomposition on keto.
While the impact of hormonal health and function has a profound effect on fat release or storage, at the end of the day—regardless of the macronutrient source (e.g., fat, protein, or carbs)—calories consumed over the body's energy needs are stored as excess weight.
The Importance of Fat on the Keto Diet
Eating more healthy fats on a ketogenic diet extends far beyond a rebellious thumbing of the nose at the nation’s food authorities for demonizing our beloved bacon and butter for so long. Eating high-quality fats and unprocessed whole foods contribute to increased vitality, accelerated fat loss, and heightened mental acuity, as well.
The core dietary principle of the ketogenic lifestyle is the significant reduction of sugar or carbs.
Even more than the goal of hitting fat macros, the coveted state of metabolic ketosis sought after by followers of the lifestyle is predicated upon the absence of carbs—although fat is significant on a ketogenic diet as it becomes the primary source of fuel in the body once the bread, starches, and sugary drinks are ousted from the menu.
Aside from adding a unique flavor to food, fat is also essential on a ketogenic diet because it aids in satiety, which leads to eating less, effortlessly, virtually without even realizing a change.
Ketosis creates a natural appetite-suppressing effect, and changes hunger levels, as well—super-exciting news for anyone considering keto with a goal of weight loss!
So while keto is not a magic bullet that permits unlimited calorie intake and corresponding rapid weight loss while operating in a caloric surplus, the eating style naturally harnesses our appetite, and weight loss automatically follows.
Furthermore, eating high-quality fat (omega-3 fatty acids, unsaturated fats, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat, et al.) is helpful in many ways to those on a ketogenic diet.
Here are some of the benefits of consuming increased healthy fats on keto, and how eating them is likely to affect your numbers on the scale:
- Helps promote balanced and healthy cholesterol levels
- Promotes regulated blood sugar and prevents metabolic disorders like type2 diabetes and insulin resistance
- Helps promote heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease
- Aids in satiety and helps you feel fuller for longer
- With the elimination of sugars and high-carb foods, facilitates metabolic ketosis and triggers a thermogenic effect in the body to cause accelerated fat loss.
- Promotes the production of more endogenous ketones to aid in deeper levels of nutritional ketosis
Also, fat aids in the development and proper function of the body and brain, and eating quality fats and protein, with minimum carbs, primes the system for optimal function—even aiding in increased mental cognition and physical stamina.
Fat Consumption, Calories, and Weight Loss
We know there's a lot of conflicting information in the health space concerning whether fat is a friend or foe; does fat make us fat or aid in fat loss? And is it possible for two diametrically opposed states to be equally valid in different contexts?
Fat is a great macronutrient to aid in weight loss and appetite satiety, and eating it as your primary caloric source—with an overall caloric target set to create a deficit—will help facilitate accelerated fat loss on a ketogenic diet.
With the knowledge that a targeted caloric intake range will create enough of a deficit to produce consistent weight loss, the appetite-curbing benefits of ketosis become more apparent as it makes eating less and engaging in intermittent fasting—or set and restricted periods of feeding and fasting—less of a challenge and more like second nature.
Now, while having less of an appetite overall is quite common for those following a ketogenic diet, it is still imperative to eat an adequate amount of calories to support optimal physical, hormonal, and metabolic health.
Focus on comprising your daily dietary menu with a balanced range of nutrient-dense, keto-friendly, foods to ensure a well-rounded meal plan.
Identifying and adapting to the iteration of the ketogenic diet that's best for you may initially require the application of the Goldilocks Principle—a bit of trial and error to find what's not too restrictive or lenient, but the protocol composition that's just right.
Be patient and trust the transitionary progress. There's likely to be a version of the ketogenic diet that works well for you.
Again, while we enthusiastically endorse and encourage composing your diet of healthy fat as the lion share, followed by protein and carbs, respectively, we want to reiterate the importance of eating a caloric amount that triggers either a deficit or surplus, based on your health goals.
So, while eating fat will not make you fat, consuming calories or energy more than that which the body needs to use at the moment can be stored as fat if the amount consumed places you in a state of caloric surplus—so be mindful of your macros based on your health goals.
Won’t Eating Fat Make You Fat?
As we mentioned above, consuming a diet rich in healthy fat will not make you fat. In contrast, if anything, the satiating effect of eating a diet abundant in monounsaturated, saturated, and polyunsaturated fats help us feel fuller longer, eat less, and lose unwanted fat faster.
Again, we're not here to vilify any single macronutrient as the sole culprit of weight-loss stalls and fat gain. Eating any macronutrient more than our energy needs can result in energy storage and weight gain.
