Not Losing Weight on Keto? Here are 10 Reasons Why

You’re frustrated.

Despite seeing success story after success story, you’re not losing weight on keto. You were expecting an immediate “whoosh” but after an initial couple of pounds lost, your scale hasn’t budged. 

The ketogenic diet can be tough to master if you don’t know the right steps to take to get into ketosis. And once you’re in ketosis, how do you set yourself up for successful, continuous weight loss? The important thing to remember is that everyone’s body is different.

Here are the top 10 reasons you might not be losing weight on the ketogenic diet.

  1. You’re Not Actually in Ketosis
  2. You’re Eating Too Much Protein
  3. You’re Missing Hidden Carbohydrates
  4. You’re Eating Too Much
  5. You’re Not Eating Enough
  6. You’re Getting Too Much Exercise
  7. You’re Experiencing Stress
  8. You’re Not Sleeping Enough
  9. You Have Food Sensitivities
  10. Leptin Resistance

#1: You’re Not Actually in Ketosis

Have you been following the ketogenic diet for a while but have no idea if you’re in ketosis? This is where testing your ketone levels comes in.

You’ll only truly know whether you’re in a ketogenic state when you test your ketone levels.

So how do you test your ketones? There are three ways to get accurate measures:

  1. Urine testing
  2. Breath testing
  3. Blood testing

Urine Testing

A urine strip indicates the ketones by color. While this type of testing is the most affordable, it does not always yield the most accurate results.

Urine tests only measure ketones leftover by your body. When your body becomes more adapted to ketosis, it will be using more of the ketones — meaning you may not have any signs of ketones in your urine at all.

Breathe Testing

Breathe testing is considered a little more reliable than urine testing, but still not the most accurate.

The ketones that show up on your breathe are acetone, not beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). Breathe testing can be done by blowing into a Ketonix mixer which then gives you a reading based on the level of acetone it detects.

Blood Testing

Blood testing is the most accurate way to measure your levels of BHB. All it involves is a simply prick of the finger with a blood meter.

This is considered the most accurate way because there’s nothing that can dilute the results.

If you’re not losing weight on the ketogenic diet, the first checkpoint is whether you’re even in ketosis. If you have that covered, there are a few other reasons you may not be losing weight.

#2: You’re Eating Too Much Protein

One of the most common mistakes you can make when starting a keto diet is eating too much protein.

There’s a good chance you need less protein than you think.

All you need for protein intake is just enough to help your muscles recover. Too much protein will prevent your body from being in ketosis because of a process called gluconeogenesis.

Gluconeogenesis is a metabolic process that converts excess protein into glycogen and keeps your body reliant on the energy derived from glucose. Ketosis is the process of starving the body of it’s carb stores so it can go to it’s second fat burning resource — using fat for fuel.

However, if your protein intake is too high, your body will convert it to glucose before it looks for fat for energy. Tracking your intake and calculating your macros can be very helpful when determining the ideal amount of protein for your individual needs[*].

#3: You’re Missing Hidden Carbohydrates

Foods such as certain vegetables, dairy and nuts are thought to be on the keto-approved food list but can still have a higher carbohydrate count than you think.

Both dairy and nuts can be eaten on the keto diet with caution. Too much of these foods can increase both your carb intake and calorie count without you realizing it. Since food options may seem limited on the keto diet, one of the common mistakes people make is the over-consumption of dairy and nuts.

Other possible hidden carbs can be found in some cruciferous vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, fennel and turnips. Other vegetables to eat occasionally include eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, onion and squash. You also want to limit your intake of fruit due to their high sugar content[*][*].

So what can you eat to stay in ketosis?

Healthy fats (especially saturated and monounsaturated fats) are the cornerstones of the ketogenic diet. If you want a quality keto diet, you’ll need abundant sources of high quality fats.

Not Losing Weight on Keto#4: You’re Eating Too Much

Another major mistake people make when starting the keto diet that they think they can eat an endless amount of fat.

