Weight loss is one of the most popular uses of the ketogenic diet these days.
If you’re using keto to drop pounds, you are probably wondering how fast you can expect to see results.
Since everyone is different, it’s hard to get an exact answer, but this article will cover the average weight loss rate you can expect,tips for successfully losing weight on keto, and how to avoid common weight loss mistakes
Weight Loss on Keto: Everyone is Different
Everyone’s body is different, which means the weight loss rate for each person is different too.
Your individual weight loss rate can vary depending on 4 main factors:
- Your health situation. Are you overweight? Do you have thyroid problems? Do you have insulin resistance? Is your metabolism fast or slow? Your overall health determines how fast you lose weight. For instance, if you have any hormonal or metabolic issues, the process might be slower than expected. That’s okay.
- Your body composition. How much fat do you have to lose? What’s your muscle mass? What’s your BMI? For instance, if you have a lot of excess weight you’ll likely experience faster weight loss in the beginning.
- Your daily habits. Your daily habits make or break your weight loss efforts. Are you eating clean keto foods or high fat junk foods? Are you watching out for hidden carbs? Are you exercising? The energy you spend on a daily basis and the quality of your food impact how efficiently your body burns fat.
Your individual fat adaptation period. Remember your body needs time to become fat-adapted and that time depends on your metabolism. For instance, if you’re coming off a Standard American Diet (SAD) and your adult body has never ran on ketones before, your adaptation period might take a little longer. You’ll only experience the true weight loss effects of keto when your body is actually running on ketones.
For example, someone with a slow metabolism and a lot of fat tissue to lose who doesn’t exercise enough will take longer seeing weight loss on keto compared to someone with a normal metabolism, slightly overweight, who starts exercising 4-5 times a week along with doing keto.
The key is to stay consistent and focus on eating healthy keto-friendly foods. Treat the keto diet as what it is — not simply a diet, but a lifestyle and metabolic shift in your health.
With that being said, what we can tell you is how to start off on the right foot.
Setting Yourself Up For Weight Loss Success
Before you embark on your keto weight loss journey, it’s important to get the basics right.
Some people think cutting carbs is enough to enter ketosis, but this isn’t always the case. It’s important to make sure you’re actually running on ketones instead of carbs, otherwise you’re not going to burn fat or lose weight and you’ll get discouraged.
So how do you make sure your cells are running on fat?
- Figure out your keto macros. Use the keto calculator (located at the end of this post!) to get your personal keto macros. Having a nutritional target based on your body composition will make it a lot easier to enter and remain in ketosis (and lose weight!)
- Give your body time to get in ketosis. This usually takes anywhere between 2-7 days. Before then, you won’t be truly losing weight on keto.
- Test your ketones. Testing your ketone levels is simply the best way to track if you’re in ketosis or not, at least in the beginning.The most accurate tool is a blood ketone meter. If your levels remain above 0.5 mol/L, then you’re in nutritional ketosis.
- Eat a clean ketogenic diet. The quality of your food matters, not just your macros. Sure, you can stay in ketosis by eating processed cheese singles and ham slices, but that’s not going to nourish you. Focus on quality keto foods like avocado oil, fresh leafy greens, and grass-fed beef instead.
- Move more. You’ll lose pounds faster if you increase your daily physical activity. Keep in mind you don’t have to go to the gym 6 times a week or jog every morning, just move more in your everyday life. For instance, take a short 2-minute break from sitting in your chair every hour, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to make errands if you can, get a standing desk, or take phone calls standing up and pacing around. These small calorie-burning movements add up at the end of the day.
If you tick these boxes when starting keto, you’ll have the best weight loss results.
Which brings us to…
Average Weight Loss on the Ketogenic Diet
As you know by now, not everyone loses weight at the same rate, but here’s what you can expect based on the average results people get when using keto for weight loss:
First Week: Fast Water Weight Loss (2-10 pounds)
Typically, in the first week of the keto diet people see a very quick drop in weight — anywhere from a few pounds to as much as 10! That’s because at first, keto makes your body release a lot of water weight (not fat) due to your lower carb intake.
