7 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on Keto

7 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on Keto
  • There are seven main reasons you’re not losing weight on keto, despite your best efforts.
  • You’re not actually in ketosis. Ketosis is the state your body is in when it burns fat for fuel instead of carbs. Learn how to tell if you’re in ketosis, and why those urine strips aren’t as telling as you think.
  • You’re eating too much in general. Fat has more calories, gram per gram, than protein or carbs. So you may be eating way more calories than you used to. Get info on caloric needs as well as the ideal macronutrient ranges on keto.
  • You’re not eating enough. Severely limiting your calories slows your metabolism, derailing your progress.
  • You’re eating too much protein. The keto diet is a moderate-protein diet, so aim for 20-25 percent of your calories coming from protein. Learn why too much protein can kick you out of ketosis.
  • You’re eating too many carbs. 20-50 g of carbs a day is typical of the keto diet. Get tips on where carbs might be lurking in your meal plan.
  • You’re intolerant or allergic to something you’re eating. The most common food allergies in the US are to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish. Food allergies and intolerances can cause inflammation which can lead to weight gain.
  • You’re leptin resistant. Leptin resistance is triggered by irregular sleep, stress, overeating, and calorie restriction. Fortunately, you can reset your leptin sensitivity with the below tips.

Despite your best efforts, you’re not losing weight on keto. Perhaps you’ve plateaued or even gained weight. Not an inch lost. Not a pound dropped. You’ve keto crashed. Now you’re confused. You held so much hope for keto. Now what?

You likely heard that a high-fat, low-carb keto diet can melt fat. Because it contains virtually no carbs, a ketogenic diet forces your body to burn fat instead of glucose for fuel. Ketosis is the state your body enters when your liver effectively breaks down fats into ketones to use as energy. Without glucose, your body doesn’t have the highs and lows that lead to hunger pangs, energy crashes, and cravings. Instead, your blood sugar levels stay more stable. Your body also sheds excess weight — fast.

Download the free Keto Recipes for Beginners Cookbook & 7-Day Meal Plan

And yet – it’s not working for you. Here, the top seven reasons why you’re not losing weight on keto. This keto troubleshooting guide sheds light on potential pitfalls to the diet, as well as what you can do to address these issues to start losing weight and feeling awesome.

Reason no. 1: You’re not in ketosis after all

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_You’re not in ketosis after all_coconut oil

According to wellness education specialist Nare Davoodi, RD, ketosis can be tricky to achieve when you’re first starting out. “A lot of people think they are in ketosis after following the keto diet for a few weeks. Though what often happens is they are not calculating their intake correctly,” she explains.

How to get into ketosis

In order to reach ketosis, you must keep a close eye on your macronutrient consumption – how much protein, fat, carbs you eat daily. While calorie intake won’t affect ketosis, it may impact how much weight you’re losing (more on that later).

The amount of carbs you can eat while staying in ketosis varies from person to person. If you’re following a strict ketogenic diet, your carb intake will be lower (about 20 grams) than if you’re following a cyclical ketogenic diet like the Bulletproof Diet, where you have one carb-refeed day a week. Adding intermittent fasting to your keto diet will also allow you to eat more carbs and stay in ketosis.

Related: Why Keto Is More Effective With Intermittent Fasting

Though keto carb calculators offer only a rough guide, they can be useful in figuring out where to start. On a Bulletproof keto diet, aim to eat fewer than 50 grams of carbs a day, and eat them only at dinnertime. Stricter, regular keto diets generally recommend no more than 20 to 30 grams of net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) per day. Read more on how to find your ideal carb intake here.    

How to know if you’re in ketosis

When you’re in ketosis, your liver produces large amounts of ketones to supply energy to the brain and body. One way to determine if you’re in ketosis is to measure the presence of ketones in your bloodstream. There are several ways to test for ketones, though some are more accurate than others.

Urine strips or sticks: Ketone urine strips indicate ketone quantity on a color-grading scale. Urine tests are affordable and easy to use. However, be wary of inaccurate results. Urine tests only monitor leftover, unused ketones in your body. That’s why the strips will be darker, indicating more ketones, when you’re new to the diet. As you adapt to ketosis, your body uses more ketones, so there will be fewer ketones expelled through your urine. 

