If you’re not losing weight on keto then you’re not alone. The keto diet is one of the most popular diets out there for losing weight right now but not everybody is getting results with it.
With the keto diet, you keep your total carbohydrate intake for the day under 50 grams. Numerous health studies are finding the keto diet to be beneficial for weight loss, diabetes, heart disease and can even help with autoimmune diseases (1,2,3,4).
Usually, with typical diets for weight loss, your body is in a state of glucosis. This means you’re using sugars and carbs for fuel. But with ketosis, you’ll not have enough of these sugars so it’ll switch over to burning stored fat for fuel instead (5).
Problems start popping up when you think you’re doing everything right with the keto diet but haven’t gotten the weight loss results you want. Maybe you haven’t cheated at all on the keto diet but without weight loss results, it can make you want to throw in the towel.
If you’re feeling at a loss and wanting to give up then make sure you read this first. I know it can be frustrating to put in the work doing the keto diet for weeks without much weight loss to show for it. But you could easily be doing something wrong and here I’ll show you how to fix it so you’ll start losing weight with the ketogenic diet.
Why No Weight Loss with the Keto Diet?
The biggest problem I’ve noticed with people not getting weight loss results with keto mostly comes down to two things…
- You’re not actually in ketosis
- You’re eating too many calories
When you’re in actual ketosis your liver will produce ketones in high amounts. These ketones will end up providing energy to your body (6). Not having enough ketones won’t allow you to lose weight on the keto diet.
Most people who are new to the keto diet can underestimate how difficult it can be to get into ketosis. It’s a smart idea to measure your level of ketone levels by using ketone test strips or a breath meter. This way you’ll know for sure if you’re in ketosis.
Once your body is in ketosis it’ll start using your fat stores for energy fuel. This is the basic foundation of why so many people can lose weight on the keto diet. But you have to also make sure you’re not eating too much (fats included) while on the keto diet. If you’re consuming too many calories and fats then your body will first try to burn those fats for energy instead of your fat stores (7).
Another one of the health and weight loss benefits with the keto diet is an increase in metabolism (8). When in ketosis your body can burn an extra 300 calories per day. This will result in a boost of up to 20% of your fat burning metabolism. This is a thermogenic effect meaning your body heat temperatures rises resulting in more calories burned (9).
But with any diet, you won’t always lose a lot of weight right off that bat even though you think you’re doing everything right. Newbies to the keto diet can end up making mistakes that will derail and slow down their weight loss results. Make sure you check out the common mistakes below and then fix them to start really losing weight.
When you start any diet it’s easy to set your expectations sky-high. But sometimes the keto diet like all diets takes a little bit of time to get going properly. If it’s only been a week or two then you might still need to dial some things in before the results start coming in. Patience here is going to help out a lot…
Dirty Keto and Lazy Keto = Trash
One of the biggest problems I see with people trying the keto diet for weight loss is using “dirty keto” and “lazy keto” methods.
Dirty keto is when you eat pretty much anything you want as long as you keep your carbohydrates low, high fat, and hit all your macronutrient requirements. This usually involves a lot of processed foods and other junk that isn’t all that keto friendly.
Lazy keto is when you don’t count your calories, eat high fat, and keep your carbohydrates intake below 50g per day. The theory behind this is you can eat until you feel full and you should be losing weight as long as you’re in ketosis by keeping your carb intake to a minimum.
The problem with this is they both contain processed foods that lack nutrients. If your body isn’t getting the needed micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) then your metabolism is going to slow down. And in the end, your fat burning and weight loss will go down the tubes (10).
Dairy products aren’t a keto friendly food for the most part so you have to watch out for on the keto diet. Yeah it’s high fat but it’s surprisingly high in sugars and causes an insulinemic response in your body (11). It could easily kick you out of ketosis which will throw off your weight loss results. Since it’s high fat it’ll also contain many calories which won’t help you lose weight. Plus dairy products for many people causes an allergic response in their body resulting in high inflammation (12). Inflammation in the body can lead to increases in weight gain (13).
If you’re eating out at restaurants can also throw a monkey wrench into your results as well. Even though you may order a “keto friendly” low carb option at the restaurant that doesn’t mean it won’t contain a sky-high amount of calories and hidden sugars/carbs (14). Pre-making your keto friendly meals is the best way to know for sure what exactly you’re eating.
Lastly, most people on the keto diet replace their sugar cravings with artificial sweeteners. Health studies have found artificial sweeteners lead to weight gain despite them contains zero calories or sugars (15). Sugar alcohols such as maltitol, sorbitol and xylitol can still cause an insulinemic response in the body (16). The one sugar alcohol that won’t can a blood glucose response is erythritol.
You’re Still Eating Too Many Carbs
At the end of the day, I’ve noticed far too many people who are still eating too many carbs even though they think they’re in ketosis. Now, this is going to derail their results and can leave you clueless as to why you’re not losing weight on keto.
