Is dietary fat burned before stored fat on a ketogenic diet?

By Dr. Stephen Phinney and the Virta Team

Certain fats, like medium-chain triglycerides found in coconut or MCT oil cannot be stored in body fat, so whatever is consumed must be promptly burned for energy. This means that if you’re adding these fats on top of your dietary fat consumption for satiety, this type of fat takes priority.

For regular dietary fats, once they are digested, they enter the circulation and participate in what is called ‘fatty acid turnover.’ Whether fed or fasted, the body is always releasing, burning, and storing fat. When insulin is high, storage predominates, but turnover continues. When insulin is low, release and oxidation predominate. If you eat fat along with a lot of carbohydrates, it is prone to be stored. When fat is consumed in the context of a well formulated ketogenic diet, it — along with fat released from adipose stores — is prone to be burned. But once digested and absorbed, dietary fat and stored fat enter the ‘turnover pool’ and are in a constant state of mixing.

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  1. Avatar

    Does it make sense then to reduce dietary fat for weight loss as the total amount for the ‘turnover pool’ is reduced and the body will be forced to use stored fat?


    1. Virta Health

      If you’re eating fat to satiety, you’ll naturally feel less hungry if you have excess body fat that your body is burning. Check out the chart in this post under mistake #4:


  2. Avatar

    Is there a rate of oxidation which can be expressed in grams per unit time?


    1. Virta Health

      In exercising humans, fat oxidation has been expressed in grams per minute. For example, in the Volek et al. FASTER study, peak fat oxidation in the low carbohydrate groups was reported as (1.54 ± 0.18 vs 0.67 ± 0.14 g/min; P = 0.000) and it occurred at a higher percentage of VO2max (70.3 ± 6.3 vs 54.9 ± 7.8%; P = 0.000).


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