Remember, the key to eating a diet that is low in carbs and high in fat, like a ketogenic diet, is that you will naturally eat less because the foods you eat are packed with vitamins, nutrients, and ketone-boosting fatty acids.
Furthermore, eating enough calories for your personal needs is also crucial because depriving yourself of nutrition may backfire and result in weight-loss stalls and metabolic and hormonal imbalances that will only make it harder to achieve your mean-and-lean fitness goals.
Before long, your body will adjust your hunger levels to a more balanced position—you'll feel actual hunger signals and eat just until satisfied, without a desire to binge or overeat, finally freedom from cravings and vicious overeating cycles!
How Much Fat You Need to Eat on Keto
This is not a question with a one-size-fits-all answer. Many factors like gender, age, physical activity level, and other lifestyle factors play a significant role in a person's daily fat dietary needs.
While protein is also an essential macronutrient concerning weight loss, muscle gain, and muscle recovery, fat is most significant on a ketogenic diet as it comprises the majority of your daily caloric intake and is largely responsible for the fantastic body recomposition people experience on a ketogenic diet.
Trial and error is often the best-individualized indicator of the ideal fat macronutrients for each person.
However, online calculators like that offered by ruled.me are excellent to get an idea of your target fat intake range based on your height, weight, gender, activity levels, and goals.
Follow the fat intake guidelines provided by the mentioned calculator at the onset of the ketogenic diet and revisit your set macros every few weeks to determine whether the fixed fat macros are producing the desired result (r.e., weight loss or weight gain).
How to Increase Your Fat Intake
As we mentioned, your ideal fat target is based on some personal and lifestyle factors.
But with that being said, a general rule is that we want to eat a bit less fat, and fewer calories in general, if we're going to lose fat; and we'll want to increase fat intake and overall calories if the goal is to gain weight.
Also, as you transition to a ketogenic diet and bask in the excitement around eating yummy, fatty, foods, you may be wondering how to go about eating as many fat macros as is prescribed.
No need to overthink it as there are some easy ways to incorporate increased amounts of healthy fat into your daily diet in a snap.
Here are some go-to options to easily boost daily fat intake:
- Plan and track your food intake throughout the day, using free apps like MyFitness Pal, to ensure you eat within the desired macro composition throughout the day.
- Add fats to meals in the form of dressings, sauces, grass-fed butter, sour cream, etc., to boost fat-burning ketones and help to keep hunger at bay.
- Eat fat as meals in the form of sweet or savory fat bombs; literally, make entire meals out of virtually all fat to ensure you're consuming an adequate amount of healthy fats throughout the day to keep energy levels high.
Lucky for us, as you can see based on the noted options above, it is quite easy to add fat to your food without much fuss or effort.
Also, stress less about getting in fat macros as ketosis is a state predicated on the removal of carbs and not the inclusion of fats.
Eat to feel satisfied and not necessarily to hit some arbitrary macro goal each day. Let your hunger and how you feel act as your most-trusted guide with hunger.
The Best Sources of Healthy Fats for the Keto Diet
While more packaged foods catered toward the keto community are becoming increasingly available, even in mainstream markets, whole foods sources of keto-friendly foods are still the best sources of fat to consume on a ketogenic diet.
In particular, the following are excellent and accessible sources of quality high-fat food options ideal on a keto diet:
- Avocados (incorporate them into decadent guacamole or a rich and creamy, fatty, smoothie infused with energy-boosting MCT oil.
- Egg yolks are an excellent source of fat, as well as protein, riboflavin, selenium, and vitamin D—essential for bone and immunity health.
- Eating high-fat, low-glycemic, nuts like macadamia and almonds are a fantastic source of healthy fat and super-convenient to just toss in your purse or gym bag for a tasty and handy snack on-the-go.
As we mentioned above, healthy oils are an incredibly convenient method of delivering fat and one that we encourage entirely.
Experiment with drizzling a light and neutral oil like a heart-healthy grapeseed or hemp oil atop salads to double as a nutritional boost and a lovely, simple dressing.
If you're a lover of salmon, mackerel, or sardines, you'll be happy to note that all these seafood options are excellent sources of fat, with a low-glycemic profile, ideal for anyone on a ketogenic diet.
Sear a salmon fillet in grass-fed butter, or experiment with swapping in sardines or mackerel set in olive oil, as opposed to a leaner cut of fish like tuna, and pair with a healthy mayonnaise, like the version made by Primal Kitchen, for a nutrient-dense meal option rich in omega-3s and a host of other healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins.
