Many people turn to Keto to get their health in check and meet their weight loss goals. But what happens when the weight doesn’t budge? Is the keto diet just not for you, or is there another reason you’re failing to see results?
If you’ve been following Keto for a bit, you may be thinking that this diet is not the right one for you. And that’s okay! But you may want to consider what the reason it’s not working maybe before you throw in the towel. Below, we dive into the 14 most common reasons the keto diet fails and answer the burning question, “is keto for everyone?”
Does the Keto Diet Work for Everyone?
The ketogenic diet was originally used to help reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in children but has since gained popularity for its weight loss benefits.
The idea behind the keto diet is to put your body into a state of ketosis, which is switching your body from carb-burning into fat-burning. This requires you to follow a strict, low-carb plan that puts heavy restrictions on fruits, vegetables, sugars, and carbs but promises weight loss and increased energy.
According to Harvard Health, Keto is an effective way for people to lose weight in the short term, but it is a highly individualized process, so this can vary between people.
Why Doesn’t Keto Work?
Though Keto may be seen as controversial, there are many people who see great results. However, diets are not a one size fits all plan, so there is a chance this one may not be for you.
If you are committed to getting this keto thing to work, however, it is important that you’re doing it right. Here are the 14 most common reasons the keto diet may not be working for you.
You Are Not Prepared
Taking on the keto diet can be a bit of a lifestyle change for some. If you go in without a plan or even an idea of what you are going to eat throughout the day, making smart food decisions can easily backfire.
The key here is to put in the prep work beforehand. There are plenty of meal plans and resources online to help you strategize what you’re going to eat throughout the week. You may also want to check out some ketogenic cookbooks for some inspiration.
Here are a few favorites:
- The Complete Ketogenic Diet for Beginners
- The Easy 5-Ingredient Ketogenic Diet Cookbook
- Keto Meal Prep
- Keto Cookbook for Beginners
- Keto Comfort Foods
You’re Consuming Too Many Carbs
One of the main reasons the Keto diet fails to show results for people is that they are consuming too many carbs.
Remember that state of ketosis we talked about? Well, ketosis happens when you greatly reduce the number of carbs you are taking in. And greatly isn’t an overstatement. While the standard dietary recommendation for carb intake is 45-65% of your daily calorie consumption, the keto diet recommends only a 5-10% intake of carbs to reach and maintain ketosis.
Carb consumption should be lowered gradually, especially when first starting out on the ketogenic diet, but that 5-10% number can be easy to pass if you aren’t avidly tracking what you eat.
Keeping a food journal of what you consume throughout the day can help you identify any foods or eating patterns that are adding to your carb count.
You are Consuming Too Many Calories
Not only do you need to track your carbs, but you’ll want to keep track of how many calories you consume as well.
No matter the diet, when losing weight, it’s essential to create a calorie deficit.
While there are several types of carbohydrates that are considered acceptable on the keto diet, these foods are typically high in fat and dense in nutrients, meaning they are usually high in calories. Eating a large amount of these foods will prevent weight loss.
The solution to this is to either cut the number of calories you’re consuming or expend more calories throughout the day. This can be achieved by Increasing your physical activity through exercise or through Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), which describes calories burned by everyday movement.
Again, keeping a food journal is a great way to keep track of the number of calories you are consuming. There are also a ton of apps available that allow easy tracking and even allow you to set goals so you can see how you’re doing.
You Aren’t Choosing Nutritious Foods
It doesn’t really matter what dietary plan you follow; if you aren’t consuming nutritious foods, you probably aren’t going to see the healthy weight loss results you were hoping for. And just because something is keto-friendly doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of a friend of a friend starting Keto and getting to eat all of the hamburgers they want as long as they omit the bun. Not only is this not going to give you any weight loss results, but it isn’t good for your body.
These foods are typically high in calories and low in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Relying on processed and convenience-type foods can slow weight loss and even contribute to weight gain.
To get the most out of the keto diet, you need to optimize your nutrient intake with unprocessed, whole foods, like full-fat dairy products, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats.
