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Keto Plateau: Why It Happens and How To Break Out Of It

Published April 23, 2019
Kate Sullivan

Written By: Kate Sullivan, MS

Kate holds a MS in Business Psychology and is currently a PHD researcher in Well-Being and Performance Psychology.

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<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Kate Sullivan, MS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/04/Keto_Plateau_Why_It_Happens_and_How_To_Break_Out_Of_It.jpg" } }, "headline":"Keto Plateau: Why It Happens and How To Break Out Of It", "datePublished":"2019-04-23", "dateModified": "2019-10-03", "description":"After you’ve reached a keto plateau, it’s entirely possible to start losing weight again and reach your weight loss goals by evaluating your diet and approach!", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/04/Keto_Plateau_Why_It_Happens_and_How_To_Break_Out_Of_It.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What Is a Weight Loss Plateau?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "A weight loss plateau is simply when you’ve been losing weight, and then for no apparent reason, the number on the scale stops dropping and instead stays about the same.<br />On a ketogenic diet, there’s not much difference; you’ve been losing weight, cutting your carbohydrate intake significantly, increasing consumption of fat and protein, and then your weight loss inexplicably stalls." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What Causes a Plateau on Keto?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "A number of simple factors that you may not be accounting for could play into why your weight loss is suddenly stalling.<br />The human body is always adapting, and as you lose weight, your metabolism can adapt. If you started off at a higher weight with a higher amount of fat, losing weight when starting out on keto would be easier since your body is expending a lot more energy to do daily tasks like walking, picking something up, or exercising. This would mean that you could more easily make mistakes and still experience weight loss at the beginning.<br />Now that you’re experiencing a stall, it could be time to check some of your habits or find mistakes you may be making." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "How Do You Break a Weight Loss Plateau?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Maybe you are doing everything right on your journey towards a healthier life on keto. We mentioned earlier that as you shed pounds, your metabolism adapts. You expend less daily energy doing your normal activities as the weight you’re carrying decreases. This means your body could need fewer carbs and calories.<br />Just like the four negative habits that could be inhibiting you, here are four practices that may help you break through your weight loss plateau:<br />1. Exercise<br /> 2. Fasting<br /> 3. Recalculating <br />Macros 4. Tracking Calories" } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Is a Weight Loss Plateau?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">What Causes a Plateau on Keto?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">How Do You Break a Weight Loss Plateau?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Keto Plateau: Wrapping Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>One of the draws of the low-carb ketogenic diet is the common experience of significant weight loss when first starting out <sup>6</sup>. However, a couple of months or weeks into it, some people find themselves running into a weight loss plateau. Though it’s completely normal with any diet (and keto is no exception), it can be frustrating, confusing, and even debilitating.</p> <p>However, as discouraging as it may be to see the number on the scale stop dropping, there is good news: there are a number of small changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to get past a keto plateau.</p> <p>These changes can be broken up into two categories: 1) Problem areas in your ketogenic approach; and 2) Practices to add in order to accelerate weight loss and keep on toward your goals. </p> <p>In this article, we will look at what causes weight loss plateaus and some tips on how to get things moving again.</p> <p>First, let’s dive into what a keto diet plateau is, and maybe more importantly, what it <i>isn’t</i>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>What Is a Weight Loss Plateau?</h2> <p>A weight loss plateau is simply when you’ve been losing weight, and then for no apparent reason, the number on the scale stops dropping and instead stays about the same.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>On a ketogenic diet, there’s not much difference; you’ve been losing weight, cutting your carbohydrate intake significantly, increasing consumption of fat and protein, and then your weight loss inexplicably stalls.</p> <p>But it might not be as inexplicable as it seems...</p> <h3>Can you plateau on keto?</h3> <p>Yes.</p> <p>When you first start the keto diet and cut out carbs, your body gets all the energy that it needs from your glycogen (a type of carbohydrate found in liver and muscles) stores <sup>1</sup>.</p> <p>A reason that many experience rapid weight loss when they first start keto is because the body releases a lot of <i>water weight</i>. Water makes up a good part of glycogen, so when your body is using glycogen for energy, you’re also losing water weight <sup>2</sup>.</p> <p>As you continue, your body switches from burning carbs for fuel to burning fat for fuel… Your liver begins to rely on converting fat stores into molecules called <i>ketones</i>. Using fat stores results in fat loss that can contribute to significant weight loss <sup>7</sup>. But there are other factors in this initial weight loss.