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Should I worry about getting enough calories during ketosis?

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Updated about 18 hours ago
Created May 29, 2014 at 2:20 PM

I've been paleo for nearly 6 months, and have lost 20 pounds so far, but am starting to stall. I'd like to lose 20-30 more via a low-carb, high-fat ketotic paleo diet.

I've been in ketosis for about a week now, and I feel good. I'm not abnormally hungry, and the tiredness has passed. My ratios are around 10% carb, 20% protein, 70% fat. I'm just wondering--how much should I worry about calories, if at all? Is it important to get 1200ish calories daily, or is that conventional wisdom speaking?

I suppose I'm really asking if I can speed up the fat loss by cutting calories under 1200, or if that will hinder my progress. I've done a little experimenting with IF (and Asprey's Bulletproof Rapid Fat Loss protocol) but I know women don't always respond favorably.

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1005 · June 04, 2014 at 8:47 AM

I do around 2700 calories a day in ketosis. It doesn't feel like starvation or reduced calories. Never had more energy or felt better (or eaten so much food.)

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0 · June 03, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Ok, so my BMR is 1556, and my TDEE is 2178. So, I should be shooting for 1678ish, whether I'm on a ketotic diet or not. What happens if I eat less? Is there a threshold where fat loss stalls or becomes unsustainable?

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5356 · June 01, 2014 at 12:24 AM

..you slept your way to the top of this food chain...I couldn't be prouder...

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41546 · May 31, 2014 at 3:17 PM

I know, right? Who made this conventional wisdom pusher a PH mod?!

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10994 · May 31, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Are you saying that ketosis isn't in and of itself the end all be all to maintaining a healthy weight and good health, but that one still needs to watch calories and pay attention to their bmr? Blasphemous!!

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41546 · May 31, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Except there's no magic to ketosis, it's simply a reduced calorie diet with some biochemical signals for starvation thrown in.

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5356 · May 30, 2014 at 8:58 AM

PS the lower carbs you go, the more you need to watch your salt/ potassium/ magnesium intakes...if you're not getting enough it could easily result in your fatigue issues resurfacing.

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5356 · May 30, 2014 at 8:58 AM

In my experience, the longer I was on Paleo, the more energy it gave me until finally, I started walking everywhere, not even because I wanted to, but because, I just couldn't sit still any longer...gradually (30 minutes) until it was easily 90 minutes a day of walking, just for me..clears my mind and helped me stay focused on why I was doing this in the first place, but eventually, weight loss did stall, and keto and calorie counting was the answer for me.

Good luck!

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0 · May 30, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Ok, good to know. Thanks! I am relatively active, I work as a nanny and am often chasing/lifting kids, playing at the park, etc. But no, no specific exercise or weight lifting right now. I found paleo in an attempt to get to the bottom of some pretty serious fatigue (about 6 months ago). It's done wonders, and I'm just starting to feel up to adding in more activity. I love lifting, but that'll have to wait a couple months til I get back to the USA (living in France now without access to a gym).

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0 · May 30, 2014 at 12:41 AM

Thanks! That helps! I started tracking my intake/ratios today, just so I can start to have a clearer idea of what's happening. I don't have much of an appetite after fasting most of last week, and I have some concern that my intake isn't high enough. (I'm good on macro ratios, but today, for example, I only ate around 1000 calories. Can't figure out if that kind of intake would speed up or slow down fat loss during ketosis.)

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8 Answers

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10994 · June 04, 2014 at 2:42 PM

Get more physical activity rather than cutting more calories. I don't see any reason (save medical emergencies) that an adult should go below 1,200 calories per day.

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1005 · June 04, 2014 at 8:51 AM

Imo, yes. To get adequate nutrients in your diet is going to bump up the calories to around your base metabolic rate. Then, you should be able to throw plenty of exercise on top and lose weight in a healthy way. Maintaining sub-1200kcal seems stupid low to me for an average total day's supply of energy. If 60%+ of your diet is fat, that leaves something like 400-500 calories worth of food.

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8140 · June 04, 2014 at 1:05 AM

My personal experience with keto is that I sometimes fell very low in calories--just wasn't very hungry. BUT, when I did, weight loss stalled and I didn't feel too great. I also became hypothyroid as shown on a TSH level. My endo wanted me to go on thyroid hormone, but I suspected that it was dietary (she was adamant that diet doesn't affect thyroid, but I don't believe this). I upped my calories, re-tested, and was back in a good range for TSH.

