Keto is one of the most reliable weight loss diets around. Most people lose at least five pounds in the first week, and usually considerably more. While much of this initial weight is water, it’s just a sign of what is to come. Once you’ve graduated from the keto induction phase, you’ll start burning fat faster than ever before, and you’ll soon reach and be able to maintain your target weight.
Unfortunately, your weight loss may grind to a halt. In this article, we explain how to get unstuck from your keto weight loss stall.
All diets have the potential to stall, and weight loss stalls are VERY frustrating! Despite following your diet to the letter, your hard work stops producing results. Faced with this problem, a lot of people become so disheartened they quit their keto diet altogether. That’s a shame because, in a lot of cases, it’s actually quite easy to get back on track.
Stuck in stall town with no foreseeable way out? Don’t give up! Instead, learn what causes keto to plateau and what you can do to get things moving again.
Have you really stalled?
Before you start to deep-dive into the whys and wherefores of overcoming plateaus, it’s essential to make sure you really are suffering from a keto stall. In a lot of cases, your progress hasn’t really stalled – it’s just not quite what you expected or hoped for.
Keto plateaus ARE discouraging, but before you break out the big guns to overcome your current weight loss roadblock, make sure you really are suffering from a stall. It’s important to understand that a keto plateau is not:
- No weight loss for a week or so – weight loss is not always linear or predictable. You might lose two pounds this week, none next week, and three the week after. This is entirely normal and does not qualify as a plateau. This is especially true once you have completed keto transition and are a few months into your diet.
- Muscle gain – you can gain muscle, lose fat, and still weigh exactly the same. This can happen if you are an avid exerciser, and especially if you lift weights. If your clothes feel looser, especially around the hips and waist, you are losing fat so don’t worry what the scales are telling you. Confirm fat loss and muscle gain by getting your body fat percentage tested. Most gyms offer this service.
- Water retention – women tend to hold and lose water because of their monthly menstrual cycle. If your weight is fluctuating, and it’s your usual time of the month, your water retention levels are fluctuating, and this has nothing to do with keto.
If your weight loss has stalled for 2-3 weeks or more, you can officially consider yourself in a plateau. In a lot of cases, the reasons for a plateau are poor adherence to the basics of keto dieting. Before putting the strategies in this article into action, go back and make sure you are doing keto properly, i.e.:
- Your carb intake is 50 grams per day or less
- Fat makes up 70-80% of your calorie intake
- Protein makes up 20-30% of your calorie intake
- You aren’t cheating by eating carbs, or consuming hidden carbs inadvertently
- You are still in ketosis – use keto sticks to confirm
If you are doing all these things, and are adamant your progress has stalled, you can officially consider yourself stalled. The good news is there are lots of things you can do get your weight loss back on track.
Common causes of keto weight loss plateaus
Before looking at the solutions for stalled progress on the keto diet, it’s important to understand why and what has happened. After all, if you don’t address the cause of your plateau, even the most effective interventions will not work.
The most common causes of keto weight loss plateaus are:
Overeating – in the early days of your keto diet, the only thing that really matters is getting into ketosis. Once you have hit keto, your body accelerates fat burning. It’s awesome! But, as your body gets used to burning ketones, the amount of food you eat becomes as important as what you eat.
If your weight loss has stalled, you’ll need to start considering not only what you eat, but how much. Track your calories make sure you aren’t overeating. Use a food tracking app or online keto calculator to make this a breeze.
Muscle loss – if you don’t exercise, you may well lose a little muscle along with that unwanted fat. Muscle loss will decrease your metabolic rate so that you need fewer calories per day. If you don’t reduce your food intake, this could create an energy surplus which puts the brakes on fat loss.
Avoid this problem by combining your keto diet with adequate amounts of exercise. Hitting the gym is never a bad idea, but just going for a walk and doing more general physical activity will help too.
Metabolic adaptations – your body is very good at adapting to a range of stresses. It’s part of our blueprint for survival. Your body views your fat stores as something to value and would prefer to preserve them for as long as possible. As your body fat percentage drops, so do your thyroid hormone, testosterone, and insulin levels. Conversely, hunger hormones and cortisol levels rise. These hormonal changes affect how much energy your body is spending.
Don’t worry though, it’s easy enough to trick your body into thinking that it’s okay to let your fat stores go. In most cases, eating a little more fat will get things moving again.
Approaching your target weight – the closer you are to your target or ideal weight, the slower fat loss tends to be. It’s often the last few pounds that are the hardest to shift. This is very frustrating! If you are getting close to your target weight, you need to raise your game and make sure you are not cutting any keto diet corners.
Also, you might want to reconsider your weight loss goals. Do you REALLY need to lose five more pounds? Or do you look good and feel great as you are? Weight loss goals are moveable!
Hidden carbs – one of the most common causes of keto diet plateaus is hidden carbs. Food manufacturers add sugar to a wide range of foods, even those that don’t taste sweet. From ketchup to canned soup to so-called diet foods, sugar is everywhere! Pay more attention to your food labels and diligently look for hidden carbs and sugar. You might think you are keeping your carb intake to 50 grams or less per day, but those hidden sugars may be derailing your diet without your knowledge.