</p> <p>Carbs are not as satiating as fats and proteins, so consuming more fat and protein can lead to feeling more full and less hungry throughout the day. Consuming less food can lead to consuming less calories. In the world of weight loss, consuming fewer calories than you’re expending will lead to losing weight!</p> <p>All of that seems great up until the weight loss comes to a halt and what began as exciting scale victories becomes frustration and disappointment. But a weight loss plateau happens when the calories you burn becomes equal to the number of calories you’re eating <sup>1</sup>, or worse, you are consuming more calories than your body’s burning.</p> <p>So on keto, even when you’re burning fat stores, if you’re consuming too much, then your body doesn’t have the time to burn it all, and you’ll resist losing weight.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/rocks-balancing-at-beach-0145.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/rocks-balancing-at-beach-0145.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/rocks-balancing-at-beach-0145.jpg "> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/rocks-balancing-at-beach-LR-0145.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt=" rocks-balancing-at-beach"> </picture> <h3>Am I Actually Plateauing?</h3> <p><i>Maybe not.</i></p> <p>It could be a number of <i>temporary</i> factors affecting what you’re facing.</p> <p>It’s normal to experience weight fluctuation or remain the same weight if you’re weighing yourself on a daily basis. Certain <b>medications</b> can cause weight fluctuation or resistance to weight loss. Consult your doctor to see if this could apply to you and what they recommend you do about it.</p> <p>The <b>amount of salt</b> that you ate (or didn’t eat) can also cause extra pounds to be held in your body. Since eating a lot of salt can cause your body to retain more water, it can affect what you’re seeing on the scale <sup>10</sup>.</p> <p>In the same way, how much <b>water</b> you’ve consumed can impact the number on the scale! But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be drinking water―obviously. It’s just something to be aware of!</p> <p>Additionally, your <b>hormonal balance</b> and even the <b>types of food</b> that you ate the previous day can impact the daily number on your scale <sup>4</sup>.</p> <p>There can also be <i>good</i> reasons that the number on the scale isn’t moving. </p> <h4>1. Gaining Muscle</h4> <p>Particularly if you’ve added in exercise like strength training to your lifestyle, losing fat on keto and gaining muscle can even out your weight while your body is still transforming for the better.</p> <p>Since muscle weighs more than fat, but is considerably smaller, you can be shedding inches without shedding pounds <sup>9</sup>. So make sure that you’re using more than the scale to measure your body transformation success.</p> <h4>2. The Keto Weight Loss Curve</h4> <p>Losing weight on keto happens rapidly at the beginning, like we described earlier, because of quickly losing <i>water weight</i>.</p> <p>Losing five to six pounds when you start cutting major carbs isn’t unusual, but if you’re expecting to lose that much each following week, you may end up disappointed.</p> <p>If your weight loss slows after an initial big loss, that’s probably not a plateau, and you should stay consistent! One to two pounds per week is actually a more sustainable pace of weight loss <sup>8</sup>.</p> <p>Ask yourself, “How long have I been at this weight?”</p> <p>If you haven’t lost any weight in a month or several, you are likely experiencing a weight loss plateau.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/calculator-on-graph-paper-0145.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/calculator-on-graph-paper-0145.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/calculator-on-graph-paper-0145.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/calculator-on-graph-paper-LR-0145.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt=" calculator-on-graph-paper"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>What Causes a Plateau on Keto?</h2> <p>A number of simple factors that you may not be accounting for could play into why your weight loss is suddenly stalling.</p> <p>The human body is always adapting, and as you lose weight, your metabolism can adapt. If you started off at a higher weight with a higher amount of fat, losing weight when starting out on keto would be easier since your body is expending a lot more energy to do daily tasks like walking, picking something up, or exercising. This would mean that you could more easily make mistakes and still experience weight loss at the beginning.</p> <p>Now that you’re experiencing a stall, it could be time to check some of your habits or find mistakes you may be making. Here are four things that could be responsible for hindering your weight loss:</p> <h3>1. Hidden Carbs</h3> <p>Carbs can sneak in places that you least expect them (we’re looking at you, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/easy-keto-friendly-salad-dressings/" rel="noreferrer" >salad dressing</a>). Condiments, too many nuts, even miscalculating amounts of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-best-low-carb-vegetables-to-eat-on-keto/" rel="noreferrer" >low-carb vegetables</a> can kick you out of ketosis.</p> <p>Paying attention to your carb intake will be a game changer if you’ve had a habit of playing some carb guessing games.</p> <p>Just because something is “keto approved” does not mean that it won’t add up to more than your daily carb intake. </p> <h3>2. Keto Junk Food</h3> <p>Everything is exciting at the beginning; as you settle in to a new diet like keto, it can be normal to find ways to keep your old habits alive in a way that seems to fit your new diet. A.k.a., enter <i>snacks</i> onto the scene.</p> <p>Things like keto fat bombs, bowls full of nuts, or whole bags of beef jerky may seem like a comfortable option as the excitement of your new diet fades.