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Nutrition » Diets » Keto » How To Maintain Weight After Keto: Reintroducing Carbs Without Canceling Out Your Results

How To Maintain Weight After Keto: Reintroducing Carbs Without Canceling Out Your Results

how to maintain weight after keto

One of the key features, dare I say ‘pitfalls’ of the ketogenic diet is its highly restrictive nature. Given that the keto diet carb limit can be as little as 20 grams a day, it takes a whole lot of willpower and determination to go through with this low-carb diet. You may have been faithful in following the diet (and congratulations, by the way), but for some reason or another, feel like it’s time to get off the low-carb wagon. Maybe you have been wondering if falling off the rails of ketosis might affect your well-deserved weight loss progress. Here is a foolproof guide on how to maintain weight loss after keto. 

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Anyone who has been on any weight loss program can attest to this fact – losing weight is easier when compared to maintaining the new weight. While there are many weight loss programs out there, none offers its users one thing – the guarantee that they will maintain their new weight even if they sway from their new lifestyle.

Granted, you cannot turn back to your old habits and expect to lose weight. But, can you abandon a diet and avoid gaining the lost weight back? More specifically, is there a way that you can stop keto dieting and maintain your weight?

How Does The Keto Diet Work?

The keto diet is a high-fat low carb diet that restricts the amount of carbs you can consume to as little as 20 grams a day (2). This way, you get most of your calories from fat, forcing your body to use different energy pathways. Instead of using carbs for energy, your body burns fat, thus entering a state of ketosis (3).

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How To Maintain Weight After Keto?

There are many reasons why experts advise against following keto long-term, one of them being the fact that the low-carb, high-fat diet limits the consumption of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and grains, which poses a concern for long term health.

With this knowledge, you might want to get off the keto diet after a while. But if you do, will you gain all the weight back? Indeed, if you fall into the same unhealthy eating habits you were accustomed to before beginning the keto diet, you will gain all the weight (and even more) back. However, there are some methods that you can use to ensure that your transition from keto does not have adverse effects on your weight loss journey.

  • Gradually increase how many carbs you take

The ketogenic diet drastically limits the amount of carbs you should consume a day – 20 to 50 grams to be precise (12). 

When transitioning away from keto, one thing you can do is gradually increase your carb intake. You can begin by increasing the daily amount by 10 grams each week. While doing so, track your weight and how you generally feel.

Increase the intake each week or every other week, depending on your personal goals.

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  • How to maintain weight after keto: try a more flexible keto plan

In this approach, you do not phase out the keto plan entirely. Instead, you add a little more food into your diet. However, you have to ensure that you maintain a calorie deficit.

Weight loss is only possible through maintaining a calorie deficit. So, even if you decide to add more food into your diet, you are advised to do so without raising your carb intake too high, so that your body gets out of ketosis.

You just need to eat a little bit more fat and protein than you have been eating.

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  • Add more protein to your plate

Lean protein such as skinless chicken, fish, and lean cuts of red meat have a high thermic effect. This means that they contain elements that either boost your metabolism naturally or are high in fat or protein; which requires more energy to digest and therefore, raise your metabolism. 

Foods with low thermic effects, such as carbohydrates, cost the body relatively little energy to digest and metabolize. 

  • How to maintain weight after keto: switch your focus from fat loss to muscle gain

While fat loss may be your primary goal while going on the keto diet, you may want to switch things up a little bit.

This approach, however, is not necessarily geared towards weight maintenance. By focusing on muscle gain, you maintain a low body fat percentage while adding more muscle mass.

A high muscle mass:

  • Improves metabolic flexibility
  • Strengthens bones
  • Reduces the long term risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Makes it harder to regain fat

To increase your muscle mass, focus on resistance training. As you will be building mass, you will need to add more calories and protein in your diet but keep carbs low.

You should only add more carbs around workouts alone.

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  • Transition to a low-carb non-keto diet, such as Paleo

You could also opt for a less restrictive diet that allows you the flexibility to eat extra vegetables that the keto diet does not ‘allow’. However, avoid taking junk food and stick to Paleo foods only.

This change adds variety to meals, which is always a welcome addition to any diet.

While transitioning to a low-carb diet, start by raising your carb limit by 10-20 grams, and maintain it for one to two weeks before reassessing again.

However, once you begin transitioning, you might gain a pound or two. Don’t worry, though, as this is mainly water weight.

  • How to maintain weight after keto: try intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting involves entirely or partially abstaining from eating for a set amount of time before regularly eating again (19).

The main idea behind intermittent fasting is that you have an “eating window,” during which you do not limit your food intake, and periods of fasting when you refrain from eating. 

Intermittent fasting offers a wide array of benefits, such as fat loss, lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood sugar, better health in general, and increased longevity.