Ketone breath meters: The breath test method, where you blow into a meter, measures acetone levels in the breath. Acetones are one of three types of water-soluble ketone molecules; and in this type of test, the more you have, the farther you are into ketosis.  

Blood meters: In Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey’s opinion, blood meters are the most accurate way to assess your level of ketosis. Prick your finger, draw blood and get a reading of the ketones in your blood. The downside is that these meters and blood strips are expensive.

If you don’t want to go the testing route, these signs of ketosis may indicate that you’re on track:

  • Strong metallic or fruity-smelling breath, aka “keto breath”
  • More energy and increased focus
  • Fewer hunger or sugar cravings
  • Weight loss

Pro Tip: Kick-start ketosis with a teaspoon or two of MCT oil, like Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil. MCT oils are medium-chain triglyceride fats that bypass the lymphatic system entirely and are uniquely absorbed by the liver in much the same way as carbs. In the liver, they are quickly converted into ketones, so they’ll put you into ketosis much quicker. Plus, MCT oil helps you burn fat and gives you much more energy and focus, which is especially helpful when you’re adjusting to keto. 

Shop Now: Shop MCT Oils in the Bulletproof Store

Reason no. 2: You’re eating too much

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_calorie counting_You’re eating too much in general

To lose weight on the keto diet, you still have to watch your calories. You don’t necessarily have to cut them, but you can’t go hog wild and eat three times the amount you used to. Overeat and you won’t lose weight on the keto diet. Keep in mind that fat has twice the amount of calories per gram than protein or carbs do. So it’s a good idea to track what you eat in a diet app like MyFitnessPal while you’re getting started.

“If a patient asks to go on keto, I calculate their basic calorie needs to sustain their body and lifestyle,” says Davoodi. “It’s a myth that everyone can eat the same amount and not be affected differently. [All factors considered], it’s true that a 200-pound person and a 150-pound person should not eat the same amount.”

As you lose weight, you won’t need as many calories to sustain you as you once did, says Davoodi. “It’s helpful to reassess your needs after every 10 to 15 pounds lost. Otherwise, it’s possible you’ll hit a plateau.”

Pro Tip: While calories matter, your ratio of macronutrients (carbs, fat, and protein) are most important. Aim for 5 percent of calories from carbs, 20 percent from protein, and 75 percent from fat. Davoodi adds that drinking plenty of water to break down fat is particularly important on a high-fat diet like keto.

Reason no. 3: You’re not eating enough

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_You’re not eating enough

If you’ve cut calories excessively, your body thinks it’s in starvation mode. That’ why super low-calorie diets stop working. Your metabolic rate drops to protect organs and normal bodily functions. Likewise, in an effort to conserve itself, your body slows down in response to insufficient energy levels or excessive exercise.[1] 

So while you may think you’re making great strides toward your weight loss goals by eating significantly less, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Your body needs the right amount of high-quality food in the right proportions to reach a healthy weight. And contrary to popular belief, calorie quality matters more than quantity. Focus on hitting your macronutrient goals (high fat, moderate protein and low carb) and eating nutrient-dense, whole foods — not just bacon and butter.

Pro Tip: Use a food calculator to estimate how many calories your body needs to lose one pound per week and stick within that range. Hit your macro goals by eating high-quality keto fats like coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed meats and eggs from pasture-raised chickens.

Reason no. 4: You’re eating too much protein

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_You’re eating too much protein

It’s a common misconception that the keto diet is a high-protein diet. It’s a moderate-protein diet in which about 20 percent of your calories come from protein. Too much protein can actually kick you out of ketosis, says Davoodi, through a process called gluconeogenesis, where your body converts extra protein into sugar (carbs!). Your body will reach for the glucose first and no longer burn fat for fuel.

On the keto diet, you want to eat moderate amounts of complete proteins, which are proteins with meaningful amounts of all eight essential amino acids. Meat, fish and eggs are all complete protein sources. Incomplete proteins from nuts, vegetables and starches are helpful, but they aren’t enough on their own. 

