by Kelley Herring
The ketogenic diet promises rapid weight loss, improved energy and better overall health. But what happens when you’ve been following it faithfully… and the scale refuses to budge?
It’s a frustrating feeling and a reason many people give up. The good news is that there are specific reasons why this might be happening… and strategic solutions to turn your results around.
Today, we dive into why you may not be losing weight – despite being in ketosis. And also what you can do to get back on the fat-burning track!
Hormonal Imbalances: A Key Cause for Stalls on Keto
The human body is an intricate system, regulated by hormones. When these hormones are in balance everything runs smoothly. But when they’re off, your health suffers and weight loss stalls.
Hormones including cortisol, insulin and thyroid hormone play a crucial role in weight management. Imbalances of these critical chemical “messenger molecules” can cause weight loss resistance.
Cortisol, for example, is a stress hormone, known to increase belly fat. When cortisol levels are high, it becomes difficult to lose weight – regardless of how well you’re following the keto diet.1 2
The same goes for insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Chronically high insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance, which in turn makes it challenging to lose weight.3 4 5
Thyroid hormones are also critical. Your thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that regulate metabolism, and if it’s not functioning correctly, weight loss is a struggle.6 7
To understand whether your thyroid is working optimally, it’s important to get your thyroid hormone levels checked. And be sure to ask for thyroid antibodies too. This is where most doctors miss the boat!
Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods for Weight Loss Success on Keto
Eating too many calories can prevent weight loss, even in a state of ketosis! Your body needs a caloric deficit, meaning you need to burn more calories than you consume. The good news is that most people report diminished hunger on keto, making it easier to consume less.
And you can thank your hormones for that. When your body is in a state of ketosis, you burn fat for energy (instead of carbohydrates). This results in a decrease in insulin levels and hunger-stimulating hormones such as ghrelin. Additionally, the increased protein and fat intake on a ketogenic diet are shown to boost satiety.8
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that participants on a ketogenic diet experienced a significant decrease in appetite compared to those on a high-carbohydrate diet.9
There are several nutrient deficiencies, which can also impact fat loss, including:
- Vitamin D: Low levels of Vitamin D can disrupt weight loss efforts, as this nutrient plays an important role in fat regulation.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in many metabolic processes, including the regulation of glucose and insulin. A deficiency in magnesium can hinder weight loss.
- Calcium: Calcium plays a role in fat metabolism and can affect weight loss if levels are low.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids can increase inflammation and disrupt the balance of essential fatty acids, hindering weight loss. What’s more, high levels of omega-6 fats can also lead to hormone imbalances and decreased insulin sensitivity.
- Iron: An important mineral for energy production and muscle function, iron deficiency can lead to fatigue and decreased physical performance, making it harder to achieve weight loss.10
These nutrient deficiencies can also impact overall health, so it is important to address them – regardless of your weight loss goals!
Engage in The Right Kind of Physical Activity for Weight Loss on Keto
In today’s world, the vast majority of us lead a sedentary lifestyle, spending long hours sitting at a desk, driving, or watching TV.
This lack of physical activity can have a significant impact on weight loss, even when following the keto diet. Exercise is essential for boosting metabolism, burning calories, and maintaining overall health, so it’s crucial to make time for physical activity every day.
You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to reap the benefits. Even 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking or cycling, can help increase your heart rate and boost metabolism, making it easier to lose weight.
The best kind of exercise for fat loss? High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
Several studies have supported the effectiveness of HIIT:
- For example, a study published in the Journal of Obesity found that overweight individuals who participated in a 12-week HIIT program lost significantly more body fat than those who participated in a traditional steady-state cardio program.
- Another study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that HIIT was more effective than steady-state cardio for reducing body fat in obese women.11 12
Incorporating resistance training, such as weightlifting, also helps build lean muscle mass and increase metabolism, helping to promote weight loss.
Genetics and Weight Loss on Keto
Finally, your genetics can also play a role.
