You might be experiencing a plateau if your weight loss is stalled on the keto diet
Now, listen. I said MIGHT. If you’re googling a keto diet plateau and ended up here, chances are you’re simply being impatient and need to KCKO (keep calm and keto on). However, stalling on the keto diet isn’t uncommon and sometimes after a long stall you need to make changes to your diet or exercise routine to break through a plateau.
For reasons unknown, our bodies sometimes like to stay a certain weight. This is called homeostasis. Even if you’re on a keto diet which certainly helps with regulating fat cells, you might find yourself stuck.
The science behind plateaus on the keto diet
This thing called Glucose tolerance
When you put on the weight you’re now trying to lose, your blood sugar was probably consistently high. It’s is more likely than not that you have some sort of glucose tolerance problems going on after years of eating a high carb diet. The problem is two fold. First of all there’s insulin resistance and second of all there’s glucose sensitivity in your cells. These lead to your glucose tolerance being impaired and therefore, even small amounts of carbs may lead you to reaching homeostatic weight.
Another thing called Visceral fat (it’s dangerous)
When your body is sugar (carb) burning instead of fat burning (ketosis), you seem to gain more fat in the mid section. This is called visceral fat, which is associated with a plethora of health issues. If you have a lot of visceral fat, you’re at higher risk for developing insulin resistance, which can lead to glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes.
Then there’s over-nutrition (too many calories)
Then there’s the good old calories in, calories out. Being in keto does not mean you’re on a magical diet and will lose weight if you eat too many calories, sorry. Lowering your calorie intake may lead to lower carb intake. If your body produces too much insulin, even a slight lowering of carbs will help you regulate your metabolism and move your homeostatic point back a little. But if you have healthy metabolism and are simply overeating, you’re not going to lose weight. Another issue might be overconsumption of protein. If you have problems with your glucose tolerance, too much protein may be converted to glucose.
Keto adaptation take a little time
You can get into ketosis rather quickly but over time, you´ll use ketones more efficiently. This is called keto adaptiation. If you’re using keto stick to measure ketones in your urine, they might even stop showing the purple color. As long as you’re still eating under 20 grams of carbs a day, don’t worry about it.
Leptin (satiety hormone) signaling
Leptin is the hormone that makes you feel full. Fat sends out leptin, so as you lose non-visceral fat, leptin is lower. This is a simplification and you can of course do more research on what happens during that process. Lower leptin might be partly to blame for stalls on the keto diet. I’ve read that some scientists have a theory that long term obesity can burn out your leptin receptors but I haven’t read the research. Speaking of leptin receptors (a great name for a band), I’ve also read that insulin interferes with them. So that’s another good reason to stay in ketosis.
Cheating on the carb intake (please, don’t be tempted to do that)
I get it. Eating keto all the time can be difficult, boring, etc. I’ve fallen off the wagon and it usually starts with a little cheat here and there. It’s not worth it. And what’s more, if we keep cheating on our carb intake, the insulin creeps up and starts messing with your weight loss. So if you want to bust through a keto plateau, count your carbs and make sure you’re REALLY staying under 20 a day.
Ok then, but what do I do about my keto plateau?
Like I said in the beginning, maybe you’re experiencing a keto plateau, but maybe you’re just being a little impatient. So before you start jumping through hoops and trying all sorts of stuff, make sure it’s really a plateau. I can tell you that the scale is a very unreliable tool when you’re in keto. You should rather go by body fat measurements, your belt or your clothes. There have been many times when I’ve wondered why the scale isn’t budging but then noticed all my clothes fit a lot better. Usually, a few days later, the scale follows and shows a drop in weight.
That being said, here are some tips and tricks to use for breaking through a plateau
If you’re going to try something new, make sure you do it for a while, not just one day and then sulk when it doesn’t work. Try it for a month. Be persistent and consistent.
- Exercise! Find a program that fits your schedule and physical state. HIIT seems to work wonders for people.
- Try intermittent fasting (IF). You can start with 16/8 (fast for 16 hours, eat for 8 hours) or something more strict if you’re up for it. It shouldn’t be too hard if you’re already in ketosis.
- Do a fat fast where you eat nearly zero carbs. Eat around 90% fat and try to stay under 1000 calories a day. This isn’t really ideal but seems to do the trick for people who’ve been stuck on a plateau for 1-2 months. I don’t usually recommend doing it for more than 3 days.
- Do. Not. Cheat. With. Carbs. Did you hear me? Do. Not. Cheat. With. Carbs! Count them religiously and stay under 20 grams a day no matter what. They can mess everything up.
- Restrict your calories. Keto calculator is great. Set it to sedentary, put in your info and see how many calories you should be eating. The folks over at /r/1200isplentyketo on Reddit are great. On the subreddit you´ll find good information, recipes etc.
- Wait and be patient. If you stay in ketosis, your cells might lose some of their insulin resistance and you´ll lose more weight gradually over a longer period of time.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of counting calories on the keto diet but I still do it and it’s helping.
I have frequent stalls and the culprits are usually too many calories (hello “splash” of cream in my coffee) or carbs sneaking in. Not with cheating but I sometimes go slightly over with things like onion, lemon, veggies, berries and dairy products like Greek yogurt.
Good luck. I hope you figure out how to keep losing weight with keto. Whatever you do, don’t give up. The last thing you want to do is say “screw it” and grab a donut.