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The last thing anyone wants to notice is that they are not losing weight anymore, especially when they’ve not gotten to their desired weight. Unfortunately, this is the reality for so many people today.
No matter what diet you decide to embark on, chances are, your weight loss is going to hit a brick wall at some point. After some time on the ketogenic diet, you may notice your weight loss stalling even though you’ve not reached your ideal weight.
So many people usually give up when they encounter this, thinking the keto diet isn’t working for them. But it doesn’t have to be that frustrating.
And with a little tweaks here and there, you can break through your keto weight loss plateau easily and start losing weight again.
This guide examines what a keto weight loss plateau is, why they happen and what you can do to break through them easily and watch the scale move again.
If a weight loss plateau is a brick wall, then this guide is your bulldozer.
Keto weight loss plateaus and the science behind them
If you’ve been losing weight on the keto diet and for some reason can’t seem to be able to lose anymore even though you still have some excess fat to burn off, then you might have hit a keto weight loss plateau.
To fully understand weight loss plateaus, you need to understand how you are expected to lose weight on the keto diet and what could be considered normal, too fast or too slow.
Weight loss on keto
There are 2 main phases of weight loss you will experience on keto
- Rapid weight loss (water weight) – this will occur when you enter ketosis for the first time. When you reduce your carb intake, your body lets go of excess water leading to a rapid drop in the scale
- Regular weight loss – this happens after you’ve lost water weight. You begin to lose weight at a steadier pace which gradually slows down as you reach your ideal weight.
The rapid weight loss is as a result of the excess water your body held on to from carbs. After cutting carbs out and going keto, you’ll experience a rapid drop in weight.
It can be amusing at first and make you think that’s the regular rate for weight loss. The regular and healthy weight loss is steadier and it’s around 1 – 2 pounds of body fat per week.
If you are shedding pounds at this rate, then you’re not experiencing a plateau and you’re good to go. Keep doing your thing and remember, patience is key.
Although how fast you shed fat also depends on how much fat you have to lose. If you have a lot to lose, you can expect to lose a lot fat more quickly. As you get closer to your ideal weight, things might start going a little slower.
However, if for a couple of weeks, say 3 or 4 weeks, you’ve noticed that you’re not losing body fat anymore, then it’s most likely the case of a weight loss plateau. Let’s look at why it’s happening.
Troubleshooting your plateau – why am I not losing weight on keto
There are many reasons you could be facing a brick wall in your fat loss journey. Some are quite caused naturally while some could be caused by us. But regardless of which may be the case, there are simple steps you can take to overcome them.
But first, here are some of the reasons you may have hit a keto weight loss plateau. I’ve broken it down into 2 sections
- The naturally caused plateau and
- The human caused plateau
The naturally caused keto plateau
These are the changes that usually occur within your body as your weight loss progresses which can contribute to the reason why people near their ideal weight experience plateaus.
Your calorie deficit closes up
When you eat more calories than your body needs to maintain itself, you gain weight. Alternatively, when you eat less calories than your body needs to maintain itself, you lose weight. That’s how the universe works
To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit. That is, consume less calories than your body needs to sustain itself. A deficit of 300 to 500 calories is usually advised for healthy weight loss.
But here’s the thing. As the scale goes down, your body needs less energy to maintain itself because there is, in a way, “less of you” to maintain. As a result, your calorie deficit automatically reduces.
Let’s take for example, a 30 year old woman named Karen. Karen needs 2000 calories to maintain her weight, so she consumes 1700 calories per day. That’s a 300 calorie deficit.
As she loses more fat, she has less of her to maintain and only needs 1900 calories to maintain her new weight. She keeps dropping pounds and now only needs 1800 calories per day to maintain her weight.
She still consumes 1700 calories per day. But now, she’s only at a 100 calorie deficit and the scale seems stagnant. Her previous calorie deficit would need to be adjusted if she wants to continue losing fat.
Your metabolism adjusts
Most times when you lose weight, you lose muscle as well. Muscles are known to boost metabolism and also require more calories than fat to maintain themselves.
Losing muscles reduces your daily energy expenditure, therefore lowering your calorie deficit and slowing down weight loss.
Another reason your metabolism adjusts is due to your thyroid hormone. When you lose weight, your T3 hormone levels drop naturally. When this happens, your body’s energy expenditure reduces, even though you are still carrying out the same tasks.
In a way, it makes your body accomplish the same tasks it normally performs every day but with less energy.
