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If you’re using a low carb lifestyle to lose weight, there’s nothing more frustrating than running into a keto plateau – even if it looks like you’re doing everything right! Why does stalling on keto happen, and what are the best ways to break through a plateau on keto? We’ll go over all the answers here so you can turn that keto weight loss stall into a temporary setback.
What Is A Keto Weight Loss Stall?
Before we talk about the factors that can influence a keto diet plateau, it’s important to define a true weight plateau on keto.
A true keto diet plateau happens when you have followed a consistent keto way of eating for at least 3 months and the trend of weight loss has stopped.
Why so long? When many people first start a keto diet, the weight can come off quickly in the first week or two; that’s because your body isn’t using carbs to maintain your glycogen levels (or the water used to maintain those levels), causing you to lose “water weight.” After that point, weight loss can slow down and, like all diets, move in a non-linear way. You may believe you reached a stall, when in fact you’re experiencing normal up-and-down shifts in body weight.
If you ever participated in my Easy Keto Challenge, you’ll notice that I don’t recommend daily weigh-ins for this reason. From hormones to stress, so many factors can affect the number on the scale every day, and shift the a few pounds in one direction or the other. You need a consistent trend of weight loss before you can plateau.
In addition to natural weight fluctuations, a keto plateau needs at least 3 months to set in because it can take time to dial in your keto macros and consistently follow them. It would not make sense to think you hit a plateau on keto when 1) your macros may have been off, 2) your macros were correct but you weren’t able to follow them closely, or 3) you only followed your macros for a few weeks and haven’t seen results yet.
Now that you have a better idea of what it means to experience a keto plateau… why does it happen?
Reasons For Stalling On Keto:
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Reasons For Stalling On Keto
If you’re asking “why has my weight loss stalled?”, there may be several factors at play.
High insulin resistance
With high insulin resistance, the body has a hard time metabolizing food [*]. Glucose from food doesn’t end up powering cells, so an excess builds up and is eventually stored as fat. Your genetic makeup, age, and nutrition are just a few factors that can cause the issue, and it can affect anyone.
If you tried other fad diets before starting keto, they may play a role in your keto plateau. That’s because crash diets that cut out too many calories cause your body to break down muscle for energy instead, creating a low muscle mass. A lower muscle mass makes for a lower resting metabolism, which can make it harder to lose weight [*].
Food sensitivities & inflammatory foods
Dirty keto and alcohol on keto can technically fit your macros, but they can also contain hidden sugar, suboptimal fats, and preservatives that can trigger an inflammatory response, which makes it challenging to lose weight [*].
Too many carbs
If you’re new to keto, you may not realize how many carbs lurk in common foods, even if you stick to vegetables and other whole foods. Eating too many carbs will still cause your body to store fat instead of burn it, creating a keto weight loss stall.
Too much fat
You need fat for fuel on keto, but it’s not an all-access pass to eat as much fat as possible. Fat is more satisfying because it’s more than twice as calorie-dense as protein or carbs. And if you have too much, you may not achieve the calorie deficit you need to lose pounds.
Too little protein
Many keto dieters worry about having too much protein, believing it will kick them out of ketosis, a theory that studies have disproven [*]. The bigger contributor to stalling on keto is too little protein.
Why? Protein helps you feel full and contributes to muscle mass – which, as mentioned before, can improve your resting metabolism (especially with exercise).
Excess nuts or dairy
Nuts and dairy are definitely foods you’ll find on a keto grocery list, but it’s also easy to over-indulge on them. They are calorie dense and a serving has a pretty small volume, making it easy to go overboard. In addition, some people have a mild dairy sensitivity and not know it.
Medications and medical conditions
Some medications and conditions have weight gain as a side effect, which can add to the struggle of a keto weight loss stall. As always, don’t make changes without consulting your doctor. Talk to your doctor if you think these issues are contributing to the problem.
Sleep loss causes an increase in cortisol (a hormone that controls appetite) and insulin (a hormone that triggers fat storage) [*]. Thus, bad sleep habits can make you feel hungry when you’re not, and make excess weight harder to lose.
Stress or emotional eating
Even if you meal plan and count your macros, life happens on keto – and many of us take solace in food. Excess eating, especially in the form of low-quality and high-calorie comfort foods, can make a plateau on the keto diet even harder to overcome.
How To Break A Keto Plateau:
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How To Break A Plateau On Keto
Now you know why it happens. So, what to do when you plateau on keto? Luckily, you have lots of options.
The ultimate keto plateau buster! No matter how you do it, fasting can help with insulin resistance issues; when you eat less often, you stimulate insulin less often. Try intermittent fasting or egg fasting to get started.
Check your macros (again!)
Your body weight plays a big role in your daily macros. As your weight changes, your macros will change too. Use a macro calculator every month to reset your numbers.
Eliminate or reduce certain foods
Anecdotally, some people discover sensitivities to certain foods after adjusting to keto, or find that they overindulge in these foods: dairy, nuts, gluten, and artificial sweeteners are common culprits.
Consider cutting these foods out of your diet one at a time, for 2-3 weeks at a time, to see if it breaks the keto plateau.
Take stock of non-scale victories (NSVs)
Weight isn’t the only marker of success on keto! Successes off the scale include losing inches, having more energy, clear skin, regulating medical conditions, and having more endurance at the gym.
If you still have non-scale victories during a keto weight loss stall, a low carb lifestyle is still working for you in some way. Don’t give up just yet!
Studies show that working out, especially in the form of high-intensity exercise, can stimulate insulin and improve blood sugar levels in subjects with high insulin sensitivity [*]. If you haven’t developed a workout routine, try one out. And if you do work out, consider bumping up the intensity level.
Be patient and get support
For long-term results, it takes a long-term commitment. Go easy on yourself when it feels like it takes forever to break through a stall.
Connect with others on keto that are going through the same struggles. You’re not alone!
Conclusion: What To Do About A Keto Plateau
Stalling on keto doesn’t have to cause frustration. Try making changes in your diet and lifestyle to break a keto weight loss stall and start seeing results again.