Are you eating too much fat?
Fat is a critically important element of an LCHF diet. When carbs are restricted and protein is moderated, the remainder of one’s calories must come from healthy fats. Fat is required for energy and is what makes us feel satisfied after meals. Eating a low carb diet full of healthy fats keeps insulin levels low, which enables the release of stored fat to be burned for fuel. The result? We slim down and feel full of energy. Yes, fat is very important, but does that mean we can eat as much of it as we like, and does the type of fat we choose to eat make any difference to our weight loss efforts?
Can I eat as much fat as I want on LCHF?
Jimmy Moore, in his book Keto Clarity, states “even though an LCHF diet facilitates fat loss by lowering the fat-storing hormone insulin, it doesn’t guarantee fat loss if you eat more fat than your body actually needs. Calories count in as much as you shouldn’t eat beyond satiety.” So no, you can’t eat as much fat as you WANT but you can eat as much as you NEED to feel satisfied. There is a big difference between the two. Listen to your body and eat only when hungry and stop eating when comfortably satisfied. If you need to undo the button on your jeans, you have over eaten.
When one adopts an LCHF way of eating, and your body learns to effectively burn fat for energy (instead of glucose from carbs), your appetite is naturally reduced and you end up eating less than you used to. This is an important factor when wanting to lose weight. Dr. Chris Kresser, a globally recognised leader in ancestral health and Paleo nutrition explains “to lose body fat, we need to be in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time. This means that the number of calories entering our body, i.e. what we eat and drink, have to be lower than the calories being used by our body.”
The good news is that your metabolism doesn’t slow down when dietary calories are reduced on LCHF. Your body is able to very effectively feed off your fat stores for energy and therefore doesn’t think it is starving. The food one eats on a low carb, high fat diet also regulates your hormones and satiety signalling mechanisms. LCHF fixes your appestat, which is the centre in your brain that controls your appetite for food. You can eat to feel satisfied, and still lose weight. No more constant hunger and fatigue that usually accompany calorie restricted diets. This is also why an LCHF diet is so effective at not only helping people to lose the weight but also keeping it off in the long term.
How much fat is enough?
There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ answer to this question. A general rule of thumb is that the fewer carbs you eat, the higher the percentage of fat in your diet should be. When eating a low carb, high fat diet the majority of your calories will come from fat (this includes body fat stores – especially if your goal is weight loss). But how much? Maria Emmerich, in her book Keto Adapted, provides a simple formula for working out how much fat to eat per day. This is a guideline only and one option to try if you like tracking your food.
(Calories x % fat)/9 = Total fat grams per day.
Here is an example to illustrate:
A 40-year-old obese woman wants to lose weight and get healthy. Her body requires 2000 calories for metabolic function and activity. However, due to the appetite suppressing effect of an LCHF diet she will consume and be satisfied with only 1 600 calories. Her body will get the other 400 calories it needs from body fat reserves. She is insulin resistant and wants to aim for nutritional ketosis for maximum fat loss and health benefits so sets her macronutrient ratios as follows: 75% fat, 15 % protein, 10 % carbs. Let’s populate the formula:
(1600 x 0.75)/9 = 133 fat grams per day
In practical terms, to reach a fat target of 133 grams per day would mean eating high fat foods such as fatty meat, eggs, avocados, olives and macadamia nuts, plus around 6 tablespoons of added fats and oils per day (about 2 tablespoons per meal). Can you see how this is still a reasonable amount of fat? Therefore a higher fat intake IS required in order to lose weight in a HEALTHY way, especially if keeping carbs very low. On the other hand if your carb intake is going to be higher, then fat consumption will be proportionately lower.
Unfortunately many people following a low carb diet think that if low carb is good, then low carb and low fat must be even better. This is a mistake, as you will just feel tired and hungry all the time and you could slow down your metabolism, damage your thyroid and strain your adrenal glands. You might lose some weight this way, but keeping it off will be a real challenge, even for those with the strongest willpower. On the flipside, some view an LCHF diet as a license to gorge on copious amounts of fat all day long. They end up eating 1000’s of calories more than their body actually needs and wonder why they aren’t losing weight.
Drs Steve Phinney and Jeff Volek, in their book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, explain that how much fat you consume will be dictated by your energy demands, weight, body composition goals and satiety. They say that if you want to lose weight on an LCHF diet, the total amount of fat consumed will be reduced (to allow the burning of stored body fat for fuel). If weight loss is not a goal, your dietary fat needs to be maintained at a level that matches your energy expenditure, thus holding your body weight stable. In other words, if you are overweight and want to lose the extra kilograms, you will consume less dietary fat than if you were at goal weight and wanted to maintain your weight.
Most of the experts do however agree that upping the fat quite significantly initially is very important. In the first few weeks your goal should be getting fat-adapted and not weight loss. Your body has to learn to use fat for fuel and this doesn’t happen overnight. A high dietary fat intake is required to kick-start the process. Once you are confident you are in nutritional ketosis, you can dial the fat down a little so as to start burning more body fat stores if weight loss is your goal.
Does the type of fat matter?
Yes, it certainly does matter which type of fats you consume on an LCHF diet. Avoiding the inflammatory and fattening seed oils like sunflower and canola oils is very important for both health and weight loss. Trying to get too much of your daily fat from dairy can also be problematic for some. Dr Andreas Eenfeldt, aka The Diet Doctor, states that dairy products all contain a varying amount of the milk sugar lactose, as well as a protein that generates an insulin response that slows down weight loss. Exempt from this restriction on dairy is butter, which is almost pure fat. Very often when people struggle to lose weight on LCHF it is because they are eating too much dairy and are going beyond their carb tolerance and spiking their insulin. Dropping dairy is one of the first strategies to try when struggling to lose weight on LCHF.
So, in summary fat is only a problem if you eat too little or too much of it. Your goal is to find out what amount is going to be just right for you at the various stages of your LCHF journey. It is important to let your satiety signals guide you in this. You must definitely eat more fat than you used to when following the standard low-fat diet, but LCHF doesn’t give you a license to participate with wanton abandon in a fat fest. For example, drinking high fat bullet-proof coffee all day long could seriously sabotage your weight loss efforts.
Here are some simple guidelines to keep you on track:
- Cook with enough fat to make your food tasty and delicious.
- Put a smear of butter on your slice of Banting bread or seed cracker.
- Spoon a generous dollop of homemade mayo on chicken.
- Drizzle olive oil over your salad.
- Eat the chicken skin, pork crackling and fat rind on your lamb chop.
- Pour the pan-melted butter over your fried eggs.
- Eat fatty foods and meats
- Limit dairy sources of fat (except butter)
But be mindful, be responsible, and don’t kid yourself that calories don’t matter – they do.
A quote from Jonathan Bailor’s book, The Calorie Myth, sums up the LCHF lifestyle perfectly, “Calories count, but that doesn’t mean you have to count calories.”
This article was written by Nicky Perks for Lose It magazine (Volume 15)
Posted on July 3, 2017, in Primal 101 and tagged dairy, getting fat quantities right on LCHF, healthy fats, how much fat?, LCHF, low carb diet, problem with too much fat. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.