Self caused keto plateaus
At times, we could be causing our own weight loss plateaus on the keto diet. There are some things you could be doing knowingly or unknowingly that can halt your weight loss.
Here are some common reasons that could prevent you from losing weight on keto
Snacking too much too often
Snacks are great and everyone loves them. But they contain their own carb counts and calories as well. Snacking too much too often will cause you to stop losing weight because of two things.
Firstly, the calories in snacks can add up and close up your calorie deficit, making weight loss harder. Secondly, the carb counts can add up and throw you off ketosis, making you miss out on the benefits that make weight loss easier.
Eating too much fat
Even though the ketogenic diet is a high fat diet, you need to be able to burn your own fat stores to be able to lose weight. The fats you eat on keto should go to keeping you in ketosis and giving you enough energy, mental clarity, etc.
When you eat too much fats, your body has no reason to burn its own fat stores since it already has a large supply of fats coming in. Thereby making it harder to lose weight.
For example, using MCT oil too regularly can also affect your weight loss, because 1 tablespoon of MCT oil contains about 100 calories so it’s easy to go overboard with it and close up your calorie deficit.
Another example is fat bombs. They are called fat bombs for a reason. If you’re taking them very regularly, odds are, you’re getting more fat than you should be getting which can cause a stall.
Eating foods you’re sensitive to
If your body is sensitive to a particular food, eating it won’t do you good in any way and weight loss is no exception. Eating foods that you are sensitive to causes an inflammatory response in your body, thereby halting or slowing down weight loss.
Even if it’s a keto friendly food, you shouldn’t force yourself to eat anything your body doesn’t like. Rather, focus on foods your body loves. If you find out you are sensitive to a particular food on keto, try to replace it with other keto friendly alternatives.
Hidden carbs have their way of ruining your diet and your results on keto. If you’re a proponent of processed foods on keto, odds are that you will encounter issues with hidden carbs.
A lot of processed foods contain secret carbs that can add up and disrupt ketone production. Whenever you’re buying processed “low carb” foods, always ensure to check the labels.
Insomnia and too much stress
Stress and ketosis are like oil and water. They never seem to agree. If you are stressed, it will trigger the release of the hormone cortisol, which encourages fat storage rather than fat burning.
Also, lack of adequate sleep can stall weight loss as well. Lack of adequate sleep increases your cravings, making you eat more than you normally would thereby making weight loss harder.
These are the more common reasons you could be causing your own keto weight loss plateau. Now, let’s find how to break through and conquer them.
How to break through a keto plateau and keep losing weight
The good news is, with a couple of little tweaks and changes, you can easily break through a keto weight loss plateau and keep losing weight. Here’s how you can break through your weight loss plateau on the ketogenic diet.
Focus on real whole foods
Yes, there are so many processed low carb foods you can buy in stores nowadays. Till you get to your ideal weight, it might be best to steer clear of them.
Processed foods are generally higher in carbs, calories or both and may also contain hidden carbs as opposed to their real whole counterparts. These conditions don’t really make them the best options when trying to lose weight on keto
Rather, focus on real whole foods. Not only are they lower in carbs and calories, making weight loss easier, they are also more nutrient-rich. For you to be able to lose weight more healthily, you foods need to be rich in nutrients.
Basically, real whole foods should be your main focus when trying to lose weight rather than processed foods
Recalculate your macros
As your fat loss progresses on keto, there becomes less of you to maintain, so your previous macronutrient ratios might need a little bit of change. By using a keto calculator, you can redefine your macronutrient ratios as your fat loss progresses to help you stay on track with your goals.
We recommend that you redefine your macro ratios every 30 or 45 days when trying to lose weight on keto. That way, you get information based on what to take based on your new body weight. Here’s how you can do it
- Use a keto calculator
- Put in your information based on your body weight and goal
- Follow the ratios for at least 30 to 45 days
- Recalculate your ratios based on your new body weight
- Adjust your diet to fit in your new ratios
- Keep losing weight.
By updating your macronutrient ratios, you’ll get to know how to provide your body with the quantities and proportions it needs to keep the fat loss going.
A common mistake people tend to make is changing their macros way too often. Your body needs a little time to work with new macro ratios
To know if your macro ratios are working for you, follow them for at least a month before you judge the results you get or make any changes.