This is why that happens:
Carbs need water to stay in your body. When your body doesn’t use glucose immediately, it stores it as glycogen in your muscles and glycogen binds to water. Each gram of glycogen is stored with 2–3 g of water.
When you first switch to keto, your body will burn all the glycogen reserves first before using fat. Once it runs out of glycogen, the water that was needed to store it gets eliminated and that’s why the weight on your scale changes so drastically.
While this isn’t fat loss, it’s a sign that your body is working its way into ketosis: fat burning mode.
This rapid water loss may also lead to dehydration and constipation, so drink more water than you normally do each day to keep things moving.
Short and Medium-Term: Steadier Weight Loss (1-2 pounds per week)
After a week or two, weight loss will happen at a slower and more steady pace. This is also the period of time when you’re getting fat-adapted as your body switches from burning carbs to burning fat, which means you’ll actually be losing fat now.
A safe, average loss from here is around 1-2 pounds (0.5-1 kg) per week.
Here’s what research says about weight loss on the ketogenic diet:
- One study found obese patients lost 13.6 kg (30 pounds) after 2 months in the keto diet and over 88% of patients lost more than 10% of their initial weight by the end of the study, while lean mass was practically unaffected.That’s 3.5 pounds per week.
- A study found that obese patients weighing 101 kg dropped 10 kg (22 pounds) after 8 weeks. They lost an extra 2 kg (4.4 pounds) by week 16 and 3 more kilograms (6.6 pounds) by week 24. In total, they lost 15 kg (33 pounds) in 5.5 months.That’s 1.3 pounds per week.
- One study on volunteers with obesity and type 2 diabetes who weighed 108 kg dropped 11.1 kg (24.5 pounds) in 24 weeks.That’s 1 pound per week.
- One study found 120 overweight hyperlipidemic patients lost 9.4 kg (20.7 pounds) of fat mass in 24 weeks. That’s 0.8 pounds per week.
- One meta analysis that took data from 13 studies found patients consistently lost more weight on the ketogenic than on a low fat diet.
As you can see, weight loss varies depending on how long you’re on the keto diet, how much weight you’ve got to lose, and your health condition. People seem to lose the most fat on the first 2-3 months of the keto diet, although weight loss is sustained for as long as people follow the diet.
Long-term: Slower Weight Loss
As you get closer to your goal weight, weight loss slows down. This is because as your weight decreases, your total daily caloric needs decrease as well. So, even if you continue on a deficit of calories to lose weight, it will now make a smaller difference.
You might have some weeks where it seems you haven’t lost anything, then you’ll weigh a week or two later and be down 3-4 pounds. The key is to stick with it and not get discouraged; just make sure you’re still in ketosis and give your body time to do its thing.
One study found that after one year on the keto diet, men and women between 30-69 years who weighed between 90-100 kg lost a total of 14 kg (30.8 pounds).
However, most of that weight was lost in the early stages of keto. They…
- Lost 7 kg (15 pounds) after 4 weeks.
- Lost another 5 kg (11 pounds) between weeks 4 and 12.
- Didn’t experience major changes changes from 12 weeks to 12 months (barely 1-2 kg).
This means the keto diet is effective for fast and sustained fat loss. You will see the biggest changes if you stick with it for a few months, and you won’t gain the weight back.
Common Keto Weight Loss Pitfalls
If you feel like you are going through a weight loss plateau after sticking with the keto diet for a few months, there might be habits or foods hindering your progress. Below are common weight loss mistakes and what to do about them:
Mistake #1: Not Being In Ketosis
This one may seem obvious, but it’s pretty common that people come out of ketosis without realizing it if they stop tracking their ketone levels. So, one of the biggest reasons people don’t see weight loss results on keto is they’re not actually on keto.