Many people starting the keto diet underestimate just how difficult it can be to reach true ketosis. It can take weeks before you’re able to get your body into ketosis. Plus you could experience the dreaded “keto flu” and hunger pangs that’ll make you feel nauseated for over a week.
When on the keto diet you should be keeping your daily carb intake from 0-50g per day. So it’ll only end up making up 5-10% of your daily caloric intake. Like said earlier it’s critical to make sure you’re measuring your ketones. This way you’ll have a non-objective tool to let you know if you need to make adjustments to your keto diet strategy.
You could also pick up a ketone supplement (Keto Elevate is the best) that’ll help to kick your body into ketosis. Health studies have found they can boost weight loss as well as improve blood glucose response (17). It’ll provide your body with high quality ketones that will kick your body into an enhanced fat burning mode.
Drinking Alcohol & Retaining Water
A common mistake I see with people starting the keto diet is alcohol consumption. Now I’m not saying you can’t have any alcohol while on the keto diet but most people are drinking the wrong stuff and way too much.
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. This is pretty high number of calories when you think about it. Protein and carbs each contain 4 cal/g while fats are the highest with 9 cal/g. So you can see having a couple of drinks per night can easily push you over the limit for calories per day.
Plus many alcoholic drinks contain sugars and carbs. You can find my list of the best alcoholic drinks for weight loss here. If you are for sure hitting all your macronutrients for the day then you could drink a glass of low-sugar wine at night to wind down.
Another common perceived mistake with the keto diet is water retention. If your body is holding onto the water then it’s going to throw off the scale every time you step on it.
If you’re not eating enough and getting the required nutrients then your body is going to want to hold onto more water (18). It does this as a health survival mechanism to try and hold onto as much fuel and nutrients as it can. Once you’re able to replenish these nutrients then your body should quickly flush out much of this stubborn water weight.
If you’re wanting to know how to get rid of water weight then check out my article. And crazy enough drinking more water if your dehydrated will help you lose more weight too. Take your body weight in pounds, divided by half and that’s the minimum amount of fluid ounces of water you should be drinking daily.
You’re Eating Too Many Fats & Calories
Now just because you’re on the keto diet it doesn’t mean you can eat all the fats you want. Fats contain a sky-high amount of calories so it’s far too easy to overeat them. When anybody starts the keto diet they can unknowingly are eating too many fats which will result in not reaching a calorie deficit.
And it doesn’t matter what diet you’re on. If you’re eating too much and not in a calorie deficit then your body most likely isn’t going to lose weight (19). You have to make sure you’re in a caloric deficit to ensure the excess weight is going to come off.
Make sure you’re using a calorie and macronutrient tracker such as Myfitnesspal to measure how much you’re eating and if you’re eating enough. It’s common for people to underestimate how much they’re eating (20). For most men trying to lose weight ketosis, it’s best to keep it around 1500 calories per day and for women around 1200-1300.
A big problem is snacking and grazing on food all day (21). If you’re mindlessly snacking while watching TV, working on the computer, playing on your phone, etc. it can become far too easy to overeat on snacks. This high number of calories can quickly add up and push you over your daily limit.
Be careful with snacking on nuts too. They contain a little too many calories and way to easy to overeat on. You could easily go through a whole can while watching your favorite show on TV so be careful.
Your Hormones Are Out of Whack
Now you can try every diet in the world but if your hormones are out-of-whack then you’re not going to lose much weight. This can be one of the most frustrating causes of a lack of weight loss because it can hide from you.
Sometimes when you start a diet your body will respond by kicking into “starvation mode.” This is when your body sees that calorie intake and nutrients aren’t coming in as quickly as they used to. So the survival instinct kicks in by slowing down your metabolism so you don’t end up dying from famine. This is one of the reasons why you can’t lose weight on diets super low in calorie intake end up failing in the long run (21).
Leptin is known as your “starvation hormone” and lets your brain know when you have enough fat stores so you can readily burn them for energy. If you’re is leptin sensitive then it’s working as it should by telling you to stop eating when you’re full-on food. But if it’s not working right and in a state of leptin resistance then you’re going to want to overeat ending with you gaining weight (22).
Your thyroid can become negatively impacted if you’re leptin resistant. And your thyroid plays a major role in your fat-burning metabolism so much that you won’t be able to lose weight. If your leptin levels are great then your brain will tell your thyroid to release the right hormones for weight loss. But if leptin resistant it could cause your thyroid to not function properly. This will lead to a slower metabolism and weight gain (23).
The “hunger hormone” ghrelin is another possibly problematic hormone with weight loss. As you lose weight your body naturally responds with releasing more ghrelin causing you to feel hungry. This is precisely why most diets fail because people get too hungry and end up binging instead (24).
