The ketogenic, or keto, diet is a low-carb way of eating that has been adopted by many looking to lose weight and improve health.
When following a keto diet, carbs are typically reduced to under 50 grams per day.
However, to reap the benefits of the keto diet, it must be implemented correctly.
Here are 8 things that may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts on a keto diet.
One of the main reasons people don’t lose weight on the ketogenic diet is that they’re consuming too many carbs.
To reach the state of ketosis — a metabolic state in which your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose — carbohydrate intake must be drastically reduced.
In fact, only around 5% of your total calories should come from carbs (3).
This is in stark contrast to the standard dietary recommendation that 45–65% of calories come from carbs (4).
It’s normal to have a bit of difficulty cutting out carbs when first adjusting to the ketogenic diet.
However, to reach and maintain ketosis, carbs must be decreased to the recommended range.
To help reach your intake goals, consider tracking your macronutrients through an app like MyFitnessPal.
This can help you learn how many servings of carbs you’re allowed to have in a day depending on your calorie needs.
Summary To lose weight on a ketogenic diet, carbs must be decreased to reach the state of ketosis and induce fat burning.
No matter what dietary plan follow, the key to healthy weight loss is to consume nutritious, whole foods.
Relying on processed foods can put a dent in your weight loss even if they’re keto-friendly.
Adding in foods like snack bars, keto desserts and other packaged foods between meals can derail your weight loss efforts with the extra calories they provide.
Additionally, eating too many convenience-type foods like hot dogs and fast food when you’re on the run can slow weight loss.
These foods are nutrient-poor, meaning they’re high in calories but low in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
To optimize your nutrient intake while losing weight on the keto diet, stick to unprocessed, whole foods.
For example, full-fat dairy products, eggs, fish, pastured meats, poultry and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil are all great choices.
Be sure to add non-starchy vegetables like greens, broccoli, peppers and mushrooms to dishes to add nutrients and fiber.
Summary To optimize weight loss when following a ketogenic diet, avoid consuming too many processed foods and instead focus on meals and snacks that contain fresh, whole ingredients.
When trying to lose weight, it’s critical to create a calorie deficit.
This can be achieved by either reducing the number of calories that you consume or by expending more calories through increased physical activity.
If you switch to a keto diet and don’t watch your calorie intake, you’re unlikely to drop pounds.
Because many keto-friendly foods, including avocados, olive oil, full-fat dairy and nuts, are high in calories, it’s important not to overdo it.
Most people feel more satisfied after eating ketogenic meals and snacks due to the filling effects of fat and protein.
However, it’s entirely possible to consume too many calories on a ketogenic diet by eating portions that are too large or by snacking on high-calorie foods throughout the day.
Paying attention to portion size, increasing physical activity and snacking in moderation between meals can help create the calorie deficit needed to lose weight.
Summary When following any diet, it’s important to create a calorie deficit to promote weight loss. Curbing portion sizes, limiting snacks between meals and being more active can help you drop excess pounds.
The ketogenic diet is an effective weight loss tool.
However, if you’re having a difficult time losing weight even though you’re doing everything right, it’s a good idea to rule out any medical issues that may be preventing weight loss success.
Hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Cushing’s syndrome, depression and hyperinsulinemia (high insulin levels) are medical issues that can cause weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight (5, 6, 7, 8).
These conditions can be ruled out by your doctor through a series of tests.
If you have one of the conditions listed above, don’t despair.
Through proper management, including medication if necessary and lifestyle and dietary modifications, you can achieve and maintain healthy weight loss.
Summary Certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism and depression, can make it hard to lose weight. Consult your doctor to rule out an underlying medical issue if you’re having a particularly hard time dropping the pounds.
It’s normal to want fast results when following a new diet plan, but it’s important to remember that weight loss can vary from person to person.
Although the ketogenic diet can promote weight loss if properly followed, the rate at which you lose may not be rapid — and that’s okay.
Small, consistent change is the key to losing and maintaining weight the healthy way.
While it may be tempting to aim for lofty weight loss goals, most experts recommend that losing 1–3 pounds or about 0.5–1 kg per week (depending on weight) is best (9).
Not to mention, if you adopt a new workout routine that involves weight lifting, you may gain muscle while losing fat.
Instead of relying solely on the scale, take weekly measurements of your arms, thighs and midsection to track your progress.
Summary A healthy weight loss of 1–3 pounds or about 0.5–1 kg per week can help you stay on track and maintain weight loss over time.
Snacking on healthy food can be an effective way to prevent hunger between meals and overeating.
Yet, consuming too many high-calorie ketogenic snacks like nuts, nut butter, fat bombs, cheese and jerky may cause your weight loss to plateau.
Though these snacks are healthy in moderation, it’s best to choose lower-calorie options if you’re having more than one snack session per day.
Foods like non-starchy vegetables or proteins can keep you feeling full without the calories.
Flavorful snacks like celery sticks and cherry tomatoes dipped in guacamole or a hard-boiled egg with some cut up veggies are smart choices for those following ketogenic diets.
Plus, adding extra non-starchy vegetables to your diet adds a dose of fiber that can help keep your digestive system regular, which can be especially helpful for those first transitioning to a keto diet.
Summary Choose keto-friendly, lower-calorie foods for satisfying snacks that won’t cause you to pack on pounds.
Research shows that stress, especially chronic stress, and lack of sleep can negatively impact weight loss (12).
When your body is stressed, it produces excess amounts of a hormone called cortisol.
Elevated levels of cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone, can encourage your body to store fat, especially in the belly area (13).
Additionally, those who are chronically stressed are often sleep deprived, which has also been linked to weight gain.
Studies suggest that a lack of sleep negatively impacts hunger-regulating hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin, causing increased appetite (14).
Summary Stress and lack of sleep can negatively impact weight loss. Do your best to reduce stress and get enough sleep.
Incorporating more physical activity into your lifestyle is vital when trying to lose weight on a ketogenic diet.
Aside from stimulating fat loss, adopting an exercise routine benefits health in countless ways.
For example, exercise lowers your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety and obesity (16).
Not only does engaging in physical activity burn calories, but it also helps build muscle, which can give your metabolism a boost by increasing the amount of energy burned at rest (17).
Though starting an exercise routine can be difficult — particularly for those new to working out — there are ways to make it easier.
Creating a workout schedule and sticking to it is the best way to bolster a healthy exercise habit.
Set a goal of three to four days a week and choose a time that’s most convenient for your schedule.
Keep yourself motivated by storing a gym bag in your car for after work or by laying out exercise clothes before bed to keep you on task for early morning workouts.
Summary Exercise benefits health in many ways and stimulates weight loss. Make exercise a habit by setting aside time for a few workouts a week.
Along with other healthy lifestyle changes, the ketogenic diet can be an effective weight loss tool.
However, there are various reasons why some people may fail to see the results they desire.
Eating too many calories, lack of activity, chronic stress, underlying medical issues and not following the recommended macronutrient ranges can all negatively impact weight loss.
To maximize weight loss on a ketogenic diet, get adequate sleep, reduce stress, be more active and consume whole, nutritious, low-carb foods whenever possible.