Keto is a lifestyle that many people have started in an attempt to lose some weight or improve their overall health. When on a ketogenic diet, you’ll be eating a diet that’s low in carbohydrates, high in healthy fats, and moderate in protein. For most, keto works without any problem, but some people experience issues. Why doesn’t the keto diet work?
Eating too many carbs, consuming too many calories, snacking too often, and not getting enough sleep are among the most common reasons you may not be getting the results you want on a keto diet.
There are many things you might be doing that isn’t optimal for keto, but most of them are things that can be fixed. Let’s examine some of the most common problems and learn what can be done to get back on track.
1. You’re Not Entering Ketosis
Since success on keto revolves so heavily around limiting the carbs you eat, it only makes sense that the first reason the diet may not be working for you is that you’re eating too many of them.
When doing keto, your goal is to enter ketosis, which is best described as when your body no longer has glucose to burn for energy and must burn body fat instead. Ketosis is where the success and weight-loss comes from.
To enter ketosis, you have to limit the number of carbs you consume severely. An article written by StatPearls and published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information states that for most people to enter ketosis, the number of carbohydrates they eat should only be around 5% of their daily calorie consumption.
When you start eating a keto diet, it can be hard to eliminate all the carbs from your diet. After all, think about how long you’ve probably been eating a diet that consists of more carbs than anything else. If you had been following the standard American diet, you were likely consuming up to 65% of your calories in the way of carbs, according to International Review Journal Advances in Nutrition.
It’s not enough just to enter ketosis. You have to stay there, as well. The only way to get there is through nutrition. You have to keep your carbs at or under 5% of your calories to stay in ketosis once you enter it.
If you’re having trouble knowing whether or not you’re eating the right amount of carbs, it might be a good idea to track what you’re eating using an app or website like Carb Manager.
Tracking your macros will tell you what your caloric needs are and will do the calculating for you as far as how many carbs you should be eating.
How Do I Know If I’m In Ketosis?
It can be hard to know whether or not you’re correctly doing a diet that relies on your body entering a metabolic state. Fortunately, there are some signs you can look for to know whether or not you’re in ketosis.
- Keto Breath – When entering ketosis, a lot of people notice they get bad breath. This is commonly referred to as keto breath and results from acetone exiting the body via your mouth. It’s a temporary side effect that will go away.
- Ketones In Your Urine – One of the most popular ways to know whether or not you’re in ketosis is by testing your urine. You can purchase test strips that measure how many ketones are in your urine.
- Ketones In Your Blood – Another way to test for ketones is by testing your blood. The testing kits work by making a small finger prick and testing the blood on a monitor. This is by far the most accurate way to get your ketone numbers.
- You’re Not As Hungry – Ketosis is a natural appetite suppressant, so if you’re doing keto right, you’ll find that you’re not as hungry. This won’t be the case immediately. Many people feel extremely hungry when starting keto, so give it some time.
- Endless Energy – Have you gotten a ton of energy, and it appears to have happened out of nowhere? It may be the result of ketosis!
- Increased Focus – Being able to concentrate and having more clarity than usual is another positive side effect that may indicate you’ve entered ketosis.
- Fatigue – I know I just said energy is an indication of ketosis, but before that happens, you may experience a bit of short-term fatigue. If you push through it, you’ll find the results are more than worth it.
- Digestive Issues – As I discussed in this post, keto may cause constipation in the early stages of the diet. If you’re experiencing this, check out what I wrote for some easy tricks to help you through it.
- Lack Of Sleep – If you’re having trouble sleeping, it may be because your body is adapting to ketosis. Once you’ve been on the diet for a while, you may find that the opposite effect occurs, and you’ll find yourself sleeping better than you ever did before.
2. You’re Eating Too Many Calories
Cutting your carbs isn’t some sort of magic that gets rid of every other diet rule that there’s ever been. Calories in and calories out still matter, especially the longer you’ve been doing keto.
When you’re just starting keto, your focus should be eliminating carbs and not worrying about the calories you’re eating. In fact, some people still lose weight at the beginning of a ketogenic diet, even if they were eating more calories than they were previously. As nice as that is, it doesn’t last forever. Eventually, the calories catch up to you.
Gram per gram, healthy fat has nearly double the calories that carbohydrates and protein have. Even if you’re not eating as much food as you once did, it can still be easy to go over your calories without realizing it. This is another reason it’s crucial to track what you’re eating.
3. You’re Not Eating Enough Calories
I know this appears to contradict what I said in the previous reason keto may not be working for you, but hear me out. In an interview published in Women’s Health Magazine, Sonya Angelone, RDN mentions that keto can prevent you from being hungry because the ketones are a natural appetite suppressant.