This creates an extreme surplus of calories[*]. For instance, one pound of body fat contains roughly 3500 calories. This would lead us to the conclusion that cutting 500 calories a day for a week would result in roughly one pound of weight loss.

This is where going overboard with fats could get tricky.

Fats contain over twice the amount of calories as carbs or proteins, so it’s crucial that you count how many grams of fat you’re actually eating and remain mindful of your intake.

This is another way the Perfect Keto Macro Calculator comes in handy. It takes into account your age, height, weight, body fat, activity levels and overall goals in general to come up with how much of each macro you should eat.

Overall calorie intake depends on your individual goals and needs.

Without eating the correct amount of calories, weight loss can be impossible no matter how much you decrease your carb intake. Ketosis does not guarantee weight loss.

#5: You’re Not Eating Enough

This is usually not the case if you’re struggling with losing weight on the ketogenic diet, but along with being unaware of eating too many calories, not getting enough calories can be an issue for optimal weight loss.

In addition to your metabolism slowing down, your body automatically slows itself down to conserve itself in response to inadequate energy levels or excessive exercise[*].

Make sure you’ve created a deficit that your fat stores can still cover, otherwise your body will begin to use lean mass to get the energy it needs.

If you go to the extremes and create a deficit too large, your metabolic rate will drop a significant amount in order to protect organs and normal bodily functions.

#6: 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[*].

#7: You’re Experiencing Stress

Stress is a significant factor when troubleshooting weight loss. When we’re stressed out, our body produces cortisol.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone responsible for storing fat around your stomach area and can make weight loss a challenge.

Cortisol also has the ability to channel glucose to the muscles during the body’s response to stress, leaving less fuel for the brain[*]. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. It’s one of the top hormones we release when we’re under pressure or in a fight-or-flight situation.

While it’s often contributed to undesirable symptoms such as acne or weight gain, it is necessary for our survival. It plays a major role in keeping us alert, awake and motivated. The issues start to kick in when cortisol production becomes chronic.

Having trouble managing your stress levels? The keto diet is probably just what you need. The keto diet is filled with anti-inflammatory foods that would be the first step in reducing chronic cortisol levels. They would also help improve your sleep.

#8: You’re Not Sleeping Enough

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.

#9: You Have Food Sensitivities

Even if you are following your macros and tracking your calories, something may still seem off.

Many people have food sensitivities that they don’t even know of — the most common of which  is dairy. Dairy includes cheese, cream, butter, yogurt and ghee[*][*].

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: Leptin Resistance

What is leptin, anyways?

Leptin is a fat-controlling hormone that tells your brain that there are enough fat cells present, so you get a signal telling your brain you’re full once you eat[*][*]. Leptin is produced by fat cells in the body. It’s mainly responsible for regulating how many calories we eat, how many we burn and how much fat we carry on our bodies.

Leptin resistance is when you have plenty of leptin, but the messages aren’t being received. The major causes of leptin resistance includes funky sleep patterns, a diet full of processed foods, overeating, stress, calorie restriction and starvation mode[*][*][*].

It’s not that those who are obese don’t have enough leptin — it’s the signals that leptin is sending their brains. The signals are telling them that they’re not satiated and they don’t have enough energy, causing them to search for more food.

Diagnosing Your Keto Problem

So, how do you know which reason might be the root cause of why you’re not losing weight on the ketogenic diet?

The most important thing to remember while on the ketogenic diet is that everyone’s body is different and will react differently to a number of variables.

Trying everything and figuring out which foods work best with your body will take some trial and error. Run through the reasons above and take note of anything you may be missing.

Steph is a writer, competitive weightlifter and nutritional consultant with a passion for health and wellness. She is the founder of The Athlete’s Kitchen, a website dedicated to providing its audience with articles, recipes and the latest nutritional information on their favorite foods.

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Responses (16)

  1. HELP …
    I have been following a keto diet since a week after Thanksgiving. I’ve lost a total of 20 pounds. However over the past three weeks I want to come down 2 pounds. I do check my keytones with a monitor and the fluctuate daily. Anywhere from .3 – 4.4(when I had a chocolate whipping cream dessert for dinner because I used all my protein grams at lunch.)
    Since January 3, more than half of my ketones measurements have been less than 1.5.

