What is keto plateau or keto weight loss stall?

Are you dieting but not seeing expected results? You may be wondering why your low-carb diet or keto diet is not working for you? How long has your weight loss stalled? Has it been more than three months while staying on plan?

You might feel otherwise once you step on the scale every day, without a sense of progress. However, anything less than three weeks with no weight loss isn't considered a real stall. That is because body fat seldom drops in a straight and stable path. Weight leaves in fits and starts. Well! When you're maintaining a healthy diet and working out to shed those fats and maintain a healthy weight, the initial weeks may seem successful because of the rapid weight loss. After those blissful initial weeks of weight loss, you may start noticing that the same regime is not making any head-way for you, and you don't seem to lose any more weight. This period of being stuck in the same place is called a weight-loss plateau.

Weight loss plateau is common. According to a research study, it has been reported that the average patient following a low-carb diet noticed a fair loss in weight for nine months, followed by about three months of a plateau, which the researchers call it "weight stability."

See: Keto diet benefits for weight loss, diabetes & PCOS

What causes keto weight loss plateau?

What causes keto plateau?

The weight-loss plateau happens to everyone who tries to lose weight, especially those following the ketogenic diet. A person under keto may observe the first few weeks go by smoothly where they considerable weight loss and try eating and exercising correctly. When you are on the keto diet, the glycogen stored by the body is converted to energy as the diet is considerably low in carbs.

Glycogen is the main storage form of glucose and is a primary carbohydrate storage form. It is made mostly of water, and hence, by breaking down the glycogen, the body burns down the excess water stored in the body. This process is why the initial stage makes it easier to lose weight. After this, the body works on losing muscles (that help the body with metabolism), and fats. Your body's metabolism declines as you further move towards your weight loss regime, where your body takes more time to burn those same number of calories that you previously consumed.1. This transformation can make the body reach the plateau. Some other factors that can cause keto plateau are listed as below:

- history of dieting

- metabolic rate while you rest

- how much weight you have to lose

- muscle growth your body can accept

- your body fat percentage

- insulin resistance 

- hormonal disorders, if any.

See: Fat Adapted Or Keto Adapted Basics

Keto plateaus are common

Results from more than 300 patients in a study done for type two diabetes program show the typical individual in the first year of adhering to a low-carb diet had fairly steady weight loss for two months.10. This stage was followed by around three months of a plateau. With strict adherence to the diet plan, the weight started to trend down again in the next year.

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Measurable health markers for keto plateau

It is imperative to monitor changes in measurable health markers whenever you're performing a low-carb or ketogenic diet. All the markers listed below can radically improve on low carb:

- fasting sugar

- HbA1c (a measure of sugar over a three month period)

- inflammation (as measured by C-reactive protein)

- cholesterol levels

- waist-to-height ratio

- blood pressure

- body fat percent

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Symptomatic health improvements in keto diet

Symptomatic health improvements

Some health improvements aren't measurable by a particular test. But, they may significantly alter the way individuals on a keto or low-fat diet look and feel. These can include:

- more endurance and energy

- better mental health

- better skin, less acne

- less joint pain or chronic pain

- reduced cravings and appetite

- better irritable bowel syndrome

If some of those health markers are improving, the diet is most likely working for you.

- The way the body loses weight: When you lose weight, you need to shed excess body fat, not bone and muscle.  Methods like severe caloric restriction can make future weight loss more challenging. This effect happens because your body will "defend" its prior levels of fat stores through numerous processes. So how do you burn off body fat yet preserve muscle mass and bone density? It requires two linked conditions:

Low insulin: You need to have a low level of Insulin to let you get those fat stores to burn for energy.

An energy shortage: To tap into and utilize your fat stores, you have to burn more energy than you eat.

A low-carb diet states different foods with the same calorie count have differing effects. Nutrient-dense, low-carb foods can help you feel fuller for hours, maintain low insulin, and giving your body key nutrients to burn your fat stores. Many people eating a low-carb or keto diet will naturally attain both of these conditions of reduced insulin and an energy shortage without much struggle or conscious effort.

Eating a low-carb or keto diet makes many people feel that they are not as hungry. Their cravings for carbohydrate foods diminish as well. They find it easier to skip meals, eat smaller portions, and stop snacking. Doing these things keeps insulin low and generates an energy shortage. A keto diet can make an ideal situation to decrease intake and tap into fat stores without ever counting calories.

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How to beat the keto weight-loss plateau?

What can you do to overcome the keto weight-loss stall?

How to break a keto-weight loss stall?  First, confirm whether it is really a stall.  You can do this by tracking your weight loss regularly. Once you have noticed a stall in your weight loss, look back into your general trends. 

If you have discovered that you have reached weight stability, can you do anything to overcome this keto stall? As your body has adapted to a newer and slower metabolism, trying to overcome the weight loss plateau will help your body burn calories faster. Your body will not be able to function with the older diet and exercise routine any longer. Here are a few ways to make changes and overcome the plateau:

- Increase your fitness routine by adding more physical activity. Research has shown that exercise can increase your metabolic rate and help you lose weight. Adding more exercise to your day can also help overcome the weight-loss plateau.2.

- Replace food rich in carbs with low carb food. Try replacing gluten-containing wheat and sugary drinks. Low carb foods may keep you full for longer periods. You can consume foods like nuts, cheese, avocado, and other non-starchy vegetables for your daily requirement of carbohydrates. You must also be sure that you exclude carb-rich food when you're dining out or attending a party or when you are traveling .1.

- Track and keep a check on everything whatever you eat. Read labels of various foods to find out the ingredients of the food you consume. This check can help ensure that you're not going over your daily limit of carbs.1.

