Can you be in Ketosis but still not eating enough fat?

(Keith Bronsdon) #1

Guess what I mean is I’ve been doing keto for a few months and nothing seems to really change. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do, and have been wondering if I’m not eating enough fat since I’ve been reducing my calories to be in a deficit. Been feeling depressed about not seeing any changes and finding it hard to continue. Lately been eating more protein (really caring less about portions) and not tracking macros like I used to. I’ve never seen big weight changes since starting, and I’ve always been in ketosis (breath meter). My “norm” seems to be about 3.3 first thing in the morning. The past few days I’ve tried to add a bit of fasting, at least in that I don’t eat until lunch at about 1pm. I eat dinner late usually, 8:30-9pm, up at 6am and have coffee. I have cream with it, so not exactly 100% fasting. I often run in the morning (can’t go to gym since closed during pandemic) for 30 minutes. Lunch is usually a salad with fatty chicken thigh meat and cheese about 500-600 calories. Really I get a lot of fat from cheese–if I need a snack late in the day, I often eat cheese.

I’m trying to find out if there is something I’m doing wrong, what can I do different. Been wondering if I am eating more of a low carb diet than a keto diet. Lately especially I feel like I’m shying away from fatty foods since I’m attempting to stay in a deficit. Not much of a cook, and stick to pretty simple things, often my fat source on vegetables is cheese or butter. Fatty meat. Try to stick to calorie tracking to count calories to stay in deficit. I’ve even tried not tracking macros/calories once I sort of know where the carbs in m normal foods are, and that changed nothing. My macro percentages are have averaged 62% fat, 8.5% carbs, and 29.5% protein. So you can see why I think I’m wondering about fat intake, and it might be bit higher since there are things I found hard to measure like when I have cheese sauce on broccoli. I also don’t include fat from coffee cream (not bulletproof coffee since I’m attempting to fast)

I’m 49, 6’1, 208. My scale says I’m 29%bf. Over the past few months that percentage has not changed more than a few tenths. Accurate or not, I’m more concerned with weight going down. I’ve fluctuated a bit but no big losses in the past few months. Drink a gallon of water a day. Not under a lot of stress since I’m laid off due to the pandemic. Try to exercise but can’t do much with all the gyms closed–running/hiit is my current exercise.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #2


If we fast for long, we get into ketosis and it’s zero fat for days or weeks or in extreme cases, months… I don’t know what ketones and whatnots does during this but we must be in ketosis. While our evolution surely had feasting times with little carbs, it often had longer fasts and being in ketosis helped us and still does that in modern times.

Percentages doesn’t matter. I love and often overdo fat, it’s usually 65% for me but it could be lower, it would be fine as high protein never bothered me and I probably could handle a bigger deficit anyway.
But if someone’s body prefers less protein and needs way more energy, a smaller fat percentage isn’t realistic or advisable… But 50% is good and 90% is good for fat - as long as it suits the one in question.
You are tall but have enough bodyfat to get much energy from it… I would eat the amount I feel I need, low enough carbs, enough protein and the fat percentage would fall wherever.
I had perfect keto days with 50g fat and 250+ g fat, my percentages were quite different. Both were odd days but it varies a lot and it’s fine. It doesn’t seem to matter if I eat significantly more fat or significantly more protein so I eat in the most convenient and joyful way on my good days and never care about percentages or even fat grams. My body approves.

How much do you eat? I mean, your macros in grams? I can’t figure it out seeing only your percentages. But unless you use a lot of carbs, you eat very little. 8.5% carbs? Not any people can do that on keto without starving. I can, it seems but it’s still not ideal for me, too much carbs. Not because the percentage, of course, because of the grams.
If you eat < 20g carbs, eat more calories.
If you eat way more than that, try to lower your carbs.

(Bacon by any other name would taste just as great.) #4

We don’t recommend eating to a caloric deficit on a ketogenic diet. It has been shown that the metabolism adapts to the quantity of food we eat, so if we eat less, our metabolism slows down, making it that much harder to lose fat.

The key to getting into and staying in ketosis is lowering serum insulin levels for as much of the day as possible, by lowering our carbohydrate intake and by eating enough at meals that we can go for quite some time between meals (insulin rises every time we eat). When our carbohydrate intake is low enough for insulin to drop low enough, the insulin stops interfering with the hormones that regulate our appetite. Thus it becomes possible to use appetite as a guide to how much we should be eating. If we have excess stored fat to be metabolised, the lower insulin level allows that fat to leave our fat cells, and our appetite will set our food intake to a level that allows both stored fat and dietary fat to be metabolised. Also, the metabolism rises to match the increased intake, so that we are using more energy and thus burning more fat.