    I have been unsuccessful in trying to figure out why. My weight is 175 – goal weight 160. My macros are 15gr carbs, 93gr fat, 75gr protein with calorie goal of 1200.

    A question i haven’t found an answer to is: does each meal need to be a balance of the macros?
    When I go back are review my logging on Carb Manager, I have been concerned about the totals at the end of the day and not as much during each individual meal.

    Trying not to be frustrated :/

    1. Hey Jennifer, seems like 1200 calories is a bit low. Have you tried increasing your calories at all and seeing if that helps get you over the plateau? Our body’s are very smart and will adjust over time so sometimes you need to boost the calories up a little to get things going again. I would focus on having a balance of macros throughout your meal but I wouldn’t get too caught up on that. As long as you’re consistent throughout the week, you should be fine. You can also try incorporating intermittent fasting and/or some exercise to help you get over that plateau!

      1. Thank you Rachel!
        I have been doing IF since the beginning as it fits my lifestyle well.
        First meal around 12-2
        Second meal between 6-8.
        I will add walking in my day.
        I will increase my calories to 1400

  2. Re: not eating enough. I am never hungry enough to eat more than 1000 calories. Believe me its not calorie restriction, I am just not hungry. Also, I have severe sciatica and can’t excercise outside of a yoga class a week. I barely get 2500 steps in a day, hopefully that will get better but seriously, there is less need for energy. All that said, I cant get that last 10 pounds off. IF/KETO with great macros and in ketosis. Any thoughts?

    1. I have had the same issues but mainly because eating isn’t as much fun! Try sticking to nutrionally dense foods such as avocado and add olive oil to your meals. Even just a drizzle can up your intake 100 calories per tablespoon. Hope this helps!

    2. hi Janette, if you are not hungry just don’t eat that is the ultimate goal of the keto diet to eat when you are hungry. The last 10 pounds are always the hardest to lose in any diet. Just continue what you are eating and eventually you might lose them, but if your body says no that means you are at the weight you are supposed to be.

  3. I am a female, 174lbs, est body fat of 37%, and when I did these calculations for macros they seemed way off. I came up with: 2236 daily cal count, 110g protein, 40g carb, 180g fat. This just can’t be right, I’ve done the math several times! Can someone confirm this is correct or is it way off?

  4. I know I have to stay hydrated and I do consume some regular water but I also drink the sugar free Powerade. I havent’ lost much weight and after reading several blogs I am starting to think that the Powerade has some hidden carbs. Am I correct? Could this be stalling my results?

  5. New Keto dieter Michele here again…. just looking at my numbers closely. Realize 5.3 oz of ribeye steak has 30 g fat! If my total fat intake is 87g per day… then meat and or eggs could account for all of my fat intake for a day, right?

  6. Hi can you help me ..I’m not getting the Marcos thing, Im in ketosis but not loosing weight..I only have 10lbs to loose, January 2nd was my start date and I lost the initial 5lbs plus 4 inches, but I put on 2lbs on I take off 2lbs it yoyo’s back and forth my Marcos were 1200 calories and 70gm fat protien 15gms and the rest carbs..here’s the stupid question is all that to total 1200 calories? how can you have 70gms of fat in 1200
    I’m so cinfused..I basically eat carb free to stay in ketosis..

  7. I guess I am just not good at math because this all seems impossible to figure out. I used my fitness pal but I am not losing. I know I have been in ketosis and appear to be fat adapted as my ketones are no longer showing. I just am not losing. I am meticulous about counting and checking everything so the only thing I can figure is that somehow my calorie count must be off.

  8. what if you can’t change the things that are stalling you or making you gain? Like lack of sleep and stress? If you are awaken several times a night and there is nothing you can do to change it temporarily.(caregiver) What can we do to lessen the impact?????

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