While not being hungry seems like it should be great for weight loss, it can actually cause more problems because you might not be getting all the calories you need.
If you aren’t eating enough, you can actually make your body think it’s starving, which will cause it to hold onto all the fat it can and slow down your metabolism, forcing your weight-loss to come to a standstill.
One of the best ways to get the calories you need is by adding healthy fats to your diet. Here are 13 of the best ways to do this:
- Add cheese to your vegetables
- Eat fat bombs
- Make sure the proteins you eat are high in fat. Some good options include:
- 80% lean ground beef
- Turkey thighs
- Turkey legs
- Chicken thighs
- Chicken legs
- Use whipped cream as a topping for berries
- Add cream cheese or mascarpone to your diet
- Cook with grass-fed butter or ghee
- Enjoy avocados
- Drink bulletproof coffee
- Drizzle olive oil over your meat and vegetables
- Save your bacon grease and use it to cook
- Try coconut butter
- Avoid foods labeled as low-fat, reduced-fat, or fat-free
- Snack on nuts and seeds. Try these for a fat boost:
- Brazil nuts
- macadamia nuts
- chia seeds
- sesame seeds
- sunflower seeds
4. You’re Stressed Out
Stress is everywhere you look. Whether you’re facing strict deadlines at work or you’re always so busy that you don’t have time for yourself, it’s easy to become stressed out.
It doesn’t matter if you are mentally or physically stressed; both forms can have a negative impact on your weight-loss goals. According to the Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco, stress can cause the blood sugar levels in your body to spike. When your blood sugar spikes, the signals for your body to burn stored fat are stopped.
If you think stress is keeping you from your goals, it may be a good idea to take some time for yourself. Try some of these fantastic self-care techniques:
- Practice breathing in and out slowly whenever you feel stressed.
- Stretch your entire body.
- Organize something because clutter leads to stress. Start with where you spend the most time. This could be your desk, bedroom, or anywhere that needs it.
- Get some sun. Vitamin D helps balance your cortisol levels that cause stress and the best source is sunlight.
- Get a massage.
- Keep a journal and write in it whenever you feel stressed. Keeping track of what causes you stress may make it easier to avoid in the future.
- Take a 15-minute power nap.
- Relax your mind by reading a book or magazine. No time to read? Try an audiobook while you’re doing other things.
- Take a walk.
- Watch a funny movie or go to a comedy club. When you hear the term laughter is the best medicine, believe it!
- Take a hot bath
- Post positive messages on post-it notes and hang them up around your house and office.
- Listen to your favorite songs.
- Get an adult coloring book and color your worries away.
- Re-evaluate your social media usage. Only follow accounts that are positive and avoid toxic groups and people.
5. The Food You’re Eating Is Not Nutritious
Nutritious whole foods should be the cornerstone of any ketogenic diet. Although processed foods are extremely convenient, they can hurt your diet, even if the macros are right where they should be.
I’m not telling you that you can’t have any processed foods. I eat them fairly regularly, and I’m losing weight. The problem arises when you either use too many processed foods as replacements for whole foods or eat processed foods like keto desserts and protein bars between your regular meals, adding additional calories you don’t need.
Processed food items typically have a high-calorie count, but are low in what matters. These foods will have little to no vitamins or minerals, which are essential for a healthy diet.
To make the most of keto, you’ll want the majority of your diet to consist of nutritious whole foods that are not processed. Stick to things like:
- Full-fat dairy products
- Olive oil
- Pastured meat
6. You’re Eating Too Much Protein
Protein is healthy and is a big part of a lot of diets. On a ketogenic diet, however, protein is just a moderate part of the equation. High protein diets don’t allow you to enter ketosis because your body will break down the extra protein and convert them into sugars.
To avoid this problem, make sure that no more than 35% of your daily calories are coming from protein.
7. You’re Consuming Maltitol
It’s not easy for someone to give up things that taste sweet just because you’re on a ketogenic diet. Sugar alcohols allow you to enjoy foods and drinks that are sweet without adding unnecessary carbs to your diet. Unfortunately, not all sugar alcohols are suitable for keto.
Maltitol may be the worst artificial sugar you can add to your body. Although it technically qualifies as a low GI sugar, a randomized controlled trial performed by Nutrition Research showed that it still spikes your blood sugar, which will knock you out of ketosis every time.
Instead of Malitol, consider these keto-friendly alternatives:
- Monk fruit sweetener
- Yacon syrup
8. You’re Having Too Much Dairy
If you eat a lot of dairy, it can knock you out of ketosis, especially if you’re making the wrong dairy choices. You’ll be surprised at how many carbs some dairy products contain. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a single cup of 2% milk has nearly 12g of carbohydrates.
