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7 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on Keto

By: Julie Hand

7 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on Keto
  • There are seven main reasons you’re not losing weight on keto, despite your best efforts.
  • You’re not actually in ketosis. Ketosis is the state your body is in when it burns fat for fuel instead of carbs. Learn to accurately measure your ketone levels to know if you’re in ketosis.
  • You’re eating too much in general. There are pitfalls to over-consumption while trying to lose weight on keto. Get info on caloric needs as well as the ideal macronutrient ranges on keto.
  • You’re not eating enough. Under-consumption leads to changes in your metabolism, which derail your progress.
  • You’re eating too much protein. The keto diet is a moderate protein diet, so aim for 20-25 percent of your calories coming from protein.
  • You’re eating too many carbs. 20-50 carbs a day is typical of the keto diet. Get tips on where carbs might be lurking in your meal plan.
  • You’re intolerant or allergic to something you’re eating. The most common food allergies are to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish. Food allergies and intolerances can cause inflammation which can lead to weight gain.
  • You’re leptin resistant. Leptin resistance is triggered by irregular sleep, stress, overeating, and calorie restriction. Fortunately, you can reset your leptin sensitivity with the below tips.

Despite your best efforts, you’re not losing weight on keto. Perhaps you’ve plateaued or even gained weight. Not an inch lost. Not a pound dropped. You’ve keto crashed. Now you’re confused. You held so much hope for keto. Now what?

You likely heard that a high-fat, low-carb keto diet can melt fat. Because it contains virtually no carbs, a ketogenic diet forces your body to burn fat instead of glucose for fuel. Ketosis is the state your body enters when your liver effectively breaks down fats into ketones to use as energy. Without glucose, your body doesn’t have all the highs and lows that lead to hunger pangs, energy crashes, and cravings. Instead, your blood sugar levels stay stable. Your body also sheds excess weight — fast.

And yet – it’s not working for you. Here, the top seven reasons why you’re not losing weight on keto. This keto troubleshooting guide sheds light on potential pitfalls to the diet, as well as what you can do to address these issues to start losing weight and feeling awesome.

Reason no. 1: You’re not in ketosis after all

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_You’re not in ketosis after all_coconut oil

According to wellness education specialist Nare Davoodi, RD, ketosis can be tricky to achieve when you’re first starting out. “A lot of people think they are in ketosis after following the keto diet for a few weeks. Though what often happens is they are not calculating their intake correctly,” she explains.

In order to reach ketosis, you must keep a close eye on your macronutrient consumption – how much protein, fat, carbs you eat daily. While calorie intake won’t affect ketosis, it may impact how much weight you’re losing (more on that later).

The amount of carbs you can eat while staying in ketosis varies from person to person. If you’re following a strict ketogenic diet, your carb intake will be lower than if you’re following a cyclical ketogenic diet that includes intermittent fasting, like the Bulletproof Diet. Though keto carb calculators offer only a rough guide, they can be useful in figuring out where to start. On a Bulletproof keto diet, aim to eat fewer than 50 grams of carbs a day, and eat them only at dinnertime. Read more on how to find your ideal carb intake here.    

When you’re in ketosis, your liver produces large amounts of ketones to supply energy to the brain and body. One way to determine if you’re in ketosis is to measure the presence of ketones in your bloodstream. There are several ways to test for ketones, though some are more accurate than others.

Urine strips or sticks: Ketone urine strips indicate ketone quantity on a color-grading scale. Urine tests are affordable and easy to use. However, be wary of inaccurate results. Urine tests only monitor leftover, unused ketones in your body. That’s why the strips will be darker, indicating more ketones, when you’re new to the diet. As you adapt to ketosis, your body uses more ketones, so there will be fewer ketones expelled through your urine. Being well-hydrated can also throw off tests.

Ketone breath meters: The breath test method, where you blow into a meter, measures acetone levels in the breath. Acetones are one of three types of water-soluble ketone molecules; and in this type of test, the more you have, the farther you are into ketosis.  Breath meters are more accurate than urine strips in determining whether you’re in ketosis or not.

Blood meters: Blood ketone meters are the most accurate way to assess your level of ketosis.Prick your finger, draw blood and get a reading of the ketones in your blood. The downside is that these meters and blood strips are expensive.

If you don’t want to go the testing route, use these signs of ketosis:

  • Bad breath
  • Increased focus
  • More energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Pro Tip: Kick-start ketosis with a teaspoon or two of MCT oil or Brain Octane Oil. MCT oils are medium-chain triglyceride fats that bypass the lymphatic system entirely and are uniquely absorbed by the liver in much the same way as carbs. In the liver, they are quickly converted into ketone bodies rather than glucose (carbs), so they’ll expedite the keto process.

Reason no. 2: You’re eating too much

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_calorie counting_You’re eating too much in general

To lose weight on the keto diet, you still have to watch your calories. You don’t necessarily have to cut them, but you can’t go hog wild and eat three times the amount you used to. Overconsume and you won’t lose weight on the keto diet.

“If a patient asks to go on keto, I calculate their basic calorie needs to sustain their body and lifestyle,” says Davoodi. “It’s a myth that everyone can eat the same amount and not be affected differently. [All factors considered], it’s true that a 200-pound person and a 150-pound person should not eat the same amount.”

As you get smaller and weigh less, you won’t need as many calories to sustain you as you once did, says Davoodi. “It’s helpful to reassess your needs after every 10 to 15 pounds lost. Otherwise, it’s possible you’ll hit a plateau.”

