You might be a few weeks in, or a few months in to your Keto weight loss journey when suddenly – nothing. No weight drop, no centimetres gone. Your weight loss has stalled even though you are doing everything the same as you always have.A weight loss stall on keto can be really frustrating and a bit disheartening as well, but don’t give in.
It is crucial to remember that the Ketogenic way of eating is not a quick fix, it’s not a crash diet and it’s not overnight.
You are making a lifestyle change that will affect the rest of your life. What else have you learnt that has such a dramatic change, that hasn’t come with it’s own share of trial and error, mistakes and research?
We are all different, and will all react differently to Keto. Your current state of health is an accumulation of everything you have done to this point, so it is a matter of trial and error.
I have compiled the below information throughout my time on Keto and hope that it helps you on your journey. There’s a lot of information here, so sit back, grab a bullet proof coffee and take your time.
What is a true Keto Weight Loss Stall?
The first step is identifying whether you are actually in a stall. Early on, I used to start panicking when my weight stayed the same for more than 3 or 4 days and start researching like crazy.
It is key to remember that a few days, or even 1 or 2 weeks, is not necessarily a stall.
Once you get to 3 – 4 weeks at the same weight and measurements is when you can start assessing what is happening to break that stall.
The Whoosh Effect
Your body isn’t going to lose weight every day. Burning fat is a complex process, and your body doesn’t burn fat and lose weight at the same time – it does one and then the other.
You might have heard of ‘The Whoosh Effect”. This theory is that as you burn fat, sometimes you’ll notice certain areas on your body that feel sort of soft and squishy – I noticed this particularly around my stomach, bum and thighs. Then, a few days later, this disappears and you get a sudden ‘Whoosh” on the scale!
After you’ve lost fat consistently for a while, your body starts holding on to more water. This was observed in the Minnesota Starvation Experiment (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Starvation_Experiment) where the participants’ weight loss would slow down dramatically, and then they would suddenly drop on the scales as their cells let go of the water it was holding on to.
The diagram below makes the rounds in the Keto community and helps explain this effect;
So if it’s been a week or two of a weight loss stall on keto, your body might be preparing for a whoosh and it’s important to trust the process and that Keto works.
If you’re more like 3 or 4 weeks at the same weight, it’s time to reassess your keto approach and below are 8 reasons why you could be stalling, and what to do about them.
Problem 1: Carb Creep
This is one of the most common issues that can affect weight loss on keto. Keeping your carbs to a minimum really is the key to being in nutritional ketosis, and having your body run on ketones/fat rather than carbs.
I have written an entire separate article on the 7 Sneaky Carbs that may be holding you back. There are so many foods that have carbs you would never even expect, and if these are creeping into your diet, you can suddenly be out of keto and eating a lot more carbs than you might realise.
Track those carbs, or stick to green list foods only. I like to use My Fitness Pal to track my macros, and Ruled.me do a great article on configuring the app for Keto (https://www.ruled.me/carb-tracking-for-keto-diet/). Track everything – every spice, onion, sauce etc etc as the total may end up a lot higher than you first thought!
Problem 2: You are nearing your goal weight
As you get closer to your goal weight, your weight loss will naturally slow down. In the beginning, especially if you have a lot to lose, the weight loss can happen at a staggeringly fast pace.
It will naturally slow down as your body has less fat to be consuming to make up your calorie deficit, and may grind to a halt as your body says nope, that’s all folks!
Solution: Get a body fat test/scan done.
This will help you work out if you should actually be losing any more body fat, and what your true goal weight should be. We obsess about the scales way too much, and it can be damaging to our self esteem and motivation .
I found my weight loss halted about 3kgs above what I thought my ‘goal weight’ was, but when I had a body scan completed, I found I was at 19% body fat – at the top end of the fitness category, so I didn’t have any more fat to lose without heading into body builder category.
Problem 3. Your macros are off
I see this all the time and made the mistake myself a few times in the past, causing my weight loss stall on keto.
Your macros should be around 5% carbs, 20% protein and 75% fat, and generally you shouldn’t have more than a 20 – 25% calorie deficit – ie. 25% less calories than you need for the day.
Your Keto mantra should be:
Carbs are a limit, Protein is a goal, Fat is a lever
What does this mean?
Carbs – don’t go over
Protein – push yourself to get to it every day
Fats – add fat until you are full
Calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure here: https://tdeecalculator.net/
then deduct 20 – 25% for a calorie deficit,
Or, this calculator https://keto-calculator.ankerl.com/ provides all of your macros broken down according to how much protein you want to eat but can risk undereating on protein.