Be sure to check the nutritional content on the dairy products you consume to make sure you aren’t going over your daily carb intake.
9. You Are Resistant To Leptin
Leptin is a hormone in your body that sends signals to your brain that you are full and should stop eating. According to a review published in the National Library of Medicine by Current Opinion in Pharmacology, when the energy needs of your body have been adequately satisfied, leptin will let your brain know.
For most people, this signal will work just fine. If you have a resistance to leptin, however, these signals won’t make it past the barrier where the blood and brain meet. An article posted in the US National Library of Medicine, resistance to leptin is almost always triggered by overeating or having an irregular sleep schedule.
Leptin resistance won’t just cause you to overeat. It can also have a very negative effect on your thyroid by limiting how many of the hormones are released into your body, causing your metabolism to slow, according to the BBA Molecular Basis of Disease.
To ensure you are keeping your leptin at normal levels, ensure you are practicing good sleep habits.
10. You Need More Fiber
Before you started keto, you likely had no problem getting all the fiber you needed in your diet. Since some of the most significant fiber sources are in whole grains and fruits, you may struggle to get enough.
Fiber is extremely important because it aids in keeping hunger regulated. It helps provides you with a steady blood-glucose level and gives you the energy you need to keep going for hours. When you are eating a diet that is low in fiber, you may not feel full, which could cause you to overeat.
Another problem with not getting enough fiber in your diet is that it lowers how much good bacteria you have in your gut. This bacteria keeps your stomach healthy and prevents weight gain.
Add these foods to your ketogenic diet to ensure you’re getting all the fiber you need:
- Chia seeds
- Raw coconut
- Pumpkin seeds
- Leafy greens
- Bell peppers
You can also take a fiber supplement if needed, but it’s always a lot better to get what you need from a well-rounded diet consisting of nutritious whole foods.
11. You Have An Undiagnosed Condition
Have you looked through this list and keep telling yourself that none of this applies to you? Does it feel like you’ve done everything right on keto, but you still aren’t seeing any results? It might be time to look into whether or not you have any undiagnosed conditions that may be working against you.
Some medical conditions make it hard to lose weight or, in specific scenarios, can lead to weight gain. Some of these conditions include:
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Cushing’s Syndrome
If keto doesn’t seem to be working for you and you are nailing nearly every aspect of the diet, contact your doctor so tests can be run.
It can be quite a blow if you find out you have any of these conditions, but don’t let it get you down. Weight loss and healthy weight maintenance are possible through modifications to your diet and lifestyle along with medication, if necessary.
How To Keep Your Keto Diet On Track
Now that you know the reasons that a ketogenic diet might not be working, I wanted to give you some tips that might help you stay on track.
Keep A Food Journal
Food journals can be a great way to keep track of what you’re putting into your body. When you have a detailed record of everything you’ve eaten, you can spot patterns that might be keeping you from losing weight.
There are a ton of benefits that come with keeping a keto journal. Click here to read more about them.
Chew Sugar-Free Gum
If you crave sweets, chewing sugar-free gum will help keep you strong in the face of temptation. The gum not only gives you the sweet taste you’re looking for, but it helps prevent you from snacking.
Drink Lots Of Water
If you’re feeling like you’re hungry all the time, drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes before eating anything. The water will fill your stomach and waiting will let you know if you were actually hungry or just thirsty.
Try Intermittent Fasting
If you’re having trouble getting into ketosis, intermittent fasting could be a great way to get you there.
Instead of eating throughout the day, you’ll be consuming all of your daily calories during a short window. There are all different types of intermittent fasting with varying time frames. Some people eat all of their calories in one hour while fasting for 23. I don’t recommend this until you’re pretty advanced when it comes to this type of eating.
The most common intermittent fasting timeframe for keto seems to be staying in a fasted state for 16 to 18 hours and eating in a 6 to 8 hour window.
The reason intermittent fasting works so well is that it uses up all the glucose stored in your body, giving you no choice but to switch to fat-burning, according to a study performed at the Salk Institute.
Keto is a great lifestyle for nearly everyone. In addition to weight-loss, the health benefits that come from this way of eating are hard to match. You just have to make sure you’re doing everything correctly if you want to get the results you’re looking for.
Is the keto diet safe for someone with high cholesterol? Yes, the keto diet is safe for someone with high cholesterol. Since a ketogenic diet includes a lot of fats, including saturated fats from meat and eggs, some people will see an increase in cholesterol, but these changes are actually positive.
Do you gain weight back after keto? If you go back to your original way of eating without taking the necessary precautions, you will likely regain all the weight you lost on a ketogenic diet.