Has your weight loss plateaued while following a keto or low-carb protocol? While this can be frustrating, I urge you not to give up on living a low carb lifestyle. Plateaus happen on any kind of diet plan. In this post, we will identify a few culprits that are sabotaging progress, and some simple tweaks that canl help you start losing weight again.
Before I dive into the 10 best ways to break through a plateau on keto, let’s discuss why plateaus happen in the first place.
Now, plateaus happen on any kind of plan you’re following. When you first make dietary improvements, you have a lot more room to lose weight. As you experience success with your diet, there comes a point where there is less for you to lose and it becomes more about the recompositioning of your body.
However, plateaus seem more dramatic on keto. This is because when you first start following a ketogenic diet, you dramatically lose weight with ease. During your first few days on keto, most of this is water loss. When your body doesn’t have carbs, your body goes through diuresis (water excretion) — resulting in short-lived, yet rapid weight loss.
So if you’re plateauing but started keto within the last couple of weeks, no need to panic. Just keep ketoing on and your body will start to lose fat next. Just realize that losing fat is a slower (yet more rewarding) process than losing water weight.
This article is more for the people who have had longer-term success on keto, but then hit a stall where losing even half a pound seems impossible.
If you’re one of those people, here’s my quick advice to you:
Plateauing doesn’t mean that keto won’t work for you, that your body is broken, or that additional weight loss is impossible. In fact, usually making a few small tweaks are enough to get you back on the weight loss train.
So let’s jump into the 10 best ways to bust through a plateau on keto.
Whenever one of my keto clients’ weight loss stalls, dairy is always my #1 suspect.
High fat dairy can be problematic for a few reasons:
If you suspect any of the following points I made above, here’s what you should do:
Cut dairy completely for a month and see if anything changes. If not, try one of the other ways to break through your stall in this article.
Nuts are a lot like dairy products — many kinds of nuts are keto-friendly, but they are tricky.
Like dairy products, nuts are easy to overeat. In fact, I’d say tasty, salty nuts are even easier to overeat than dairy products. Nuts are typically considered a snack food and we are aiming to eliminate snacking and defer to eating nutrient-dense meals.
Plus, most nuts have high enough carb counts to knock your body out of ketosis.
If you’re being honest with yourself and realize that you are eating a lot of nuts during keto, here’s what you should do:
Cut the nuts completely for one month and see if that’s enough to break through your plateau.
If that sounds too hard, then you can try tracking your nut intake better and only eating nuts that are low in carbs and high in fat.
The friendliest nuts include:
Whereas the worst nuts on keto are chestnuts, cashews, pistachios, and peanuts. Perfect Keto created a helpful guide on all the different nuts and their carb counts here.
From coaching hundreds of clients on keto, I would say that too much dairy and too many nuts are the two biggest culprits of weight loss plateaus.
A close third behind eating too much dairy or too many nuts is snacking, eating too much, and eating too late.
Let’s start with snacking:
Snacking isn’t against any keto rules, but again, all snacks are easy to overeat and many are only “keto-in-disguise” — meaning they’re filled with added sugars, hidden carbs, and high calories.
If you’d like to try some keto-friendly snack recipes that don’t contain added sugars, hidden carbs, or high calories, check out a free week of keto recipes I created for you here: https://ketoloversinnercircle.com/recipes. You’ll get instant access to a week of breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes as well as 3 snack and 3 dessert recipes.
Or if you suffer from a sweet tooth, you can check out this post: Top 10 best keto dessert and comfort food recipes to cure your sweet tooth.
Feeling the urge to snack too often usually means there’s a deeper issue — whether you’re emotionally eating (due to cravings, stress, or even boredom) or you aren’t getting enough fat or protein from your meals (both of which are naturally satiating).
Remember the goal of keto isn’t to starve yourself!
If you’re a frequent snacker, try going a week without snacking at all — or try intermittent fasting (which helps reduce your urge to snack).
What if you’re eating too much?
While counting calories isn’t recommended like it is with other kinds of diets, if you suspect you’re overeating then journaling or tracking your food for a week or two will give you a clearer picture about what you are eating and potentially causing your weight loss stall.
What if you’re eating too late?
Your digestive system and organs prepare for sleep when the sun goes downEating too late won’t necessarily stall your weight loss goals directly. Eating after a certain time doesn’t mean you’ll gain more weight — though several animal studies suggest this.
But it can slow down your metabolism, which indirectly stalls weight loss. Plus, it’s easier to overeat and make poor food choices later at night.
If you’re consistently eating late at night, try intermittent fasting. Not only will it help you stop eating too late, but it can change your relationship with food — making you more aware of when you’re actually hungry instead of mindlessly or emotionally eating.
Exercising daily is a great way to kickstart your weight loss. And daily exercise doesn’t have to mean spending 2 hours in the gym doing intense workouts (though it can if that’s your jam).
My personal favorite daily exercise is a 45-minute walk outside. Not only does it burn some extra calories, but just being out in nature is good for your mental health.
Plus, it’s easy — especially if you have a dog. (They need exercise too!)
If you’re already doing a form of intermittent fasting, this might be the most effective tip you read. And if you’re not intermittent fasting already, I’d highly suggest doing so.
Quick story time:
One of my clients (who will remain nameless for privacy reasons), had initial success on keto then started plateauing.
She was doing everything “right.” She even did intermittent fasting and followed the standard eating window of 12pm - 8pm.