Since fat has a negligible effect on our insulin level, that makes it the ideal source of calories to replace those lost from cutting carbohydrate intake. As Dr. Jason Fung likes to say, “When we eat carbohydrate, we burn carbohydrate; so to burn fat, we need to eat fat.”

(Keith Bronsdon) #5

So your recommendation is to increase my fat intake? I have been trying not to reduce my calories much at all only that I didn’t want to slow my metabolism. Previously I was running 45-60 min daily and seeing no difference in weight. I slacked off on that and replaced it with HIIT for 20 once in a while. I have felt that if I reduce my calories I’m starving myself. Ive let myself go to higher protein intake as I feel my muscles need it and I crave it. I’ve been thinking 135g a day is fine for me since I stay i ketosis (according to the breath meter) despite the recommendation from my keto tracking app which has my rec at 95g.

(Keith Bronsdon) #6

I generally eat 1900 to 2000 calories. If I eat less I feel like I’m starving myself. I have been eating all protein and veg, with carbs coming from mostly green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, peppers. Some almond flour from keto brownies I make myself. That does sometimes send me beyond my carb limit but next morning I’m reading in ketosis. I eat cheese with minimal carbs. If I look at a 5 day period from early July, my fat range is 130-155g, total carbs range 15-40, net carb grams usually in the teens, but can go into mid 20s. Again, no starchy carbs, only fibers carbs. Protein has been 100-150, usually about 130-140.

The app is set up for 2326 calories and 29g fat based on whatever averages they use to create it. I always thought that seemed high for total calories, and have been thinking 2000 calories was more appropriate. Last year at my gym their InBody machine (supposedly highly accurate) put my maintenance calories at 1940.

Have been wondering if I should try to increase my metabolism, and how. Never been too keen on fasting since I"m afraid it might slow metabolism, but doing it a little lately by skipping breakfast. I’ve been thinking of doing more HIIT to increase my metabolism but do wonder if increasing calories would be good too. I hear both things are ways to increase it.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #7

When I started keto in Jan 2017 I could not find an application that did what I wanted, showed me the info I want to see or allowed the degree of customization I need. So I designed an Open Office spreadsheet, which I’ve used daily since. I did not particularly need to lose weight, but I did lose about 35 pounds over the course of the first 6 months or so. I stabilized at 145 where I’ve maintained for 3 years. Here’s the thing. I know we’re all different, but I currently eat 2700 calories daily composed of 240 grams of fat and 120 grams of protein; sub-15 grams of carbs. I’ve eaten those macros for more than a year. This photo is a year+ old, but I still look exactly the same:

My opinion is that eating fat, especially sat fat, increases your metabolism better than anything else. I also think that the degree of metabolic disfunction one may be experiencing probably interferes and that’s what leads to different outcomes and different issues to be dealt with. I’m willing to consider that I’m an outlier in how much fat I can eat daily and remain as thin as I am. Yet, if I eat carbs I can gain weight easily, although slowly.

I should also mention that I got a full-time job at Walmart in June of 2018. I immediately started losing weight, so I bumped up my total calories to 2700 and modded my macros slightly to get the 2:1 ratio of fat to protein. That stabilized the weight again.

I am currently 75 years old and have no metabolic issues I am aware of. My current weight of 145 is what I weighed my last year of high school. I was a middle distance runner in both high school and university.


It sounds okay to me but of course, your individual body may have another opinion, one can never know what another person needs (okay, we usually don’t know it about ourselves but we can experiment, experience and feel). I often has your macros but I am a short woman with little exercise.

IF shouldn’t slow your metabolism if you eat properly. I personally use the eating window that suits me. My fat-loss chances depends on my carb and added fat intake anyway, a smaller eating window merely helps with satiation.

If you trust the info about your maintenance calories and feel well with 2000 kcal… Well, I surely wouldn’t raise calories. But whatever you consider right. My body surely won’t waste precious fat reserves if I eat more fat than what I even need… It doesn’t make sense to me and all my fat-losing experiences are in agreement.
Undereating is a different thing, it slows down metabolism and eating more is a good idea.
And maybe the odd higher-calorie day helps too, I automatically have them. But if I ate more every day, that wouldn’t be a good idea.
As I don’t know about your energy need and metabolism, I can’t give an advise but eating a ton and expecting to lose is pretty weird and unrealistic. I just don’t know what is “a ton” in your case. 2000 is clearly way too much for me (years of experience, not always on keto but it doesn’t matter in my case, it seems) but my energy need is probably smaller than yours.

(Todd Allen) #9

Impedance smart scales are notoriously inaccurate. You are much better off using a tape measure. There are several calculators such as this one that tell you what to measure to get an estimate of body fat.

