7 Ways To Break Through Keto Weight Loss Plateaus
Weight Loss

7 Ways To Break Through Keto Weight Loss Plateaus

7 Ways To Break Through Keto Weight Loss Plateaus

Posted 2 years ago

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton

Author and book writer

Tony O’Neill, PT, DPT, MSc, RDN

Tony O’Neill, PT, DPT, MSc, RDN

Scientific Reviewer

Expert Approved

If you’ve hit a Keto weight loss plateau, you’re probably feeling frustrated. You’re eating a low-carb diet. Why aren’t the pounds sliding off?

This frustration is compounded by success stories everywhere you turn. Especially on social channels like Facebook and Instagram. 

She lost 25 pounds on Keto. And now has killer abs. Good for her...

But you’ve been stuck at the same weight for a while now. And you’re starting to wonder if the Keto diet ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. 

Stick around for five minutes. There are probably one, two, or even three things you can tweak in your Keto plan to break through that weight-loss plateau. 

We’ll cover those tips soon. First, let’s clear up some confusion about weight loss on Keto. 

Losing Weight vs. Losing Fat

Losing weight on Keto isn’t the same as losing fat on Keto. 

In the early stages of Keto dieting, you might experience several days of rapid weight loss. This weight, however, is mostly water weight. The water comes from your shedding of glycogen (stored glucose) as you transition to low-carb living.[*]

So glycogen loss is the first plateau. Once you lose that water, your weight loss will decelerate. This is healthy and normal. 

With your glycogen depleted, you can move to the next phase: Fat loss. During this phase, you sustainably shed body fat until you hit your target weight. 

But entering fat-burning mode isn’t like flipping a switch. When you go Keto, your body needs time to fat-adapt.

Without Keto, your body relies more on carbs (glucose) for energy. But a low-carb diet takes away your carbs, so you switch to burning fat for energy. This fat-adaptation, also called Keto-adaptation, can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the state of your metabolism.[*]

So if you’re on the Keto diet to lose weight, you need to be patient. That’s the first principle. Being patient gives your body time to fat-adapt, so you start burning through your body fat for energy. 

But let’s assume you’ve done that. You’ve been Keto for two months and your weight loss has stalled. What should you do?

7 Tips To Break Through Weight Loss Plateaus

To do Keto right, you need to eat low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat. Simple enough, right?

Yes, but these basics only get you so far. To really succeed on Keto—i.e, to get through weight-loss plateaus—you must have a nuanced, holistic approach. The following tips will help.   

#1: Track Carbs

The #1 rule of Keto is to restrict carbs. Carb restriction keeps the hormone insulin low, and low insulin signals your liver to start burning fat and making ketones.[*]

But the Ketogenic state isn’t just about fat-burning. It’s also about the stabilization of hunger hormones like ghrelin and neuropeptide Y.[*]

Less hunger, less overeating, easier weight loss. 

By now you’re probably thinking: Yeah yeah, I know. Keep carbs low. But since hidden carbs are everywhere—in salad dressings, sauces, and many vegetables—this is easier said than done. 

Here’s a simple heuristic. If you’re approaching 10% of daily calories from carbs (usually 20 to 30 grams), you should probably cut back. Get a handle on this with the Carb Manager app, which not only tracks all your macros, but also helps you stay accountable to your weight loss goals.

#2: Track Calories

Speaking of tracking macros, you’ll also want to track calories to ensure sustainable weight loss. 

Wait. Can’t you eat as much as you like on Keto? 

Not always. True, the Keto diet controls hunger hormones and satisfies better than a high-carb diet. But as with any diet, you can still overeat.

Nuts are exhibit A. They’re too easy to munch mindlessly. And if you’re eating more calories than your body is using, you simply won’t lose weight. 

The trick is to operate at a mild caloric deficit, around 5-10% fewer calories than you expend. So if you’re eating 2000 calories per day and stuck above your target weight, try cutting to 1900. (Pro tip: Use Carb Manager to dial this in).  

#3: Track Ketones

You’re tracking carbs and calories. Now let’s track ketones. 

Ketones are an objective biomarker for fat-adaptation. If ketones are present, you’re burning fat.  

Measure ketones in the blood, breath, or urine. In the blood, you’re looking for a range of 0.5 to 3.0 mmol/L BHB to confirm you’re in nutritional ketosis. 

If you see ketone levels fall, it could mean hidden carbs are sneaking into your diet. Or that you aren’t eating enough fat. With this information in hand, you can adjust your diet accordingly. 

#4: Prioritize Sleep

If you’re not sleeping well, it increases hunger hormones and decreases insulin sensitivity.[*] In other words, you’re more prone to overeating and fat storage. 

Make sleep a non-negotiable, and all aspects of your health will be rewarded. 

