Weight loss is one of the most common goals of the ketogenic diet. If you’re using keto to drop pounds, you’re probably wondering how quickly you can expect to see keto diet results.
Since everyone is different, it’s hard to get an exact answer, but this article will cover the average weight loss rate for most keto dieters, tips for successfully losing weight on keto, and how to avoid common weight loss mistakes.
Weight Loss on Keto: Everyone Is Different
Everyone’s body is different, which means the weight loss rate for each person is different too. Your individual keto diet results can vary depending on four main factors.
Your Health Situation
Are you overweight? What’s your energy level? Do you have thyroid problems? Do you have insulin resistance or other blood sugar issues? What is your metabolic state?
Your overall health determines how fast you lose weight. For instance, if you have any hormonal or metabolic issues, the process might be slower than expected. That’s OK.
Your Body Composition
How much body fat do you have to lose? What’s your muscle mass? What’s your BMI (body weight to height ratio)? If you have a lot of excess weight you’ll likely experience more and faster weight loss in the beginning.
Your Daily Habits
Your exercise and eating habits make or break your weight loss efforts. What does your keto meal plan look like? Are you eating clean keto foods like coconut oil, avocado, and MCT oil, or do you choose high-fat junk foods like processed meats? Are you watching out for hidden carbs? Are you exercising? The energy you spend on a daily basis and your way of eating impact how efficiently your body burns fat.
Your Individual Fat Adaptation Period
Your body needs time to become fat-adapted, and the time it takes to get there depends on your metabolism. For instance, if you’re coming off a standard American diet (SAD), and your adult body has never run on ketones before, your adaptation period might take a little longer. You’ll lose weight when your body is in a state of ketosis.
The key to keto diet results is consistency. That means eating keto-friendly foods including healthy fats, veggies, and quality meats. Treat the keto diet as what it is — not simply a diet plan, but a lifestyle and metabolic shift in your health.
Set Yourself Up for Weight Loss Success
Before you embark on your keto weight loss journey, it’s important to get the basics right.
Some people think shifting from the high-carb standard American diet into a paleo or low-carb diet is enough to enter ketosis. But this isn’t always the case. It’s important to make sure you’re running on ketones instead of carbs. Otherwise, you’re not going to burn fat or lose weight.
Figure Out Your Keto Macros
Use the keto calculator to get your personal keto macros. Having a nutritional target based on your body composition will make it a lot easier to enter and remain in ketosis (and lose weight). It might seem like a lot of work to track your macros, but once you get an idea of how many grams of carbs, proteins, and fats are in the foods you eat most often, it will start to become second nature.
Calculate Your Macros With the Keto Calculator
What unit of measurement do you prefer?
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What is your weight goal?
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Enter 1 to 50%
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- 5 to 10% is a small gain/loss
- 10 to 20% is a moderate gain/loss
- 20%+ is a large gain/loss
What is your body fat %
How much do you want to consume?
We’ve prefilled these consumption amounts for beginners to intermediate keto-ers for the best results. If you’re more advanced, adjust as needed.
Grams of protein per pound of lean body mass
Adequate protein should be eaten on a ketogenic diet. For most people, it is undesirable to lose muscle mass. Set this ratio at a minimum of .8g/lb of lean body mass. Increase the ratio based on your strength goals and exercise demands.
Net Carb Intake
It is highly recommended that on a ketogenic diet, you keep your carb intake to 5% or less of total calories. This works out to be an average of 30g net carbs a day.
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Give Your Body Time to Get Into Ketosis
Getting into ketosis usually takes anywhere between 2-7 days. It all depends on your specific body and metabolic state. Don’t rush this step if you want to avoid the keto flu or any other potential adverse effects. Women especially should allow time to get into ketosis to avoid over-stressing your system.
Test Your Ketones
Testing your ketone levels is the best way to track if you’re in ketosis or not, at least in the beginning. The most accurate tool is a blood ketone meter. If your levels remain above 0.5 mol/L, then you’re in nutritional ketosis. A less expensive option is to use urine test strips.
Eat a Clean Ketogenic Diet
The quality of your food matters, not just your macros. Sure, you can stay in ketosis by eating processed cheese singles and ham slices, but that’s not going to nourish you in the best way possible. Focus on quality keto foods like avocado oil, fresh leafy greens, wild fish, and grass-fed beef instead.