Also, feel free to add coconut meat, coconut butter, cocoa butter, or coconut oil to fat bombs to increase fat and MCT intake—not to mention a delicate sweetness to keto-friendly confections.
Add ghee and grass-fed butter to recipes, use as a tasty topper to fluffy and rich mounds of faux cauliflower mash, or add as a compliment to a piping hot mug of keto coffee—ghee, or clarified butter, is an excellent fat source on keto.
Look for low-sugar, full-fat, yogurts (e.g., CocoYo) with active and living cultures that provide ample fat along with a host of healthy bacteria, to add vitality to your gut microbiome, without the unwanted added sugars.
Incorporate high-fat cheeses like brie, mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese into your daily meal plan for a touch of variety and fatty goodness. I mean, hey, who doesn't love a good cheese?
Fatty meats, whether cured or fresh (e.g., pepperoni or bacon, etc.), are an excellent and convenient conduit of fat. Toss some sugar-free beef jerky into your gym bag or wrap some full-fat mozzarella sticks with thinly-sliced, salty, prosciutto. The options here are truly endless so have fun exploring.
What If You Don’t Meet Your Fat Goals?
Unless you're looking to gain muscle mass and size, there's no real pressure to hit fat macros every day.
Again, remember as we mentioned above: ketosis is contingent upon the drastic reduction or elimination of carbohydrates and sugars, and not necessarily the increase of fats in our meal plan.
Consuming increased fat is more about satiation and energy than metabolic ketosis, so eat to the point of feeling satisfied if the goal is weight loss, and adjust your fat macros if you're looking to bulk in size—pretty straight forward.
Eating Too Much Fat
Although fat is our body's optimal form of fuel, overdoing fat intake can pose a challenge to those seeking to lose body fat on a ketogenic diet.
Eating more fat than the body can will cause us to experience a stall in weight loss, and, as we've mentioned, a surplus in fat or any form of calories will lead to fat and weight gain.
Even within a ketogenic protocol, there is still an ideal range of fat, protein, and calories to eat to produce your desired results (e.g., weight loss or muscle gain, etc.).
So, again, the rule remains even with a ketogenic diet: while eating a high-fat diet with overall calories that create a deficit will facilitate fat loss, a surplus will always result in gain—so consider this as you calculate your daily caloric intake.
Using a mobile app like MyFitnessPal can prove helpful in tracking caloric intake and composition to help you hit your macro targets for the day.
And the use of online calculators, like that shared above provided by ruled.me, is useful to determine a customized macro profile based on your decided goals, to help keep an eye on your progress based on your food and drink choices throughout the day.
Eating Fat on the Ketogenic Diet
Eating fat on a ketogenic diet can be effortless. It's easy to grab natural fast foods like avocado and sprinkle half with a bit of coarse sea salt for a fuss-free, fat-fueled, meal in seconds.
Also, it's a snap to get in a healthy boost of fats and MCTs with a morning keto coffee, infused with grass-fed butter and heavy cream.
Also, having fun in the kitchen with recipes consisting of fatty foods like nuts and seeds, and avocado, usually result in the creation of delicious staple recipes like guacamole, nut butter, and even desserts on a low-carb, high-fat, diet!
Try new foods as you go and uncover new favorites along the way.
Getting in enough fats should never be a concern on keto as there are healthy, low-glycemic, options everywhere!
From fatty, omega-3-rich, fish like mackerel to protein-packed seeds like flax, chia, and hemp, the ketogenic diet is packed with endless options that provide the quality fat you need to live a happy and sustainable low-carb, high-fat, lifestyle.
Just set your macros based on your goals, commit to the process of replacing old habits around food, and you’ll soon find new ease around your dietary health and the renewal of the body’s intuitive wisdom of how much nutrition it needs and when. Trust the process and enjoy the ride to optimal health.
Low-Carb Diet Beats Low-Fat for HDL-Cholesterol Levels. (2010). SciVee. doi:10.4016/20185.01
Lim, K., Shimomura, Y., & Suzuki, M. (n.d.). Effect of High-fat Diet Feeding over Generations on Body Fat Accumulation. Obesity: Dietary Factors and Control,181-190. doi:10.1159/000420927
- Slomski, A. (2019). Low-Carb Diets Help Maintain Weight Loss. Jama,321(4), 335. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.22031
- Trial finds low carb diets reduce weight more than low-fat diets in the short term, but have more minor adverse effects. (2004). Evidence-based Cardiovascular Medicine,8(4), 374-375. doi:10.1016/j.ebcm.2004.09.003