The keto diet has risen more in popularity than Andrew Tate has in the past three months, but why is that? The low-carb diet promises insane weight loss, healthier skin, better hair, and even great digestion.
So how long does it take to get shredded on keto? Truthfully, it could take anywhere from 3 – 6 months to get shredded on keto, although it depends on where your starting point is.
That’s a bold claim, however. So to see how you would even do this, let me show you.
First Things First: What Is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet – or the ketogenic diet – is a popular diet that’s most often followed for the purpose of weight loss. This diet originated from the Inuit people, who would have to follow a keto-like diet when traveling long distances without access to fresh produce.
While certain people follow different “variants” of the keto diet, the original diet can be described as a diet that is rich in fats, has little to zero carbohydrates, and has an adequate amount of protein.
This means keto will be rich in animal and other fats, have virtually zero carbohydrates (including almost zero vegetables), and is typically woefully low in fiber.
Okay, but if calories are the only thing that’ll cause weight loss, how is this supposed to work?
Well, the body is geared to run on two sources of energy. These two are called glycogen and ketones, both through the Citric Acid cycle. Without getting too scientific, energy metabolism will look like this [for fat]:
- Free fatty acids (FFA) are cleaved off from adipocytes via lipase, which is produced by the pancreas.
- FFA are transported by the blood to different parts of the body, particularly the parts that have cells with mitochondria. FFA can then enter the mitochondria to start the next steps.
- Long-chain-fatty-acid — CoA ligase (an enzyme of the ligase family) is the catalyst of the reaction of FFA with ATP.
- FFA reacts with ATP to form AMP and inorganic pyrophosphate and gives off fatty acyl-adenylate.
- Fatty acyl-adenylate reacts with coenzyme A to give off a fatty acyl-CoA molecule.
- The carnitine shuffle is used for the acyl-CoA to enter the mitochondrion.
- Beta oxidation then takes the FFA (acyl-CoA molecule at this point) and cuts it into two carbon chains. These carbon chains combine with coenzyme A to form acetyl CoA, which can then move on to the last step.
- Acetyl CoA condenses with oxaloacetate to form citrate, after which energy is released.
What Does Any of That Mean?!
This is where the beginning of the Citrate Cycle begins, Acetyl CoA is dissipated, and CO2 and H2O are released, as well as energy captured in the form of ATP.
ATP is the form of energy we use for high-intensity activity. Fun fact – creatine increases ATP stores in the body.
The “idea” behind keto is better for fat loss than just a normal calorie deficit is that lipase (the protein that causes fat to be removed from fat cells) is inhibited by insulin.
So, since fat loss is the goal, and we need as much lipase as possible, we should aim for as little insulin as possible, right? Wrong.
While insulin can promote fat storage, the body isn’t really capable of storing fat if you’re in a calorie deficit. The body doesn’t have the mechanism to do that because it doesn’t have to – it can’t.
You need “x” amount of calories per day, and if you eat less than that, the body will have to find calories somewhere else – from stored body fat.
So, typically we’ll see an increase in growth hormone secreted by the body, which in turn causes the release of lipase. This is because growth hormone is a preventative hormone the body produces to “save” itself from starving.
The lipase will then “find” energy in the body (fat) and make it readily available to be used. This is why growth hormone secretion is higher when we sleep – we aren’t eating when we sleep, but the body still needs energy.
Bringing this all back to the keto diet – the dieters theorize that by running on ketones (running on fat), the body can burn fat much easier. We see a reduction in insulin and an increase in lipase. So surely it must work, right?
What Does the Science Say?
Now that we understand what the scientific idea behind the keto diet is, we can look at studies to see if it is actually effective:
- This 2021 study found no difference in fat loss between a keto and a normal low carbohydrate study.
- This 2004 study does show that long-term use of a keto diet results in weight loss, a reduction in blood glucose levels, and no adverse effects at all.
- Another 2004 study found that while a very low carb keto style diet did lead to more than 50% more fat loss compared to a low-fat diet, it also led to an almost 200% greater loss in lean body mass (muscle).
Overall, the science is pretty set. The only thing that will cause a reduction in body fat mass is a reduction in calories. So, could the keto diet lead to more fat loss? Not likely, especially when your goal is to be shredded.
Is It Easier to Get Shredded on Keto?
The term shredded stems from bodybuilding or physique athletes, in general. The term is used to describe individuals that have large amounts of lean body mass with very little fat mass to match.
The act of getting shredded is basically a long diet. You have to be in a calorie deficit for weeks on end to cause the body to use stored body fat as energy. But is this really going to be easier when doing keto?
Not really, no.
