You’ve done the research and it says keto is effective for weight loss. So you start the diet but nothing happens. You’re not losing weight! On the contrary, you might even be gaining weight. What might have gone wrong? First of all, you should know that weight loss is not always linear. Just because you don’t see the number on the scale going down every day doesn’t mean you’re not making progress. Sometimes when you first start a keto diet, you might experience the so-called “keto flu,” which is when your body is adjusting to using fat for energy instead of carbs (2). This can cause some initial weight gain, but it’s usually temporary and will even out after a few weeks. There are also a few other things that could be causing your lack of weight loss on keto. Why am i not losing weight on keto? Read on to learn about its 8 possible reasons.
1. You’re Not In A Calorie Deficit
Keto, Paleo, Intermittent Fasting, and any other type of diet you’ve heard of have one thing in common— they intend for you to be in a calorie deficit. This means you’re eating fewer calories than you’re burning, which forces your body to use stored energy (aka fat) for fuel.
If you’re not tracking your intake and making sure you’re in a calorie deficit, weight loss will be very difficult, no matter what diet you’re following.
A common misconception is that cutting out carbs automatically translates to weight loss. However, keto is also a high-fat diet, which means you could easily be compensating for the lost carbs with more fat (6). This is why it’s important to track your food intake and make sure you’re in a calorie deficit.
The number of calories you need to eat in order to lose weight depends on a lot of factors, including your age, activity level, and starting weight. To find out how many calories you should be eating, you can use a calorie calculator (1).
Once you know how many calories you should be eating, make sure you’re actually eating that amount. Track your food intake using a food journal or an app like MyFitnessPal. This will help you stay accountable and make sure you’re getting enough (but not too much) food.
2. You’re Being Sabotaged By Hidden Carbs
Keto works because it minimizes carbs, which translates to lower insulin levels and more fat-burning while you’re in ketosis. That’s all good and well, however, if you’re not careful, hidden carbs can easily throw you out of ketosis.
Hidden carbs are sneaky little things that can be disguised as healthy or low-carb options. For example, a salad might seem like a great option, but if it’s covered in sweet dressing or fried toppings, the carb count can quickly add up. The same goes for “low-carb” protein bars or shakes, which are often loaded with sugar alcohols that can kick you out of ketosis.
The best way to avoid hidden carbs is to be mindful of what you’re eating and to check the nutrition facts when in doubt. In case you find yourself in this situation, err on the side of caution and assume that a food contains more carbs than it actually does.
You can also avoid hidden carbs by:
- Reading food labels carefully (looking out for sugar alcohols like maltitol, sorbitol, and erythritol).
- Avoiding processed foods
- Making your own condiments and dressings
- Avoiding “low-carb” protein bars and shakes
- Sticking to whole, unprocessed foods that have one or two ingredients
3. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is important for overall health, but it’s also critical for weight loss (8). When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. This increases your appetite and can lead to cravings for unhealthy foods.
What’s more, sleep deprivation can cause your body to hold on to fat stores. In one study, participants who slept 4 hours per night for 5 nights had a higher level of the stress hormone cortisol and a lower level of the fat-burning hormone leptin. This is in comparison to those who got 8 hours of sleep per night.
Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to promote weight loss and optimal health.
You may get more shut-eye by:
- Establishing a regular sleep schedule
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed
- Avoiding working or using electronic devices in bed
- Creating a relaxing bedtime routine
- Making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool
4. You’re Stressed
When you’re stressed, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. This increases your appetite and can lead to cravings for unhealthy foods.
Furthermore, stress-eating is a thing and many people aren’t aware that they’re doing it. If you find yourself mindlessly snacking or overeating, it might be a sign that you’re using food to cope with stress.
To promote weight loss, it’s important to find ways to manage stress.
Here are some tips you may follow:
- Get regular exercise: Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which can help improve mood.
- Practice yoga or meditation: These activities can help promote relaxation.
- Connect with friends and family: Social support can help reduce stress levels.
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption: These habits can worsen the effects of stress.
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5. You’re Not Eating Enough
Although a calorie deficit is necessary for weight loss, eating too few calories can hinder your progress. When you don’t eat enough, your body goes into survival mode and starts to hold on to fat stores.
What’s more, the severe calorie restriction can lead to muscle loss, which can make it more difficult to lose weight in the long-run
To promote weight loss, make sure you’re eating enough calories to support your activity level. The more active you are, the more calories you’ll need. Use an online calculator to determine how many calories you should be eating each day, then make sure your diet provides that much (1).
Here are some tips you can follow to make sure you are eating enough:
- Eat nutrient-dense foods: Focus on foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories.
- Avoid restrictive diets: These can make you more likely to overeat or binge eat.
- Make sure you’re getting enough protein: Protein helps preserve muscle mass.
- Don’t skip meals: This can lead to overeating later in the day.
6. You’re Not Eating Enough Protein
A common misconception is that keto is all about carbs and fat. However, in reality, protein is just as important (if not more so) in this diet (3). Protein serves multiple purposes in keto. Not only does it help preserve muscle mass, but it also helps keep you feeling full after meals. This is important because hunger is one of the main reasons people give up on their diets. Cravings are also often caused by a lack of protein.
To make sure you’re getting enough protein, include animal-based sources (such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs) at every meal. You can also get some protein from plant-based sources, such as tofu, legumes, and nuts.
7. You’re Eating Too Much Protein
When you first start keto, you might be tempted to eat a lot of protein. After all, it’s an important nutrient for weight loss.
However, eating too much protein can kick you out of ketosis. A process called gluconeogenesis occurs when your body breaks down protein for energy. This can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels, which can stop ketosis from happening (4).
To make sure you’re not eating too much protein, focus on getting around 20 to 30% of your calories from this nutrient. So if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, that would be around 100 to 150 grams of protein.
8. You Have Leptin Resistance
Leptin is a hormone that plays an important role in regulating hunger and metabolism. People who are leptin resistant have a hard time feeling full after meals and tend to be more overweight (5).
Multiple factors can contribute to leptin resistance including a high-fat diet, inflammation, and sleep deprivation. If you think you might be leptin resistant, talk to your doctor about ways to improve your condition.
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The Bottom Line
If you’re not losing weight on keto, there’s a good chance one (or more) of the above factors is to blame. By making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can start seeing results.
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!
- Body Weight Planner (n.d., nih.gov)
- Consumer Reports of “Keto Flu” Associated With the Ketogenic Diet (2020, nih.gov)
- Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss (n.d., harvard.edu)
- Effects of a high-protein ketogenic diet on hunger, appetite, and weight loss in obese men feeding ad libitum (2008, nih.gov)
- Leptin resistance: underlying mechanisms and diagnosis (2019, nih.gov)
- NIH study finds cutting dietary fat reduces body fat more than cutting carbs (2015, nih.gov)
- Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals? (2018, nih.gov)
- Weight Loss and Sleep (2022, sleepfoundation.org)