The keto diet has been shown to be an effective diet for losing weight. Its low-carbohydrate, high-fat, moderate-protein model transforms the body from glucose-reliant to a machine that uses fat for fuel and produces ketones endogenously.
In addition to its fat-burning abilities (ketones are produced when the body burns fat because it doesn’t have carbs to use as energy), the ketogenic diet has also been shown to be an effective tool for improving overall health.
Although keto can be a useful tool for weight loss, not all people experience the same level of success on the diet plan, especially if you already live a healthy lifestyle.
If you’ve been eating keto-friendly foods high in healthy fats, but still aren’t noticing much weight loss, it's important to look at all variables involved. While drastically reducing carbohydrate intake sounds easy enough, there are nuances to the diet that many people can overlook.
A number of different factors can affect the extent to which keto works. If you’ve been struggling with weight loss, this blog will show you some of the unforeseen barriers that could be standing in your way.
Consuming Too Many Carbs
We all know that carbohydrate intake must be drastically reduced in order to induce ketosis, but the number of carbs required will vary from person to person. You could be consuming more carbs than you think.
Most keto diet plans call for consuming 50g or less of carbs per day to reach and maintain ketosis. However, extremely active individuals can sometimes consume 100 grams of carbs per day and still be in a ketogenic state—that’ll depend on your workouts and if you’re a fat-adapted athlete.
Tracking all food intake using a macronutrient calculator such as MyFitnessPal can be one step taken to ensure you meet daily caloric goals for carbs, protein and fat. Many people do not realize hidden carbs can be found in items such as condiments, creamers, sweeteners, or some of your favorite beverages.
You should also be aware of how much of carbohydrate-containing foods you are eating i.e. portion sizes. Not carefully watching and keeping track of portion sizes can lead to accidentally eating both more carbs and calories than you intend. Pay attention to the nutrition facts label on foods and how much food you are eating. Try using a measuring cup or a scale (if you have one) to precisely track food intake. This can be a little time consuming but it may help you achieve your goals.
Become knowledgeable about the foods you consume so you can reach dietary success.
Every person has a resting metabolic rate. This is the number of calories your body burns at rest in order to maintain basic physiological functions.
In order to induce weight loss, a calorie deficit must be in place. You must consume less calories than your body uses for weight loss to occur.
The number of calories consumed can be more crucial to weight loss than specific macronutrient ratios. A person could be consuming zero carbs, but if their total calories consumed is above their maintenance level, fat gain will still occur.
If you find that weight loss is stalling on a low-carb diet, it may be time to reduce overall calories.
Unhealthy snacking is also a detriment to weight loss success. Having that morning iced coffee with added sugars/syrups and creamers or grabbing a couple pieces of candy may seem incidental, but over time these additional calories can drastically increase calorie intake.
In order to fully enter ketosis, stay committed to the process and take all steps required to reach your goals—measuring calories included.
As a means of controlling calories, many have taken to the strategy of intermittent fasting (especially in combination with keto) as a way of consuming less. This can be a viable strategy for keeping calories in check by limiting eating to certain periods of the day (just remember not to binge when the eating window opens!).
Underlying Medical Issues
For some people, weight loss may not be directly related to counting calories or ensuring the correct macronutrient targets are hit; there may be other issues at play. If you’ve tried other steps to address weight loss, there may be an underlying medical condition affecting your body and its ability to cut weight.
Some individuals are unable to lose weight on keto due to a clinical condition known as hypothyroidism, where the body cannot produce enough thyroid hormone.In short, the thyroid hormone is involved with various regulatory processes that regulate body weight and when your body is producing less of this hormone, there are alterations in these processes and pathways leading to an increase in body fat and weight.
Another condition that may slow weight loss is Cushing’s Syndrome. This medical disorder is caused from a chronic exposure to excess cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can exacerbate weight gain. Cushing’s Syndrome can lead to an increased mortality rate and obesity.
There is a variety of other medical issues that may prevent weight loss. If you are struggling to lose weight, be sure to speak with your doctor about steps to address these issues
Body Composition Changes
Many people believe weight loss is a linear process—but it’s not always a numbers game. The numbers on the scale shouldn’t be the only tools used for measuring weight loss success.
If the scale isn’t changing, but you’re noticing positive visual changes, you could be experiencing body recomposition.