What to do:
- Don’t stop tracking your ketones when you’re trying to lose weight.
- Decrease carb intake. Look over what you’re eating daily and make sure you aren’t eating too many carbs. Don’t worry about too much protein though — the belief that eating extra protein will kick you out of keto due to gluconeogenesis is only a myth.
- Increase your fat intake. Make sure each meal and snack is heavy in fat. Increasing your proportion of fat can naturally reduce your carb and protein intake.
Mistake #2: Not Looking Out For Hidden Carbs
Some of the foods you eat can have more carbs than you realize. These hidden carbs can put you over your daily carb limit and bust your weight loss efforts.
What to do:
- Eliminate processed foods. These often contains a lot of sneaky carbs, even those branded as “healthy”. Stick to whole foods instead.
- Cut out artificial sweeteners. These can raise insulin levels and affect ketosis. Plus, they contain a lot of junk you’re just better off avoiding. If you must use a sweetener, stick with stevia or these top keto sweeteners.
- This article can help you look for any hidden carbs in your diet.
Mistake #3: Not Checking How Your Body Reacts To Dairy
Some people tolerate dairy really well and others don’t, so figure out which camp you’re in. Some dairy — like yogurt and whey protein — may elevate insulin levels and kick you out of ketosis.
What to do:
- Measure your ketone levels before and after consuming dairy to see how your body reacts.
- Stick to high-quality dairy (none of the processed stuff). Check out this guide to buying healthy dairy.
Mistake #4: Eating Too Many Calories
Although it’s harder to overeat on keto due to the filling nature of fats, it’s still possible to eat more calories than you need. If you don’t stay at a calorie deficit, you won’t see weight loss.
What to do:
- Track your calories if you don’t see meaningful weight loss after several weeks. Make sure you stay on a calorie deficit according to the keto calculator.
- Eat fewer nuts. Although some nuts are keto-friendly, they’re also pretty high in calories and some contain more carbs than others. Coincidentally, they’re also easy to over eat, so measure your intake when snacking on nuts. Learn more about which nuts are best here.
- Try intermittent fasting. Only eating within a certain period of time, which is the basis of intermittent fasting, can help speed up weight loss and reduce overeating at night. By fasting, you’ll find it a lot easier to stay on a calorie deficit.
- Don’t go overboard. Also make sure you aren’t under eating too much. While a deficit is necessary, too little food can actually cause metabolic damage and do more harm than good.
Those who have yoyo dieted a lot in the past might also need to give their bodies time to recover from damage. This might just mean giving the body time to heal while focusing on healthy keto nutrition.
Don’t Discount Other Signs of Progress
When going keto, it’s important to focus on more than just weight loss, even if you have a lot to lose. Overall health should be the goal, so give yourself credit for any and all benefits you notice from the ketogenic diet. That could be:
- Healthier hair, skin, and nails
- More mental clarity
- Fewer cravings
- More energy throughout the day
- Lower inflammation
- Prevention of chronic diseases
Although weight is a good indicator of progress and is certainly an important marker of health (to an extent), remember that it’s not all about the number on the scale. In fact, many on the keto diet will say they noticed differences in the mirror more than on the scale.
If you’re weight lifting at the same time, you might be replacing fat loss with muscle gain. While this might not move the scale much, it’ll show up on your body.
Take Home Message
The ketogenic diet is amazing for losing weight and improving your health, so stick with it and don’t be afraid to make changes as needed. Track what you eat, stick within your keto macros, and test your ketone levels frequently to make sure you’re staying in ketosis. Most of all, give your body time to respond to the great changes you’re making for it.
Calculate Your Macros with the Keto Calculator
- Select the Standard Ketogenic Calculator for a classic ketogenic diet of 75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbohydrate (recommended)
- Select Specialized Macronutrient Calculator to input specific amounts of fat, protein, and carbohydrate