12 Reasons Your Low Carb Diet Isn’t Working

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Low carb breakfast

Following a low carb diet is widely accepted as one of the most effective weight loss methods out there. It is highly recommended by doctors and nutritionists as the best diet for people with Type 2 diabetes. Ketogenic diets are even being explored as ways to treat tons of other health problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. There are even some researchers out there who are studying its effectiveness at treating cancer! It’s easy to see that in addition to weight loss, there are tons of reasons to consider a low carb diet (and we haven’t even talked about the yummy food yet!).

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If you’re simply interested in losing weight, you probably already know how effective a low carb diet is. Atkins became popular for a reason, right? Because it works!

There may come a time, though, that your low carb diet stops working as effectively as it did when you first started. There are lots of potential reasons for this, and it’s ultimately up to you to explore these reasons and determine which one is most likely affecting you and your habits.

To give you a good starting point, let’s explore some of those possible reasons that your diet isn’t working. In no time, you’ll be a fat-burning machine again!

1. Your carb intake is too high

“Low carb” means different things to different people. First, it’s important to determine exactly how low carb you are!

Are your carbs too high?
(Image from Women’s Health)

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should be eating between 225 and 325 grams of carbohydrates a day. That’s actually a pretty conservative number; some people on a Standard American Diet likely take in twice as much. The American Diabetes Association claims that a low carb diet is one that has less than 130 grams of carbs per day.

If you’re somewhere around 130 grams of carbs a day, trying cutting down to 100 a day, or even 75. If too many carbs is your biggest concern, you could even try cutting back to only 50 carbs per day. It’s not as hard as it might sound! Fifty carbs leaves room for a sandwich at lunch and lots of healthy, fiber-filled vegetables. Give it a shot and see what happens!

If you’re serious about cutting carbs, you could try a ketogenic diet. Ketogenic diets limit carbs to 20 grams a day, which forces your body to burn fat for energy, rather than glucose. This is a pretty surefire way to lose weight, but it might be more difficult for you. At any rate, cutting back on your carb intake might be what you need to do to kickstart your weight loss again.

2. Your protein intake is too high or too low

It’s funny. Some people can cut their daily carb intake and drop pounds like magic. Yet some of us have to meticulously measure every single thing we put in our mouths. This is where macro tracking comes in, especially if you’re on a ketogenic diet.

Your macronutrients include carbohydrates, fat, and protein. It’s important to have the right balance of macros, or else things will get out of whack and your weight loss will most likely stall. If you’re struggling to lose weight and you know that your carb intake is low enough, check out your protein levels.

Low carb protein

Protein is the macronutrient that makes you feel full. It’s also the one that keeps your muscles strong and healthy and functioning. In other words, it’s super important that you get enough. If you’re not getting enough protein, you’re probably not feeling satisfied, and you’re likely eating more. That often leads to a higher carb intake than we intend, which leads to stalled weight loss.

However, too much protein can also be a problem. If you eat too much protein, more than your body needs, your body converts the excess protein into glycogen. Learn more about the role of protein in a ketogenic diet at the KetoDiet Blog.

3. Your fat intake is too high

If you’re following a standard low carb diet, your fat intake should be pretty low, as well. It’s really hard to say exactly what your fat levels should be, but a good rule to follow is that the fewer carbs that are in your diet, the more fat there should be.

Low carb macro ratios
(Image from Shape, Inc.)

People on low carb diets often think that they should cut out carbs and fat, assuming that if they do so, they’ll lose weight faster. However, a low carb, low fat diet DOES NOT WORK. It leaves you hungry and unsatisfied, and you will eventually end up giving in to temptation. You have to find the right balance of macronutrients to keep your body satisfied and full.

However, don’t get too lenient with fat. Here’s a problem that lots of people on a ketogenic diet face. We know that fat is healthy and good for us, and we know that the fewer carbs that we have in our diet, the more fat we should have. However, some people incorrectly believe that more fat is better, period. That’s simply not true. In a ketogenic state, our bodies are burning fat for fuel, true. But any excess fat is just leftover, and get stored on our bodies as just that – fat.

If the idea of tracking macros seems difficult, don’t worry. There are tons of macro calculators out there that can do the work for you, and can tell you exactly what to eat. From there on out, it’s simply a matter of adjusting those levels bit by bit until your weight loss is efficient and effortless.

