Experiencing a Weight Loss Plateau on the Ketogenic Diet?
We are incredibly resilient beings. The human physiology has evolved to adapt to our surroundings. Therefore, depending on the environmental factors and stresses that we expose our bodies to, our bodies will adapt and adjust.
When you initially transition from the typical western diet to a low carb or ketogenic diet you will almost immediately lose fat and release water retention. The typical western diet is high in carbohydrates and processed foods. These foods are inflammatory, lacking in satiety, high in calories and low in nutrition. This means that your bodies have to work extra hard to derive nutrients from the food you are eating and you will expend more energy and resources on removing toxins instead of on cell regeneration. Yet, at the same time you’re flooded with calories and abundance of glucose that play havoc on the hormonal system, resulting in higher insulin release and increased sugar cravings.
On a well formulated low carb or ketogenic diet, you will be nourishing your body with healthy and satiating fats, plenty of high fibre leafy greens and moderate amounts of natural protein. Your body is drenched in nutrients, has enough resources to devote to cell regeneration and repair, and your hormones begin to balance; blood sugar levels are stabilised and hunger pangs are gone, you will never feel ‘hangry’ again. Inflammation diminishes and aging and sick cells are starved of glucose and die. And we haven’t even mentioned the many cognitive benefits of ketosis.
But why then, after a few months on the diet can your weight loss plateau? The principle reason is that our bodies are adept at adjusting to our environments, and this includes our caloric intake and output; we become more efficient.
What causes weight loss plateaus?
There are many possible factors that could be having an impact on your weight loss goals:
- Your metabolism adapts to the new diet by becoming more efficient.
- Lack of leafy green vegetables which starves the gut of healthy bacteria.
- Artificially sweetened drinks that are inflammatory to the gut.
- Eating too much fat.
- Accidental carbohydrate consumption; check for all the hidden carbs in any pre-packaged food.
- The timing of carbohydrate consumption: aim for evenings instead of during the day if you must eat carbs.
- Eating too regularly throughout the day and snacking.
- Too much exercise! This can stress your hormones (particularly in women) and cause a cortisol upsurge, resulting in higher insulin release, triggering fat storage.
- Lack of sleep which is very disruptive for healthy hormone production.
So, what’s the solution to a weight loss plateau?
These are the most common possible solutions for you:
Include Refeed Days
Once or twice a week eat 400-600 calories more than usual, this will prevent your metabolism from slowing down. On the remaining 5 days, ensure that you have a caloric deficit of at least 600 calories a day which should result in weight loss of 0.5kg per week. You can calculate your caloric needs here.
Experiment with Intermittent Fasting and Fat Fasts
Fat cells die faster when they are starved of energy for extended periods of time. So experiment with intermittent fasting in which you have an 8 hour eating window, say from 7am to 3pm and then water fast from 3pm to 7am.
If you really want to reset your metabolism you could try a two to three day fast. During a fast you can have up to 400 calories from fat a day and absolutely no sugar or carbohydrates. You can have up to three portions of exogenous ketones a day as these will provide energy, counteract hunger and prevent muscle loss.
Fasting also has many proven cognitive benefits too. So if you really need to focus and get deep work done, skip the food.
When are you eating?
Eating just before bed triggers an insulin response which encourages fat storage and inhibits your growth hormone. Thus your body’s energy will be used for digesting instead of repair. Always try to eat at least three hours before going to bed—you will also sleep better on an empty stomach.
Exercise Right and Recover More
You are either exercising too much, too little or doing the wrong kinds of exercise. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is the most effective for fat burning but doing HIIT for more than 5 hours a week can generate increased cortisol which will slow down your fat loss and disturb your sleep. Ensure that you include recovery days as the long term benefits that you get from exercise happen during your periods of rest.
Weight training is optimum for sculpting a toned, strong and muscular body. Increasing your muscle mass increases your caloric use too.
Plain cardio exercises such as walking and jogging are good for mobility but the problem with steady cardio is that you have to expend a lot of time jogging or walking to achieve any results. You can achieve better results more quickly with HIIT and weight training exercise.
Eating Too Much Fat?
One of the really important things if you’re trying to lose weight is that you don’t actually need to eat that much fat, as the fat you convert to ketones should be from your body instead of cream, butter or cheese. I made this mistake at the beginning as I thought I had free rein to eat as much fat as I wanted and then put on weight!
Make sure that you’re eating leafy green vegetables
Prebiotics are found in fibre-rich foods and feed the gut bacteria. The gut bacteria uses prebiotics to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and these ‘SCFAS activate a signaling pathway that tells the brain that the body has gotten enough food.’ Grain Brain, Perlmutter. So, if you are in a fibre deficit, your body will think it is starving and try to extract the maximum amount of calories from your food, slowing your metabolism and potentially causing weight gain or a weight loss plateau.
Supplementing with Exogenous Ketones
Exogenous ketones are incredibly effective for kick starting your fat burning. Particularly if you use them as a meal replacement and especially at breakfast. After taking exogenous ketones you will enjoy appetite control, increased energy and mental focus and clarity.
Exogenous ketones are brilliant to support fasting and keeping sugar cravings at bay. They will ease your transition to becoming ‘fat adapted’.
Try these and let us know how you get on!
We really hope you found this article useful. Have you experienced a weight loss plateau on the ketogenic diet? Please leave any thoughts or questions below and we will endeavour to answer you!