I personally use the TDEE calculator, and then use the custom goals in My Fitness Pal to tell me how many grams of each macro I should be eating. Making these calculations early in your Keto journey isn’t as important, however if you are hit with a weight loss stall on keto it may be something to consider.
Problem 4. Too much protein.. or not enough
Related to the above, protein is a really key macro (as they all are!) but is often misunderstood or pushed to the side with the heavy focus on fat in the keto way of eating.
Too little protein can cause muscle loss, fatigue, low sex drive, depression, anxiety and anaemia. Too much protein and you won’t be in ketosis and your body will look to protein for fuel, which can lead to muscle break down.
Solution: Calculate how much protein you need.
The general rule of thumb most people use is;
- Sedentary: .6 – .8grams per pound of body weight
- Moderately active: .8 – .1 grams per pound of body weight
- Highly active 1 – 1.2 grams per pound of body weight
Stuck? Use this great calculator by the Keto Diet App
Problem 5. You aren’t eating enough
Eat less, move more… right? This is what we’ve been told for decades – you are overweight because you eat too much and you are lazy.
We all now know that weight gain and loss is so much more complex than this, but shaking the idea that eating less = more weight loss can be really difficult.
I regularly see people saying they are eating 800 or 1000 calories a day. If you have substantial body fat, you can not be hungry for long periods of time as your body is consuming your fat stores instead. Of course, this is what we want, but you need to be hitting your protein macro and of course getting in sufficient nutrients at the same time.
Calculating how much you should be eating, even with a substantial calorie deficit, will get you on the right path. This is one of the best calculators I have seen: https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/page/KetoDiet-Buddy
Focus on the Keto Mantra: Carbs are a limit, Protein is a goal, Fat is a lever. Balance your meals around protein and vegetables, keeping carbs low, and add fat to keep you full.
Problem 6. Food sensitivities and fake foods
It is easy to get caught up in all the delicious fake keto foods out there – I’m talking about the packaged brownies, cookies, chocolate bars etc. Look at the ingredients and these things are loaded with artificial EVERYTHING.
Food sensitivities can also play a huge role. While you are eating keto, you are trying to heal your entire digestive system, and part of this can spark food sensitivities that you never knew were there.
Solution: Cut it Out!
Many people have great success cutting out some or all of the following;
- Any prepackaged ‘keto’ foods eg. protein bars, shakes and the like
- Preservatives (like those in wine)
If you are sensitive to a certain food, eating it can cause internal inflammation and you could be holding on to water weight. Try cutting out something you suspect is derailing you for 3 weeks, and then reintroduce it slowly to see if you have a reaction.
Problem 7. Eating too often
Keto can be an incredibly liberating way of eating. For the first time, you are encouraged to have all those delicious snacky foods like cheese, nuts and cream.
The issue is a lot of people can be tempted to go overboard and end up eating frequently, and too much. Many of the common keto snack foods are very calorie dense and can add up very quickly. Eating too frequently can also be taxing on your digestive system, and many people are reaping the benefits of fasting in its many different forms.
Plan your meals and only eat when hungry, focusing on satisfying your protein goal.
Track your food in My Fitness Pal to ensure you’re not going over. Limit snacking as much as possible, if not at all.
Consider fasting, with more information here: https://aussieketoqueen.com/intermittent-fasting-keto/
Problem 8. Stress, sleep and overall health
Your body is more interconnected than we could ever possibly imagine. If you are lacking in sleep, are overly stressed or are in otherwise poor health, everything will be affected including your weight loss on keto.
Solution: The usual of course – sleep more, stress less and exercise!
Exercising for just 30 minutes a day can improve all of these factors. It can be a brisk walk or jog, some pilates or yoga from youtube or running around with your kids or dog.
Meditation is also of huge benefit, both to your overall health and your well being as a person. I love the Headspace app personally.
Last but not least, many people have had success in breaking a weight loss stall on keto by mixing it up – changing what you are eating and when. This could include a fat fast, an egg fast, a water fast, intermittent fasting, eating one large meal a day and so many other ways.
Changing what you are doing can give your body the wake up call it needs, as your body can get used to how you are eating very quickly and become stubborn. If you have tried the above methods already and are still stalled, I’d recommend looking into the different types of fasting that can get things going again.
I hope this article has been helpful to those of you finding yourself in a weight loss stall.