You Are Eating Too Much Protein
If you’ve heard the way, some people talk about eating steak and dairy while on the keto diet, it’s easy to mistake it for a low-carb, high-protein diet. But this isn’t the case.
The keto diet calls for protein to take up about 30-35% of your daily calorie intake, with fat actually representing the largest portion of your daily food intake at 55-60%. It may seem a bit backward to load up on fats after years of low-fat markets ploys, but the point of the keto diet is that your body is using fat as its main energy supply instead of glucose.
If you are eating too much protein, your body isn’t likely to enter a state of ketosis. The excess protein that your body can’t break down is converted into glucose and stored as fat while the amino acids are excreted.
With Such a High Percentage of Fat, Will Your Increase Cholesterol?
Research suggests that high fat, low carb diets like Keto do not negatively impact your cholesterol. In fact, you may even see an improvement. The goal here is to focus on healthy fats.
Here are some healthy fats to add to your diet:
- Avocado and avocado oil
- Olive oil
- Dark Chocolate
- Whole Eggs
- Fatty fish (salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel)
- Full-fat yogurt
You Have Unrealistic Weight-Loss Expectations
Maybe you rapidly dropped a few pounds in the first weeks of your diet, then suddenly weight loss began to slow down. While this is normal—and should be expected—it can be extremely demotivating for some to see their progress stall.
It is normal to want fast results when following a diet plan, but you need to remember that all bodies are different, and weight loss can vary from person to person.
Although the keto diet can promote healthy weight loss, during the beginning, weight loss may be inconsistent. If you are on the keto diet and have noticed a slow down in your weight loss, give your body about a month to adapt before you start questioning whether it has failed or not.
Not to mention, if you are implementing a new exercise routine, especially those that involve weightlifting, you may see that scale move up due to muscle gain. Instead of relying on the scale, maybe take weekly measurements to gauge whether or not what you’re doing is working.
You Are Snacking Too Often
As the diet has gained popularity, the desire for keto-friendly snacks has grown as well. And companies are proudly answering that call. While it is helpful to have more convenient snacks available, unfortunately, this may be one of the biggest reasons people fail the diet.
Turning to these snacks when you get a craving can easily exceed your daily energy needs. Even if you have a good meal plan in place, snacking throughout the day can greatly increase calorie intake and easily sabotage your weight loss efforts, especially if you’re doing it every day.
Tips to Curb Snacking
The keto diet should be about eating whole foods and eating for energy, not just consumption. If you find yourself reaching for snacks during an afternoon slump or even between meals to get you through, there are a few things you can do to tame those cravings.
Keep some of these on hand as your go-to healthy snacks:
- Chew Gum. Research has shown that chewing gum can reduce food cravings. Chewing sugarless gum that contains erythritol or stevia may help keep cravings at bay and minimize unnecessary snacking between meals.
- Drink Water. Thirst is often confused with hunger. If you’re feeling the urge to snack, reach for a glass of water instead. After a few minutes, you may find that the craving fades away.
- Get moving. When a craving comes on, get up and take a walk around the block or your local park to take your mind off the craving.
- Eat regularly. Waiting too long between meals and send you reaching for processed snacks instead of the whole foods you should be consuming. Make sure you’re eating a balanced meal every three to five hours to help with cravings.
You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
Research shows that drinking more water may benefit those who are dieting for weight loss or weight maintenance. Water has even been shown to increase the number of calories you burn and reduce energy intake in older adults if consumed before a meal.
But weight loss isn’t the only goal for those trying out Keto. Many turn to the ketogenic diet for energy benefits, and staying hydrated has a big part to play.
Dehydration can affect you both physically and mentally. Even losing as little as 2% of your body’s water content can have noticeable effects on your energy levels and brain function. Mood and concentration can also be affected, increasing the frequency of headaches, fatigue, and anxiety.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
While many factors affect how much water you need to stay healthy, the general recommendation from The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is around 2 liters a day.
Tips for Increasing Daily Water Intake
If you struggle with meeting the recommended daily water intake, try implementing a few of these tricks to get you started in forming a habit:
- Set a daily goal. The simple act of setting a goal can be motivating and eventually create a habit.
