The ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet, has become one of the most popular diets for weight loss. You might have heard your friends waxing lyrical about the many benefits of keto and how much weight they have lost, but you might also be wondering just how effective it could be. How long, for example, will it take you to lose 70 pounds when on the keto diet. Let’s take a deep dive into this popular weight reduction method.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet is at its most basic a high fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate diet. This can seem counterintuitive as a way to lose weight because of the popularity that low-fat diets have had for the last few decades, but there is some clear science behind the idea.
The history of keto
The ketogenic diet didn’t begin as a weight-loss method. Instead, it started life as a medical intervention for child epileptic patients. In fact, fasting as a method of controlling epilepsy has been around since the time of Hippocrates and is mentioned in the New Testament.
But fasting to the extent that you need to control epilepsy is neither healthy nor sustainable. Further investigations in the 20th century found the reason why fasting can reduce the number of seizures.
Most of the time, the primary energy source for our body, including our brains, is glucose. We take glucose in from our diets in the form of carbohydrates and it is the easiest energy source for our bodies to break down and use.
When we are fasting, however, we no longer have a high enough intake of glucose to support our energy needs. In this situation, our body will make use of stored body fat to sustain itself and be in what is known as a state of ketosis.
Breaking down the fat produces ketone bodies which can be used in exactly the same way as glucose and can pass the blood-brain barrier. When our brain uses ketone bodies instead of glucose, epileptic seizures occur less frequently.
The ketogenic diet as a method of controlling epilepsy has become far less popular because more sophisticated drugs have become available to treat the condition. But it has spiked in popularity as a way of reducing body weight.
Does the keto diet work for weight loss?
Let’s think back to what keto is: high fat, moderate protein, low carb. For a long time, low-fat diets were the go-to method for losing weight, such as Weight Watchers, Slimfast, and other diet trends.
More recently, however, it has become clear that the most effective method of weight loss isn’t low fat but low carb, as seen in the Atkins diet.
High sugar and carbohydrate diets are now understood to be one of the driving factors of the obesity epidemic, not high-fat diets. When you think back to how our bodies use their energy sources, this makes complete logical sense.
If there is a lot of glucose freely available, your body will use that to fuel itself. If you take in more glucose than you use, your body won’t purge it. Instead, it will store it as body fat.
From an evolutionary point of view, this makes sense. In times of feasting and fasting, being able to store energy for later use when food isn’t available is a very effective survival method.
The problem we have in modern society is twofold: a remarkably high carbohydrate diet and no periods of fasting. In this situation, your body will happily go ahead and store excess glucose for later use, but the latter never comes so your body fat simply increases and increases.
By following a very low-carb diet, you can force your body to use its fat stores for fuel because there is no available glucose, resulting in fat loss.
Being in ketosis will also reduce insulin production which results in less fat being stored. And, since ketone bodies are a highly efficient form of fuel, you can lose weight without loss of energy.
How long will it take me to lose 70 pounds?
Everybody (and every body) is different so there is no hard and fast rule to the speed of weight loss on a keto diet. With that being said, we can take a look at how long it takes to lose weight on average.
When people first start a keto diet, they often lose a lot of weight very quickly in the beginning, somewhere between 2lbs to 10lbs in around a week. This isn’t a result of your fat stores being used. It is actually water weight loss.
When you stop taking in glucose, there is a step before your body turns to ketone bodies as a fuel source. Some glucose is stored as glycogen in our muscles, and your body will use that glycogen before it starts using your fat stores.
Glycogen is always stored with water so when it is converted into glucose to be used by your body, the water is lost with it. And this can help you to lose that first bit of weight.
Once you are consistently in ketosis and your glycogen stores have been used up, the rate of weight reduction will decrease. And this is where it is important to not get disheartened. You will still be able to reach your weight loss goal by sticking to the diet.
On average, you can expect to lose 1-2 pounds a month once your body gets settled into ketosis. If we take the higher end of this scale and the water weight loss, you could lose 70 pounds in as little as 7 months.
Of course, for many people, it can take a little longer than that, but this is a good demonstration of just how effective the keto diet can be for weight loss.
How easy is the keto diet to follow?
Unfortunately, getting your body into a state of ketosis and maintaining it can be very tricky. It requires a complete overall of most people’s eating methods. To get yourself into ketosis, your diet should look something like this: 55%-60% fat, 30%-35% protein, 5%-10% carbs. In practice, this means only eating around 20-50 grams of carbs a day out of a 2,000-calorie diet.
