7 Ways To Break Through Keto Weight Loss Plateaus
Weight Loss

7 Ways To Break Through Keto Weight Loss Plateaus

7 Ways To Break Through Keto Weight Loss Plateaus

Posted 3 years ago

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton

Author

Tony O’Neill, PT, DPT, MSc, RDN

Tony O’Neill, PT, DPT, MSc, RDN

Author and Scientific Reviewer

Expert Approved

If you’ve hit a Keto weight loss plateau, you’re probably feeling frustrated. You’re eating a low-carb diet. Why aren’t the pounds sliding off?

This frustration is compounded by success stories everywhere you turn. Especially on social channels like Facebook and Instagram. 

She lost 25 pounds on Keto. And now has killer abs. Good for her...

But you’ve been stuck at the same weight for a while now. And you’re starting to wonder if the Keto diet ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. 

Stick around for five minutes. There are probably one, two, or even three things you can tweak in your Keto plan to break through that weight-loss plateau. 

We’ll cover those tips soon. First, let’s clear up some confusion about weight loss on Keto. 

Losing Weight vs. Losing Fat

Losing weight on Keto isn’t the same as losing fat on Keto. 

In the early stages of Keto dieting, you might experience several days of rapid weight loss. This weight, however, is mostly water weight. The water comes from your shedding of glycogen (stored glucose) as you transition to low-carb living.[*]

So glycogen loss is the first plateau. Once you lose that water, your weight loss will decelerate. This is healthy and normal. 

With your glycogen depleted, you can move to the next phase: Fat loss. During this phase, you sustainably shed body fat until you hit your target weight. 

But entering fat-burning mode isn’t like flipping a switch. When you go Keto, your body needs time to fat-adapt.

Without Keto, your body relies more on carbs (glucose) for energy. But a low-carb diet takes away your carbs, so you switch to burning fat for energy. This fat-adaptation, also called Keto-adaptation, can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the state of your metabolism.[*]

So if you’re on the Keto diet to lose weight, you need to be patient. That’s the first principle. Being patient gives your body time to fat-adapt, so you start burning through your body fat for energy. 

But let’s assume you’ve done that. You’ve been Keto for two months and your weight loss has stalled. What should you do?

7 Tips To Break Through Weight Loss Plateaus

To do Keto right, you need to eat low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat. Simple enough, right?

Yes, but these basics only get you so far. To really succeed on Keto—i.e, to get through weight-loss plateaus—you must have a nuanced, holistic approach. The following tips will help.   

#1: Track Carbs

The #1 rule of Keto is to restrict carbs. Carb restriction keeps the hormone insulin low, and low insulin signals your liver to start burning fat and making ketones.[*]

But the Ketogenic state isn’t just about fat-burning. It’s also about the stabilization of hunger hormones like ghrelin and neuropeptide Y.[*]

Less hunger, less overeating, easier weight loss. 

By now you’re probably thinking: Yeah yeah, I know. Keep carbs low. But since hidden carbs are everywhere—in salad dressings, sauces, and many vegetables—this is easier said than done. 

Here’s a simple heuristic. If you’re approaching 10% of daily calories from carbs (usually 20 to 30 grams), you should probably cut back. Get a handle on this with the Carb Manager app, which not only tracks all your macros, but also helps you stay accountable to your weight loss goals.

#2: Track Calories

Speaking of tracking macros, you’ll also want to track calories to ensure sustainable weight loss. 

Wait. Can’t you eat as much as you like on Keto? 

Not always. True, the Keto diet controls hunger hormones and satisfies better than a high-carb diet. But as with any diet, you can still overeat.

Nuts are exhibit A. They’re too easy to munch mindlessly. And if you’re eating more calories than your body is using, you simply won’t lose weight. 

The trick is to operate at a mild caloric deficit, around 5-10% fewer calories than you expend. So if you’re eating 2000 calories per day and stuck above your target weight, try cutting to 1900. (Pro tip: Use Carb Manager to dial this in).  

#3: Track Ketones

You’re tracking carbs and calories. Now let’s track ketones. 

Ketones are an objective biomarker for fat-adaptation. If ketones are present, you’re burning fat.  

Measure ketones in the blood, breath, or urine. In the blood, you’re looking for a range of 0.5 to 3.0 mmol/L BHB to confirm you’re in nutritional ketosis. 

If you see ketone levels fall, it could mean hidden carbs are sneaking into your diet. Or that you aren’t eating enough fat. With this information in hand, you can adjust your diet accordingly. 

#4: Prioritize Sleep

If you’re not sleeping well, it increases hunger hormones and decreases insulin sensitivity.[*] In other words, you’re more prone to overeating and fat storage. 

