Have you hit a weight loss plateau on keto?
Do you think you’re doing everything right and the scale still just won’t budge?
Well don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many people have trouble losing weight on a ketogenic diet.
This is because everybody is different. While the majority of people may do well on conventional keto diet advice, there will always be outliers who don’t respond as well to the same generalized guidelines.
This article will outline the most common culprits of stagnating weight loss on a ketogenic diet. Hopefully, by addressing each of these possible areas of concern, you will be able to overcome your weight loss plateau and reach your ideal weight!
Are You Actually in Ketosis?
Believe it or not, most of the time people aren’t losing weight on keto because they aren’t actually even in ketosis! This is why it is so important to measure ketone levels.
When the body runs out of stored glycogen (glucose) and begins burning fat and creating ketones for energy, these ketones circulate through the blood. This is why the gold standard for determining whether or not you are in ketosis is by measuring blood ketones. Ketosis is usually defined as a blood ketone level between 0.5 to 3.0 mM.
However, for those who are not ready to invest in a blood ketone meter, there is the cheaper and more convenient option in ketosis urine strips. Ketosis strips are not quite as accurate as a blood ketone meter. This is because they only measure ketones that your body was unable to use. This may be a good way to indicate ketosis when you first begin a keto diet, but once the body becomes more efficient at burning ketones for fuel, less ketones will be excreted in the urine creating a false negative.
The Carb Creep
Once you start testing ketone levels it can be a lot easier to troubleshoot your weight loss plateau. Many people find they were actually eating much more carbohydrate than they thought and they were never actually in ketosis for any extended period of time.
This happens because many keto friendly foods contain small amounts of carbohydrates that add up throughout the day.
Fatty foods like cheese, cream, yogurt, avocado, nuts, seeds, and even eggs all have carbohydrates that come along for the ride. Make sure to take these carbs into account when calculating your allowable grams per day.
These otherwise negligible sources of carbohydrate can quickly accumulate and have a significant impact on your ability to lose weight.
You can actually eat too much healthy fat on a ketogenic diet. This means your body exerts all of its metabolic capacity at burning dietary fat instead of body fat.
Although healthy fat should be up to 80% of your total calories, it is generally agreed that most people should not exceed 150 grams of fat per day. This is especially true if you have been on keto for awhile.
Those who are just starting out on keto can have a little bit more leeway here. This is because their body is not yet fat adapted and they may need to eat more calories overall to feel satiated and actually stick to the diet. After the body learns to burn fat in the first couple of weeks of the diet then it is best to throttle fat intake down to less than 150 grams per day.
Eating too much is not the only way to stall your weight loss, eating at the wrong times is often an important factor as well.
The whole point of being in ketosis is to allow your cells to utilize body fat for energy. If there is always food calories available (even if it is from MCT) then the cells have no reason to turn to your body fat for fuel.
This is why it is so important to go long stretches of time without eating. A good rule of thumb is to try for an 8-10 hour “eating window.” An eating window is the period of time during the day when you are actually taking in food. The rest of the time should be spent fasting to allow your body to tap into its fat reserves.
An example of this would look like having your first meal at 8 am and the last meal at 4 pm. This is an 8-hour eating window which leaves 16 hours of fasting for your body to scorch fat.
Everyone knows exercise is important for weight loss. But the kind of exercise you do can make a huge difference. An hour and a half on the treadmill has a very different effect than 15 minutes of extremely heavy weight lifting.
Luckily, it turns out that the most effective forms of exercise actually take the least amount of time! There is no need to spend hours doing cardio because the best exercise for weight loss is high intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT, as the name implies, involves short bursts of vigorous exercise such as sprints, kettlebell swings, squats, and deadlifts. This type of exercise creates the hormonal environment necessary for effective and sustained weight loss.
Some people even claim that just four minutes of body weight exercise done correctly can equal up to 1 hour of cardio in the gym! Combine this with small amounts of gentle movement throughout the day such as walking and stretching, and you have a recipe for success.
During exercise, the body preferentially burns carbohydrates, so if you are a victim of the carb creep, the best thing you can do is exercise off all that excess glycogen!
Don’t Give Up
Health is a journey, not a destination. Everyone experiences some sort of setback in their weight loss journey. What is important is that you stick with it and figure out how to make it work.
Quantify whether or not you are even in ketosis with a blood ketone meter or ketone test strips. Make sure you are not letting little carbs add up, don’t overdo it on the fat, time your meals correctly, and make sure to do your exercise.
Weight loss plateaus can be very emotionally and physically draining, but when you follow these simple rules you can hopefully troubleshoot your issue and get back on track!