- Do not give into carb cravings. It is essential to not let your body get more carbs that required and disrupt your diet plan. It will make you gain weight vs. losing it, as your metabolism has already lowered.1,3.

- Track your protein intake. Too much protein is not great for your body during the weight-loss plateau. It may lead to keto diarrhea, dehydration, muscle mass loss, and lowers your metabolic rate. Adjust the right amount of proteins you need in your diet. You may notice that even after reducing your carb content, your body's ketones are consistently below 0.5mM, and yet you are in the weight-loss plateau. During such a time, lowering your protein intake for a few weeks can help overcome the plateau on your keto.4,5,6.

- Add fats in your regular meals to help the protein consumption stay moderate. Also, fat can keep you satiated as proteins alone cannot help strike a balance and give you a feeling of fullness.

- Do not snack too much. When you feel hungry, you are more likely to snack with food rich in carbs or fats. Snacking can increase protein intake, as well. If you feel like snacking too often after the initial few weeks of your diet, you should revisit your diet plan to learn why your body has not adjusted. Food cravings are supposed to go away after the initial stage.2,3,4

- Manage your stress, as it has found that stress can cause the release of cortisol hormones that decrease your metabolism and put a brake on your weight loss program. Learning to manage stress can promote weight loss.7. 

- Avoid taking alcohol as it may lead you to overeat by loosening your inhibitions. It may also make you choose poor food choices. Studies have shown that alcohol suppresses fat burning and may lead to central obesity, which results in belly fat accumulation.8.

- A keto diet may be less effective for weight loss than in some other cases.  Some people don't experience the decrease in appetite and cravings and an increase in feelings of fullness that lots of others on keto diets do.

- It might be because you're still not fat-adapted, meaning that your body isn't yet burning ketones for energy. 

- Issues with habitual or emotional eating: Some folks eat for reasons besides hunger, such as frequent or emotional ingestion. You might be misreading your own body's signs as hunger when they indicate a need for something different.

- Issues with hormones: Hormonal problems can affect your metabolism and your body's ability to burn off energy. By way of instance, the hormonal changes during menopause, particularly declining estrogen, can slow metabolism, reduce muscle mass, improve body fat, and keep it in the gut.

- Too little thyroid can slow metabolism.

- The reproductive disease polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may also make hormonal disruptions, resulting in chronically elevated insulin and insulin resistance levels.

Issues with drugs: Some medicines prescribed for health conditions can lead to weight gain as a side effect. 

See: How to lose 100 pounds safely

Summary

The weight-loss plateau can be frustrating, and it may seem very difficult to get over it. But you can surely overcome this weight loss plateau by identifying the key areas where you can make changes and follow a stricter routine to overcome this phase.

See: How to lose belly fat naturally

References

1. Murray B, Rosenbloom C. Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes. Nutr Rev. 2018;76(4):243-259. DOI:10.1093/nutrit/nuy001

2. Bueno NB, de Melo IS, de Oliveira SL, da Rocha Ataide T. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet vs. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Br J Nutr. 2013;110(7):1178-1187. DOI:10.1017/S0007114513000548

3. Stiegler P, Cunliffe A. The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Med. 2006;36(3):239-262. DOI:10.2165/00007256-200636030-00005

4. Lichtman SW, Pisarska K, Berman ER, et al. Discrepancy between self-reported & actual caloric intake and exercise in obese subjects. N Engl J Med. 1992;327(27):1893-1898. DOI:10.1056/NEJM199212313272701

5. Kim JE, O'Connor LE, Sands LP, Slebodnik MB, Campbell WW. Effects of dietary protein intake on body composition changes after weight loss in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2016;74(3):210-224. DOI:10.1093/nutrit/nuv065

6. Gibson AA, Seimon RV, Lee CM, et al. Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2015;16(1):64-76. DOI:10.1111/obr.12230

7. Soenen S, Martens EA, Hochstenbach-Waelen A, Lemmens SG, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Normal protein intake is required for bodyweight loss and weight maintenance, and elevated protein intake for additional preservation of resting energy expenditure and fat-free mass. J Nutr. 2013;143(5):591-596. DOI:10.3945/jn.112.167593

8. Warne JP. Shaping the stress response: interplay of palatable food choices, glucocorticoids, insulin, and abdominal obesity. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2009;300(1-2):137-146. DOI:10.1016/j.mce.2008.09.036

9. Kase CA, Piers AD, Schaumberg K, Forman EM, Butryn ML. The relationship of alcohol use to weight loss in the context of behavioral weight loss treatment. Appetite. 2016;99:105-111. DOI:10.1016/j.appet.2016.01.014

10. Hallberg SJ, McKenzie AL, Williams P, et al. Effectiveness and Safety of a Novel Care Model for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes at One Year: An Open-Label, Non-Randomized, Controlled Study. Diabetes Ther. 2018. DOI: 10.1007/s13300-018-0373-9

11. Marliss EB, Murray FT, Nakhooda AF. The Metabolic Response to Hypocaloric Protein Diets in Obese Man. J Clin Invest. 1978; 62:468-479. DOI:10.1172/JCI109148.

12. McKenzie AL, Hallberg SJ, Creighton BC, et al. A Novel Intervention Including Individualized Nutritional Recommendations Reduces Hemoglobin A1c Level, Medication Use, and Weight in Type 2 Diabetes. JMIR Diabetes 2017;2(1):e5 DOI:10.2196/diabetes.6981

13. Zinn C, Rush A, Johnson R. Assessing the nutrient intake of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet: a hypothetical case study design. BMJ Open. 2018;8(2):e018846. Published 2018 Feb 8. DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018846

See: Diet Therapy For Healing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome PCOS

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