You’ll lose pounds faster if you increase your daily physical activity. Keep in mind you don’t have to go to the gym 6 times a week or jog every morning — just move more in your everyday life.
For instance, take a short 2-minute break from sitting in your chair every hour, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk during your errands if possible, get a standing desk, or take phone calls standing up and pacing around. These small calorie-burning movements add up at the end of the day.
Average Weight Loss on the Keto Diet
As you know by now, not everyone loses weight at the same rate. But below is a general outline of what people typically lose when following the keto diet.
First Week: Fast Water Weight Loss (2-10 pounds)
In the first week of the keto diet, many people see a very quick drop in weight — anywhere from a few pounds to as much as 10. That’s because when you lower your carb intake, your body releases a lot of water weight (not fat).
Why does this happen?
Carbs need water to stay in your body. When your body doesn’t use glucose immediately, it stores it as glycogen in your muscles and glycogen binds to water. Each gram of glycogen is stored with 2 to 3 grams of water[*].
When you first switch to keto, your body will burn all the glycogen reserves first before using fat. Once it runs out of glycogen, the water that was needed to store it gets eliminated. That’s why the number on your scale changes so drastically in the first week of the keto diet.
While this isn’t fat loss, it’s a sign that your body is working its way into ketosis: fat-burning mode. This rapid water loss may also lead to dehydration and constipation, so drink more water than you normally would each day to keep things moving.
Short- and Medium-Term: Steadier Weight Loss (1-2 pounds per week)
After a week or two, weight loss will usually happen at a slower, more steady pace. This is also the time when you’re getting fat-adapted as your body switches from burning carbs to burning fat, which means you’ll actually be losing fat now.
A safe average loss is around one to two pounds (0.5-1 kg) per week.
Here’s what studies say about losing weight on the ketogenic diet:
- One study found obese patients lost 13.6 kg (30 pounds) after 2 months on the keto diet, and over 88% of patients lost more than 10% of their initial weight by the end of the study. Lean mass was practically unaffected.[*] That’s 3.5 pounds of pure fat per week.
- Another study found that obese patients weighing 101 kg dropped 10 kg (22 pounds) after 8 weeks. They lost an extra 2 kg (4.4 pounds) by week 16 and 3 more kg (6.6 pounds) by week 24. In total, they lost 15 kg (33 pounds) in 5.5 months.[*] That’s 1.3 pounds per week.
- One study of volunteers with obesity and type 2 diabetes who weighed 108 kg dropped 11.1 kg (24.5 pounds) in 24 weeks.[*] That’s 1 pound per week.
- A fourth study found 120 overweight hyperlipidemic patients lost 9.4 kg (20.7 pounds) of fat mass in 24 weeks. [*] That’s 0.8 pounds per week.
- A meta-analysis that took data from 13 different studies found patients consistently lost more weight on the ketogenic than on a low-fat diet.[*]
Weight loss varies depending on how long you’re on the keto diet, how much weight you have to lose, and your health condition. People seem to lose the most fat during the first 2-3 months of the keto diet, although you can continue losing weight as long as you follow the diet.
Long-Term: Slower Weight Loss
As you get closer to your goal weight, weight loss slows down. As your weight decreases, your total daily caloric needs also decrease. So even if you continue on a deficit of calories to lose weight, it will now make a smaller difference.
You might have some weeks where it seems you haven’t lost anything, then you’ll weigh a week or two later and be down 3-4 pounds. The key is to stick with it and not get discouraged. Just make sure you’re still in ketosis and give your body time to do its thing.
One study found that after one year on the keto diet, men and women between 30-69 years who weighed between 90-100 kg lost a total of 14 kg (30.8 pounds).[*]
However, most of that weight was lost in the early stages of keto. They:
- Lost 7 kg (15 pounds) after 4 weeks
- Lost another 5 kg (11 pounds) between weeks 4 and 12
- Didn’t experience major changes from 12 weeks to 12 months (barely 1-2 kg)
This means the keto diet is effective for fast and sustained fat loss. You’ll see the biggest changes if you stick with it for a few months, and you won’t gain the weight back if you stick with it for the long-term.