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There are various methods of doing intermittent fasting. You could try:

Intermittent fasting also has its downsides. For one, people on this kind of diet may not eat enough nutrients, such as fibre. This can increase the risk of cancer and have an adverse effect on digestive and immune health.

  • Keep on moving

To maintain your keto diet weight loss, adopt a more active lifestyle. This will not only help keep the weight off, but it will also improve your general well being. 

Practise regular movement throughout the day by taking frequent breaks, going on walks often, and stretching or doing yoga during the day (10).

The benefits of regular movement cannot be overlooked. In fact, maintaining regular activity throughout the day has proven to have a much more significant impact on your overall health than one heavy exercise session.

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Summary on how to go back to eating normal after keto and maintain weight loss:

  • Do it gradually
  • Add more protein to your diet
  • Adopt a more flexible keto plan by adding more food – as long as you remain in a calorie deficit
  • Switch your focus from fat loss to muscle gain
  • Transition to a low carb non-keto diet, such as Paleo
  • Try intermittent fasting.
  • Be active throughout the day

FAQs

  • How Much Weight Can You Lose On Keto?

In the first week, you may lose 2 to 10 pounds of water weights. The first month could see you losing 4 to 10 pounds (about 1 to 2 pounds a week).

Although the results vary from person to person, you might expect to lose at least one pound of fat per week.

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  • Is The Keto Diet Safe?

To determine whether a diet is safe or effective, you must look at four things:

  • How it changes your body’s composition. The best diet is one that reduces your body fat. Many fad diets are known to help in the loss of water weight and not fat loss, which is counter-productive, as it is so easy to gain water weight back.
  • How it affects your overall health and wellbeing. Any diet that causes you stress, anxiety, and generally has a negative effect on how you feel about yourself should be abandoned. Avoid diets that have a negative impact on your mental health.
  • If it has long-term benefits or if you can follow the diet long term. Generally, if you cannot follow a diet for its long-term benefits, ditch it. A good diet is one whose benefits can be enjoyed months (even years) to come. If you cannot keep up with a diet, then maybe it is not for you. Pick a plan that is feasible for you.
  • If it meets your nutrient needs or goals. Your diet should not have a negative impact on your health. The diet should not negatively impact your body’s ability to ward off diseases.

So, does the keto diet fulfil all these requirements? To demystify this, we first have to look at how the keto diet works.The keto diet is a low carb diet that limits carbs, such as those in grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit. The diet puts emphasis on the consumption of foods high in protein and fat.

Keto restricts the type and amount of carbs you eat and focuses more on fats and proteins, such as:

  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Non-starchy vegetables, and
  • Meat.
  • Fats and oils

It excludes and limits most grains, legumes, fruits, bread, sweets, pasta, starchy vegetables, and some nuts and seeds.

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  • How Many Carbs To Stay In Ketosis?

The keto carb limit for most people is 20 grams. The diet suggests that a person consume less than 20 grams of carbs a day so that you can enter ketosis.

Ketosis occurs when you do not have enough glucose (sugar) for energy, so your body breaks down the stored fat, converting it to ketone bodies which can be used for energy.

The carb limit for keto is miles ways from what is generally recommended. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbs make up 45-65 percent of your daily calorie intake.

Ergo, if your daily calorie intake is 2000 calories, then carbs should make up 900 to 1300 calories, which would be 225 to 325 grams. 

For this reason, following the keto diet has potential side effects, such as:

  • Headaches
  • General malaise
  • Bad breath
  • Skin rashes
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps.
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  • So, Is It Safe?

Mayo Clinic states that this high-fat, very low carb diet is thought to have brain-protecting benefits (21). As many as half of young people with epilepsy had fewer seizures after following the diet (5).

Some early research also suggests that it may have benefits for blood sugar control among people with diabetes. 

However, there is very little evidence to show if the keto diet is efficient or even safe over the long term for anything other than epilepsy. Furthermore, the diet cuts out many healthy foods, which may make it difficult for you to meet your daily micronutrient needs.

All in all, the diet may be recommended for some people with uncontrolled epilepsy. However, its high-fat content plus the limits on nutrient-rich foods may pose a concern for long term health.

Also, eating large amounts of fat and protein from animal sources increases your risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

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  • Why Are You Not Losing Weight On Keto?

Very few things are as unmotivating as putting in all your effort into something and not seeing the results. As the keto diet is highly restrictive, it takes a lot of determination. It is no shock, therefore, when one gets frustrated when their input does not give them the desired results.

Have you been on the keto diet yet you have nothing to show of it? (18) You may be making these mistakes:

You are consuming too many carbs

For your body to enter ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body burns fat for energy and not glucose, your carb intake must be drastically reduced. 

