Is your ketogenic diet not working how you thought it would? It’s a frustrating feeling, for sure — you’ve been following the rules, cutting the carbs, and you’re still not getting into ketosis or seeing any weight loss (if that’s your goal). You might be asking yourself, “Does keto work?”
The answer is yes, but you might be missing some key details that are sabotaging your efforts. If keto isn’t working for you so far, take a look at the most common reasons you might be stuck and what you can do to fix the issues.
1. Not Tracking Carbohydrates
On the ketogenic diet, you want to follow the macronutrient ratio of low carb, adequate-protein, and high fat. It might seem obvious, but one of the most significant rules of keto success is to track your carb intake because hidden carbs can slip in unnoticed.
Carbs are everywhere. As much as you might try to avoid them altogether, that’s just not possible. Although carbs generally make up 5% of your diet on keto, the exact amount of how much you can tolerate and still stay in a state of ketosis varies a bit from person to person.
Factors that can affect how your body uses carbs include:
- The types of carbs you eat
- Your overall lifestyle
- Your metabolic history
It’s a good idea to use a handy tracker and input what you eat to watch your carb amounts — at least for the short-term — so you can see how you react to different foods.
Avoid spiking your blood sugar with the carbs you eat. High blood glucose will kick you out of ketosis and slow down your fat loss very quickly.
Apps are perfect because you can carry them with you anywhere, such as the popular MyFitnessPal. This will help you see exactly how many calories and carbs you’re eating, which will help you mentally monitor everyday foods you eat.
Perfect Keto offers a free macro calculator that can also help you stay on track.
2. Not Eating Enough Calories
If you’re trying to lose weight, you might think that eating too few calories won’t be a problem for you. But when you cut out carbs and also have to stick to moderate protein, it’s easy to end up not eating enough calories from fat.
Plus, most Americans grew up falsely learning that fat, especially saturated fat, was bad for your health. If you’re still holding onto that belief, you might struggle to eat enough calories from fat each day. Remember, on the keto diet your main fuel source is fat.
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Not consuming enough calories can be detrimental over time. Chronically low calorie intake can put your body in starvation mode, which means it’ll hold onto stored body fat. It can also negatively affect your hormones and other functions of your body, especially in women[*][*].
Track Your Calories
As with protein and carbs, track your calories to get a good sense of how many you need and how much you’re eating each day. (See a pattern here?) Again, MyFitnessPal is a good option.
3. Not Testing Blood Ketone Levels
Does keto work? It won’t if you’re not tracking your ketone levels to make sure you’re genuinely entering and staying in ketosis after your meals.
There are three different ways to test ketone levels in your body, but blood testing is best for the highest accuracy. You can get a specific reading at any time and see how ketone levels might change before or after meals or anything else you do during the day.
Test consistently so you can see exactly how what you eat (and even how you exercise) affects your levels of ketones.
4. Not Considering Nutrition
A lot of people only think about the high-fat and low-carb aspects of the keto meal plan. But that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all to throw nutrition out the window.
If you want to get the best results, you’ve got to think about the types of foods you’re eating too. This means high-quality fats and proteins — and lots of vegetables — to give you a nutrient-dense plate of food at every meal.
Eat High-Quality Fats
Sure, you might get into ketosis with low-quality foods as long as your macros check out, but that’s not a healthy way to maintain a state of ketosis.
You could add quite a bit to your toxic load if you fill your diet plan with conventionally farmed meats, dairy, and animal fats. You’ll end up paying for it long-term, and you’ll likely feel pretty exhausted by it.
Healthy, high-quality fats are essential for proper brain function, hormone creation, and other bodily functions. Since fat content is now 70-80% of your whole diet, you want it to be high-quality, including:
- Fatty, grass-fed meats
- Cold-pressed unrefined oils (especially organic coconut oil, MCT oil, olive oil, and avocado oil)
- Wild-caught fish (those omega-3s are key)
- Nuts (ideally organic here as well)
- Whole, organic olives
If you’re eating a lot of processed foods like bacon, packaged sausages, and cheese products, it’s time to switch those out for whole foods like the ones above.
You might be afraid to eat too many veggies since some of them can have lots of carbs. This is understandable, but those micronutrients are still important for your overall health. Here are some ideas for keeping your meals nutrient-dense while still keeping your net carbs low:
- Focus on low-carb vegetables (leafy greens of all kinds are excellent options), and include healthy fat when you eat them. This will keep the proportion of fat high in your meal while also giving you a good boost of veggies. Plus, fat helps with nutrient absorption, especially fat-soluble vitamins.
