The super low carb keto diet is an eating pattern that’s commonly used to treat certain medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, epilepsy, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It’s also become a popular diet for weight loss.

The keto diet is linked to weight loss benefits, at least in the short term, and many people turn to this high fat diet to boost fat loss.

But what do you do when the weight loss grinds to a halt?

exercising with a trainer to break a keto plateauShare on Pinterest
Willie B. Thomas/Getty Images

The ketogenic (keto) diet is a super popular way of eating that’s very low in carbs, high in fat, and moderate in protein.

When your bod isn’t getting enough glucose or sugar, which is it’s main source of energy, it starts to rely on fat for fuel.

Your bod breaks down fat to produce molecules called ketones and uses them as an alternate fuel source. The increase in ketones is known as ketosis.

Ketogenic diets typically provide between 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day to reach and maintain ketosis. To put this into perspective, 1 cup of cooked brown rice contains 50 grams of carbs. So yea, you really have to be mindful of carb intake on a keto diet.

Also, the only way to truly know if you’re in ketosis is to measure ketone levels. This can be done using urine or blood ketone testing strips.

It’s important to know that the keto diet is not appropriate or necessary for most peeps. There are plenty of other low carb eating patterns to choose from that are not as restrictive and don’t require monitoring ketones.

But the keto diet can be helpful or even necessary for certain peeps. For example, the keto diet is used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, and some people with medical conditions like PCOS and type 2 diabetes respond very well to keto diets.

Plus, a research review showed that the keto diet is effective in certain peeps. Though keto diets can be difficult to stick to long-term, which is why weight loss tends to peak around 5 months before slowly starting to regain.

Weight loss plateaus are time periods where weight loss has slowed or stopped altogether. Plateaus are very common when trying to lose weight, especially when following restrictive diets.

Most weight loss diet plans typically result in more rapid weight loss in the early stages of the diet followed by a plateau and then gradual weight regain.

Why they happen

To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit either by decreasing calorie intake, increasing energy expenditure, or both. This means you’ll be taking in fewer calories than your body burns daily, which will promote weight loss.

Even though this seems pretty straight forward, weight loss, especially sustainable weight loss and weight maintenance, is complicated.

Your bod is pretty smart. When you put yourself on a diet, your body adapts by increasing appetite and decreasing feelings of fullness.

This can make long-term weight loss and weight maintenance difficult.

Plus, factors like sleep, stress, diet quality, lack of activity, and underlying medical conditions can all impact weight loss as well.

Before we get into how to prevent plateaus on a keto diet, it’s important to ask yourself why you’re trying keto in the first place. It can be helpful for certain peeps, but it’s super restrictive and completely unnecessary for most people who just want to reach a moderate body weight.

There are many other dietary patterns that aren’t restrictive.

Consider more personalized diet approaches

Finding a way of eating that you enjoy and can follow no matter what situation you’re in — think birthday parties, going out to dinner, vacations, Sunday brunch — you get the point — is the key when it comes to healthy weight loss.

Even though you can use the keto diet to induce short-term weight loss, for most people it’s a much better option to follow a less restrictive eating pattern like the Mediterranean diet or a less restrictive low carb way of eating.

In fact, a small study showed that moderate and low carb diets are easier to stick to and result in comparable weight loss when compared to the keto diet.

As mentioned above, weight loss plateaus are common on any weight loss-inducing diet, including the keto diet.

This is because most weight loss diets create a large calorie deficit, which leads to compensatory changes in your body like increased appetite and reduced calorie expenditure. Plus, very low calorie intake can result in loss of muscle, which can also reduce calorie expenditure.

Have a smaller calorie deficit

Even though it may seem counterintuitive, a 2014 research review recommended that instead of significantly cutting calorie intake, it’s a better choice to create a smaller calorie deficit.

This will help decrease your chances of experiencing the compensatory changes associated with slowed weight loss. But using this method, weight loss will likely be slower in general than if you were to significantly cut calories.

But weight loss is not a sprint! Think of weight loss as a marathon. You may need to change your pace and your route to reach your desired destination in a healthy way.

If you’re on the keto diet and experiencing a weight loss plateau, there are a few things you may want to evaluate.

  • Overall calorie intake. Underestimating calorie consumption is super common. You may simply be eating way more calories than you realize, which could throw a wrench in your weight loss.
  • Activity. Although it is possible to lose weight through diet alone, being active can help push you out of a weight loss plateau. Exercise can help increase calorie burning and is so important for many other aspects of health.
  • Look at your macros. If your goal is to properly follow a ketogenic diet, you’ll need to monitor your carb — and protein — intake. Carbs are cut very low when on a keto diet, so you may not realize how many carbs you’re eating.
  • Other factors. Poor sleep, stress, and underlying medical conditions may make weight loss harder. Talk with your doctor if you feel there may be something going on with your health.

If you’re having trouble losing weight, no matter the dietary pattern you’re following, working with a registered dietitian can help.

They can evaluate your calorie intake and help you determine the best plan to promote sustainable weight loss for your specific needs.

Weight loss plateaus are common when trying to lose weight by following any diet, including the keto diet.

Compensatory changes in your bod in response to cutting calories and underestimating calorie intake are some of the main reasons behind weight loss plateaus.

If you’re experiencing a weight loss plateau on a keto diet, try working with an experienced dietitian. They can help you lose weight in a safe, realistic way.

However, don’t be surprised if they recommend you try a less restrictive diet over keto.