Similar to those who swear by intermittent fasting, keto dieters will be quick to claim just how fast they lost weight, and they do. But not all of it is fat mass. In fact, due to the way glycogen is stored in the human body (with a lot of water), most of the initial weight loss when doing keto is simply water mass.
Another thing to consider is muscle mass. Being in a condition of low body fat but also low muscle mass doesn’t make you shredded – it makes you skinny fat. To be classified as shredded, you do need a great amount of muscle mass.
For this, carbohydrates are going to be slightly better.
- This 2013 analysis states that not only do carbohydrates decrease protein degradation, but combining carbohydrates with amino acids (post-exercise) could increase the yield of muscle mass gained.
- This 2016 meta-analysis states that carbohydrates increase the transportation of amino acids into muscle tissue greatly.
- This 2018 study published in Nutrition Today suggests carbs are a better fuel source for lifters due to being a more readily available fuel source.
- A 2006 randomized controlled trial found that combining amino acids with liquid carbohydrates intra-workout could lead to lower cortisol rates and better muscle-building capabilities.
Overall, there’s a lot of evidence that supports the idea of “carbs being better for dieting than no carbs” – for aesthetic purposes. If a doctor believes the best route for a patient to take is keto because of the health benefits, that’s something completely different.
If your goal is only to be shredded and have the most amount of muscle with the least amount of fat, then a lower fat, higher carb, and higher-protein diet is going to do you perfectly fine.
OK, But How Do You Get Shredded on Keto?
Maybe you like bacon. Maybe you hate potatoes (weirdo). Maybe you just love plants so much you couldn’t stand to eat them, so you eat animals instead. Maybe you just like keto because you like your coffee with actual cream, and you ain’t willing to change that!
I respect that. While I do have a concern for your blood lipid levels, I respect that. Now, how do you – someone doing keto – actually lose weight?
Simple. The same as everyone else.
You find a sustainable diet that puts you in a deep enough deficit to cause the loss of adipose tissue without putting too much strain on your emotional and nitrogen balance to cause the loss of quality of life or muscle.
Okay, maybe I got a little ahead of myself there. Let’s break this bad boy into steps!
Step 1: Get in a Calorie Deficit – It’s the Law (of Thermodynamics)
A lot of keto dieters will claim that keto causes fat loss without needing to be in a calorie deficit, which really isn’t true. You need to be in a calorie deficit in order for the body to use stored body fat as energy.
This is kind of tying into the laws of thermodynamics, and we have to abide by the laws of nature. Calories in vs calories out.
Aim to eat around 200 – 300 calories below maintenance.
Step 2: It Isn’t Always Calories In vs Calories Out
But Daniel, you just said that’s the law! Well, see, we have this politician that doesn’t always have to abide by the law: Protein. Protein gets a little pass when it comes to fat loss because it’s actually good for fat loss despite being made up of calories.
Studies have shown protein is going to be good for fat loss, even if you overdo it completely.
Aim to get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Step 3: Add Some Carbohydrates
While the keto diet is certainly super low on carbohydrates, you should still have some veggies. These do contain a significant amount of fiber and minerals, so they would be extremely healthy.
30g of fiber per day seems to be what most medical professionals recommend.
Step 4: Add Your Fats
Once you subtract your calories from protein and carbohydrates from your total calories, you can fill the rest up with fats. If you’re concerned with health – and you should be …
Aim to have a decent amount of polyunsaturated fats such as oily fish (omega fatty acids), olive oil, avocados, and macadamia nut oil.
Step 5: Exercise!
The whole point is to be shredded, so make sure you train with really heavy weights, you train consistently, and you do a bit of cardio as well.
Focus on good form and practice progressive overload.
So, How Long Does It Take to Get Shredded on Keto?
Firstly, you can get shredded with keto. I wouldn’t do it, but you can, by all means. And depending on your starting point, that might take you anywhere between 3 – 6 months. You should also only aim to lose between 0.5 – 1.0% of body weight per week.
Trying to lose more than this can result in muscle loss (especially on keto), and aiming to lose less than this is really boring. Thus, this range is a good place to stay within – just keep in mind as you’re doing keto, your first two weeks are going to be insane for weight loss due to water loss – this is not fat mass.
You should only lower your calories when your fat loss stops. Dropping your calories too quickly could result in you “missing” sometimes you could have been losing fat. It could also lead to losing muscle mass.
Lastly, make sure you keep some healthy carbohydrates in your diet, specifically high-fiber vegetables. These are great for your health and have various benefits.
Overall, the keto diet isn’t perfect, but then again, no diet is. There is only the perfect diet for you. So, if you have some weird butter quota you need to fulfill every day, or you simply cannot go a day without eating a pound of bacon (Google Mariusz Pudzianowski’s diet), the Keto diet could be the one for you.