I’m trying to see my six-pack. I’m following a ketogenic diet, but my weight loss seems to have slowed down. Can you help me speed things up?
—Wayne F., KS
Ketogenic diets (around 50 grams of carbs per day) are extremely effective for getting lean because you reset the body’s enzymatic machinery to use fat as its primary fuel source in the absence of carbs. I see three problems with your diet that are certainly causing your fat-loss plateau—too much protein, not enough good fat, and residual carbohydrates.
To break your plateau, pump up the fat in your diet to about 50% of your total daily calories and reduce the protein to 30%–40%. The rest of your calories will come from vegetables.
Traditionally, bodybuilders opt to get their protein from tuna and lean meats such as chicken breast. However, on a diet like this, you should switch to darker meats and oily fish. Eating salmon, chicken thighs, lamb, and lean beef allows you to get your protein and fat in one source.
The last issue is your consumption of “residual” carbohydrates—the carbs you’re not even aware you’re eating, like those in nuts and meal-replacement shakes. It’s OK to have some nuts, but you should rely more on other fat sources that are carb-free like oils and cheeses. Remember that meal replacement shakes and protein shakes are not the same. The typical meal-replacement powder contains up to half your day’s intake of carbs. Instead, opt for a scoop of regular protein powder after your workout. Make these changes and you’ll see your six-pack soon enough.
When your diet is depleted of carbs, your glycogen levels drop and you enter ketosis—a process in which your brain burns ketone bodies to avoid draining the protein stores in your muscles and instead uses energy from your fat stores.