5 Signs A Low-Carb, High-Fat Keto Diet Just Isn't Working For Your Body
You've given certain things a fair trial in life, only to realize they just weren't working. Maybe it was a job or a relationship. You put in your full effort, played by the rules, gave your heart and soul to the situation, and yet over time you realized, you're just not a match. The results simply weren't worth the effort.
The same thing can happen with eating plans, including the ketogenic diet. The keto diet restricts carbs to around 50 grams or fewer, so your body relies on fat as a main source of fuel.
Some people thrive on this high-fat, low-carb approach. They easily become keto-adapted (meaning your body favors fat and not glucose for fuel), side effects are minimal, and they feel focused and energized. Not to mention, they start losing serious weight without much effort.
Then there's you. You've faithfully committed to a keto diet for a month or two now. You've kept a food journal to track what you eat and your overall progress. You dutifully request sliced avocado and other keto-friendly foods while your friends order the chili cheese fries. And…nothing. Maybe a few pounds disappeared, but getting the scales to move required a Herculean effort. You're often low on energy and feel nauseous. Your doctor isn't happy with your latest blood work results either, as the keto diet can increase cholesterol and lipid levels.
You and keto just might not be a match. Hey, it happens! Despite the evangelical masses who sing keto's praises, no one diet plan works for everybody or every body. What fits perfectly for someone else can become a colossal bomb for you.
I'm not saying you shouldn't give keto a fair shake—as long as you don't have a medical condition that warrants avoiding a high-fat, low-carb diet, give keto a try for 30 days (not just a few days or a week) to see how your body responds. And commit wholeheartedly. I'm talking unwavering Beyoncé-like commitment.
You may get over the initial unpleasant hump and find your body hums along quite nicely on keto. But you might not. Here, I'm going to elaborate on five signs that the keto diet just isn't working for you—and that you should keep looking for your ideal dietary match:
1. The idea of eating that much fat makes you want to hurl.
While experts differ on specific estimates, maintaining ketosis could require eating 80 to 90 percent fat. Whoa. You're not alone if that sounds astronomically high: Some people just can't handle that much dietary fat. One review of 229 hunter-gatherer communities found a dietary fat intake of around 28 to 58 percent. Even on the high end, that's still lower than most keto diets. Some people simply do better eating more protein and healthy carbohydrates.
2. Those dreaded GI side effects don't go away.
You initially felt constipated. Then, a few days into ketosis, the opposite happened: You once had to bolt to the bathroom after holding a downward dog in yoga. That wasn't a fun moment. Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and "running to the bathroom"—collectively called "keto flu"—are common, especially during the earlier days. But when they don't go away after a few weeks? That's a red flag keto is a no-go.
3. You find that sticking to keto is pure misery.
Social limitations can make doing or sticking with ketogenic diets a challenge. Never mind clear-the-room bad breath; family dinners might suddenly become a challenge, you can't join your friends for ice cream or beer, and you might get awkward glances when you ask for extra grass-fed butter for your steak at a restaurant. If those situations feel like Dante's seventh circle of hell, get out of the keto club now and find a more sustainable plan.
4. You're not losing weight.
Maybe you have renewed energy and feel awesome eating bacon and eggs. All well and good. But if weight loss is your goal on a keto plan (let's be honest: It is for a lot of people) and you're not consistently losing a pound or so a week, this might not be the right diet for you. Worth mentioning: Consuming too many calories becomes easy when you eat high-fat foods since fat is naturally higher in calories than carbs and protein. But before abandoning keto, try modifying your caloric intake—consider intermittent fasting for 14 to 16 hours a day (try this 16:8 intermittent fasting approach) to see if that gets the scales moving.
It’s also important to consider, the ketogenic diet doesn’t work without a huge amount of water intake since water is necessary for fat breakdown. Without appropriate water intake, i’s easy to feel hungry and consume too many calories to make the diet effective.
5. You're an athlete, or your body just runs better on glucose.
While a few athletes praise keto, numerous studies over the past few decades show carbohydrates are the primary macronutrient to sustain and improve physical performance. Put another way, carbs are most beneficial for any athletes. According to Mitch Kanter, Ph.D., "Carbohydrate is the substrate most efficiently metabolized by the body and the only macronutrient that can be broken down rapidly enough to provide energy during periods of high-intensity exercise." More carbs doesn't mean nose-diving into glazed doughnuts. Instead, bring more nutrient-dense carbs like sweet potato and berries into your plan. In addition, since your brain runs on carbs, the keto diet can cause you to feel slow or experience brain fog. Many people feel great mentally on this diet, but a few will feel sluggish.
Bottom line: Keto doesn't work for everyone.
Overall, keto has a lot of things going for it. It helps people get off the blood sugar roller coaster, and some people swear by its ability to improve mental focus and fat loss. But if you're putting in the effort and not getting results, step back and assess how you can tweak this plan to experience the maximum benefit. Don't automatically subscribe to the hype. Try different plans (including intermittent fasting) and see how you feel. Remember you are not a study or statistic, so it's important to listen to your body and find what works for you.
Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.