Simultaneous muscle building and fat loss may cancel each other out on the scale. The old adage that “muscle weighs more than fat” is true, and if you’re practicing strength training, this may be the reason for stalled weight loss.
While the scale is an important tool, you should also use devices that measure body fat percentages. Don’t forget the mirror is an invaluable asset as well. Your eyes will never deceive you. There’s also the subjective feeling; how do you feel? If the numbers don’t reflect weight loss, but you’re feeling good, there’s something to that, too.
And don’t expect weight loss results to occur overnight. Most dietary guidelines recommend losing one to two pounds a week to achieve sustainable long-term results. Dropping weight too quickly can cause people to gain it back even quicker.
Not Eating Voluminous Foods
Having a diet filled with voluminous foods is a vital tool for results. Vegetables will allow you to eat a lot of food without a lot of calories.
Keto foods, such as vegetables like broccoli, asparagus and greens like spinach and kale, contain a lower amount of calories for a relatively large portion of food. From a mental perspective, a 300-calorie salad will be more filling than a candy bar with similar caloric content. Those veggies mentioned above, plus things like avocado, egg whites and chicken, provide a large amount of food with a very minimal caloric impact (although don’t binge on avocados as they are much more calorie-dense than other fruits and veggies).
Healthy whole foods also tend to have fewer calories than more processed and refined goods, so try and stay away from those if you’re not losing weight on keto.
Poor Sleeping Habits
Many people tend to disregard sleep when it comes to diet success. Getting enough sleep is just as important as diet and exercise for weight loss, and is an essential part of recovery if you’re an athlete.
A study was performed on 10 overweight non-smoking adults in which they slept daily for either 8.5 or 5.5 hours per night. The results showed a lack of sleep was 55% less effective for weight loss than the adequate sleep group. Body fat loss was also 60% less in sleep deprived individuals than the adequate sleep group.
The individuals who slept more also had a lower respiratory quotient (a tool used to determine where energy is coming from-fat vs carbs), which is indicative of an ability to burn more fat for fuel. The results of this study demonstrate the substantial impact sleep has on the weight loss process.
Lack of Physical Activity
Diet alone does not always provide the best weight loss results.
For most people, some type of regular exercise regimen should be implemented to increase energy output. By adding physical activity in the form of strength training and cardiovascular activity, you can burn additional calories.
Besides weight loss, there are several other health benefits from regular exercise
One study cites regular exercise as the main preventative tool against 35 chronic health conditions including: obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, depression, and several forms of cancer.
Most health experts recommend practicing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Regular strength training of all major muscle groups should also be performed at least twice per week using 12 to 15 repetitions per set.
You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
One dietary concern many people do not address is water intake. Sure, you may be drinking some water occasionally, but are you drinking enough.
Daily recommendations for water are 2700ml/day ounces for women and 3700ml/day ounces for men. If you happen to be an extremely active individual you should drink even more to compensate for exercise induced dehydration.
Water regulation is important for preventing bloating and maintaining regular water intake. It’s also crucial when it comes to hunger
People who do not drink enough water become dehydrated, which can cause feelings of hunger to occur.
Keeping a jug or other container of water near you can make measuring water intake simple. And many water bottles will even have the number of ounces on the side so you can easily track how much water you’re drinking. Although it may seem like an insignificant variable, water intake plays a critical role in weight loss and/or weight maintenance.
What Should You Do Next?
If you’re struggling to lose weight on keto, don’t give up too early. While some people see results quickly, others will take longer, or will have to try alternate strategies to see the same type of results.
Be sure to adjust different variables such as total number of calories, amount of physical activity, and practicing proper sleep habits.
If weight loss efforts have come to a stall, consider taking a temporary diet break to allow for metabolic reset. Sometimes the body needs to readjust its metabolism to overcome weight loss plateaus.
If you’ve taken all the steps described above, it may be time to talk to your doctor about other health-related factors that may be affecting weight loss goals. Your health is something that should never be compromised regardless of weight.
Make your diet a success story by practicing sustainable long-term eating habits. Having a healthy and happy life is something money can’t buy. Be sure to make your health a number one priority in your life so you can live a happy, long life.
*This article was originally published at HVMN and has been modified from it's original version