Pro Tip: On keto, you don’t need to fixate on a precise calorie count because weight loss comes from getting within your ideal calorie range. However, it will help to pay attention to your macronutrient proportions: 5 percent of calories from carbs; 20-30 percent from protein; and 70-80 percent from fat. Davoodi adds that drinking plenty of water to break down fat is particularly important on a high-fat diet like keto.

Reason no. 3: You’re not eating enough

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_You’re not eating enough

If you under-consume food, your body thinks it’s in starvation mode. Your metabolic rate drops to protect organs and normal bodily functions. Likewise, in an effort to conserve itself, your body slows down in response to insufficient energy levels or excessive exercise.[1] So while you may think you’re making great strides toward your weight loss goals by eating less, you’re actually setting yourself up for failure. The bottom line: your body needs the right amount of high-quality food in the right proportions to reach a healthy weight.

Pro Tip: Aim for high-quality keto fats like coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed meats, and pastured eggs with the yolks.

Reason no. 4: You’re eating too much protein

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_You’re eating too much protein

It’s a common misconception that the keto diet is a high-protein diet – it’s a moderate-protein diet where 20-25 percent of your calories come from protein. While it’s helpful to have a portion of protein at each meal to satiate you, you don’t want to overdo it. Too much protein can actually kick you out of ketosis, says Davoodi, through a process called gluconeogenesis, where your body converts extra protein into sugar. Your body will reach for the glucose first and no longer burn fat for fuel.

Pro Tip: Carefully calculate your protein needs, advises Davoodi. The goal is to eat enough to maintain muscle, though not kick you out of ketosis. Read more here on how to calculate your ideal protein intake.

Reason no. 5: You’re eating too many carbs

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_cauliflower_You’re eating too many carbs

Carbs can be tricky on keto, particularly because they are hidden in many unexpected foods like cruciferous veggies, green beans, dairy, and nuts. Because these are all keto-friendly foods, eat them moderately.

Another common misstep: Misjudging how many carbs you’re eating overall. It can be difficult to gage exactly how much food equals 20-50 carbs a day, for instance, which is typical of the keto diet.

To keep your carbs in check:

  • Fill up first up on low-carb vegetables like asparagus, avocado, and zucchini — these should fill your entire plate. Be mindful of higher-carb veggies like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower
  • Reserve keto-friendly fruit, like berries, for the occasional dessert
  • Focus on high-fat proteins. Green leafy salads with eggs and avocados are great meal options

Also, take special note of sugar alcohols like sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and isomalt. Sugar alcohols are derived from plant products (ie., fruits and berries), though their carbs are uniquely altered through chemical processing. While sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than table sugar, people often overeat them because they are labeled as “sugar-free” or “no sugar added” foods. This is problematic because they can still spike blood glucose levels due to their carb content. You still need to account for them in your diet plan.[2] Your best bet is to go with erythritol because it doesn’t cause blood sugar or insulin spikes.

Pro Tip: Until you can identify on your own how many carbs are in each food, use an app like MyFitnessPal. You’ll be able to see how many carbs each food contains, and keep track of your daily macros.

Related: 9 Best Keto Bread Recipes That’ll Make You Forget Carbs

Reason no. 6: You’re intolerant or allergic to something you’re eating

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_almonds_You’re intolerant or allergic to something you’re eating

Roughly 15 million Americans have food allergies.[3] The most common food allergies are to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish. While food allergies are serious business, food intolerances can plague you too. While not life-threatening, food intolerances cause imbalances in the gut leading to inflammation, which can directly affect your weight. Learn how inflammation shows up as weight gain here.

Pro Tip: The best way to find out if you’re allergic or intolerant to a particular food is to get tested. A nutritionist can test your blood or you can embark on an elimination diet. The goal is to eliminate all suspect foods and then slowly reintroduce them into your life to see how you react.

Related: How histamine overload leads to increased inflammation and weight gain

Reason no. 7: You have leptin resistance

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_hypothalamus_You have leptin resistance

If you just started keto and the weight isn’t melting off, you might blame leptin sensitivity. Leptin is a hunger hormone that sends a signal to your brain that you’re sated when there is sufficient fat in your diet. It’s responsible for regulating how much you consume, how much you expend, and even how much fat you carry.

Under normal functioning, leptin enters the bloodstream via your circulatory system and then binds to protein in the blood. When it reaches your brain capillaries, it travels across the blood-brain barrier (BBB), binding to leptin receptors on the hypothalamus portion of your brain. Leptin then clues your brain into the fact that you’re full.[4][5]

If you have leptin resistance, the messages don’t transmit properly across the blood-brain barrier. Leptin resistance is triggered by irregular sleep, stress, overeating, and calorie restriction.[6] Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reset your leptin sensitivity.

Beginner’s Tip: A low-inflammation keto diet that includes healthy fats and protein resets your leptin levels. Aim to eliminate all sugar from your diet as well as remove refined and processed foods. For most people, it takes approximately 6-8 weeks to restore leptin sensitivity, after which, the scale will start to budge. Read here for more hacks to reset your leptin sensitivity and master your metabolism.

Final note — How much fat do you really have to lose?

It is possible that you don’t have as much fat to lose as you think. There are several ways to measure body fat, which will give you an accurate gauge of how much you need to lose. A DEXA Scan is an x-ray that measures bone mineral density and body fat percentage. While it’s most accurate, it’s also expensive. You can also use skinfold calipers at a gym or your doctor’s office to get a body fat percentage estimate. This information gives you a good indication of your body fat stores and how much you have to lose healthfully. The silver lining in this case — the more fat you have, the more you have to lose.

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