Then she plateaued for 3 full weeks! And nothing she tried fixed it...until she changed her eating window. Instead of eating from noon to 8pm, she started eating from 9am until 5pm.
Her eating window was the same exact length — 8 hours. But this simple little tweak helped her bust through her plateau and she started losing weight again!
Two of the biggest culprits of nasty weight loss plateaus are not drinking enough water and not getting enough sleep each night.
Let’s start with getting enough water:
We need plenty of water regardless of what diet we’re following. But water is even more important while you’re on keto because your body doesn’t store as much without carbs.
Plus, water is one of my all-time favorite “cheat codes” for weight loss because it naturally (and safely) curbs your appetite, aids digestion, and gives you energy.
So try tracking your daily water intake and if it’s low, see if drinking more water helps you break through your plateau. Generally, you want to aim for 0.5-1 oz of water for each pound of bodyweight.
Now onto sleep…
Sleep is actually one of the most important staples to healthy weight loss. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces cortisol (the stress hormone) which makes you hungrier, can add “stubborn fat” around your belly, and increases your cravings — especially for carbs.
If you struggle getting enough sleep each night, exercising is a great way to fall asleep earlier. You can also try meditation and breathing techniques to help you unwind after a long day. Also, avoiding screens (from your phone, TV, or computer) a few hours before bedtime can help you easily drift into sleep.
You should aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.
An extended fast is longer than an intermittent fast. Extended fasts usually go for 36-72 hours, while intermittent fasts generally go for 12-16 hours.
If you’re plateauing and have been plateauing for a while, a 3-day extended fast should do the trick.
Extended fasting is so effective for a variety of reasons — it’s best to think of it as a supercharged version of intermittent fasting.
Some of the most powerful benefits, other than weight loss, include:
Autophagy is when your old and damaged cells get replaced by new and healthy cells. In addition to aiding weight loss, it also has a lot of anti-aging benefits.
So how do you do an extended fast?
You can still drink water, have electrolytes, and other non-caloric beverages (such as black coffee and tea).
It’s best to pick a weekend where you don’t have much going on. The first day can be a struggle, but it gets easier. I promise!
Another benefit of fasting it that it alters your relationship with food — making it easier to tell when your body is hungry or if your mind is just stressed or bored.
If you’ve never fasted before, then practicing an alternate day OMAD eating schedule can be an easier way to get similar results.
OMAD stands for One Meal A Day. Meaning, you only eat one meal a day and fast the rest of the day.
So an alternate day OMAD schedule means one day you eat one meal only then the next you eat as you normally would.
Again, this will give your body many of the benefits of an extended fast and is a lot easier for fasting beginners.
Partial fasting is another great way for beginner fasters to start fasting.
The 1 day egg fast, bone broth fast and green juice fast are all low calorie options in the partial fasting category. And each can be your secret weapon for overcoming your weight loss stall.
Here’s how each fast works:
For one day, all you eat is eggs, butter and cheese.
For each egg you eat, you should also eat a Tbsp of pure fat (from butter, olive oil or coconut oil) or full fat cheese.
The basic idea behind this fast is that it knocks your body into fat burning mode because it’s a high-fat, low-carb, and moderate protein diet.
This is another form of intermittent fasting where you replace your meals with bone broth. You want to try to eat 2-3 quarts of bone broth per day.
The basic idea behind this fast is that it gives you many of the benefits of an extended fast (such as autophagy, lower blood sugar and insulin levels, and accelerating fat loss) without needing to go 3 days without food.
Feel free to add herbs and spices (like turmeric, ginger, or oregano) to your bone broth for more flavor and nutritional density. And you still want to eat all your bone broth meals during certain feeding windows, like you would with typical intermittent fasting.
This is a slightly easier version of an extended fast. Instead of only being able to drink water, a green juice fast made from the best, organic green vegetables and sprouts makes it easier while providing several healing benefits for your body.
There are several different green juice fasts available if you search for it on Google. Or if you prefer juicing the vegetables yourself, spinach, kale, and celery are your best friends.
You can start with a shorter fast and work your way up to longer fasts. But generally speaking, the longer you can fast, the better.
So start with a 24 hour green juice fast. And see if you can make it a full 72 hours over time.
If you're not eating a lot of carbs, but your blood sugar is high and you’re not in ketosis, it might be time to “carb cycle.”
Carb cycling is where you pick one meal and make it a higher carb, lower fat meal to “reset” your body.
Carb cycling is especially effective on high-activity days — where you’re doing extraneous workouts.
Specific high-carb days can help improve leptin function, which is your body’s hormone for regulating weight. And for women, it can help boost progesterone (which is extra important the week before your period).
Many people use this as an excuse to binge a bunch of unhealthy carbs. What you eat still matters, so pick high-quality foods from real foods if you want to boost your weight loss.
And there you have it! The 10 best ways to bust through a plateau on keto.
You don’t need to try every single recommendation in this post. It’s best to find a few that look enticing and experiment.
If one technique works, great!
And if it doesn’t work, just come back to this article and try another one from the list.
Remember, everyone has a unique body and what works for some people doesn't necessarily mean it will work for you. Listen to your body and you'll be back on the weight loss track before you know it!
If you’d like additional support, insights and secrets about living a ketogenic lifestyle, I want to invite you to check out the Keto Lovers Inner Circle.