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Do You Have To Be In Ketosis To Lose Weight? (Is It A Must)

Chris Bolt
Published by Chris Bolt | Contributor
Last updated: August 15, 2023

Having been a fitness trainer for over a decade, I’ve come across many myths about weight loss. Many of these fat-loss-related myths are about the ketogenic diet (henceforth, going keto).

You’d be surprised how often I meet people who swear on keto, claiming ketosis is the only way to lose body fat effectively.

As someone who’s helped hundreds of clients with their weight loss goals, I’ve compiled my knowledge and experience in this article, and I’ve done some additional research on the top to provide my readers with a comprehensive piece on the matter.

Let’s jump right in.

Quick Summary

  • You don't have to be in ketosis to lose weight, but ketosis is very effective in weight loss as it uses fat as a source of energy instead of glucose.
  • For weight loss while on ketosis, reduce your carbohydrate intake to roughly 50g per day.
  • Most people don't like ketosis for weight loss as it takes a lot of time to prepare, and for results to be seen.

How Does Ketosis Make You Burn Fat?

A measuring tape wrapped around the body

Ketosis helps you burn fat by using body fat as a source of energy instead of glucose. Let’s dive into how exactly this works.

The main catch of this diet is to prioritize healthy fats and significantly restrict your carb intake.

Your body usually breaks carbs down into glucose, which it then uses for energy. When you go keto, your body starts to deplete stored glucose.

So, over time, when the stores become low enough and your blood sugar drops, your body transitions into a stage called ketosis [1].

Ketosis occurs when you start burning body fat at a higher rate for your energy needs.

When in the state of ketosis, your body becomes highly efficient in turning stored fat into fatty acids and ketones, from which the name “ketosis” comes.

So, instead of using dietary carbs to produce glucose, it uses both dietary and stored fat to supply the energy needs. As a result, you begin to lose weight faster.

“Nutritional ketosis is a very powerful tool. And it can be used to achieve metabolic health and well-being in people who have diseases associated with insulin resistance or inflammation.”

- Stephen Phinney, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer and Co-Founder, Virta Health

How High Do Your Ketones Need to Be for Fat Loss?

The level of blood ketones for optimal fat loss is from 0.5 to 3 mmol/L [2].

To get to this level, you need to strictly reduce your carbohydrate intake. It is usually recommended to keep it below 50g of carbs a day.

A few days into keto, your body will have burned all stored glycogen, and ketones from stored body fat or dietary fat will take over as the primary fuel source for the brain and other tissues [3].

Related: How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight in Ketosis?

Is Burning Fat Better With A Keto Diet?

A woman performing a plank

Burning fat is not necessarily better with the keto diet, as there are other ways it can be done as effectively.

Although a good option overall, keto is not the most convenient option for most people. In fact, I had many clients who found it a tad overcomplicated. And many younger clients couldn’t afford most of the dietary requirements that keto demanded.

So, I always recommend my clients use exercise as their primary mode of weight loss. Exercise can also get you into ketosis faster, as it depletes the glycogen stores more quickly. But it is sufficient more than enough on its own if done regularly, along with a clean diet.

One thing that can speed up weight loss without ketosis is adding natural fat burners to boost the body’s fat-burning capability.

These supplements are not magic pills, but they are a safe, effective, and convenient option for those who want to fast-track their fat loss a bit.


Will I Have To Cut My Carbohydrate Intake Completely When Going Keto?

No, you won’t have to cut your carbohydrate intake completely when going on keto. However, your low-carb diet should be between 5–10% of your calorie intake.

Can I Go on Keto Forever?

Yes, you can theoretically go on keto forever. However, doctors recommend carb cycling, which means taking the occasional break from ketosis by eating unprocessed carbs like whole grains.

Can I Eat Carbohydrates and Still Lose Fat?

Yes, you can eat carbohydrates and still lose fat. However, you’ll have to ensure that you go on a calorie deficit.

Is Being In Ketosis Your Only Option?

Although going keto seems to be one of the best options for weight loss, it's not the most convenient one for many people because it takes a lot of time and preparation.

I advise all my clients to first include exercise and then maybe add some fat burners into the mix for faster results.

The next supplements can stimulate fat burning by raising the body temperature, reducing fat accumulation, and providing physical and mental energy.

This is by no means a shortcut to fat burning, but it can speed up your progress significantly.


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