How to get back on track
The last thing you should do if your weight loss plateaus with keto is panic! Getting stressed will not help and may even make things worse. A lot of people comfort eat when they are stressed, and that will make your problems worse. Instead, just relax and use the following strategies to overcome your keto weight loss plateau. They address the leading causes of keto weight loss roadblocks.
Review your diet and look for hidden cheats – if you’ve been following keto for a couple of months, you may have inadvertently slipped back into a few old habits that mean you are eating more than you should. That half a dozen brazil nuts are now a small handful, that occasional light beer has become several regular beers with potato chips, or you’ve been treating yourself to the occasional bowl of cereal for breakfast.
These slip-ups might seem insignificant, but they can be enough to stall your progress. Review your diet and make sure you aren’t inadvertently sabotaging your progress by eating more than you should or eating the wrong foods. Use a keto weight loss calculator to track your macros and make sure you are adhering to the basic rules of the ketogenic diet. Don’t become complacent!
Try intermittent fasting – if your calorie intake is equal to your calorie expenditure, fat loss will soon stall. A brief fast will help get you back on track. As an added benefit, because keto diets are great for preventing hunger, you should find fasting easier than ever before. Try a few cycles of 16:8 fasting to restart fat loss.
Fasting also helps increase ketone production. With no food, not even dietary fats, your body has no choice but to burn more body fat for energy. Of course, your brain can’t use fat for fuel and has to turn some of that fat into ketones. More ketones mean more energy and faster fat burning. Fasts are a very reliable way to restart your keto weight loss progress.
Hit the gym – any exercise will help you lose fat faster. It increases your overall energy expenditure and helps preserve muscle mass, especially if you lift weights or do some high-intensity interval training. If you aren’t much of a gym junkie, make sure you at least try and go for a walk every day. This could be enough to get you out of your current weight loss rut.
Get more sleep – sleep deprivation is a form of stress, and stress can put the brakes on fat loss. It increases your cortisol levels while decreasing testosterone and human growth hormone production. For many of us, sleep is a luxury we cannot afford. Work, family commitments, and an active social life mean that sleep is not a priority. It should be!
Make sure you are getting enough sleep, ideally about 7-8 hours per night. Also, consider grabbing an afternoon nap if possible. Improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep by:
- Going to bed 7-8 hours before you need to get up
- Banning electronic devices from your bedroom, so you have fewer distractions
- Going to bed and getting up at the same time, even on weekends
- Using a pre-sleep ritual 30-60 minutes before you go to bed to help you relax
- Using a melatonin supplement
Increase your carb intake – if you are following a very strict keto plan, you may well be getting by on 20 grams or less. Good for you for being so dedicated! But, if you are in a rut, you may benefit from a change. Increase your carb intake to 50 grams per day to see if that busts through your weight loss plateau. You may also want to try a cyclic ketogenic diet, or CKD for short.
With CDK, you follow a strict keto diet for 5-6 days, and then eat a couple of high-carb meals to shake things up and give you some extra energy. Yes, it WILL kick you out of ketosis briefly, but you may find that it also gets your weight loss back on track.
Increase your fat intake – low-fat keto diets do not work. If you’ve been following a keto diet for a while now, your fat intake may have started to drop, or you may not have been eating enough in the first place. Remember, you need fat to make ketones, and without ketones, you won’t have the energy or lose weight.
A special kind of fat called medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs for short, are especially useful during the keto diet. They are easy to digest and easily converted into ketones. Good sources of MCTs include coconut oil and grass-fed butter, but you can also get concentrated supplements which are over 90% MCTs.
Use a macro calculator keto and make sure you really are consuming 70-80% of your calories from fat. Consider adding keto fat bombs to your diet to increase your fat consumption further or try a so-called fat fast.
Fat fasts involve eating meals that contain 90%+ fat. You should only need a couple of these to get you deeper into ketosis and bust through your current weight loss barrier.
Use some supplements – supplements may help beat your weight loss plateau by getting you into a deeper state of ketosis. The best supplements are safe and easy to use. Good options include:
- Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
- MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil
- Exogenous ketones
Reduce your protein intake – keto is a moderate protein diet and not a high protein diet. If you eat too much protein, and that is unused will be converted to glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. This can put you out of ketosis. Protein is essential, but too much could stop fat loss. Ideally, protein should make up around 20 to 30% of your calorie intake per day. If your weight loss has stalled, check that you aren’t inadvertently eating too much protein.
Lay off the booze – alcohol is not a carbohydrate, but most alcoholic drinks contain carbs and/or sugar. Alcohol can also rob you of your determination to forgo carbs. The occasional drink might not push you out of ketosis, but more than one probably will.
Make sure you consider the effect of alcohol and, if you have been having more than a couple of drinks per week, you may have found your keto plateau culprit. Try cutting out alcohol altogether or, if you must have an alcoholic beverage, maybe to celebrate reaching a weight loss goal, stick to low-carb beer, white wine, and champagne, or clear, refined spirits without mixers.
Plateaus in keto are entirely normal and are nothing to worry about. Your body is merely trying to preserve its fat stores for as long as possible. It’s all-but waving the white flag in surrender! This is not the time to give up. Instead, double down and push through your plateau to achieve your weight loss goal. Be patient, use these strategies, and you will get your fat loss back on track.