Some people may have a genetic predisposition to gain weight. For example, some genetic variants affect the way your body responds to a low-carb diet, making it more challenging to maintain ketosis.13 14
If you are on keto and having trouble losing weight, consider getting a genetic profile from 23andMe. The single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs9939609 in the FTO gene has been associated with a higher body mass index (BMI) and an increased risk of obesity. Variations in the LEP gene are also linked to slower metabolism and increased fat storage.15 16
In Ketosis and Not Losing Weight? The Recommendations
It’s important to understand that weight loss on keto is not a one-size-fits-all journey. What works for one person may not work for another.
If you’re in ketosis and not losing weight, don’t despair. Consider the factors mentioned above and remember, consistency and a healthy, balanced approach are the keys to achieve your weight loss goals.
To optimize your keto diet for weight loss, focus your diet on nutrient-dense whole foods. Here are a few keto meal ideas to get you started:
- Soft Boiled Eggs and Pork Sausage & Avocado
- Wild Salmon with Pesto & Zoodles
- Ribeye Steak with Hollandaise & Asparagus
- Garlicky Wild Shrimp Scampi with Cauliflower Rice
Love comfort foods, but not the carbs? Check out Kelley’s FREE new book – Carb Lover’s Keto – with 100 recipes for all of your favorite comfort foods. From Chicken Parmigiana and Coconut Shrimp to Buffalo Wings and Pizza. Discover how you can indulge – 100% guilt free!
1 Epel ES, McEwen B, Seeman T, Ickovics JR, Bandura T, Rowe J, et al. Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosom Med. 2000 Mar-Apr;62(2):6-13.
2 Tomlinson JW, Nair KM, Henley CE, et al. Elevated cortisol levels and cortisol to DHEAS molar ratios in women with abdominal obesity: relationship to glucose intolerance. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2000 Dec;85(12):4400-4.
3 Sibley SD, Azevedo JL, Guay A. Insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, and obesity: relationship to plasma leptin concentrations. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 1997 Jul 1;82(7):2027-33.
4 Gardner, C. D., Trepanowski, J. F., Del Gobbo, L. C., Hauser, M. E., Rigdon, J., Ioannidis, J. P., … & Gardner, B. (2018). Effect of low-fat vs low-carbohydrate diet on 12-month weight loss in overweight adults and the association with genotype pattern or insulin secretion: the DIETFITS randomized clinical trial. JAMA, 319(7), 667-679.
5 Ghoshal K, Fleury C, Klee EW, et al. Weight-Loss Gene Signatures: Evidence for Different Pathways in Obese Women and Men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014;99(9):E1704-E1712.
6 Morris SM, Jackson RW. The relationship of thyroid hormones to body weight regulation. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1990 Oct;44(10):777-89.
8 Pasiakos, S. M., McLellan, T. M., & Lieberman, H. R. (2013). The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Sports Medicine, 43(12), 1439-1450.
9 Ma, Y., et al. (2016). Effects of a ketogenic diet on appetite, blood glucose, and insulin levels in obese subjects: a randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition, 115(8), 1324-1334.
10 National Institute of Health. (2021). Vitamin D. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets
11 Burgomaster, K. A., Howarth, K. R., Phillips, S. M., Rakobowchuk, M., Macdonald, M. J., McGee, S. L., & Gibala, M. J. (2008). Similar metabolic adaptations during exercise after low volume sprint interval and traditional endurance training in humans. The Journal of physiology, 586(1), 151-160.
12 Aazh, H., & Sinclair, A. (2015). The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise on body composition of overweight young males. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(11), 706-712.
13 Meyre D, Delplanque J, Chevre JC, et al. A genome-wide association study identifies fatty acid desaturase 1 as a novel locus for obesity-related traits. PLoS Genet. 2009;5(5):e1000498. Saffioti F, Costanzo M, Fabbri C, et al. Genes, Diet, and the Regulation of Body Weight: An Update. Front Genet. 2019;10:59.
15 Kostov V, Nikolova V, Mitkova A, et al. The FTO rs9939609 gene variant and obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity facts. 2015;8(4):224-237.
16 Wang Y, Liu Y, Lu J, et al. The rs9939609 single nucleotide polymorphism in the fat mass and obesity-associated gene is associated with obesity and related traits: a meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2011;12(7):e453-e464.