The keto diet has emerged as one of the best ways to torch fat and keep the pounds off. Bodybuilding pros and fitness competitors swear by it for a lean, muscular body.
Classic Physique superstar Breon Ansley, for example, follows a low-carb, high-fat diet year diet — and switches to keto for three or four weeks before competing.
This diet plan switches your metabolism from burning glucose to using ketone bodies as a source of energy. The key is to get your macros right.
A typical ketogenic diet requires the following macronutrient ratios:
- 5-10% carbs
- 30-35% protein
- 55-60% fat
What makes the keto diet so appealing is the fact that it provides quick results. Don’t be surprised if you drop 10 pounds or more in the first week!
However, weight loss isn’t the same as fat loss. You’ll most likely lose water weight during your first week on keto. That’s largely due to carb restriction.
Weight Loss Plateau
Results from more than 300 patients enrolled in Virta Health’s type 2 diabetes program show the average patient in the first year of following a low-carb diet had fairly steady weight loss for nine months. This was followed by about three months of a plateau that the researchers called “weight stability.”
With strict adherence to the diet, weight began to trend down again in the second year.
Other factors besides sticking to the diet can influence the number on the scale and how it moves: your dieting history, your resting metabolic rate, how much weight you have to lose, how much muscle you carry on your frame, your body fat percentage, how insulin resistant you are, and whether you have hormonal issues. We’ll talk about these factors and how to work with them, below.
Are you eating a low-carb or keto diet but your weight loss might have been stuck? Does your scale seem the same, yet you think you still have ample weight to lose?
We know it can be frustrating to see friends and family successfully losing weight and gaining health with low carb when you feel you are not.
You may wonder, “Am I doing something wrong? What else can I do? Is this eating plan right for me?”
We aim to empower you to make informed and evidence-based choices that are right for you. Our goal is to help you understand the pace of your unique journey and find options to try to get the scale moving again.
Mistake No. 1: Skimping on Fat
Eat fat to burn fat. Does it sound familiar? Contrary to popular belief, dietary fat isn’t the villain in your diet. In fact, it can streamline your weight loss efforts and keep your appetite in check.
Mistake No. 2: Eating Too Much Protein
One of the most common keto mistakes is eating too much protein. Sure, you need this nutrient to build mass and strength, but try not to go overboard.
The ketogenic diet is high in fats, moderate in protein, and low in carbs. Protein aids in weight loss due to its ability to suppress appetite and reduce muscle breakdown. It also exhibits a high thermogenic effect, causing your body to burn more calories. When combined with strength training, it promotes hypertrophy and balances your hormones, which further increases fat loss.
The downside is that when you eat too much protein, the excess will be used for fuel. This can kick you out of ketosis and prevent your body from burning stored fat.
Watch for carb creep
Look for and eliminate hidden carbs in foods such as sausages, deli meats, dressings, sauces, packaged goods, and “keto” products. Are you eating too many higher-carb vegetables like carrots, squash, onions, or rutabaga? Have you cut out all high-carb fruit and stopped drinking all fruit juice? If you are eating berries often, cut back or eliminate them for now.
Be careful with dairy and nuts
Full-fat dairy and most nuts are allowed on the keto diet, but too much of either can stall your progress.21Dairy, such as rich cheeses or cream in coffee, can be easy to over-consume. And it can be hard to just eat a few tasty, salty nuts. Reduce or eliminate both, and you may break your stall.
Fix your snack habit
The urge to snack may indicate that your regular meals are not providing enough protein or energy from fat. Your low-carb meals should allow you to go four or five hours without hunger. If they don’t, add protein or fat — or both — to your meals and see what happens. However, sometimes snacking is just a habit that needs to be broken. Even with low-carb or keto snacks, carbs and calories add up.
Get your “Goldilocks” protein
Protein intake should be like Goldilocks said: “Just right.” Too little protein can drive hunger, snacking, and overeating. Too much provides extra calories you don’t need. Our protein guide provides in-depth information and visuals to help you figure out how much is right for you. Plus, protein helps maintain your resting metabolic rate by preserving muscle mass.
Get your “Goldilocks” fat
Fat intake should be “just right” for you, too. Being able to eat fat is one of the reasons a keto diet can be so satiating. But you can over-do it. If you’re not losing weight, cut back on fat bombs, butter-filled coffee, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, and excessive use of whipping cream, coconut oil, and cheese. If you’re hungry between meals, add a bit of fat back in at the next meal, ideally with some high-quality protein, like a marbled steak or a piece of salmon with a lemon and butter sauce.
Avoid sweeteners and low-carb “treats”
Anything that tastes sweet, even if made with a no-carb sweetener, can keep cravings in place.22And low-carb foods that mimic their high-carb counterparts — like desserts, cakes, cookies, muffins, and breads — sweetened or not, are often less nutritious and may encourage overeating. Save them for very special occasions.
Try intermittent fasting
Nutrient-dense meals, ketosis, and being fat-adapted can all help you go for a number of hours without eating. When you’re ready, feel free to skip a meal and embrace intermittent fasting. Breakfast is often the easiest to skip. Mix up your fasting pattern, such as doing alternate day fasting, where you skip meals one day and then eat normally the next. This can help you avoid slowing your metabolism. Do short fasts, such as 16 to 24 hours maximum.
Add in exercise — especially weightlifting
Regular exercise — even just walking — can improve your health markers and burn more energy. High-intensity interval training is a quick and easy way to get fit. Add in resistance training, such as weightlifting or body-weight exercises, to build more muscle, and you will increase your resting metabolism and the amount of energy you burn all day. Time your exercise for before your first meal of the day or before dinner, when insulin is low, to encourage using your fat stores.
Be careful with alcohol
Although most people can occasionally enjoy some dry wines and spirits on a low-carb or keto diet, too much alcohol can contribute to a stall. Alcohol makes it easy to drink a lot of extra, non-nutritious calories. Plus, it gets metabolized first. This slows down the process of using your fat stores for energy.
Pay attention to stress and sleep
Food is not the only thing that contributes to stalls. Chronic stress and poor sleep can raise cortisol, which in turn increases cravings for carbs, stimulates hunger, and promotes abdominal obesity.