The good news with the ketogenic diet is it could help to improve these two vital weight loss hormones. But if your hormones are out-of-whack from years of malnutrition then it could take some time before you’re able to correct them.
Stop Eating So Much Protein
Most people think the ketogenic diet is a high protein diet but that’s not necessarily true. If you’re eating too much protein then it could easily kick you completely out of ketosis.
It’s best to keep your daily protein intake below 30% for optimal results. For many people, this is a number to play with as your ideal number could be anywhere from 20-30%.
If you’re working out with resistance training then it could also throw a monkey wrench in your ketogenic diet. Eating too much protein could kick your body into gluconeogenesis (25). This when you start to convert this extra protein into stored sugar.
Crazy enough this will end up causing you to gain weight and increase fat. stores. Your body will still end up using glucose first for energy and will stop burning your fat stores for fuel. Many bodybuilders switching over to the keto diet end up going through this since they’re used to eating high amounts of protein.
Sky High-Stress Levels (Not Enough Sleep)
If your stress levels are constantly through the roof then you could be throwing off your weight loss progress. Being under too much stress will cause a release in the “fight or flight” hormone cortisol (26).
Numerous studies have found a link between chronically high cortisol levels and increases in weight gain, especially around the belly (27). With all the stresses today we’re constantly under it’s no secret that this is one of the hidden causes of weight gain.
Having too high cortisol levels from excess stress with also stop you’re ability to lose weight on the keto diet. This can matter as much as how many calories you eat every day. The ketogenic diet isn’t very effective if you’re stressed out all the time with elevated cortisol levels.
Most people aren’t getting enough sleep today even though it’s one of the best ways to destress. Without enough quality sleep, you’re more likely to become insulin resistant and unable to control blood glucose (28,29). Both of which will lead to weight gain.
Studies have also found a lack of sleep can cause a big reduction in will power the next day (30). So if your self-control is diminished it’s going to make it a lot more difficult to stick to your diet and workouts.
Getting your stress levels under control and ensuring you get enough quality sleep per night can enhance your weight loss. Or keep you from losing it.
That’s Not Fat, it’s Muscle Weight
I’ve never really been a fan of “losing weight.”
When most people want to lose weight they’re talking about is fat loss. So if you’re working out and doing any kind of resistance training then you’re going to gain lean muscle mass.
Now lean muscle mass also weighs something. So if you step on the scale and have lost fat mass but also gain a little bit of lean muscle mass then it’s going to throw off the scale. You could be getting some impressive results but the scale will deceivingly tell you otherwise.
This is why I like to tell my clients to track their body fat percentage as well as their inches. If on the right path then you should notice both going down. The scale might tell you otherwise but you’ll know the truth about how impressive your results are.
And if you’re doing the right workouts then you shouldn’t have to worry about “bulking up.” A lot of my female clients are scared of adding big bulky muscles from working out but this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Adding some lean muscle mass (while burning fat) will help to tone and shape your body while preventing the dreaded “skinny fat” syndrome.
Or if you’re not working out at all then you might want to get more active. Sedentary lifestyles make it a lot more difficult to lose weight keto. Adding in some HIIT workouts and some kind of cardio can take your weight loss up to the next level.
How do I maximize my weight loss on keto?
You maximize how much weight you lose on the keto diet by not doing the lazy or dirty keto methods. Keeping your carbs below 50g for the day isn’t going to do a whole lot if you’re overeating on calories and not in a calorie deficit. Getting your hormones right, getting enough sleep, keeping stress levels low and working out will all work together to maximize your weight loss.
The Last Word
At the end of the day, I’ve found most people who have trouble with their weight do best on a low carb diet. But that doesn’t mean you have do a ketogenic diet to lose weight. I use a form of low carb cycling which I found to work better and is more sustainable in the long run. You can find this place in The Flat Belly Formula.
Naturally thinner people also tend to do better on a higher carbohydrate intake and protein diet with low fats. It’s always best to experiment to see what works best for our body type. If you have any medical conditions then it’s best to talk to your doctor before you try to lose weight on the keto diet.
There are other health benefits to the keto diet other than just losing weight such as better insulin sensitivity and a lower risk of heart disease. It can be more than difficult to stick to the keto diet forever which is why I stick with a carb cycling plan. But for many people, the keto diet has been a game-changer for them.
But like with any diet you could end up plateauing sooner or later. The human body is amazing and it’s able to adapt to the stresses you place on it. Sometimes the reason you stopped losing weight keto diet is a sign you have to mix things up or take them to the next level. This is why you might also want to try Intermittent Fasting to lose weight on keto.
Hopefully, you now know why you can’t lose weight on the keto diet so you can pinpoint what’s wrong and fix it ASAP so you can get right back to reaching your weight loss goals.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.