You’re tracking macros and counting calories, measuring ketones, working out, but still not losing weight on the ketogenic diet. Don’t get frustrated and quit. Below are the top mistakes people make when starting the ketogenic diet and potential reasons you might not be seeing the results you want. Make sure to avoid all of these mistakes so you can improve your health and meet your weight loss goals.
1. Not Eating Enough Fat
The keto diet is different from low-carb because it has a high-fat component. Specifically, 75% of the calories you eat should come from healthy fats, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbs. Fat is satiating, so if you’re eating the right amount, you’ll minimize carb cravings, which helps you stay in ketosis and enhances fat loss.
2. Eating Too Much Protein
One of the most common mistakes for those just starting the keto diet is eating too much protein. Excess protein is converted by the body into glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. It is a natural process by which the body will convert energy from proteins and fats into glucose when glucose is not readily available. In a low-carb or ketogenic diet, gluconeogenesis will occur at varying rates to maintain body function. Our bodies don’t need tons of carbs (like most diets provide), but we do need glucose. You could eat a no-carb diet and through gluconeogenesis, your body would convert other substrates into glucose for fuel. This is why carbs make up five percent of your keto macros. In fact, some parts of the body need carbs to survive, such as red blood cells and kidney medulla (the inner part of the kidney). Through gluconeogenesis, the body creates and can store extra glucose as glycogen in case its supply becomes too low.
In most diets, where carbs are readily available, gluconeogenesis occurs at a slow rate, since the need for extra glucose is very low. The body runs on glucose and stores excess carbs and protein as fat. Conversely, on the keto diet, the body runs on healthy fats and stores excess carbs and protein as glycogen to be used for muscle recovery or to support the parts of the body which need a steady supply of carbs.
It takes time for your body to switch from running on glucose to running on fat. Once in ketosis, your body uses fat as its main fuel source and begins to store excess protein as glycogen. Eating a little extra protein here and there won’t be an issue as your body uses it only as a way of replenishing its glycogen stores. However, when first starting keto, your body burns any extra glucose made through gluconeogenesis, instead of burning fat for fuel. This may slow the time it takes to get into ketosis, or prevent ketosis altogether.
A ketogenic diet isn’t a low-carb, high-protein way of eating. Fat needs to be your primary fuel source, which means consuming pure-fat sources that don’t include protein — such as butter or healthy oils, like coconut oil and MCT oil.
3. Eating Too Many Calories
Keto is not a license to eat as much fat as you want. Healthy fats should make up the bulk of your diet (75% of your calories), but if you take in more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight no matter what you eat since excess calories are stored as body fat. The average adult needs about 2,000 calories a day, but that varies based on a number of factors, including, age, gender, height, and activity level.
Use this chart to learn what your daily caloric intake should be.
4. Not Drinking Enough Water
Water is crucial to everything your body does, including burning body fat. If you’re not drinking enough water, your metabolism will slow, halting weight loss. Drinking at least 64 ounces of water each day helps your body circulate nutrients, flush out toxins, and burn fat. When you’re starting out the ketogenic diet, you may need to drink more water than usual because your body sheds water when you start consuming fewer carbs.
5. Not Replenishing Your Electrolytes
Many people experience flu-like symptoms (known as the Keto Flu) when first starting the keto diet. This can happen for two reasons:
(1) As your body switches from carb-burning to fat-burning mode, your brain may run low on energy, leading to nausea, headaches, and grogginess.
(2) You’re dehydrated and low on electrolytes because the keto diet causes you to urinate more frequently.
The keto flu is a good sign you’re eating right. You can minimize the symptoms by drinking more water, and taking supplements to balance your electrolytes. A supplement that may help reduce or prevent keto flu symptoms while supporting ketosis is called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). It’s an exogenous ketone supplement that is a mixture of sodium, potassium, and magnesium – specially formulated to balance your electrolytes, provide hydration, give you an energy boost, and boost ketone production to enhance ketosis and weight loss.
6. Eating Too Much Dairy
For some people, dairy can be pro-inflammatory and prevent them from losing weight. Additionally, consuming too much protein can stall weight loss. Dairy is a combination food: it has fat, protein, and carbs (from the naturally occurring milk sugar, lactose). So, if you’re eating cheese all day as a “keto-friendly snack” for its fat content, you’re also getting a hefty dose of protein and carbs along with that fat. Most people can tolerate dairy just fine on a ketogenic diet, but moderation is the key. Stick to no more than 1-2 ounces of cheese (and factor in protein content) or cream per meal.
7. Over-indulging on Keto Sweets
Remember this formula: Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber – Sugar Alcohols
It’s okay to occasionally indulge in keto desserts such as cookies and brownies. The net carb amount is low due to sugar substitutes, but keep in mind that you’re still consuming lots of calories, and constantly eating sweet foods may increase your cravings for carbs. Enjoy keto sweets in moderation and don’t make it a daily indulgence.
8. Snacking Too Much
Snacking can be an easy way to sneak excess calories into your diet while also giving your body an easier fuel source to burn over body fat. Try to limit snacks as much as possible. If you are really hungry between meals (and you’ve already tried drinking water), then stick to moderate portions of low-carb snacks, such as nuts, berries, and meat sticks. Our Keto Food List offers good keto-friendly snack ideas.
9. Eating Hidden Carbs
Hidden carbs can be found in many foods. Common sources of hidden carbs are condiments, sauces, and salad dressings (tomato sauce, ketchup, and Thousand Island dressing are good examples). Always check the nutrition label before trying a new food, just in case it has hidden carbs or sugar. Keep in mind sugar has dozens of aliases (agave syrup, corn syrup, cane syrup, to name a few). It only takes a second to skim the label, and it can be the difference between losing weight or not.
10. Not Getting Enough Sleep
Getting adequate sleep is crucial to weight loss. Without it, your body feels under stress which will result in a less effective metabolism. This causes your body to “hang on” to stored fat for support. Plus, when you’re tired, you’re more likely to give in to snack cravings and make unhealthy food choices. Seek to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
Still Having Problems?
If you’ve ruled out all of the above but your weight still isn’t budging, we recommend seeing a doctor to rule out health issues that may be preventing weight loss. While this can be frustrating, stay positive and stay with it. Done correctly, the keto diet is one of the most effective ways to lose weight.