</p> <p>But one of the perks of the ketogenic diet is that since fat is satiating, allocating more of your calories to that macronutrient instead of carbs can keep you feeling fuller between meals. This can often lead to less snacking and junk food consumption.</p> <p>If you’re snacking on fat bombs throughout the day, you’re not giving your body the chance to use your body’s fat stores for energy. You want your body burning its own fat stores as much as possible because that’s what results in weight loss <sup>5</sup>.</p> <p>That being said, snacks aren’t necessarily bad. But if you’re not keeping track of how much you’re consuming, it may stall your weight loss as you consume more calories than when you started.</p> <h3>3. Stress</h3> <p>Because stress can trigger chemical reactions that can increase appetite, it has been known to affect weight gain (among some other reasons).<sup>13</sup> A <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23512679" rel="nofollow noreferrer" >2014 study</a> on the relationship between stress and body mass index published by The Obesity Society found that, “...both perceived stress and life events stress was positively associated with weight gain but not weight loss.” <sup>14</sup></p> <p>If you’re a human being living on this planet, chances are you’re dealing with stress...so we get it; this can be a hard piece of your health journey to manage.</p> <p>There are a number of ways to manage stress, one of the simplest being <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/stress-and-your-health/" rel="noreferrer" >breathing exercises</a>. Breathing exercises are a great way to reduce stress since deep breathing signals the brain to <i>calm down</i> <sup>15</sup>.</p> <p>Stress may be contributing to your weight loss plateau by how it affects your appetite. Evaluating your stress levels and finding methods that help reduce stress could help you get back to shedding pounds.</p> <h3>4. Poor Sleep</h3> <p>You’ve probably heard about the negative effects of not getting sufficient sleep. Nearly one third of the population is getting <i>less</i> than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep <sup>16,17</sup>.</p> <p>A <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831987/" rel="nofollow noreferrer" >2010 journal article</a> published by the <i>Environmental Health Perspectives</i> (supported by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) reported that sleep has been associated with “obesity, hypertension, and other metabolic disorders.”</p> <p>Getting short sleep is associated with hormones that regulate your appetite like <i>leptin</i> and <i>ghrelin</i> <sup>17</sup>. This being said, your keto plateau could be being affected by lack of sleep.</p> <p>Plenty of factors play into how much sleep we get, and if you’re having difficulty achieving your weight loss goals, you may need to make some changes to get the advantages of enough sleep on your side.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/childs-pose-downward-dog-0145.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/childs-pose-downward-dog-0145.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/childs-pose-downward-dog-0145.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/childs-pose-downward-dog-LR-0145.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt=" childs-pose-downward-dog"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>How to Break a Keto Pleateau</h2> <p>Maybe you <i>are</i> doing everything right on your journey towards a healthier life on keto. We mentioned earlier that as you shed pounds, your metabolism adapts. You expend less daily energy doing your normal activities as the weight you’re carrying decreases. This means your body could need fewer carbs and calories.</p> <p>Just like the four negative habits that could be inhibiting you, here are four practices that may help you break through your weight loss plateau:</p> <h3>1. Exercise</h3> <p>Look at your exercise patterns.</p> <p>If you haven’t paired exercise with your ketogenic diet, you can try adding exercise to your lifestyle. Starting out with <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/10-reasons-why-walking-is-the-best-exercise/" rel="noreferrer">walking</a> or <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results/" rel="noreferrer">beginner exercises</a> can help burn more calories and help you lose weight.</p> <p>If you have been exercising but haven’t switched up your workout routine in a while, this could be another way to continue past a plateau. Dr. Arnold Lee says, “When you do the same activity all the time, your body gets used to it...eventually that adaptation will mean that you burn fewer calories even when you’re doing the same amount of exercise.” <sup>18</sup> So, if you’ve been doing the exact same thing, this could be inhibiting you. Consider adding some new exercises into your circuit training and track your results!</p> <h3>2. Fasting</h3> <p>Fasting is known to have a number of health benefits including <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/a-beginners-guide-to-intermittent-fasting-women/" rel="noreferrer">ridding your body of damaged cells</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-inside-scoop-on-apoptosis/" rel="noreferrer">warding off disease</a>, and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/fasting-and-autophagy-understanding-your-body/" rel="noreferrer">preventing aging</a>. In addition to all of these, fasting is also known for being a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-to-use-intermittent-fasting-to-accelerate-your/" rel="noreferrer">useful tool for weight loss</a>.</p> <p>You can read more about intermittent fasting and weight loss <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-to-use-intermittent-fasting-to-accelerate-your/" rel="noreferrer">here</a>, but the gist of it is it helps regulate stress hormones, insulin levels <sup>19</sup>, and raises your ketone levels. All of these things are known to help regulate appetite and aid in weight loss.