#5: Manage Stress

Cortisol, your stress hormone, is designed for short term survival. It breaks down bone, disintegrates muscle, and gets you storing fat.[*]

To manage your stress and reduce cortisol, make sure you’re sleeping well and exercising daily. A yoga or meditation practice can also go a long way towards stress reduction.  

#6: Get Enough Protein

Many people don’t eat enough protein on Keto. They fear it will kick them out of ketosis. 

But moderate to high protein intakes (~30% of calories), the evidence suggests, are perfectly compatible with weight loss on Keto.[*]

When pushing past weight loss plateaus, protein is your friend. It fills you up, supports your mood, and promotes the development of fat’s arch nemesis: Muscle. 

#7: Intermittent fasting

A big reason folks hit weight loss plateaus on Keto? Snacking drives overeating. 

That’s where intermittent fasting (IF) comes in. When you practice IF, you compress your feeding window every day or every week. This not only reduces the chances of overeating, but it also hastens the fat-adaptation process.[*]

Popular forms of IF include:

  • 16/8 - 16 hours of fasting with an 8 hour feeding window every day.
  • OMAD - One meal a day.
  • 5:2 - Five days of normal eating with two nonconsecutive “fasting” days at 25% of normal calories.
  • ADF - Alternate-day fasting means eating 0-25% of normal calories every other day.

To make intermittent fasting easier, start small with 12 hour overnight fasts, and work your way up from there to a longer fasting window if desired. For more on IF, check out our guide to IF and Keto

The Final Word

If you’re stuck at a weight loss plateau, step back and ask a few questions:

  • Have I been Keto for long enough to fat-adapt?
  • Are hidden carbs sneaking into my diet?
  • Am I eating too many calories?
  • How are my sleep and stress looking?
  • Am I getting enough protein?
  • Could I compress my feeding window?

Go through this exercise and you’ll likely have some insights. Then you can tweak your regimen accordingly. 

And remember, be patient with yourself. There is no easy button for sustainable fat loss. It happens bit by bit, until one day you realize you’ve hit your goal.   

Comments 31

  • SplendidMacadamia816921

    SplendidMacadamia816921 3 months ago

    Every week I hit a 3 day period when the scale doesn't move. The 4th day I lose half a lb, 5th day a whole lb, 6th day another. Just stay faithful and try eating less calories I'm doing 900 rn. I've almost lost 75 lbs in 105 days. 245 to 170.8. It's easy to gain weight, it's a sacrifice to lose it. Keep your head up stay accountable and don't have cheat days. You can do it!

    • vr0624b24

      vr0624b24 3 months ago

      My scale hasn’t moved in a month. But I’m down a whole pant size. What am I doing wrong. I drink a gallon of water a day. Fast till 11 am my eating window is from 11am-7pm

      • IncredibleMacadamia542463

        IncredibleMacadamia542463 5 months ago

        Idk why it says I am incredible macadamia I am not strange

        • Enso23

          Enso23 5 months ago

          You can change your username in your profile. The one you have is just randomly assigned when you start.

      • IncredibleMacadamia542463

        IncredibleMacadamia542463 5 months ago

        I have been on Keto faithfully for 3 weeks. I have only lost 3 pounds.

        • Katie_Macadamia

          Katie_Macadamia 6 months ago

          Have been eating Low Carb/Keto for more than 25 years. I’m in a 2 month long plateau. This is not helpful. Have been doing all of these suggestions already. Working with my endochrinologist. 16/8 IF every day….

          • tremendes43f12

            tremendes43f12 6 months ago

            Excellent article and yet, I am still totally frustrated. Stalled for one week. In ketosis, exercising almost daily. Just can't get below the stall point. Three weeks on keto. Lost six pounds in the first two weeks. Getting really frustrated. I should be loosing. All signs point to fat burning... And yet...

            • Nuts for Nets

              Nuts for Nets 6 months ago

              Agree with Cauliflower - don’t give up! Weight loss has been on a steady downward trend for me over the last four months but I have also experienced plateaus and even slight upticks in weight gain over that period. It seems to occur for no apparent reason - out of the blue! - and is frustrating as hell. Press through it. Every plateau or slight weight gain for me is always followed by impressive weight loss with a continuing downward trend. Until it happens again… It’s all part of the process. When you read you need to be patient, believe it and carry on!

            • RemarkableCauliflower279470

              RemarkableCauliflower279470 6 months ago

              Don’t give up! We’ve all been there. Those first six pounds were almost certainly water weight from the glycogen stores burning off. Your body is probably still getting adapted to keto. If you are seeing ketones in your testing and are eating clean/working out, it will come. Give yourself and your body a little time. Once you fat-adapt you will feel and see the impact. Don’t give up!

          • SpectacularKale239731

            SpectacularKale239731 7 months ago

            Great article!!