- Eat your veggies steamed. They’ll shrink down, which allows you to eat a lot at once.
- Make a fat-centric smoothie that includes vegetables like kale and spinach.
- If you’re still concerned about the carbs from too many veggies, make sure you’re also eating nutrient-dense animal products like organ meats.
Fiber is incredibly important for gut health and for moving things along comfortably. If you’re not eating vegetables, you might be lacking in this area. Use the advice above to get more veggies into your diet, and don’t forget to have them with a high-quality fat source.
There’s a chance you may need to proactively add a fiber source to your eating plan, like flax meal, chia seeds, or psyllium husk to keep your gut happy and avoid side effects like diarrhea. These work great in smoothies, keto-friendly oatmeal, and baked goods.
Include Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are another way to make sure your health and digestion are chugging along properly. If you’re new to fermented foods, start experimenting with different types and try to have two to three servings each day.
These could be:
- Full-fat yogurt or kefir
- Raw pickles (no sugar added)
- Raw sauerkraut
Make sure to check the full ketogenic diet food list to see which foods are best to include in your high-fat diet.
Does Keto Work? It Does When You Work It Properly
If you’ve been on keto for a while and are finding yourself wondering, “Does keto work?”, there are a lot of possibilities for where things might be going sideways. Of course, it can be frustrating, but start with this list of suggestions to troubleshoot the problem.
Remember to track your carbohydrates and protein intake, test your ketone levels to see how your meals affect those levels, and know what you’re actually consuming to reap all the health benefits this diet has to offer. Use the points above to help you navigate through areas you might need to adjust, and you’ll be golden (and ketogenic) in no time.
16 thoughts on “Does Keto Work? 4 Common Reasons It’s Not Working”
Dear all, I’d really appreciate some extra advice on this: I started with 142 kg on 1st of April and two weeks ago I was down to 112 kg, which is not bad at all in four months. But I definitely need to lose some 20 kg more to be even near my target weight (which in this case would also include a fair amount of muscle, like 7-8 years ago when I was still in excellent shape). I lost the first 30 kg using my “own” version of LCHF diet with some minor modifications. I’m doing very hard HIIT on an exercise bike 3×20 min at the gym, plus some moderate weight training 2-3 times a week just to be prepared for some serious weight lifting later. I’m pretty happy with my progress so far, also thanks to some changes in my medication that I found to have some really bad impact on my metabolism and the massive weight gain in the recent years. So far it has been an exceptionally smooth ride, never feeling hungry, not spending too much time on the gym, eating things that I like, etc. But I hit the classic plateau early August, and I decided that it’s time for the real ketogenic diet. I’ve calculated my carbs minutely, they are in the range of 30 g/day. No hidden ones, I’m 100 % sure. I have also reduced my protein intake a bit, since I have recently learned it might be the reason I don’t see or feel even the slightest sign of ketosis in my body! I’m using Ketostix, and no indication of ketosis on that front either. I would be perfectly happy if I would at least have some of the initial symptoms of the adaptation process (headache, loss of energy, smell), but there is really no indication whatsoever that I would be moving anywhere. And worst of all, my weight loss process has practically stopped. I believe I’m doing all the things by the book (also according to the article above) and I’m running out of any new ideas that I could even try. Any suggestions?
I am just not sure about the amounts of food I should be eating. I know that protein should be the size of your palm. I want to eat twice a day and do intermittent fasting twice a week or is it better to eat 3 meals a day. I thought I was on a Keto diet but it was more like a low carb by cutting out rice, potatoes, pasta -all carbs really apart from vegetables. I thought I was doing well by filling my plate with loads of veg everyday with a little protein. I have noticed that most keto diets do not include veg with each meal. How much veg can you eat daily and can you eat brown rice? is it ok to eat spinach or kale with every meal. Seems like every keto meal has a lot of cream as fat. struggling at the moment to figure out what fats I can have apart from cream and cheese. I really need to know what the meals should look like on a daily basis and amounts in handfulls -not good at maths but will buy a scale tomorrow. I will give it a go but it doesn’t sound too healthy. I have a bloated stomach and am quite slim. My goal is to have a flat stomach and have a six pack. I have been doing intermittent fasting for 3 weeks now and have just fasted for three days but the stomach is not budging, ooh and I do tread mill and dancing weekly. I like drinking smoothies using two cups of spinach and two cubs of kale, one carrot is this too much and then to have veg with my meals. I have not come across smoothies in menus. I think I just need to make sure that i am doing it properly seeing that a lot of thinking and effort needs to go into it when you are new at it.