Pro tip: Carefully calculate your protein needs, advises Davoodi. Too much and you won’t stay in ketosis; too little and you’ll lose muscle. Here’s a quick-and-dirty guide:
calculate your ideal protein intake

How much protein to maintain body weight

A good starting point is 0.4 grams of protein for every pound you weigh. A 120-pound woman, for example, would eat 48 grams of protein a day (120 x 0.4 = 48). 

If you’re healthy and sedentary, this should be enough protein for maintenance. In fact, some studies find that 0.4-0.5 grams per pound is enough to maintain lean muscle for people who are working out. [2] At this level, you probably won’t gain muscle, but you won’t lose it, either. Notice that this is far less protein than many diets recommend. 

How much protein to build muscle

If you work out hard or lift heavy, opt for about 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Rebuilding torn up muscles takes a lot of amino acids. You want to provide your body with plenty of raw material to grow.

Again, you don’t need to overdo it. A study of people doing heavy strength training 90 minutes a day, six days a week, found that they didn’t benefit from going above 0.75 grams of protein per pound. [3] On top of that, a 2011 review of research on optimal protein intake for athletes and bodybuilders settled on 0.82 grams per pound as the ideal amount for muscle-building.[4]

How much protein to burn fat

If you’re looking to lose weight, increasing protein may help. Studies suggest keeping protein between 20-30 percent of your daily calories may help you burn fat.[5] [6] [7] A good rule of thumb to get in that range is about 1 gram of protein for every pound you weigh.

How does it work? Protein is satiating, which means you may feel fuller, faster.[8] It also increases thermogenesis, meaning you’ll burn more fat if you higher amounts of protein.[9] 

If you start craving sugar, scale back your protein a bit. You need glucose to break down protein, and you don’t need cravings standing in the way of your goals.

How much protein to speed up recovery

When you’re injured, your body uses extra protein to rebuild damaged tissue. The amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline speed up wound recovery and support joint, bone and tissue damage.[10] [11] [12] Collagen has in all three. To get back on your feet faster, shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight a day total, with approximately 30 grams coming from hydrolyzed collagen.

This is a starting point. You have to take your own biology and lifestyle into account when determining your individual protein needs. With some experimentation, you’ll zero in on what works for you. 

Reason no. 5: You’re eating too many carbs

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_cauliflower_You’re eating too many carbs

Carbs can be tricky on keto, particularly because they are hidden in many unexpected foods like cruciferous veggies, green beans, dairy and nuts. Because these are keto-friendly foods, eat them moderately. 

Another common misstep: Misjudging how many carbs you’re eating overall. It can be difficult to gauge exactly how much food equals 20-50 carbs a day, for instance, which is typical of the keto diet. You can also calculate how many carbs are in each food with the help of a food tracker app. Learn more about the best keto diet trackers here.

To keep your carbs in check:

  • Fill up first up on low-carb vegetables like leafy greens, cucumbers, asparagus, avocado and zucchini — these should fill your entire plate at every meal. 
  • Be mindful of higher-carb veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower.
  • Reserve keto-friendly fruit, like berries, for the occasional dessert. 
  • Focus on high-fat proteins. Pair an egg, grass-fed burger or wild-caught salmon with a green leafy salad and avocado for an easy and filling meal.

Also, take special note of sugar alcohols like sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and isomalt. Sugar alcohols are derived from plant products (fruits and berries), though their carbs are uniquely altered through chemical processing. 

While sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than table sugar, people often overeat them because they are labeled as “sugar-free” or “no sugar added” foods. This is problematic because they can still spike blood glucose levels due to their carb content. You still need to account for them in your diet plan. [13] Your best bet is to go with erythritol because it doesn’t cause blood sugar or insulin spikes. Learn more about alternative sweeteners.

Pro tip: Until you can identify on your own how many carbs are in each food, use an app like MyFitnessPal. You’ll be able to see how many carbs each food contains, and keep track of your daily macros.

Related: Pitfalls of the Keto Diet and Why Carb Cycling Is Better (Cheat Day!)

Reason no. 6: You’re intolerant or allergic to something you’re eating

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_almonds_You’re intolerant or allergic to something you’re eating

Roughly 15 million Americans have food allergies.[14] The most common food allergies are to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish. 

While food allergies are serious business, food intolerances can plague you, too. While not life-threatening, food intolerances cause imbalances in the gut leading to inflammation, which may affect the number you see on the scale.

