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.
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.