Make sleep a non-negotiable, and all aspects of your health will be rewarded. 

#5: Manage Stress

Cortisol, your stress hormone, is designed for short term survival. It breaks down bone, disintegrates muscle, and gets you storing fat.[*]

To manage your stress and reduce cortisol, make sure you’re sleeping well and exercising daily. A yoga or meditation practice can also go a long way towards stress reduction.  

#6: Get Enough Protein

Many people don’t eat enough protein on Keto. They fear it will kick them out of ketosis. 

But moderate to high protein intakes (~30% of calories), the evidence suggests, are perfectly compatible with weight loss on Keto.[*]

When pushing past weight loss plateaus, protein is your friend. It fills you up, supports your mood, and promotes the development of fat’s arch nemesis: Muscle. 

#7: Intermittent fasting

A big reason folks hit weight loss plateaus on Keto? Snacking drives overeating. 

That’s where intermittent fasting (IF) comes in. When you practice IF, you compress your feeding window every day or every week. This not only reduces the chances of overeating, but it also hastens the fat-adaptation process.[*]

Popular forms of IF include:

  • 16/8 - 16 hours of fasting with an 8 hour feeding window every day.
  • OMAD - One meal a day.
  • 5:2 - Five days of normal eating with two nonconsecutive “fasting” days at 25% of normal calories.
  • ADF - Alternate-day fasting means eating 0-25% of normal calories every other day.

To make intermittent fasting easier, start small with 12 hour overnight fasts, and work your way up from there to a longer fasting window if desired. For more on IF, check out our guide to IF and Keto

The Final Word

If you’re stuck at a weight loss plateau, step back and ask a few questions:

  • Have I been Keto for long enough to fat-adapt?
  • Are hidden carbs sneaking into my diet?
  • Am I eating too many calories?
  • How are my sleep and stress looking?
  • Am I getting enough protein?
  • Could I compress my feeding window?

Go through this exercise and you’ll likely have some insights. Then you can tweak your regimen accordingly. 

And remember, be patient with yourself. There is no easy button for sustainable fat loss. It happens bit by bit, until one day you realize you’ve hit your goal.   

Comments 28

  • MarvellousArugula417497

    MarvellousArugula417497 18 days ago

    Really helpful

    • Teddibear14

      Teddibear14 2 months ago

      I started keto around sep 22 and I was around 235, when I got down to 219 I hit a plateau for like 4 days so I decide to start counting my calories and adding walks In now down to 201... I will eat lunch which is about 435 calories then go on a 3.5 mile walk which my watch says it burns about 650 calories then repeat it after dinner don't know if it's the most healthy way of doing it but I am noticing the scale weight go down so keep doing it. When counting calories you do the math problem like so: calorie intake for the day - your BMR - your calorie burnt = your calories number for the day and as long as your burning a negative of 3500 calories a week you should be dropping about a pound a week... this may help if your number is stuck on your scale

      • Barney's mum

        Barney's mum 4 months ago

        When doing IF 16/8 do you still drink water during the 16 period? Or is it no food and no water during the 16 hours?

        • AmazingMacadamia859982

          AmazingMacadamia859982 a month ago

          Yes - drink water as much as you need/want

      • Michee0226

        Michee0226 4 months ago

        I am also in the same boat. I lost 21 pounds the first month. I still have 30 lb to go. I Keep my calories below 1100, my blood ketones stay between 1.0 and 2.8, I keep my carb intake below 20 net carbs. Also, except for a cup of coffee, I usually don't eat anything in an 18-hour period. I am recovering from an ankle injury so I can't exercise that much but I do walk. I haven't lost a pound in about 2 weeks. Don't know what else I can do but I'm sticking with it, but I am not going to lie and say it is not frustrating.

        • BlithesomeKale885722

          BlithesomeKale885722 3 months ago

          Did you get over the plateau?

      • RottenRae

        RottenRae 6 months ago

        I need to be patient I guess. I am noticing my body composition change, building more muscle, getting better sleep, just want the pounds to roll off. Been heavy into ketosis every time I measured my breath, nailing that. Been low carb forever, so that isn't hard for me. Normally I IF when working. I'm combining all these things, it's been suggested I'm eating too little, but actually, the only times in my life I've made significant weight loss changes, healthy or not, I've not eaten a lot. Strict keto is hard for me to consume enough fat, I'm not opposed to it, it just seems like it's impossible to meet my macros on here, plus I'm older, that may slow me down... Thanks for the great article!