The only time that ketone bodies are released is when your body is in ketosis and is using fat for fuel instead of glucose. But it is impossible to tell from how you feel alone whether or not this is happening.
The most accurate way of determining that you are in ketosis is a blood test to look for ketone bodies, and this is always the method used when the keto diet is being used as a medical intervention, not as part of a weight-loss journey.
For people trying to lose weight, there are at-home keto blood monitors, but taking pinprick blood samples every day can be relatively unpleasant. This can put some people off from losing weight with keto.
The method that most people use when they are using the keto diet is an at-home urine test. Ketones will show up in your urine as well as your blood when you are in a fat-burning state, and this method involves a dipstick that will detect the presence of ketones.
Urine dipsticks are not as accurate at detecting ketone levels as blood tests and having to do them regularly is also something that can put many people off from trying keto.
There is, however, another way. Recent advances in digital health technology have led to the development of a portable breath monitor that might just be able to take the pain out of losing weight on a keto diet.
What are keto breathalyzers?
Keto breathalyzers or breath monitors work in exactly the same way as the breathalyzers used to measure your blood alcohol levels. The latter detects the amount of ethanol in your breath to determine how much is in your blood.
Similarly, keto breathalyzers measure the amount of acetone in your breath, with acetone being one of the major ketones created when you are in ketosis. A breath acetone (BrAce) level of 2-40 ppm generally means that you are currently in ketosis.
How well do keto breath analyzers work?
There is no doubt that the gold standard for measuring ketosis is a blood test, and we know that urine dipsticks don’t compare very well to this standard in terms of accuracy.
In contrast, keto breathalyzers have been found to produce results that are highly correlated to the results from a keto blood test. This is important because it means that they may be as able to detect ketosis as a blood test.
There are some caveats, however. Firstly, there is a time delay between keto levels in your blood rising and acetone showing up in your breath. So any individual breath reading may not give you an accurate picture of your current levels of ketones.
With that being said, most keto breathalyzers allow you to take multiple readings over the course of the day to give you a graph of your overall ketone level (the area under the curve of the graph). It is this measure that is highly correlated with blood ketone levels.
The second caveat is that some lifestyle factors can interfere with the results of a keto breathalyzer. People who are dealing with obesity, for example, may have altered levels of acetone in their breath, as can people taking certain medications (such as disulfiram). For these people, it can be a good idea to verify ketone levels with a blood test and compare them to the breathalyzer results before using the latter as the main method of determining ketosis.
What keto breathalysers are available?
The technology for creating keto breath monitors is still in its infancy, and different companies are trialing different methods of measuring acetone.
The only clinically validated keto breathalyzer currently on the market is the Biosense from Readout. It measures acetone in your breath using an SMO sensor containing metal oxides that react with acetone.
Other breathalyzers are currently in development that use a variety of methods to detect acetone. These include nanotechnology to improve the accuracy of the SMO sensor as well as breathalyzers that use photo technology rather than metal oxides.
The Biosense, however, does show high accuracy in its clinical trials so is a viable method of monitoring your ketone levels using the keto diet plan.
It connects with an app on your smartphone which shows you your daily acetone graph so that you can monitor how well you are staying in ketosis. It will also give you daily goals and a personalized metabolic plan to follow.
What are the benefits of using a keto breathalyzer?
One of the pitfalls of a keto diet is that it is easy to slip out of ketosis and go through weight gain. Because the keto diet is high in saturated fat, if your carb intake is too high this can push your calorie intake to a level that makes you put on weight instead of losing it.
Being able to monitor whether your carb and fat intake are at the correct level to keep you in ketosis regularly can help you to stay on track.
It is a far more convenient method of doing so than using a urine or blood test. You can blow into the breathalyzer at any time and any place and have all of the results sent straight to your smartphone.
To wrap up
Healthy weight loss is the goal for many people, and there is more and more evidence that a low-carb diet is a healthiest and most effective way of losing weight. The keto diet is on the extreme end of this method, and some side effects and health concerns need to be taken into account. But in terms of weight loss alone, there is no doubt that it is effective. A keto breathalyzer is a convenient and accurate way of ensuring that your body is in a fat-burning state to help you stay in ketosis and on track with your weight loss journey.