The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb eating pattern that’s often used for weight loss.
Although many dieters experience rapid weight loss shortly after starting this diet, plateaus — in which your weight stubbornly stays the same — are also common.
This article examines the causes of a weight loss plateau on keto, alongside simple strategies to break it.
Weight loss is not always a linear process. Experiencing plateaus — or periods when you don’t lose weight — is common on any diet, including on the keto diet.
Plateauing is partly because your metabolism slows as you lose weight, meaning that you begin to burn fewer calories throughout the day (1).
Plateauing may also signal the need to reevaluate your macronutrient ratio and consider tracking your intake more carefully.
In particular, you may need to further restrict your intake of carbs and protein, which your body converts into glucose (sugar). Too much glucose may prevent you from entering ketosis — the desired metabolic state on the keto diet that causes your body to burn fat for fuel (2).
Additionally, consuming too many calories from high fat foods may prevent you from achieving a calorie deficit, which can hinder weight loss.
Keep in mind that although plateaus are common on the keto diet, you may want to consult your healthcare provider if a plateau is accompanied by other persistent adverse symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, constipation, or nausea.
Weight loss plateaus on the keto diet may be due to changes in your metabolism, as well as your diet and lifestyle.
Here are a few tips to help you break your weight loss plateau on the keto diet.
Look for hidden carbs
If you find that you aren’t losing weight on the keto diet, it’s important to evaluate your carb intake carefully. Even eating just a few extra grams of carbs here and there adds up quickly and may prevent you from entering ketosis.
Consider using an app or food tracker to get an accurate idea of your daily carb intake, and be sure to account for hidden carbs found in foods like processed meats, condiments, seasonings, and starchy vegetables.
Try intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting.
When paired with the keto diet, it may speed up your transition into ketosis by switching your body’s primary energy source from sugar to fat (7).
Although several methods of intermittent fasting exist, 16/8 fasting is one of the easiest and most popular ways to get started. It involves limiting your food intake to an 8-hour window each day.
Switch up your workout routine
Physical activity is an important aspect of any weight loss program.
You may also want to consider experimenting with new activities to switch up your routine, such as running, cycling, swimming, or strength training.
Decrease your calorie intake
Unlike many other diets, the keto diet doesn’t require you to count calories.
This is because many of the diet’s primary foods are high in fat and protein, both of which can increase feelings of fullness to prevent overeating (14).
However, if you find yourself stuck and unable to lose weight, you may be consuming too many calories.
To lower your calorie intake, be sure to monitor your portion sizes carefully and snack on foods with a low calorie density.
Reduce your stress levels
You may want to consider whether other aspects of your lifestyle may be contributing to your weight loss plateau. In particular, some studies link chronic stress to increased weight gain over time (15).
In certain people, maintaining high levels of the stress hormone cortisol may also lead to increased food intake and decreased energy expenditure, which may contribute to weight gain (16).
Taking regular breaks, setting a self-care routine, improving your sleep schedule, and incorporating practices like yoga or meditation may decrease your stress levels and help promote weight loss.
Reducing your intake of carbs or calories, expanding your workout routine, reducing your stress levels, and trying intermittent fasting are all strategies to help break a weight loss plateau on the keto diet.
Even if the number on the scale isn’t moving, you might still be losing weight or body fat.
That’s because many factors cause minor fluctuations in body weight, including what you eat or drink during the day, what you’re wearing, and whether your body is retaining extra water.
For this reason, it’s important to look at overall trends in your weight rather than focusing on a single number each day.
There are also plenty of other ways to monitor your progress aside from weighing yourself. These include non-scale victories (NSVs), which are signs that you may be improving your health and achieving weight loss even when the scale doesn’t budge.
For example, the fit of your clothes becoming a bit looser is a common NSV. Increased energy levels, improved mood, and enhanced attention levels are also markers of improvement.
Furthermore, you may want to consider measuring your waist-to-hip ratio or body fat percentage using a tape measure, body fat scale, or skin-fold test.
Changes in your blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels may likewise help determine whether you’re on the right track.
Even if you hit a weight loss plateau on the keto diet, there are several other signs of progress to consider.
Weight loss plateaus are common on the keto diet and can be caused by many factors.
However, it’s important to look at the overall trends in your weight and consider other measures of progress, including improvements in mood and energy levels.
You can also try several strategies, including intermittent fasting, cutting your carb or calorie intakes, exercising more, and reducing your stress levels, to help break your plateau.