Hey Michelle, I’m sure you are doing great and like anything else, keto is a learning process and will take time to adjust. Stick with the green, non-starchy veggies (spinach and kale are great) and definitely avoid rice as it is higher in carbs! Like I said, there is a lot of learning to be done for anyone transitioning to a keto lifestlye. I would definitely recommend browsing our articles and using the information to guide you through this transition. Keep up the hard work and it will soon become second nature!
I’m really desperate at this point for answers. I have been doing keto religiously for four months. I am tracking my macros following all instructions cooking clean food. Don’t even bother asking if I’ve cheated because I’m telling you I have not.This is very important to me and I’m taking it very seriously.I really don’t understand why I’m not losing any weight. I’m not gaining any either.It’s so discouraging.
I am the same- just like you- follow the Keto perfect I have not lost one single ounce- I wish I could be of help, I don’t understand it either!
Are you drinking a lot of water? There are hidden carbs in some foods too so really read the nutritional info. I’ve lost 42 pounds started with low carb and now full keto and it is working but I do retain water so I have to remember to hydrate. Good luck!
This is EXACTLY where I’m at….
Soooo frustrated but I have to overcome for I want to give time deserved in hopes to get back to my clothes in my closet.
I am doing Keto from last 8 weeks . I was 60.50 kg before I started Keto now I am 55 kg but now my Wight gets stuck at 55. And I am not finding any change in my body. I use to do 45 to 1 hour of high intensity with cardio exercise at home on daily basis. Can you please suggest why I m kissing weight and fat.
Have been in ketosis for 4 weeks out of 5 lost 8 lbs now gained back 3 key sticks are lavender or purple .I know the diet lost 75 lbs 10 years ago on it not worki g right this time
I have been in this strict diet for 4 weeks. I started with 145 lbs, a and I am down to 143lbs. Since I work in a medical facility, I have been checking my ketosis levels, but I do not see any change. I am 60 years old, and I am frustrated as many others. Any suggestions?
I have tried everything under the sun for weight loss. I have had my meals made for me. My calorie intake has ranged from 1650 to 4500. I lift weights 6 days a week and run 5 or 6 miles twice a week. I have done this workout schedule for about 6 years. My doctor said I needed to weigh 199. When I stared I was 299 and now 240. Body fat is 17%.I have been on strict Keto for 3 weeks for zero weight loss. My fat has been 70% to 80%, protein 20% to 30% and carbs have not been over 20% ever most days around 15%. I check my blood sugar and ketones every morning. I am 58 and really having a hard time.
My chiropractor told me that 1-2% of people do not have the right enzyme (or have an enzyme – I have to go back and make sure it’s right) that makes keto not work for them. He said to try paleo. I’m going back tomorrow to get the actualy name of the enzyme. Will report back. Cheers everyone! We CAN do this!!!
i’ve been doing keto for 2 years. lost 50 pounds in the first 18 months, but then plateaued…now gaining! 10 pounds in 3 months. really frustrated and discouraged because keto was the ONLY way i’ve been able to lose weight – i am over 50 and female. i simply cannot go back to where i was.
I can empathize with all of you..maybe I don’t have that special enzyme either…I workout 6-7 days a weed, mostly cardio, and bike ride anywhere from 3-6 hours a day or every other day. I hardly eat and I GAIN weight. All I eat is avocado, eggs, coconut oil, salad…something is not right…I should be dropping much more. And aside from weight gain, I have zero definition and tone and my blood sugar has shot down considerably. I was in DEEP KETO too btw. It’s just not meant for intense or even moderate exercise. It seems to restrictive and that notion, whilst okay for a few weeks or months, backfires. It’s just too much stress on the body, and mentally as well. Might have to incorporate whole grains & fruits back into the diet plan :/ 🙁
I’m supper frustrated. Been keto for two weeks. Took me a whole week for my urine stick to turn to purple. I was there for two days. My sister (who is in ketosis) and I both ate a slice of Keto Cheesecake. It didn’t effect my sister who eats 40carbs a day but kicked me right out who only eats 20net carbs a day. I haven’t lost any weight. I walk 4 miles a day, eat 1300-1500 calories, 20 net carbs. I track and measure everything. Eat all the right oils, including MCT in my black tea and still nothing:( I know Rome wasn’t built in a day……but, for f*cks sake!
Hi Angelica, I’m sorry to hear about this. You can check our blog Cheating on Keto: Here’s What Happens & How to Get Back In Hope that helps!