Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
Uh oh! 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). But not to fear. We’re in the business of helping people get that ketosis blazin’, and that includes you. Let’s blast through your keto worries right now by covering the 5 common reasons for your keto diet not working — and what you can do to fix the issues.
#1: NOT TRACKING CARBOHYDRATES
Remember that in the ketogenic diet, we want to follow the macronutrient breakdown of low carb, adequate protein, and high fat. This one might seem obvious; after all, keto is ALL about that very-low-carb living, right? But one of the biggest rules of keto success is to track, track, track because extra carbs can otherwise slip in unnoticed.
Carbs are everywhere, so as much as you might try to avoid them completely, 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 ketosis varies a little by individual.
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 a few weeks so you can see how you react to different foods. 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 continue to mentally monitor everyday foods you eat.
#2: NOT CONSUMING ENOUGH CALORIES
If you’re trying to lose weight, you might think 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 find yourself not eating enough calories from the high amounts of fat with which you’re left.
Plus, most of us are used to being falsely told fat, especially animal fat, is bad for us and our health. If you’re still holding onto that belief, you might struggle to eat enough calories from fat each day.
This is not good over time because chronically low levels of calories can put the body in starvation mode, which means it’ll actually start holding onto stored body fat and can negatively affect hormones and other functions of the body, especially in women.
Track Your Calories
Just like 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 one, or freedieting.com.
#3: NOT TESTING BLOOD KETONE LEVELS
Tracking your carbs, protein and calories isn’t enough. You also need to track your ketone levels to make sure you’re actually entering and staying in ketosis after your meals. There are three different ways to test ketone levels in your body, but blood testing is the best for long-term and for the highest accuracy. You’ll get a specific reading at any time and can see how ketone levels might change before or after meals or anything else you do during your day.
Test consistently so you can see exactly how what you eat (and even how you exercise) affects your levels of ketosis.
#4: NOT CONSIDERING NUTRITION
A lot of people only think about the high-fat and low-carb aspects of the ketogenic diet. 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.
Eat Quality Fats
Sure, you might get into ketosis with low-quality foods as long as your macros check out, but that’s not healthy ketosis. You’ll end up paying for it long-term., and you’ll likely feel pretty bad.
Healthy, high-quality fats are important for proper brain, hormone, and other bodily functions. Since your fat content is now 80-80% of your whole diet, you want it to be high quality, including:
- Fatty, grass-fed meats
- Cold-pressed unrefined oils
- Wild fish (those omega-3s are important)
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 above.
You might be afraid to eat too many veggies since some of them can have too many carbs. Totally understandable, but those micronutrients are still important. Here are some ideas for doing this:
- Focus on low-carb vegetables and when you eat them, include some fat. This will keep the proportion of fat high in your meal while also giving you a good boost of nutrient-dense plant matter. Plus, fat helps with nutrient absorption!
- 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, just make sure you’re also eating nutrient-dense animal products like organ meats.
Fiber is so important for gut health and for moving things along, and 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.
Include Fermented Foods
Speaking of gut health, 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 2-3 servings each day.
That could be:
- Full-fat yogurt of kefir
- Raw pickles
Make sure to check the full ketogenic diet food list to see which foods are best to include in your diet.
The ketogenic diet not working can be frustrating, but it doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. 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 consumingto 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!