Make necessary changes to your habit
Certain habits could be stalling your fat loss on keto and making changes to these habits can help you break through your keto weight loss plateau and lose more weight. Here are some habits to change
Snacking – snacks are great and we all love them. Like I mentioned earlier, snacks have their own calories and carb counts as well. By snacking less often or even cutting out snacks entirely, you’ll be consuming less carbs and calories, thereby making weight loss easier
Cheat days – cheat days can be fun as well, but it takes your body a couple of days to get back in ketosis and get back on track after falling off. If you want to keep losing weight on keto, cheating every now and then won’t help. Remember, consistency is key.
Eat sufficient protein
Protein is a very important nutrient. Apart from being one of the primary building block in the human body, protein also helps to increase satiety and reduce cravings. Eating enough protein can help you feel fuller for longer.
Also, protein is good for building and maintaining muscle mass. Muscles need more calories than fat to maintain themselves, hence, protein boosts metabolism. Eating sufficient protein can help you preserve muscle mass and boost metabolism to aid fat loss.
Although it’s important to remember, eating too much protein isn’t too ideal as well and can affect ketosis, so it’s important not to overdo it. You can find out how much protein you need by using a keto calculator.
For more information on how to eat sufficient protein on keto without disrupting ketosis, check out our guide to protein on the keto diet.
Try intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) has been a very effective tool for weight loss. Keto and intermittent fasting make a powerful combo when done right. Intermittent fasting is good for speeding up weight loss or even getting rid of stubborn fat as you approach your ideal weight.
Intermittent fasting involves eating during specific time windows and at specific time intervals. For example, a common one is called 16:8, which involves eating during an 8-hour window and abstaining from all calorie containing food for 16 hours.
Intermittent Fasting encourages ketone production and also enhances fat burning. If you are experiencing a plateau in your weight loss as you get closer to your ideal weight, IF may be useful in burning off the stubborn fat.
Consider tracking your calories
Calorie counting isn’t the regular on the keto diet. This is because keto foods are highly satiating and reduce cravings, making you consume fewer calories without even noticing, hence removing the need to track calories.
But if your weight loss seems to be stalling and you want to maintain a good calorie deficit, then you might want to consider tracking calories. A good way to do that is by using an app like Myfitnesspal or Cronometer.
By tracking your calories, you can better monitor your calorie deficit and adjust it to favour your fat loss. It’s also important not to overdo it on the calories. If you have less fat to lose, you don’t want your calorie deficit to be too large.
This is because once your calorie deficit becomes too large or bigger than what your fat stores can cover for, your body gets the impression that you are starving and goes into starvation mode, thereby “preserving” your fat stores and making weight loss harder.
If you are closer to your ideal weight, a 10 – 15% calorie deficit seems ok. In summary, tracking calories can prove useful and maintaining a healthy calorie deficit is important.
Avoid foods you’re sensitive to
Eating foods you’re sensitive to isn’t ideal for weight loss. This is because your body doesn’t like them and they can causes an inflammatory response, which makes losing weight more difficult.
Rather, focus on foods your body loves. There are hundreds of keto friendly foods for you to choose from. You can check out our keto food list for more info.
Practice stress management and get enough sleep
Too much stress can affect weight loss. To tackle stress, try meditating or doing yoga. A 5 minute meditation can go a long way. It puts your body at ease, meaning less cortisol, less fat storage and more fat burning.
Getting at least 8 hours of sleep is very important as well. Try to get enough sleep always.
Summing it all up – keto weight loss plateaus
At times during our weight loss journey, we may encounter road blocks and brick walls. A weight loss plateau is one of them. On the keto diet, you may find out that your weight loss is stalling. Although it’s no reason to panic
There are different reasons why your weight loss could be stagnant. Some could be termed natural while some could be caused by us.
Regardless of which one, there are steps you can take to break through your keto weight loss plateau and keep the scale moving. These include
- Focus on real whole foods
- Recalculate your macros every 30 or 45 days
- Avoid foods you’re sensitive to
- Try intermittent fasting
- Eat sufficient protein
- Consider tracking your calories and maintain a healthy calorie deficit
- Make necessary changes to your habit
- Manage stress and get enough sleep
With these, it should be easier to break through your keto weight loss plateau and keep losing weight.
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- Effects of Dietary Protein Source and Quantity during Weight Loss on Appetite, Energy Expenditure, and Cardio-Metabolic Responses – NCBI
- Intermittent fasting and metabolic health – NCBI
- Impact of a stress management program on weight loss, mental health and lifestyle in adults with obesity – NCBI
- Long term stress and weight gain – Cleveland clinic
- Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity – NCBI
- Adequate sleep to improve the treatment of obesity – NCBI