        • BLT24

          BLT24 7 months ago

          Very happy to read this article. Was feeling frustrated since being on Keto for 3 weeks. Have been logging my meals & staying within my macros everyday, IF 16/8, walking over 3 miles everyday & drinking plenty of water. My breath meter has me in ketosis everyday, yet my weight isn’t budging. I lost a few lbs in the very beginning then stalled. I do feel better & my clothes seem to fit a little better. Going to stick with it & not give up! 👍🏻

          • AwesomeKetone931502

            AwesomeKetone931502 a year ago

            How can I reduce calories, fat, and protein that was assigned to me? To high

            • SplendidMacadamia816921

              SplendidMacadamia816921 a year ago

              Every week I hit a 3 day period when the scale doesn't move. The 4th day I lose half a lb, 5th day a whole lb, 6th day another. Just stay faithful and try eating less calories I'm doing 900 rn. I've almost lost 75 lbs in 105 days. 245 to 170.8. It's easy to gain weight, it's a sacrifice to lose it. Keep your head up stay accountable and don't have cheat days. You can do it!

              • MirthfulCauliflower704402

                MirthfulCauliflower704402 6 months ago

                That is amazing! That is excellent to hear,I started at 280, I’m down to 230 but sort of stuck there. Your success inspires me

              • SuperArugula742726

                SuperArugula742726 8 months ago

                So encouraging!

            • vr0624b24

              vr0624b24 a year ago

              My scale hasn’t moved in a month. But I’m down a whole pant size. What am I doing wrong. I drink a gallon of water a day. Fast till 11 am my eating window is from 11am-7pm

              • Virginie

                Virginie a year ago

                Same here for me. I start to take my measurement. Scale doesn’t move but i lost inches

            • IncredibleMacadamia542463

              IncredibleMacadamia542463 a year ago

              Idk why it says I am incredible macadamia I am not strange

              • Enso23

                Enso23 a year ago

                You can change your username in your profile. The one you have is just randomly assigned when you start.

            • IncredibleMacadamia542463

              IncredibleMacadamia542463 a year ago

              I have been on Keto faithfully for 3 weeks. I have only lost 3 pounds.

              • Lula

                Lula 10 months ago

                That’s a pound a week, which is amazing!

            • Katie_Macadamia

              Katie_Macadamia a year ago

              Have been eating Low Carb/Keto for more than 25 years. I’m in a 2 month long plateau. This is not helpful. Have been doing all of these suggestions already. Working with my endochrinologist. 16/8 IF every day….

              • BarBie

                BarBie 4 months ago

                Hi Katie. I’m in the same situation - been on Keto since June 2019, have lost only 75 lbs, and have been on a plateau for months now! I still need to lose at least 30 more lbs, but I’m in a stalled mode. Have tried almost all their suggestions. I still like the Keto diet though!

            • tremendes43f12

              tremendes43f12 2 years ago

              Excellent article and yet, I am still totally frustrated. Stalled for one week. In ketosis, exercising almost daily. Just can't get below the stall point. Three weeks on keto. Lost six pounds in the first two weeks. Getting really frustrated. I should be loosing. All signs point to fat burning... And yet...

              • Nuts for Nets

                Nuts for Nets 2 years ago

                Agree with Cauliflower - don’t give up! Weight loss has been on a steady downward trend for me over the last four months but I have also experienced plateaus and even slight upticks in weight gain over that period. It seems to occur for no apparent reason - out of the blue! - and is frustrating as hell. Press through it. Every plateau or slight weight gain for me is always followed by impressive weight loss with a continuing downward trend. Until it happens again… It’s all part of the process. When you read you need to be patient, believe it and carry on!

              • RemarkableCauliflower279470

                RemarkableCauliflower279470 2 years ago

                Don’t give up! We’ve all been there. Those first six pounds were almost certainly water weight from the glycogen stores burning off. Your body is probably still getting adapted to keto. If you are seeing ketones in your testing and are eating clean/working out, it will come. Give yourself and your body a little time. Once you fat-adapt you will feel and see the impact. Don’t give up!

            • SpectacularKale239731

              SpectacularKale239731 2 years ago

              Great article!!

              • GorgeousCauliflower993194

                GorgeousCauliflower993194 2 years ago

                Lots of great info and tips!

                • FortuitousMacadamia737390

                  FortuitousMacadamia737390 2 years ago

                  What can I do if my ketone levels are in therapeutic range all the time instead of nutritional?

                  • StellarRadish613557

                    StellarRadish613557 2 years ago

                    Sightly increase carbs. Eat a piece of fruit to get your system back in check then modify your macros to increase carbs 1% at a time until you're at your goal ketone reading. Also, make sure your testing method is accurate.

                • JHarris

                  JHarris 2 years ago

                  Fat adapt makes sense....patience