The ketogenic diet is not only known to be one of the most effective weight loss tools but has proven to have many health benefits. Ketosis is a state at which your body produces ketones in the liver, shifting the body’s metabolism away from glucose and towards fat utilization.
Unless you can check your blood ketones, using Ketostix is an easy way to detect urinary ketones. It’s not the most accurate method, but may be good enough to find out whether you are in ketosis. In some cases, weight loss may be difficult even on a low-carb ketogenic diet and there may be a few possible reasons for weight stalling, which I have listed in this post.
1. Too Many Carbohydrates
Are carbs starting to sneak back into your diet? Be honest and start tracking everything using KetoDietApp. A little treat here and there adds up. Some are more carb sensitive (or insulin resistant) than others. I know that my carbs have to be around 50g/day to be feeling great and in control of my appetite. Lower than that and I will lose a little bit of weight, above that and I know my weight loss will stall. I generally go between 35-70g/day without too much tracking because I have done it for so long.
Your carbohydrate intake may be too high. Try to decrease your daily carbs limit. Also, try to include coconut oil in your diet. Coconut oil consists of MCTs (Medium chain triglycerides), which are easily digestible, less likely to be stored by your body and are used for immediate energy. MCTs are converted in the liver into ketones, which helps you enter ketosis.
2. Protein is Too High or Too Low
Your protein intake may be too high/ low. Protein is the most sating macronutrient and you should include high-quality animal protein in your diet. If you don’t eat enough protein, you will feel more hungry and most likely eat more. Lack of protein can also lead to muscle loss. However, if you eat too much protein, the excess protein converts into glycogen and disrupts ketosis.
Keep in mind that you will have to eat a lot more than you should – 10-15 more grams won’t make a difference. This is not the most likely reason, as it’s not as easy to eat too much protein unless you take protein supplements. Phinney and Volek in their book “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” recommend 0.6 – 1 gram of protein per a pound of lean mass / 1.3 – 2.2 grams of protein per a kilogram of lean mass a day (lean mass = total body weight without fat).
3. Carb Cheating / Carb Creep
Carb cheating / carb creep is another possible reason for weight loss plateaus. You have to be really disciplined and aware of all carbs you eat. It’s a little nibbling here and there of the forbidden foods, leading to carb creep, so make sure you count all carbs. Dr. Eric Westman explains the ketogenic diet and emphasizes that even eating mints may affect ketosis and weight loss results. Sometimes, even when a label says “sugar-free”, it doesn’t have to be “carbs-free”!
4. Too Many Calories – Yes, They Do Count
The reason could be way too much fat and therefore calories in your diet. Firstly, it’s indisputable that all calories are NOT equal. It really matters whether you get them from healthy and sating LCHF food or processed food rich in carbs. However, some people on a LCHF diet may find it easier to lose weight if they also watch their calorie intake. Fat contains twice as many calories as carbohydrates and protein, so it’s important your fat intake lies between the recommended ranges. There is no diet that lets you consume “unlimited” amounts of calories and still lose weight.
Calories from fat should amount to 60-75% of your daily intake and overeating is not going to do any good. When it comes to the overall calorie intake, it depends on your individual maintenance level and how active you are. Keep in mind that the macronutrient ratio is not the only aspect you should consider – the type and quality of fats matter.
5. Eating Too Often or Eating Too Little
Some say you should snack little and often throughout the day. You need to learn what real hunger feels like and actually get used to the fact that being hungry is actually OK. The other extreme is to eat too little, you become so starving that you end up eating something you know you shouldn’t and sting far too much of it. Eat when you really think you need a meal, and make it nutritious. If all you want is a sweet treat, but not real food, then it’s probably a craving and not hunger. Cravings are a sign of insulin resistance, learn to resist them, reset your metabolism, you will finally gain control of your appetite.
6. Snacking on Nuts and Dairy
One of the common mistakes people make is that some people overeat dairy and nuts when they are trying to lose weight. You may experience weight stalling or even weight gain not because nuts and dairy will kick you out of ketosis but because these foods are calorie-dense and easy to overeat (100 grams of macadamia nuts has over 700 kcal and over 70 grams of fat!) There is no reason to avoid non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers or fruits like avocado or berries. These foods are very high in micronutrients, low in carbs and won’t impair your weight loss efforts.
Snacking on too many nuts, too often. Nuts are a great source of fiber, omega 3, selenium. Also, watch which nuts you consume. Cashews are the worst for carbohydrates, about 20%. Also, make sure your nut mix doesn’t contain any dried fruit. The trail mixes are the worst. Measure out a small dish of nuts and make them last for the day. Buy nuts in their shells so it takes longer to eat them.
7. Lack of Sleep
Often an underestimated factor, not sleeping enough can stall or prevent weight loss.
Lack of sleep can throw off your circadian rhythms and mess with your body’s biological clocks. All of your organs are set up for certain timing and messing with your sleep can put you at a severe disadvantage. Maximum fat loss can only be achieved with adequate sleep.
Sleep deficiency affects many aspects of your health. Your physical health takes a hit when your sleep isn’t at it’s best. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity.
Sleep has also been shown to be a contributing factor in the balance of hormones — especially hunger hormones. Ghrelin (the hormone that makes you feel hungry) and leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full) are both affected by lack of sleep. Your ghrelin goes up and your levels of leptin go down when you don’t get enough sleep[*], both of which are bad news for weight loss.
Caffeine is a stimulant which increases your adrenaline (the short-term hormone that gets you out of danger – “fight or flight”). It stimulates the liver to release glucose from its glycogen stores. What happens next? This new high level of glucose causes insulin to be released again, fat gets stored and fat burning turns off. If weight loss has stopped, can’t sleep, too stressed, stop the caffeine. You don’t have to give up your coffee, but just has a decaffeinated coffee and see how you feel.
9. You Have Food Sensitivities
Even if you are following your macros and tracking your calories, something may still seem off.
When your body is sensitive to a particular property in certain foods such as dairy or gluten, it can cause imbalances in the gut — which then leads to overall inflammation.
From there this inflammation may cause a multitude of chronic diseases in addition to weight gain. If you think you may be sensitive to a certain food, it’s important to experiment and pay close attention to what foods make you feel better or worse.
10. You’re Getting Too Much Exercise
You know the saying ‘too much of something can be a bad thing’?
That applies to many things, including exercise. Exercise is crucial in terms of improving overall health, however, there is a limit for everyone. The main type of exercise abused by those with a goal of weight loss is the addition of chronic cardio to their routines.
Repetitive aerobic training increases your appetite because your body feels deprived and will want those calories back.
And in a battle between your willpower and your biology, your biology will always win. You’ll end up overeating to compensate for the excess calories burned.
While all effective exercise creates some type of acute inflammation, chronic exercise can create systemic, internal inflammation as well as oxidative stress[*].