Pro tip: Talk to your doctor to find out if you’re allergic or intolerant to a particular food. A nutritionist can test your blood and recommend next steps, such as an elimination diet, in which you eliminate all suspect foods and then slowly reintroduce them to see how you react.

Reason no. 7: You have leptin resistance

7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Keto_hypothalamus_You have leptin resistance

You have a “stop eating!” hormone that plays an instrumental role in your hunger and weight management, and it’s called leptin. It puts the brakes on hunger by sending a signal to the brain when your body’s energy needs have been met.[15] [16]

If you have leptin resistance, the “I’m full!” signals don’t transmit properly across the blood-brain barrier. Leptin resistance is triggered by irregular sleep, stress, overeating and calorie restriction.[17] 

Leptin resistance can also affect your thyroid, which secretes hormones that influence metabolism, growth and development. The amount of leptin available to your brain has a major influence on how many thyroid hormones are released into the body. Leptin resistance can throw a wrench in your thyroid function, leading to a slower metabolism and stalled weight loss.[18] [19]

Pro tip: Studies suggest that you may be able to manage leptin levels by having good sleep habits and cutting back on sugar and high-lectin foods.[20] [21] [22]

How to boost your keto results

Make these simple tweaks so you can get the most benefits out of your keto diet.

Try intermittent fasting to accelerate weight loss

Intermittent fasting isn’t a requirement on the keto diet, but it’s a powerful way to help your body create those valuable ketones. 

With intermittent fasting, you eat all of your daily calories within a shortened period, typically 6 to 8 hours, and fast for the remaining 14 to 16 hours. Fasting drains your body of its glucose reserves, so you switch over to burning fat for energy — aka ketosis.

In a 2014 study, adult mice who ate all their food within a 9- to 12-hour period put on less weight and had less fat mass than mice that ate whenever they wanted.[23]

That’s why you typically skip breakfast most days on the Bulletproof Diet. Luckily, there is a hack to keep hunger away.

Drink Bulletproof Coffee

When you drink Bulletproof Coffee in place of breakfast, you remain in ketosis without the distracting hunger pangs. Instead of milk or sugar, each cup contains grass-fed butter and Brain Octane oil (C8 MCT oil). These smart fats may keep you full for hours, and C8 MCT oil raises ketones over three times more effectively than coconut oil. That means you can power through your morning — without feeling hangry.[24] Get the official Bulletproof Coffee recipe here

Practice cyclical ketosis (aka carb cycling)

On the standard keto diet, you’re eating very few carbs (less than 50 grams of total carbs a day), all the time. But restricting carbs for a long period can create issues like fatigue, thyroid problems, insomnia and dry eyes.[25] [26] Your body needs some carbs to perform at its best. 

On the Bulletproof Diet, you follow cyclical ketosis and eat more carbs on one day of the week (called a carb refeed day). The other six days are identical to the standard keto diet. By upping your carb intake periodically, you satisfy carb cravings, support your sleep and keep the weight off. Be sure you’re eating clean sources of carbs, like squash, sweet potatoes, berries and carrots.

You can learn more about the benefits of carb cycling and how to do it here

Add MCT oil to your coffee and food

Using a high-quality MCT oil like Brain Octane oil throughout the day — in your coffee, or drizzled over your salad and vegetables  — raises ketone levels. A blood ketone level of 0.5 is enough to suppress appetite.[27] Learn more about how MCT oil and keto work together to boost your results.

Check the quality of your fats

Keto is a high-fat diet, but you want to make sure you’re tucking in to good-quality fats.

There are different types of fat in food, and some are more anti-inflammatory and stable than others. In general, you want to eat foods that contain saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and a bit of polyunsaturated fat — think grass-fed beef and lamb, wild-caught fatty fish, grass-fed butter, avocadoes, MCT oil and pasture-raised eggs. 

Avoid vegetable oils and trans fats (found in fried foods, candies, stick margarine and packaged baked goods), which can contribute to diet-induced inflammation.[28]. Learn more about dietary fats.

Hit your weight loss goals

Sign-up for the Bulletproof Weight List newsletter and receive tips, recipes, and advice on how to keep the pounds coming off.