Your carb intake should be at most 5 to 10% of your daily calorie intake. Unless this happens, your body will not enter ketosis, and you will not lose weight.

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You are consuming too many calories

There is only one secret behind weight loss – creating a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is a shortage in the number of calories consumed relative to the number of calories required for maintenance of current body weight.

There are two ways to create a calorie deficit.:

  • Reducing the number of calories consumed
  • Expending more calories through physical activity

You still need to watch your calorie intake while on the diet because keto-friendly foods, such as avocado, nuts, and nut butter, are high in calories. This is despite the fact that you feel satisfied after eating ketogenic meals and snacks because of the filling effect of fat and protein.

You can still consume too many calories on the keto diet by eating large portions and snacking throughout the day (13).

To ensure that this does not happen, pay attention to portion sizes, increase physical activity, and snack in moderation in between meals. 

You are not eating nutritious foods

To trigger weight loss, cut out processed foods from your diet, as they provide extra calories and are nutrient-deficient (22). They are high in calories and low in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.

Instead, focus on nutritious, whole foods.

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You have an undiagnosed medical condition

Medical conditions such as depression, PCOS, Cushing’s Syndrome, hypothyroidism, and hyperinsulinemia cause weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight (4, 8, 16, 23).

As such, it is advisable that you seek professional advice from a licensed professional before going on any diet.

You have unrealistic weight-loss expectations

Losing 1 to 2 pounds or 0.5 to 1 kg a week (depending on starting weight) is recommended. Anything more drastic than this may not be easy to maintain in the long run (17).

You are stressed out or haven’t been having enough sleep

Chronic stress and lack of quality sleep have proven to have a negative impact on weight loss (6). 

When you are stressed out, your body produces excess amounts of a hormone called cortisol – also known as the stress hormone (20). 

Elevated levels of cortisol in your body can encourage your body to store fat, especially in your midsection. 

Furthermore, chronic stress also leads to sleep deprivation, eventually causing weight gain. Lack of sleep negatively impacts hunger-regulating hormones such as leptin and ghrelin, causing an increase in appetite (14). 

To reduce stress and get better sleep, practise meditation, yoga, and spend less time on electronic devices, especially before bed (15).

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You are actually not achieving ketosis

Unless your body goes into ketosis, you cannot lose weight. To achieve ketosis, carbs should represent 5 to 10 percent of your calorie intake. 

You are not getting enough physical activity

Your sedentary job may just be the reason why you are not losing weight. Physical activity stimulates fat loss and helps build muscle. This can eventually boost your metabolism by increasing the amount of energy burnt at rest.

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Conclusion

As you can see, the journey towards a healthier body does not stop at just losing weight. It would be best if you still worked hard to maintain your new weight, or all your hard work may be lost. Follow our helpful tips on how to maintain weight after keto and enjoy your journey (plus some of the foods restricted before).

Supplement your diet with some exercise to double your results. Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. 4 Options Once You Reach Your Goal Weight With Keto (paleoleap.com)
  2. Beyond Weight Loss: A Review Of The Therapeutic Uses Of Very-low-carbohydrate (Ketogenic) Diets (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. Carbohydrates (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  4. Cushing’s Syndrome: Update On Signs, Symptoms And Biochemical Screening (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Effects of Chronic Social Stress on Obesity (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. How To Maintain Long-term Keto Weight Loss Results For Life (2020, ruled.me)
  8. Hypothyroidism And Obesity: An Intriguing Link (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. If I Stop Keto, Will I Gain the Weight I Lost? (2019, keto-mojo.com)
  10. Incidental Movement, Lifestyle-embedded Activity And Sleep: New Frontiers In Physical Activity Assessment (2007, cdnsciencepub.com)
  11. Is A Keto Diet The Best Way To Lose Weight? (bbc.co.uk)
  12. Ketogenic Diet (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  13. Ketogenic Diet for Obesity: Friend or Foe? (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  14. Lose Sleep, Gain Weight: Another Piece of the Obesity Puzzle (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  15. Mobile phone use and stress, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of depression among young adults – a prospective cohort study (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  16. Obesity and Weight Gain in Relation to Depression: Findings from the Stirling County Study (2009, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  17. Rate of weight loss can be predicted by patient characteristics and intervention strategies (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  18. Reasons for not losing weight on a keto diet (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
  19. Seven Ways to do Intermittent Fasting (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
  20. Stress, cortisol, and obesity: a role for cortisol responsiveness in identifying individuals prone to obesity (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  21. The truth behind the most popular diet trends of the moment (2019, mayoclinic.org)
  22. Ultra-processed food consumption and excess weight among US adults (2018, cambridge.org)
  23. Weight Management Interventions in Women with and without PCOS: A Systematic Review (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
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Pauline Mwabishi

Kristen Fleming

Kristen Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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