</p> <h3>3. Recalculating Macros</h3> <p>You may start to notice a pattern with our advice: switch things up because our body adapts as we lose weight. If we want to continue to lose weight, we’ll need to be as adaptable as our bodies are!</p> <p>Macros are the molecules that our bodies use to create energy; these are fat, protein, and carbohydrates―and perhaps you already know this and have been tracking yours.</p> <p>But the more weight you lose, the more your macros are going to change.</p> <p>It’s tremendously helpful to plug your new weight into a macro calculator every couple of pounds to make sure that you’re eating the exact ratios of macronutrients that your body needs and not going over in any area that could be harmful to your weight loss on keto.</p> <p>We highly recommend using a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.tasteaholics.com/keto-calculator/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">macro calculator</a> and a macro tracker along with the keto diet for weight loss.</p> <h3>4. Tracking Calories</h3> <p>So, the number of calories that you’re eating on the keto diet <i>does</i> matter.</p> <p>Yes, there are conflicting opinions about calories on keto. But if you’re adding in unnecessary calories that your body doesn’t need, generally we can agree that’s not best for your health <sup>20</sup>.</p> <p>Most likely, you know that when you consume more calories than your body expends, it creates fat stores from the excess.</p> <p>If you’re finding yourself at a keto plateau, adding calorie tracking into your routine could alert you to mistakes you’re making and help keep you on track!</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/avocado-in-half-seasoned-0127.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/avocado-in-half-seasoned-0127.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/avocado-in-half-seasoned-0127.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/avocado-in-half-seasoned-LR-0127.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt=" avocado-in-half-seasoned"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>Keto Plateau: Wrapping Up</h2> <p>If you’re struggling with a keto plateau, know that you’re not alone. It’s completely normal to experience a stall in your weight loss while following keto.</p> <p>Try making small adjustments in your lifestyle and in your macros. Add in new <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-way-to-lose-weight/"rel="noreferrer">exercises</a> to help push you past your plateau by increasing the number of calories that you’re burning. Stay consistent and you should start seeing weight loss again.</p> <h3>Resources</h3> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss-plateau/art-20044615" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Getting Past A Weight Loss Plateau</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://8fit.com/nutrition/glycogen-gluconeogenesis-and-water-weight/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Losing Water Weight: How Carbs Really Work</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://blog.virtahealth.com/break-weight-loss-plateau-low-carb/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">How To Break A Weight Loss Plateau On A Low Carb Diet</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://blog.virtahealth.com/dietary-fat-burned-before-stored-fat-keto/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Is Dietary Fat Burned Before Stored Fat On A Ketogenic Diet?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-the-keto-diet-help-me-lose-weight" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Can the keto diet help me lose weight?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=125&v=eHRRFUfzCsA" rel="nofollow noreferrer">How To Break Through Your Keto Weight Loss Plateau</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.livestrong.com/article/444351-why-do-you-stop-losing-weight-when-dieting/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Why Do You Stop Losing Weight When Dieting?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-surprising-link-between-salt-and-weight-gain/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">The Surprising Link between Salt and Weight Gain</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.carbmanager.com/article/sources-of-hidden-carbs-on-keto-69325e21-4154-40e9-1c0f-882621433936" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Sources of Hidden Carbs on Keto</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.medicinenet.com/does_stress_make_you_fat/ask.htm" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Does Stress Make You Fat?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23512679" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Psychosocial stress is positively associated with body mass index</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409706/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/support/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need" rel="nofollow noreferrer">How much sleep do we really need?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831987/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Lose Sleep, Gain Weight: Another Piece of the Obesity Puzzle</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.onemedical.com/blog/live-well/7-reasons-to-switch-up-your-workout" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7 Reasons to Switch Up Your Workout</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24993615" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.livestrong.com/article/478687-the-effects-of-too-many-calories/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">The Effects of Too Many Calories</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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