You say you’ve given a ketogenic diet a valiant shot. You followed your plan to the letter (perhaps it was the Glow15 plan outlined in my book). You boosted your intake of healthy fats and cycled through high and low protein days. You have tried intermittent fasting. You sipped on youth-activating AutophaTea™ and added organic MCT oil to just about everything.
Yet, you’re not sharing the experience other keto followers are sharing in magazines and social media threads.
Losing weight on keto is no easy feat. The transformation behind turning your body from a sugar burner to a fat burner is a marathon, not a sprint. And like any avid runner will tell you, the exertion required to take your body from being at rest to fully in motion can be taxing. Once you hit your stride, it’s smoother sailing.
The proverbial phrase, “patience is a virtue,” fits the issue perfectly like avocado on keto toast…though it may be the furthest from your mind if you’re on day two of your first five-day fast and feeling ravenous, or are not getting the results you hear others boast about.
If you feel you’re not getting out of keto what you think you should, but are not ready to throw in the towel on your weight loss goals, congratulate yourself for your commitment to your health.
Keep reading to discover some reasons why keto may not be working for you, and what you can do about it.
1. Not enough fat and protein
First, a dose of reality. While your body undergoes the process of achieving metabolic flexibility and learning to burn energy from sugar or burn fat more efficiently, you may feel like an alien species for some time. Be gentle on yourself, but be realistic about your expectations.
Particularly if you’re new to keto, the eating restrictions may hit you particularly hard. As you go from grazing throughout the day and having food on-demand, to suddenly limiting what you eat, how much and when it’s only natural for your body to shout in protest and get stressed out.
Thankfully, there’s a way to curb your ‘hangry’ feelings. Try increasing your ratio of whole-food carbohydrates beyond what a keto program requires, at least initially until your body adapts. In fact, you may need to increase your ratios all around — especially fat and protein to help you feel fuller longer.
You can have ten different people on the same keto diet — and invariably some of them will respond differently. It’s okay to tweak a bit until you find your fit.
2. Too little sleep
Following a ketogenic diet has generally been found to improve sleep, but for some individuals — especially those already prone to stress and restlessness — getting quality shut-eye at night can be a challenge.
If you struggle to soothe yourself to sleep at night, it’s critical that you lay a strong foundation for keto by getting stress under control before you start. Just imagine how your sleep-deprived brain would handle making healthy decisions about food!
If you’re already on keto and are having trouble falling asleep at night, try increasing your evening quantity of starches (after all, they’re not entirely forbidden in keto).
An Australian study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that eating carbohydrates four hours before bedtime may help you get better slumber. Unrefined, whole carbohydrates like squash, beets, and quinoa are excellent choices.
Also, ensure you get enough minerals and electrolytes by eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables and consider adding a mineral supplement, if necessary. Magnesium, in particular, helps support relaxation and sleep. Epsom salt makes for a relaxing, sleep-inducing bath an hour before bed.
3. Poor quality fats and oils
There’s a lot of buzz (noise, really) about “shortcut keto” and “dirty keto” proving easy ways to melt away pounds and fat from your body without all the work of the ketogenic diet.
But if your long-term goal is to reduce inflammation, increase your cellular resistance to disease, and enjoy a long, active life — all shown to be benefits of living keto — then it’s important to double down on good quality fats, foods, and oils.
In general, fats and oils are sensitive to oxidation, so they can easily turn rancid from exposure to oxygen, light, and temperature. Vegetable oils like canola, soybean, corn, sunflower, and cottonseed oils are unstable oils by nature that are highly processed and produce more free radicals when heated than higher quality oils.
If you are on a high-fat diet, use the best quality fats and oils you can — avocados, wild-caught salmon, grass-fed meat and butter, organic coconut oil and MCT oil, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. While it takes time for your body to adjust to keto, these good quality foods taste and nourish your body better, so that you feel satiated and derive true enjoyment from your meals.
4. Digestive environment
Your gut is the host of over 70% of your immune system, an estimated 500-1,000 different species of bacteria, and microorganisms like yeast, viruses, and archaea. To say the health of your microbiome has enormous influence over your daily vitality and long-term wellbeing is an understatement.
In fact, microbiome research is a rapidly growing field as more and more studies show the connection between the digestive environment and common conditions and diseases.
If you’re not getting the results you want from keto, your gut could be the reason. The gut is a common site for hidden inflammation in the body. And while a ketogenic diet can certainly diminish the intake of many high-allergy foods and sources of inflammation, it may not be enough to eliminate inflammatory triggers altogether.
Working with a trusted functional medicine practitioner can provide essential support in the form of herbs, supplements, and specific testing to get to the bottom of your gut inflammation.
Why is keto not working for me? Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all solution. Take gradual steps and make small changes along the way until keto feels right and you start to get the results you’re looking for. Keep marching on toward becoming your own success story.