Let’s do quick recap of the keto diet basics: Keto dieters are encouraged to get around 80 percent of their calories from fat, 15 percent from protein, and just 5 percent from carbs. Drastically cutting carbs sends the body into ketosis, a state where your body burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. That can lead to rapid weight loss for some, though long-term success hasn’t been proven, explains nutrition expert Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE. Indeed, only a few small studies have shown that a keto eating plan helps people drop pounds. And other research has found that a keto diet isn’t any more effective for weight loss than low-carb diets. (It's also tied to some unpleasant side effects and even serious health risks like type 2 diabetes.)
And yet your neighbor, your best friend, and approximately a zillion celebrities have all seen weight-loss success on the keto diet, at least in the short term. If you’ve been slashing your carbs like a fiend but haven’t been able to join their ranks, there’s a chance you could be doing the keto diet wrong. Here are seven common keto diet mistakes that might be tripping you up.
You’re eating too many calories
Lots of keto newbies assume that they can eat as much fat and protein as they want as long as they keep their carbs low enough. But that's a major weight-loss mistake. Remember, you have to burn 3,500 calories to lose a single pound. “Too many calories from the diet, even if they come from protein and fat versus carbohydrates, can still be stored as excess energy,” Palinksi-Wade explains. Most healthy, active women who are looking to lose weight should consume between 1,500 and 2,000 calories daily, Palinski-Wade says. So if you’re eating more than that, consider cutting back.
You’re grazing all the time
Appropriately planned snacks can help you avoid becoming hangry and succumbing to junky cravings or overeating at mealtime. But constant noshing-even on healthy, keto-approved fare like avocados or nuts-can make it easy to consume more calories than you need. And that can put your weight loss at a stand still. “Snacking is fine, but focus on being mindful about it,” Palinski-Wade advises. “Snack when you’re actually hungry. And really listen to your body and stop eating when you’re satisfied.”
You’re having more carbs than you think
You need to keep your carb intake below 20 grams per day in order to stay in ketosis and continue burning fat for energy. But it can be easy to go over that threshold if you're not careful, since many keto-friendly foods (like veggies, berries, and nuts) do, in fact, contain small amounts of carbs. “Only when all of your carbohydrate stores are gone will the body start using fat as fuel,” explains nutrition expert Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD . “Therefore, the second you provide carbs as a source of fuel again, the body will go right back to its favorite source and knock you out of ketosis.”
You’re splurging on non-keto foods
Even if you follow a keto diet plan perfectly most of the time, a single carb-laden snack can be enough to throw you out of ketosis and send a signal to your body to go back to burning carbs for energy instead of fat. That alone can mess with weight loss, recent research suggests. “It appears that one of the benefits of the keto diet is, in fact, being in ketosis for long amounts of time. I often recommend my patients choose splurge options that won’t knock them out of ketosis,” Kirkpatrick says. She’s a fan of low-carb cookies like Quest Protein Cookies, but these keto fat bombs also fit the bill.)
You’re not getting enough fiber
Fiber slows digestion and takes up lot of space in your digestive tract, which can help you feel fuller longer. So it’s no surprise that a higher fiber intake is associated with lower body weight. The problem? Fiber is a type of carb found mostly in whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, and findings show that most low-carb dieters don’t get enough of it.
You might need to get creative with your meals to get the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day while staying in ketosis. So if you suspect you're falling short or need some help, consider meeting with a registered dietitian. “If you work with an expert you can combat the fiber issue by consuming low-carb, high-fiber options like non-starchy cruciferous vegetables and nuts,” Kirkpatrick says.
Your gut bacteria is out of whack
Loading up on protein and fat at the expense of fiber-rich foods can keep you below your daily carb threshold. But research suggests that skimping on fiber could impact the types of bacteria that thrive in your gut, getting in the way of your weight-loss goals. A 2018 study from the International Journal of Obesity found that people with higher levels of a bacteria type that digests fiber lost more weight than people who had higher levels of a bacteria type that seems to thrive on meat and fat.
You’re not seeing the whole picture
Successful weight loss has a lot to do with what you eat, but it’s not the only factor. “It’s harder to lose weight if you’re not incorporating other healthy lifestyle habits,” Palinski-Wade says. Getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and managing your stress levels are all factors that can affect your ability to lose weight. Experts say that sleep deprivation, a sedentary lifestyle, and unchecked tension can all contribute to weight problems. “You’ll see success faster when you focus on making multiple healthy changes and be more likely to keep the weight off long-term,” says Palinski-Wade. And that’s true no matter what type of diet you try.
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