Common Keto Weight Loss Pitfalls
If you feel like you’re going through a weight loss plateau after sticking with the keto diet for a few months, your habits or food choices could be hindering your progress. Below are common weight loss mistakes and what to do about them.
Mistake #1: Not Being In Ketosis
This one may seem obvious, but it’s common to exit ketosis without realizing it. This is why tracking your ketone levels is crucial. One of the biggest reasons people don’t see keto diet results is because they’re not in ketosis.
What to do:
- Don’t stop tracking your ketones. An excellent way to keep your ketone levels up is by taking exogenous ketones. Just put a scoop in your favorite drink to get back into ketosis — it’s easy and delicious.
- Decrease carb intake. Review what you’re eating daily and make sure you aren’t eating too many carbs.
- Increase your fat intake. Make sure each meal and snack is heavy in healthy fat. Eating more fat can naturally reduce your carb and protein intake.
Mistake #2: Not Looking Out For Hidden Carbs
Some of the foods you eat can have more carbs than you realize. These hidden carbs can put you over your daily carb limit and bust your weight loss efforts.
What to do:
- Eliminate processed foods. These often contain a lot of sneaky carbs, even those branded as “healthy.” Stick to whole foods instead.
- Cut out artificial sweeteners. These can raise insulin levels and affect ketosis. Plus, they contain a lot of junk you’re just better off avoiding. If you must use a sweetener, stick with stevia or these top keto sweeteners.
- Beware of hidden carbs. This article can help you look for any hidden carbs in your diet.
Mistake #3: Not Checking How Your Body Reacts to Dairy
You don’t have to be lactose- or casein-intolerant to have a problem with dairy. It can impede weight loss even if you’re digesting it with ease. Some dairy — like yogurt and whey protein — may elevate insulin levels and kick you out of ketosis. Figure out which camp you’re in.
What to do:
- Measure your ketone levels. Do this before and after consuming dairy to see how your body reacts.
- Stick to high-quality dairy. Aim for organic or pastured dairy products such as those in this helpful guide.
Mistake #4: Eating Too Many Calories
Although it’s harder to overeat on a high-fat (and more filling) keto diet, it’s still possible to eat more calories than you need. If you don’t stay at a calorie deficit, you won’t lose weight.
What to do:
- Track your calories. If you don’t see meaningful weight loss after several weeks, make sure you use the keto calculator.
- Eat fewer nuts. Although some nuts are keto-friendly, they’re also high in calories and some contain more carbs than others. Coincidentally, they’re also easy to overeat, so measure your intake when snacking on nuts. Learn more about which nuts are best here.
- Try intermittent fasting. Only eating within a certain period of time — which is the basis of intermittent fasting — can help you lose weight faster and reduce overeating. By fasting, you’ll find it a lot easier to stay in a calorie deficit.
- Don’t go overboard. Make sure you aren’t eating too little. While a deficit is necessary, too little food can cause metabolic damage and do more harm than good.
Those who have yo-yo dieted a lot in the past might also need to give their bodies time to recover from damage. This might mean allowing your body to heal while focusing on healthy keto nutrition.
Don’t Discount Other Signs of Progress
When going keto, it’s important to focus on more than just weight loss — even if you have a lot to lose. Overall health should be the goal, so give yourself credit for any and all benefits you notice from the ketogenic diet. That could be:
- Healthier hair, skin, and nails
- More mental clarity
- Fewer cravings
- More energy throughout the day
- Lower inflammation
- Prevention of chronic diseases
Although losing weight is a good indicator of your progress, remember that it’s not all about the number on the scale. In fact, many keto dieters say they noticed differences in the mirror more than on the scale.
If you’re weight lifting at the same time, you might be replacing fat loss with muscle gain. This might not move the scale much, but it’ll show up on your body.
Keto Diet Results
The ketogenic diet can help you lose weight and improve your overall health, so stick with it and don’t be afraid to make changes as needed. Track what you eat, stick within your keto macros, and test your ketone levels frequently to make sure you’re staying in ketosis. Most of all, give your body time to respond to the great changes you’re making. Soon enough you’ll have the keto diet results you want.