- Record your progress. Keeping track of how much water you are drinking will give you a better idea of how much more you need to hit the daily recommended amount.
- Keep a reusable water bottle with you. Having a water bottle with you throughout the day can help increase your daily intake. This can also serve as a visual reminder if you see it on your desk, table, or in your car.
- Set reminders on your phone. If visual reminders are enough, setting an alarm on your smartphone can definitely help, especially if your busy or forgetful. Try setting a reminder to take a few sips of water every 30 minutes.
- Drink one glass before each meal. If you eat three meals a day, implementing this method will already add 3 cups to your daily water intake. Moreover, drinking a glass of water may help you eat fewer calories during the meal.
- Eat more food with high water content. Some keto-friendly vegetables that are high in water include lettuce, zucchini, celery, cabbage, cucumber, and bell peppers.
You Need to Move More
Adding more physical activity into your daily routine is essential when trying to lose weight on the ketogenic diet.
Not only does exercise stimulate fat loss, but it also helps build muscle, which is shown to boost your metabolism by increasing the amount of energy you burn at rest. This is also a good way to counter the number of calories you’re taking in each day.
Though starting an exercise routine can seem daunting, there are a few ways to make it easier:
- Increase NEAT activities. This could be as simple as doing daily chores around the house, taking the stairs, or standing at your desk instead of sitting. Adding a few extra activities here and there will increase your physical activity without it actually feeling like a workout.
- Create a workout schedule. Creating a consistent workout schedule and sticking to it is the best way to get into the habit of working out. Start out by setting a goal to work out 2-3 days a week, then add to it as you get more comfortable.
- Download an app. Working out doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym. There are tons of workout apps available that walk you through at-home workouts and even help you track your progress.
- Switch out your chair for a ball. Sitting on a chair requires no muscle activity at all, and if your job requires you to spend a lot of time at a desk, this is precious activity time that you could be missing out on. Try sitting on a stability ball instead, which forces you to subtly work different muscles to maintain your balance.
- Make it fun. If the idea of working out feels like an absolute drag, try implementing something fun like dance or sports. Turning up the music and dancing while you clean can add in extra movement and improve your mood.
You are Experiencing the “Keto Flu”
Many people who are new to the keto diet may experience some unwelcome symptoms as their body starts to reach ketosis, often referred to as the keto flu. These symptoms can include:
- Frequent urination
- Brain fog
- Digestive issues
- Muscle cramps
- Heart palpitations
These side effects are temporary and usually subside as your body adjusts to the diet. There are things you can do to minimize the effects, such as supplementing with a multivitamin to make sure you aren’t missing out on nutrients or switching up the foods you are eating.
As always, this is dependent on you not having any contraindicated health conditions. This actually brings us to our next reason why the keto diet may fail.
You Have an Underlying Medical Condition
If you are failing the keto diet, but you feel like you’re doing everything right, there might be something else at play. There are some with underlying medical conditions that cause weight gain or prevent weight loss.
Some of these conditions include:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- High insulin levels
- Cushing’s Syndrome
- Hashimoto’s Disease
If you are concerned that an underlying condition could be the cause, you should talk with your doctor before continuing with Keto. A doctor will be able to run tests to possibly determine what is preventing you from losing weight and developing a treatment plan.
You’ve Got Too Much Stress
It’s well known by now that stress has major effects on the body, but it can negatively impact your weight loss as well and slow down your progress on the keto diet.
When you are stressed, your body produces excess amounts of a hormone called cortisol. In addition to aiding in your body’s stress response, cortisol is also responsible for increasing blood sugar, reducing inflammation, aiding in nutrient metabolism, and suppressing the immune system.
During times of increased stress, both cortisol and adrenaline are released to prepare yourself for a harmful situation. But what happens when you have continued elevations in cortisol?
Research has shown elevated cortisol levels can increase appetite and lead to overeating.
Tips For Managing Cortisol Levels
While it’s not always possible to avoid the stressors in our lives, that are several methods for managing cortisol levels that you can try out:
- Practice mindful eating. Mindful eating is an approach that focuses on paying attention to our food and the experience of eating it. Understand specific cues like hunger, fullness, and taste can help you combat stress-induced eating.