            • GorgeousCauliflower993194

              GorgeousCauliflower993194 7 months ago

              Lots of great info and tips!

              • FortuitousMacadamia737390

                FortuitousMacadamia737390 8 months ago

                What can I do if my ketone levels are in therapeutic range all the time instead of nutritional?

                • StellarRadish613557

                  StellarRadish613557 7 months ago

                  Sightly increase carbs. Eat a piece of fruit to get your system back in check then modify your macros to increase carbs 1% at a time until you're at your goal ketone reading. Also, make sure your testing method is accurate.

              • JHarris

                JHarris 9 months ago

                Fat adapt makes sense....patience

                • IncredibleArugula315482

                  IncredibleArugula315482 10 months ago

                  Do you still use the same macros but within the 16:8 IF plan?

                  • OP

                    OP 10 months ago

                    Yes, and remember to drink plenty of fluids.

                • Alize-LowRod

                  Alize-LowRod 10 months ago

                  This was vary informative. I'm on my 2nd round of Keto diet. I did my first round about 4 months ago. It lasted about 1 year and 2 months. then I took a month break in December. Started back up in January 2021, and have been slow going on the weight loss. I lost 60lbs my first round... I am trying to take off another 50 to 60 this 2nd round. and have only took off 10lbs in about 3 months. Hope to hit my over all goal before December 2021, and keep all the weight off.

                  • tathomas765

                    tathomas765 6 months ago

                    Great job! Are u exercising? Start w/just 10-15 min a day and it will feel so good you’ll get addicted! Lift some light weights 2-3 times per week to convert fat to muscle and it will increase your metabolism and even if the scales don’t reflect it right away, your clothes and the mirror will because you will be toning and losing inches. Keep up the great work!

                • Ebryantward

                  Ebryantward 10 months ago

                  I am so glad I am exploring this app more. This information was just what I needed. I will work through my plateau using this process.

                  • Shelleybs

                    Shelleybs a year ago

                    Hi there Carb manager. Does anyone ever answer members questions?

                    • Idakat

                      Idakat a year ago

                      Very helpful article, I know that it is coming.

                      • Christine

                        Christine a year ago

                        Intermittent fasting REALLY helped me. I would have a high fat Coffee (or two) in the AM instead of any breakfast and eat all my meals between noon-6pm most days of the week. I was serious about stopping after 6pm unless it was a social night- and that really really helped me shed weight, so i agree with that trick for anyone not doing IF yet.

                        • Ketojewelz

                          Ketojewelz a year ago

                          I’ve been stalled since nov

                          • OP

                            OP 9 months ago

                            KVS, so yeah, plateaued again after that☹️so ridiculous! Introduced hot bone broth before bed, started to see small advances (0.2Lbs per day)...came across Apple cider vinegar, for something else, so started consuming before meals (2tbs with water) and lost another 2lbs in 4 days...so trying that for now. Keto is definitely not it's all hyped up to be!🙄

                          • KVS

                            KVS 10 months ago

                            OP, is this still working for you? I had a nearly identical problem and have been doing IF for about 3 weeks on the same schedule you are on. I lost a few pounds right away but then weight loss stalled again and I’m so frustrated!

                          • OP

                            OP 10 months ago

                            I was stuck on a 2 week plateau...measuring everything with a digital scale, including myself...no change, at all! Super frustrating! I started IF (18/6) 4 days ago and am down 2lbs, today!! I would eat between 12-6pm. So relieved to have broken the plateau, finally and see progress! Remember, you must still consume your regular macros and calorie content for the day! Drink lots of fluids during your fasting periods and you WILL be able to do this!

                        • Mike

                          Mike a year ago

                          Plateauing for the last 5 weeks. Was thinking about fasting. I walk 75 minutes daily on a treadmill of outside. I have lost 74 pounds but I have dramatically slowed in weight loss!! HELP!! would love info on timed for fasting?

                          • BlithesomeAvocado289488

                            BlithesomeAvocado289488 9 months ago

                            Remember to adjust your macro calculator and goals as you lose weight. I do my weight goals in increments of 10 lbs. so far I have lost 30lbs with another 60 to go.

                          • OP

                            OP 10 months ago

                            Mike, not sure if you're notified of the previous reply, so specifically sending to you too. I was stuck on a 2 week plateau...measuring everything with a digital scale, including myself...no change, at all! Super frustrating! I started IF (18/6) 4 days ago and am down 2lbs, today!! I would eat between 12-6pm. So relieved to have broken the plateau, finally and see progress! Remember, you must still consume your regular macros and calorie content for the day! Drink lots of fluids during your fasting periods and you WILL be able to do this!

                        • Celine Lanteigne

                          Celine Lanteigne a year ago

                          Im in a plateau for the ladt 6 months and tracking everything, walking everday 10 000 steps

                          • Melisa

                            Melisa a year ago