Diets work great—until they don’t.
It can be immensely frustrating when you've started a new plan and seen great results—maybe even the cleverly named keto whoosh—only to find down the line that your progress is stalling. And you thought you were doing everything right!
When it comes to weight loss stall, keto is no exception. If you are not losing weight on low carb—or are noticing weight gain—you may want to check out some common and recurring mistakes folks on keto make.
Why Am I Not Losing Weight On Keto?
To successfully lose weight on the ketogenic diet, you must avoid the seven culprits of keto plateau. Here, we've explained these mistakes and outlined a keto plateau buster for each item—so you can maintain a sustainable, enjoyable, and healthy journey to a lean body mass!
Culprit #1: You’re Still Eating Too Many Carbs
We hate to break it to you, but some of your favorite sources of healthy fats have sneaky hidden carbs inside! Delicious foods like nuts, nut butter, many keto bars and cookies, and even the beloved avocado contain carbs—and they can add up before you know it.
If you find that you’ve stopped progressing or have gained weight on keto, hidden carbs could be the culprit. They can hinder your production of ketones and halt the loss of body fat. To solve the problem, it may be worth dusting off that keto calculator and paying closer attention to your macros for a while—until you start seeing improved results.
(In other words, you might want to hide the nut butter for a while.)
Culprit #2: You’re Eating Too Much Protein
You might be wondering how you can be in ketosis but gaining weight. For a possible answer, you may want to take a closer look at how many grams of protein you're consuming.
While we can debate the optimal percentage of protein intake for lean muscle retention—or muscle building—there is no debating the fact that over-consumption of protein doesn't do any favors. When you eat more protein than you need to achieve your specific goals, it gets turned into and used in your body as glucose.
That’s right: if you eat too much protein, it essentially turns into sugar in the body—which is exactly what you want to avoid on a keto diet. Remember that the general guidelines for starting with keto are to get around 70% of your calories from fat, 25% from protein, and about 5% from carbs. From there, you can make mindful tweaks based on your own individual requirements.
Culprit #3: You're Actually Eating Too Much Fat
Is the high-fat, low-carb diet not working to help you lose weight? As paradoxical as it may seem, this could actually be because you're eating too much fat. A common mistake people make is misinterpreting the main concept of the ketogenic diet. Just because keto is a high-fat diet doesn't make every day a free-for-all, allowing you to eat as much fat and fatty snacks as you desire. It simply means that most of our caloric intake (about 70%) should come from fat.
If you want to lose weight, maintain a lean body mass, or gain muscle, you still have to keep an eye on the calorie intake you need to achieve your goal. Fats are delicious and healthy but also contain more calories per pound than protein and carbs. Keep in mind that a small, sedentary woman can't eat as much fat as, say, a large, active man.
Culprit #4: You're Not Eating Enough, Period.
Many people on the ketogenic diet will experience a keto stall. Week 3 is most commonly when this occurs. For some, raising caloric intake is the key to getting past it.
You may have found, after adapting to keto and becoming comfortable with a higher-fat, lower-carb diet, that your meals have become more satisfying and keep you fuller longer. This is great! It means less snacking and mindless eating—classic deterrents to burning body fat.
On the other hand, if you also find yourself eating significantly less at mealtimes, you may get to the point where you're not taking in the number of calories needed to support your daily energy expenditure. As a result, you may feel tired or lethargic, or find that your body composition isn’t changing the way you were expecting it to. In this case, it may be helpful to pull out your keto calculator again. Track your macros and total intake of calories for a few weeks—long enough to make sure you’re getting enough food and consuming the right balance of macros to meet your goals. It might also be beneficial to have some nutritious and ready-to-eat products such as our keto bars on-hand to help you meet your macro goals and satisfy your taste buds as well.
Culprit #5: You're Not Getting Enough Salt And Electrolytes
If you're experiencing slow weight loss on keto, it could be because your body isn't getting the salts and electrolytes it needs. When people switch from a traditional diet that is higher in carbs—especially processed carbs—to a diet higher in unprocessed vegetables, protein, and healthy fats, they inadvertently end up taking in a lot less sodium.
We all know that too much salt is bad for our health—but what about too little? Without sodium and other necessary minerals and electrolytes, you can suffer from headaches, fatigue, and bloating. This is not how you want to feel on a keto diet!
A simple solution is to make sure you’re seasoning your meals to taste with a high-quality salt and eating a well-rounded, whole-foods diet rich in vitamins and minerals. We’ve written more extensively about this subject in another post—check it out here (keto meal planning guide).
Culprit #6: You May Need To Cycle In Some Carbs
For most people, the ketogenic diet is a healthy and reasonable way to lose weight (or achieve and maintain your optimal body weight). However, it’s not necessarily the ideal approach all the time for everyone. Thus, a possible solution to weight loss plateaus on keto could be to cycle in some extra carbs.
Just because we don’t have to eat the Standard American Diet-recommended servings of grains every day to perform well doesn’t mean that we have to get rid of all carbs forever in order to be healthy. Depending on your goals and activity level, it can be very helpful to implement regular carb refeed days.
Take some time for personal experimentation to see what works best for you in terms of carb amounts, types, and frequency of consumption. It may be as simple as adding some extra fruit to your breakfast and having a sweet potato with dinner once a week. Or maybe you need larger, less frequent refeeds—that’s up to you to test out!
Culprit #7: Non-Dietary Factors Are Hampering Your Progress
The food you eat absolutely matters to your health and body composition but it’s not the only thing that matters. There's an abundance of studies to show that lack of sleep, chronic high-stress environments, and even unnatural exposure to blue light can result in the retention of body fat and other negative health outcomes.
Awesome meal plans and sexy workouts are fun tools to improve your health, but if you don’t have the lifestyle basics down—such as quality sleep, a lot of low-level movement and time outdoors, stress management, and positive social connections—a delicious avocado can only help so much.
So you're experiencing a weight loss plateau. Keto is no stranger to this phenomenon. We hope the above guide has helped you identify what might need adjusting to find continued success in your ketogenic diet. Don't forget to keep a good balance of exercising, getting quality sleep, and enjoying life! And remember, weight loss stalls are not the end-all; they're just part of the journey.
Have we missed anything? Do you have any questions? Let us know in the comments!