- Stay Active. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, movement is king when it comes to managing and losing weight. Regular physical activity is associated with lower stress levels and increased resilience when stressors present themselves.
- Practice Meditation. The whole point of meditation is to train your mind to redirect and focus your thoughts and decrease stress. And research shows that it works. A study on medical students found that practicing mindful meditation led to a reduction in cortisol levels.
- Get more sleep. Disruptions in sleeping patterns have shown to increase cortisol levels, so make sure you’re getting the recommending 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Stress isn’t the only thing affected by sleep. If you feel like you are stalling in your keto diet, poor sleep may be the cause.
Research suggests that lack of sleep or having inconsistent sleep patterns negatively impacts hunger-regulating hormones, leading to increased appetite and excessive snacking. Poor sleep also leads to a lack of energy or fatigue, resulting in many turning to caffeine or sugar to keep them going.
When life gets busy, sleep is often one of the first things to be sacrificed. In fact, it is estimated that about one-third of adults don’t get an adequate amount of sleep each night.
But how much sleep do you need?
Like most things, the amount of sleep you need varies depending on a few factors, with age being the primary determiner. On average healthy adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
You’re Still Drinking Alcohol
Another common thing to consider if you feel like the keto diet isn’t working for you is your alcohol consumption.
Though alcohols like wine and beer are typically on the list of foods to avoid, there are some that are acceptable to drink while on the ketogenic diet.
Many people enjoy having a drink or two at social gatherings or even with their dinner. And this is totally fine! The problem presents itself when these drinks are frequent.
Pure forms of alcohol like whiskey, gin, rum, and vodka, may be low in carbs, but these are still very calorie-dense. Therefore, alcohol is an easy way to increase your daily calorie intake without providing your body with the nutrient-rich foods that it needs.
Can Keto Not Work for Some?
Usually, when a person doesn’t see results on the ketogenic diet, it is typically because of one of the common reasons listed above. However, there are some that just don’t react well to Keto or should avoid it altogether. This list includes:
- Pregnant women. During pregnancy, it’s important to make sure you are getting all the proper nutrients, which is hard if you’re cutting out entire food groups. Plus, this isn’t really the time to be thinking about weight loss. If you are concerned about gaining weight during pregnancy, it’s best to talk to your doctor so you can put together a healthy eating plan.
- Women who are breastfeeding. Just like in pregnancy, breastfeeding is a good time to try losing weight. Women who are breastfeeding actually need more calories than those who are pregnant. Cutting down calories could result in a lower milk supply.
- Anyone with digestive disorders. Those dealing with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or similar digestive disorders may have issues with the low-carb aspect of the keto diet. Low-carb usually tends to equal low-fiber. Since fiber plays an important role, you may have concerns about not getting the right amount.
- People at risk for osteoporosis. There is evidence to suggest that Keto may have a link to poorer bone health. While there aren’t enough studies to say why or how long-term use of the keto diet affects bone health, it’s better to err on the side of caution if this is a concern for you.
- Those with diabetes. This doesn’t apply to everyone with diabetes, but for those who take insulin to manage their diabetes, cutting carbs could lead to extremely low blood sugar levels. This doesn’t mean that Keto is off-limits. It’s important to talk to your doctor and maybe even a registered dietician so you can figure out what’s right for you.
Our Final Thoughts
The ketogenic diet can be an effective tool for many looking to lose weight and feel more energetic. However, Keto requires you to adhere to a strict way of eating in order to achieve and maintain ketosis, which can be a difficult task for many.
If you feel like the keto diet is failing to show you results, this could be due to eating too many calories or carbs, lack of movement, poor sleep patterns, or even an underlying medical issue. Or it could be that maybe Keto just isn’t for you.
To maximize weight loss and energy level on a keto diet, start with getting the right amount of sleep, reducing stress, moving more, and tracking what you eat. It may be a good idea to also meet with a doctor to make sure there isn’t something else at play.