There are options like DEXA scans, hydrostatic body fat measure, bodpod and MRI depending on where you live, how much you are willing to spend and the amount of accuracy you desire.

For most people though I think what is really desired is an indicator of progress and photos are hard to beat, far more relevant than a number on a scale.

(Bacon by any other name would taste just as great.) #10

It sounds as though you are doing fine. Craving protein is a sign that you need more. Hunger is a sign that you need to eat more. If you’ve got your protein up and satisfied that craving, and if you are getting enough fat that you’re not hungry between meals, then you are doing fine. If you find yourself getting hungry between meals, eat something fatty, and then increase the quantity of what you eat at mealtime a bit. If, on the other hand, you can go for hours between meals, that’s perfect.

(Keith Bronsdon) #11

Not hungry, but not losing fat. I’ve been on the keto diet to try and lost weight, and that’s not happening. I feel like I’m following the guidelines and seeing no results. The only thing I would like to change is adding lifting weights, but currently all the gyms are closed. I have been doing cardio (running, which I hate) and it does not seem to help. I started keto thinking I’d be able to stick to it, which I have and has been easier than I thought, but not seeing any results makes it seem totally pointless to try so hard to stick to it. I’ve seen so many people who have great results with lots of changes. I’ve seen zero. All I want it to lose 20 pounds.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #12

Whatever your initial motivation/reason to start, keto is a benefit in and of itself. It’s a road to health and well-being to which otherwise you will not attain. There are always issues you are not conscious of which often take precedence, your rationalizations notwithstanding. The longer you eat very lo/no carb, become more efficiently fat adapted, experience both foreseen and unforeseen benefits, the less you think you’ve given up something and are doing something pointless because your initial goal(s) remain(s) illusive. Instead, you realize you have gained something far better than you could even imagine when you started. As your appreciation grows that you gained something valuable, the feeling you gave up something weakens. You begin to see that your initial motivation/goal was a small view as the big view comes more and more into focus. Stay in ketosis consistently and you will some day be very happy you did so. Just remind yourself however frequently you must, that things don’t always go exactly the way you think they should or wish they would.


Well it’s your choice. I don’t know how you feel. Some of us don’t try hard, we only do a woe if it’s easy - or if it’s needed for health or something. I would be super disciplined for my life and health… It’s more important that even enjoying my meals - but I do that anyway, I am a too good hedonist, I find the way :wink:
If you don’t enjoy your keto, maybe tweak your diet a bit? I find my normal keto (very similar to your macros) borderline impossible now but another style is easier and better. I had times when I had to went off keto, still low-carb, I felt just like on keto or very similar, I stalled the same but I ate whatever I wanted. I eat whatever I want on keto too when I do it. Keto isn’t for everyone but it’s quite useful for very many people but it may be very important what exactly we eat, how much, when, how strongly we want to control our calories and sticking to our chosen macros… Sometimes the benefits arrive late. I felt some odd attraction since the first week but it was practically just like low-carb, changes came later and when I got used to it more and could be stricter, lots of new benefits happen… So it’s a very long and slow journey for me but I never will regret I tried keto despite it seemed extreme back then and even if I stray, I always come back. And I do this despite I never lost fat on keto (except on OMAD but that was short-lived) and I went keto for fat-loss years ago :smiley: I will reach that too but the other benefits charm me more now. But I can’t get them eating 20-40g net carbs a day… That was enough only for fat adaptation benefits, cool but not enough. It’s mostly net carbs for me, other people has problems with some specific food items or groups…But when we find our ideal or near ideal woe, that’s very great. I believe most people can find that sweet spot where they get better results without trying hard though they might need time for the latter. I couldn’t do extreme low-carb without my keto times and I couldn’t do keto without my low-carb years… I tried and failed. I needed patience, training (subtly as I am a hedonist but I did need it, not everything happens without pushing things ;)), new recipes and experiments… But it’s worth it.

Exercise may be quite important for losing the last pounds (it’s about 30 for me), it depends on the person and many other things but I have many other reasons to do weightlifting (at home. I am not social irl. if I had no weights, I still could use my own bodyweight until I can get some but I prefer weights) and walking (I don’t like running so I don’t run. I want to do marathons one day and I managed to transform my hating into not liking but I guess I will need a few decades). If I would do them for fat-loss only, it would be bad when I continue to stall. But as I get other benefits, they are normal and even welcomed. I love walking and weightlifting isn’t bad either even if it’s not always easy to get myself to do it… :slight_smile: Habits help there too. But my fat-loss requires a really good woe, first of all. Any woe would do if I was super active but that won’t happen. And I would feel crap on a bad woe anyway. It’s so not about fat-loss only. I never did anything for solely fat-loss, I guess it must be super annoying when results don’t come in that case and we don’t need the stress of that.