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0 · June 03, 2014 at 8:16 PM

When they do ketosis medically, they do worry about calories and how many times per day someone eats because otherwise the amount of ketosis fluctuates and the person has symptoms of their neurological disorder again. The purpose of the medical ketosis plan is to simulate starvation while providing fuel for metabolism. But some people need to eat only twice a day on ketogenic diets and may need to limit calories for proper "even keel" ketosis. How much you limit that is your choice, but I think 1200 may be going too far for keto. Consider 1600, two 800 Calorie meals a day, and never miss a gym appointment with yourself.

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41546 · May 31, 2014 at 1:31 PM

1200 calories isn't conventional wisdom, it's a dietary urban legend.

First, calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories your body uses to simply exist while alive. 5'5, 160 lbs, 35 y/o female = 1492 calories.

Second, multiply that number by an activity modifier to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Typically even the most sedentary folks should multiply their BMR by 1.2, normal activity levels are 1.4, very active folks are 1.6-3.0. Just stick with 1.4 though. So that hypothetical female above now needs 2088 calories a day to live and move without losing weight.

Third, subtract 500 calories from that number which will result in not consuming enough calories to maintain weight. 500 calories less a day should induce approximately 1 pound of weight loss per week. This is a healthy sustainable level of weight loss. That's 1588 calories a day for the above example.

The above steps do not require ketosis at all, but still apply for those in ketosis.

Ketosis simply works because it's rather difficult to eat up your maintenance level (2088 calories) while keeping carbohydrates low (< 25 grams/day). That's all the magic there is to it. In fact, the magic isn't even that great, as it is entirely possible to eat a diet that results in ketosis, but doesn't induce a energy deficit.

So, should you worry about eating enough? Yes.

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10994 · May 31, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Are you saying that ketosis isn't in and of itself the end all be all to maintaining a healthy weight and good health, but that one still needs to watch calories and pay attention to their bmr? Blasphemous!!

Medium avatar
0 · June 03, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Ok, so my BMR is 1556, and my TDEE is 2178. So, I should be shooting for 1678ish, whether I'm on a ketotic diet or not. What happens if I eat less? Is there a threshold where fat loss stalls or becomes unsustainable?

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0 · May 31, 2014 at 12:36 PM

Calorie checking is not by any means essential on a ketogenic eating methodology. As long as you keep your sugar allow super low, and your protein admission moderate, you shouldn't need to stress over calories.

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41546 · May 31, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Except there's no magic to ketosis, it's simply a reduced calorie diet with some biochemical signals for starvation thrown in.

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5356 · May 30, 2014 at 8:01 AM

I would most certainly monitor my calories, they still matter. In my experience, If I have fewer than 1500 calories, I become

lethargic, so I count to make sure I'm getting enough.

Also, if you haven't already, this is a great tool

http://keto-calculator.ankerl.com/%20 to give you an idea of your numbers and how you can play around with them when you feel you've stalled or just want a change of pace.

Do you lift heavy weights/ exercise at all?

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0 · May 30, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Ok, good to know. Thanks! I am relatively active, I work as a nanny and am often chasing/lifting kids, playing at the park, etc. But no, no specific exercise or weight lifting right now. I found paleo in an attempt to get to the bottom of some pretty serious fatigue (about 6 months ago). It's done wonders, and I'm just starting to feel up to adding in more activity. I love lifting, but that'll have to wait a couple months til I get back to the USA (living in France now without access to a gym).

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2302 · May 29, 2014 at 3:11 PM

I honestly found that, when I was in ketosis, I could eat more and still lose weight. I was cutting more from 11% bf to below 10% bf so it's kind of different, but I would down nut butters and avocados and still lose weight.

As long as you are exercising I wouldn't worry about it too much, however I am one of the few on here who advocates tracking your food. I eat mostly the same thing during the week for bfast/lunch (when I'm not fasting), so it's very easy. And this way I can play with calories/ratios to see what works best for me.

Don't use 1200 or any other number as a set target...maybe try that out, see what happens and adjust accordingly...but don't feel that is the golden number.

Good luck!

Medium avatar
0 · May 30, 2014 at 12:41 AM

Thanks! That helps! I started tracking my intake/ratios today, just so I can start to have a clearer idea of what's happening. I don't have much of an appetite after fasting most of last week, and I have some concern that my intake isn't high enough. (I'm good on macro ratios, but today, for example, I only ate around 1000 calories. Can't figure out if that kind of intake would speed up or slow down fat loss during ketosis.)

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