Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
When someone first begins a ketogenic diet, there’s often a dramatic drop in weight. This is mostly water loss as the body lets go of the fluid it’s held onto from all those carbs. But after that, weight loss is likely to happen more slowly as you start losing actual fat. However, what do you do if the weight loss isn’t happening as fast as you’d like — or not at all?
A keto diet weight loss plateau can be frustrating, but it’s no reason to get discouraged or give up. In fact, there are some quick ways to troubleshoot a plateau and get yourself losing again in no time. But first, a note on weight loss plateauing:
As we noted above, the initial weight loss on a keto diet is often quick, so it can feel discouraging if the weight doesn’t continue to come off that quickly. But, this is where patience is important.
Too much weight loss at once is not healthy. General recommendations are for 1-2 pounds a week, so you might be losing gradually, but you’re still losing. And this can, in fact, be easier on your body. Even not losing anything for a week can be okay. Patience is a virtue in most situations, and this one is no exception.
However, if it’s been several weeks and the scale still isn’t budging, read on for some reasons that might be getting in the way of weight loss.
The ketogenic diet is all about tracking. Here are some of the main areas you’ll want to look at when it comes to weight loss on keto:
#1: Eating Too Many Carbs
A general rule of thumb is to start keto at 30 grams of carbs per day and adjust from there. It might be that you simply need to decrease your daily carbs limit. If you feel you’ve already done this but it’s not working, make sure you’re avoiding any hidden carbs.
You might also try cutting out snacking, especially after dinner, as this can lead to an overabundance of calories throughout the day.
#2: Not Tracking Ketone Levels Often
This is so important. Trying to lose weight on keto without checking your ketone levels will keep you in the dark. You can’t simply adjust carb or protein amounts and wait to see if it “feels” right. In order to know if you’re successful on keto, you must check often to ensure you are still in ketosis.
Thankfully, we have a full guide to testing your ketones here if you need some help with that.
#3: Eating Too Many Calories
While a ketogenic diet is often great at naturally controlling portions due to satiety, it is still possible to eat too many calories and affect ketosis. Not all calories are equal, but there’s still such a thing as too many. For some people, this means counting can be beneficial for weight loss.
Determine the amount of calories you need per day for weight loss and also how many calories that means per macronutrient. And make sure you’re tracking these basic metrics too.
#4: Be Mindful of Types of Keto Foods
Quality matters. We’ve all seen the low-carb muffins, pancakes, and other treats that are really nothing more than junk. If weight isn’t coming off, check to see if you’re doing any of the following:
#5: Not Eating Real Whole Foods
Just because something is high-fat or low-carb doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all on keto. Stick with whole foods ketogenic diet foods as much as possible and treat packaged foods and snacky recipes as what they are: occasional treats. Too many of these can prevent ketosis and lead to extra calories.
If you do this already and are still not losing the extra weight, try cutting out treat entirely and focus on how good it feels to eat clean, whole foods.
#6: Eating Too Many Nuts
Yes, nuts can be a part of the ketogenic diet, but we have to watch how much of these foods we eat. They are not only calorie-dense but the carb counts can kick us out of ketosis in higher amounts.
When you do eat nuts, stick with higher-fat and lower-carb nut options like pecans, Brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts. See this article for more on keto nuts.
#7: Not Incorporating Fasting
Fasting, especially intermittent fasting, can be very beneficial for weight loss on the ketogenic diet. Including periods of fasting helps you control overall caloric intake per day, nurture your metabolism, and give your body a break from digesting all day long. This can help with speeding up weight loss or breaking through a weight loss plateau.
#8: Getting Closer to Your Goal Weight
Note that as you get closer to your target weight, the rate of weight loss will likely slow down. That’s because the deficit of energy needed for fat loss gets smaller as your weight goes down. It doesn’t mean that you won’t continue losing if you have weight to shed, but it might take longer to come off than at a higher weight.
When it comes to healthy weight loss, there are other factors to consider beyond just the food:
Not Getting Enough Sleep
Weight can stall if we don’t get enough sleep. Regular interruptions in sleep that affect our circadian rhythms can also affect health and weight loss. Plus, lack of sleep increases cravings in many people because our bodies are looking for additional sources of energy when we haven’t gotten enough rest.
Here are some ways to help:
Being Stressed Out
Stress is so rampant in our modern world, but we don’t have to let it control us. When stress is high, our bodies respond by making the hormone cortisol, which can increase fat storage and make it harder to lose weight.
Try incorporating more mind-body techniques into your life to help you cope with any stress or anxiety, such as meditating each day, not working on the weekends or taking some days off work if you can, getting regular exercise, and giving yourself fun things to look forward to each week.
Adrenal or Thyroid Concerns
If you’ve tried all of the above and still seem to be holding onto weight, speak with your primary practitioner. It’s possible you could be dealing with deeper concerns like thyroid of adrenal issues. Getting to the core of the issues can not only help you reach your natural weight but also improve health overall.
Take Home Message
As you can see, many factors can affect weight loss and contribute to the frustration of a plateau. The best place to start is with taking care of yourself in the best way you can, getting enough exercise, and eating whole, healthy low-carb ketogenic foods. From there, don’t be afraid to try different things and also exercise a little patience. Big changes like this don’t happen overnight, and that’s okay.