So… I don’t know what you should do, it’s your decision based on your experiences and feelings and other things… But if keto doesn’t work, maybe the problem isn’t keto itself, just that version of keto what you are doing now. I had that and I am at the cusp of change now. And I wouldn’t be here without my previous, not-losing-any-fat keto times.


You are 208lbs, exercising regularly but only eating 1900-2000 calories? I’m still a newbie, but I’d have to imagine that your body doesn’t love such a large calorie deficit - if you are burning 500 calories during your workouts, that only leaves a net of 1500 calories for your body to work with. If I were you, I would work with some of the experts on this forum to better identify what your true caloric needs are.

(Paulene ) #15

So, I’m having trouble reconciling these.
I am in ketosis and have very little appetite. I have moved to OMAD (or 22:2) and fast 2 days per week (unless I feel like eating). I don’t track calories but I’m sure they would be pretty low - there is only so much I can eat at one sitting.

As I am in ketosis and have plenty of fat to burn, would not my body be topping itself up as required from those stores? In effect, I would not be in a calorie deficit, even though I might be eating at a deficit.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #16

@Paulene There is a very helpful graph from Virta Health that illustrates how caloric intake adjusts to gradual weight/fat loss over time. I’ve posted it a few times. Later when I get home from work I’ll post it again here for your attention. Unless someone else does so before.

My understanding is that there’s a balancing act going on all the time. Your metabolism can burn only a relatively small amount of endogenous fat daily to meet energy requirements. The balance must be made up from food. If the sum from both sources is does not offset total energy output, your metabolism will slow down to compensate. Just how much endogenous fat you can utilize daily is a moving target dependent on just how much total body fat you have to work with. Plus, a hearty dose of individual variation.

(Bacon by any other name would taste just as great.) #17

Michael’s post illustrates why we recommend eating to satisfy hunger, as opposed to trying deliberately to limit calories. Remember that, in terms of metabolism, fasting and caloric restriction are very different things. We seem to have evolved with a pattern of feasting and fasting, so the body copes very nicely with both. On the other hand, short rations is the signal that there’s a famine going on, so our body hunkers down and conserves resources.

This is why eating to satiety is the signal that the body can ramp up the metabolism and even waste resources, to some extent. It may take a few weeks of eating ketogenically for someone’s appetite hormones to reassert themselves (insulin interferes with the brain receptors involved), but once they are operating correctly again, appetite becomes the limiting factor that allows both dietary fat and excess stored fat to be metabolised.

The chart Michael refers to illustrates how, at the beginning, with a lot of excess fat to shed, a ketogenic eater is satisfied with eating a lot less calories than needed, because the remainder of needed calories comes from the fat store. As excess fat is shed, the person gradually eats more and more (still eating to satiety), until there is no more excess fat to get rid of and all energy needed has to come from food. The point is that this is an automatic process; there is no need to count calories or count macros, as long as carbohydrate intake remains low.

(Paulene ) #18

@amwassil @PaulL thanks for your responses.

This makes sense. I remember Richard from 2KD had calculated a max fat utilisation rate but some well-known dr had disagreed with it. Do you know if there is any research (or even informed discussion) on fat utilisation rates or limits?

I am rarely hungry so I am often concerned about not eating enough and potentially stuffing my metabolism. But I also think overeating is stupid so I just eat until I’m satisfied. I still have the desire to eat but it is based mainly on enjoyment, not hunger (and, thank the good Lord, not cravings). I’m losing weight (my primary motivation for keto) very slowly. Still trying to find that balance, I guess. :roll_eyes:

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #19


(Bacon by any other name would taste just as great.) #20

Based on reactions I’ve seen to this famous chart of Dr. Phinney’s in the past, I want to clarify a couple of things.

First, this chart is an example of how things might work for someone, not a guideline for anyone to follow. Your individual experience is likely to be different, and that’s fine.

Second, the woman whose data are shown here was made up by Dr. Phinney to illustrate his point about how eating to satiety works.

Third, the chart illustrates how things work when we eat to satiety. Notice how fat loss diminishes as the person loses her excess fat. Eventually, she gets to the point where there is no more fat to lose, and so all her energy expenditure has to be provided by her energy intake. She doesn’t do any calculating to determine how much to eat during any of this process. She simply keeps on eating to satisfy her hunger.

Fourth, note that protein intake remains constant, throughout, but carb intake rises somewhat. But notice that fat intake increases greatly to make up for the loss of excess stored fat. By the time this fictional patient reaches the maintenance phase, she is meeting her entire energy expenditure from her food intake, because she no longer has excess stored fat that she needs to lose.