Living the low-carb lifestyle is a wonderful way to get healthy and lose weight. Weight loss is the number one goal for people who join the low-carb movement. During the first month, most new low-carbers know they’ve made the right choice when they can see the weight falling off. At that point, success tastes great, momentum makes it easy to stay away from carbs, and you can see the new you emerging.
Then the weight loss suddenly stops and you’re stuck at that same scale number for 2 weeks! It’s maddening.
More specifically, it’s a plateau. You’ve leveled off in weight loss because your body has adapted. Some folks get so frustrated that they quit.
Don’t let a plateau stop your health journey. Kick it in the butt with these plateau-busting tips.
1. TRACK YOUR MACROS AND CALORIES
Many people report their first low-carb diet weight loss stalls around the 30 day to 6 week mark. It’s no coincidence that it’s within that same time frame that most low-carb eaters report feeling better about knowing the diet’s ins and outs. Comfort breeds laziness, and the number one cause for the early plateau is new low-carbers getting rid of their trackers and winging it. Be religious with your tracking methods to make sure extra carbs or sugars didn’t sneak their way in and throw you out of ketone production.
2. GET YOUR PROTEIN RIGHT
Gluconeogenesis is a metabolic pathway whereby your liver turns extra protein into glucose. Glucose being the sugar we are trying to cut out by severely limiting carbs. Eating too much protein will kick you out of ketone production (1) and stop the weight loss... Plateau city.
Eating too little causes muscle loss, not the weight you want to be losing.
Use our niKETO calculator to figure out your correct protein range and make sure you are making and burning ketones.
3. STOP STRESSING
Stop stressing. That’s really easy to do, right? It’s just like flipping a switch (eye roll).
Stress puts your body into a state of emergency, which can force you into gluconeogenesis and glucose production (2). It’s a survival response we have no control over if we are feeling stressed.
But we can manage stress. Make sure your diet is well within the low-carb limits, then do yourself a favor and relax. One of the biggest triggers for our stress emergency response is lack of sleep. Get to bed earlier: turn off the T.V. and put your phone down. Sleep will help and is its own recommended plateau buster.
Do whatever you need to do to calm down and stop the feelings of stress that throw our hormones out of whack.
4. REDO YOUR MACRO NUMBERS
As you lose weight, your body’s composition changes: you’re getting smaller. Because of this, you need to shrink your caloric intake to follow suit. What was a calorie deficit when you began 20 pounds ago may now be your maintenance amount that’s perfect for keeping you at your current weight. It’s recommended that you redo your macros for every ten pounds you lose.
5. TIME TO ADD THE EXERCISE
Many times the plateau comes because your body has adapted to your new lifestyle and becomes more efficient with the fewer calories you’re giving it. This is why Plateau buster #4 above is so important. But another way to skew the numbers in your favor is to add in a workout. You don’t have to go crazy and change your wardrobe to all tank tops or start calling everyone ‘Bro,’ instead you can ease in by adding a 20 minute walk after dinner or riding your bike to work a few days a week.
Get moving, get your heart rate up, and your plateau will fall.
6. INTERMITTENT FASTING
This plateau killer is great tactic if you are deeper into your low-carb journey, maybe working out a few times a week, and you're closer to your weight loss goal when the stall hits. If plateauing were a bacteria, intermittent fasting would be the antibiotic. I.F., as many call it, isn’t fancy. It’s simply an eating schedule that restricts the times of the day when you allow your system calories.
A typical beginner’s intermittent fast would be a 16-hour fast where you eat calories only between noon and 8 p.m. The rest of the day is spent in fasting mode. This fasted state throws your system a curveball and forces it to make up the difference with stored calories, and to better use the new calories you give it during feeding periods. Because of this, I.F. is great for breaking plateaus, forcing your body to adjust to a new set of circumstances, and burn calories and fat in the process.
7. TRY DIFFERENT WAYS OF LOW-CARB DIETING
This is another plateau breaker that is usually best for those who’ve experienced a stall deep into their low-carb lifestyle when the stall occurs within reach of the goal weight.
Yes, it does sound odd to hear that there are different ways to structure your low-carb diet, but it can be very helpful in getting the weight dropping once again.
Here are the low-carb diet variations you can try that will blow past a plateau:
SKD, Standard Keto Diet. Most people begin low-carbing with the standard low-carb, under 20g of carbs per day version of the diet.
TKD, Targeted Keto Diet. This method allows for more carb intake than the 20g as long as the extra carbs are taken right before, during, or right after an intense work out session where the carbs will be used up from the extra exertion.
CKD, Cyclical Keto Diet. Also known as carb back-loading is a strategy of eating higher carb consumption for 2 days, then staying strict low-carb for the week’s remaining 5 days. This type of low-carb is also usually done in conjunction with a serious exercise program.
Switching up your carb intake will take your system out of its comfort zone and force it to readapt to the new way of eating which will not allow it to live only off of the calories you eat. It will be forced to use the calories stored as fat, thereby breaking the plateau and getting the scale numbers moving in the right direction.
Breaking weight stalls is all about staying ahead of your body’s natural desire to find a comfort zone to burn calories with efficiency. If you keep your body guessing about calorie amount, timing, and the abundance and percentages of the three macro nutrients it will have no choice but to keep the calories burning. So keep eating a healthy, low-carb diet, get plenty of rest so your body can recover, de-stress your life and most important:
DON’T GIVE UP!
1. Marliss, E.B., Murray, F.T. & Nakhooda, A.F. (1978). The Metabolic Response to Hypocaloric Protein Diets in Obese Man. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 62, 468–479. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/670403.
2. Marriott, B.M., Institute of Medicine (U.S.) & Committee on Military Nutrition Research (1994). Food components to enhance performance: an evaluation of potential performance-enhancing food components for operational rations. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.