So, you’ve been on the keto diet for a while now. You’ve been consistently shedding pounds—then, all of a sudden, you plateau. You’re doing all the same things, only you can’t seem to lose any more weight. What gives?
We’ve put together this short list of common weight loss stalls that can wreak havoc on your ketogenic diet. If you’ve stopped shedding, one of these common issues might be to blame. Though this list doesn’t cover everything, it’s a good place to start.
But before you read on, first ask yourself if you’re being both 100% honest with yourself and realistic with your expectations. Embracing a ketogenic lifestyle is a proven way to stay healthy—not to mention drop some of that extra body fat. But as we like to remind people, it’s a marathon and not a sprint, and losing one or two pounds per week is still weight loss. It’s common to shed more weight initially and as you approach your target, you slow down a bit.
These tips are for people who simply aren’t losing weight, period.
EATING “HIDDEN” CARBS
If you’ve stopped losing weight, there’s a good chance that you may be taking in more carbohydrates than you think. This is a common problem on any low-carb diet. Carbs are everywhere—they’re in dairy products, meat, nuts, vegetables, and even protein supplements. That Clif bar you’re eating? It’s loaded with carbs—43 grams to be exact. Store-bought peanut butter? It’s packed with sugar. Butternut squash, peppers, and even Brussels sprouts may all be sources of these “hidden” carbs.
One of the main challenges of the keto diet is finding a way around the carb creep. Even if you’re actively keeping your carb consumption to a minimum by avoiding obvious sources of carbs such as pasta, bread, and cereal, you’ll find that consuming low-carb items every time you eat can quickly boost your daily carb count.
When it comes to veggies; spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, tomato, lettuce, asparagus, and certain root vegetables are the best choices for a low-carb diet. But too many vegetables always equal too many carbs.
Carbohydrate-packed meat products are another typical source of excess carbs. You might be surprised to learn that sugar is a common ingredient in store-bought meat products, such as honey or maple smoked bacon, chorizo, Italian sausages, canned meats, and lunch meats. Sausages can have up to 5 grams of carbs per serving, which can add up, especially with most of your meals revolving around meat. Opt for unprocessed meats to avoid this.
The last source of hidden carbs? Medicine. Cough syrups such as Buckley’s, Vicks, and Dayquil are full of sugar—a whopping 19 grams of it, to be exact. Same goes for throat lozenges. Though you likely only resort to them when you’re down with a cold or the flu, it only takes a few days to seriously stall your weight loss. Opt for sugar-free versions whenever possible.
As a general rule, you should be checking the nutrition facts on the label of every product that you buy and counting carbs to make sure carbs aren’t catching up with you.
EATING THE RIGHT KIND OF CALORIES
Counting carbs is one of the most pervasive dieting and weight loss habits. We see a lot of people getting stuck on the idea that eating fewer calories means more weight loss. Unfortunately, studies on the effectiveness of low-calorie and low-fat diets have shown that this simply isn’t true.
The key takeaway here is that all calories are not created equal. Some calories are more satiating than others. Calories from healthy low-carb high-fat foods will leave you feeling full, while calories from carbohydrate-rich processed foods will leave you feeling full—until you’re hungry again five minutes later.
While we’d prefer that you learn to listen to signals from your body to decide when you’re hungry and when you’re full, some people do find it helpful to count calories to make sure they’re not over consuming. Per gram, fat contains approximately double the calories that carbs and proteins do, so you may want to make sure you’re within a healthy range. But with that said, fatty foods should leave you feeling fuller. You can’t overeat consistently and expect to lose weight—your body will only burn what it needs.
TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE PROTEIN
When your protein intake is too low or too high, it can tamper with your hunger levels. Protein is the most filling of all macronutrients, and the best sources of protein come from animals. When you don’t get enough, you feel hungry. When you feel hungry, you eat. You might be taking in too many carbs and fat, which can make it more difficult to lose weight. Not getting enough protein can also lead to muscle loss, fatigue, and weakness.
On the other hand, if you eat too much protein, your body may try to store the excess by converting into glycogen. This can disrupt ketosis, as your body will try to burn glycogen before it resorts to burning fat. But this is fairly rare—you’d have to be eating a lot more protein than you should and likely taking protein supplements for your body to start converting the excess into glycogen. Make sure you’re keeping tabs on your protein intake and you should be fine.
APPROACHING YOUR TARGET WEIGHT
With any diet, the closer you get to your target weight, the harder it is to lose fat. If you’re approaching your healthy weight, congratulations! Go easy on yourself in the home stretch, keeping in mind that you may have to up your activity levels and watch your calorie intake to reach your final goal. We’re not talking about starvation or obsessive exercising here, but merely making sure you’re burning more calories than you put into your body. If you continue to struggle, perhaps your weight loss goal isn’t realistic.
LACK OF CONSISTENCY
Consistency is key when it comes to losing weight on a keto diet. As it is, it usually takes at least a few days for ketosis to kick in, and unfortunately, a single cheat day can throw your body out of ketosis. By the time you re-enter ketosis, an entire week may have passed, and that’s an entire week with zero weight loss. Not to mention, you’ll also put on 4 to 6 pounds of water weight around the same time. It’s only after you put on the water weight that weight loss begins again. So while this may seem like a plateau, hold tight—the weight loss will come once your body is keto-adapted again.
Don’t forget that lifestyle factors play a role, too. If you’re exercising too little (or too much), stressed, not getting enough sleep, or drinking too much, you may find it hard to say consistent. Being kind to your body—and giving it the time and care it deserves—is the best way to keep moving forward with your weight loss goals.