4. You’re not tracking carbs correctly

Once you’ve been on a low carb diet for a while, it’s easy to assume that you’ve got it down. There’s no reason to track your carbs anymore, right? Wrong! It’s so easy to accidentally slip up and start eating too many carbs. It’s important to be honest with yourself. When your spouse brought home those McDonalds fries, did you sneak one or two? Maybe you assumed that an extra handful of raspberries wouldn’t make a difference – after all, they’re just raspberries. It was just three fries!

Not low carb treats
(Image from Modern Herbal Medicine)

Believe it or not, these little allowances add up and can really devastate our weight loss. If you’re on a low carb diet, you have to be tremendously careful about your carb intake all the time. If you’re on a ketogenic diet, you have to be even more careful, or you’ll risk being knocked right out of ketosis. If you’re tracking, it’s important to track every single thing that you eat. A small serving of fries from McDonalds has 31 grams of carbs, which amounts to about 1 carb per fry. If you were already close to your limit for the day, a few fries is enough to toss you right over that limit.

5. You’re taking in too many calories

Low carb diets can be sneaky sometimes. You’ll hear some people saying that you have to count calories, while others say that you can essentially as much as you want, as long as you manage your carbs properly.

The fact is, the true answer lies somewhere between those two. You do need to watch your caloric intake on a low carb diet, just like you do on any diet. You can’t expect to eat 3,000 calories a day and lose weight, regardless of where those calories come from. Having said that, though, it is possible that you can be less strict about calorie intake when you do low carb. You’re going to be eating a decent amount of protein and a good amount of fat. Depending on your source for those two macros, they’re likely to be pretty high in calories.

Low carb breakfast

6. You’re eating too many low carb snacks

Now, before you get angry, let me explain. I don’t mean that you’re eating too many snacks, period. But some of us (and yes, I’m guilty too!) have a tendency to overindulge in convenience low carb foods. You know, when you go to the grocery store and see shelves and shelves of low carb products that are made with tons of artificial ingredients. Quest products and Atkins products are a perfect example of these quick, grab and go items. And there’s really nothing wrong with them, as long as you eat them in moderation. It’s important to understand, though, that for a lot of people, moderation is next to impossible.

The problem is two-fold, really. First, these products are packed with artificial sweeteners. They taste great, but in some cases, those artificial sweeteners trigger an insulin response in your body. Your body is expecting real sugar, but not getting it. This freaks your body out, and it responds in kind. Sometimes this means you’ll have a blood sugar drop. Other times, you’ll notice your weight loss stalling. It all depends on your body, but you’ll have to experiment and test to see what your body can handle.

The second problem that arises when it comes to these foods is the fact that by substituting your high carb foods with low carb substitutes, you’re still participating in the unhealthy behavior that led you to this unhealthy weight in the first place. If you’re eating low carb spaghetti and bread every day, you’re following the same habits and never breaking that mental cycle. For some, this is sustainable and it doesn’t bother them. On the other hand, some people have mental addictions when it comes to carbs, and breaking this cycle is important.

Low carb convenience foods
(Image from Kiss My Broccoli Blog)

7. You’re eating too many nuts (or the wrong kind)

Nuts are a great low carb snack, if you eat them in moderation, and if you eat the right kind. However, moderation is hard when you’re eating something so… well, snacky. It’s easy to down a handful at once, and then go back for more. Let’s face it – they’re addictive.

Here’s a rundown on some of the most popular nuts and how they weigh in on a low carb diet. The values listed below are net carbs per 100 grams of nuts. It’s easy to see that some are much more doable on a low carb diet than others.

Nut (100 grams) Carbs (Net) Protein Fat
Brazil Nuts 4 14 66
Pecans 4 20 72
Macadamia Nuts 5 8 76
Walnuts 7 15 65
Peanuts 7 26 49
Hazelnuts 7 15 61
Pine Nuts 8 38 68
Chia Seeds 8 16 31
Almonds 10 21 49
Sunflower Seeds 11 21 51
Pistachios 18 20 45
Cashews 26 18 44
Pumpkin Seeds 36 19 19

8. You’re closer to your target weight

When you’re incredibly overweight and you go on a diet, you’re making big changes to some bad habits. You’ve got a lot more weight to lose, which isn’t good, but it seems as though the weight just falls off at first – which IS good! However, as we get closer to our goal weights, our bodies start to slow down when it comes to weight loss.

If you’re in this situation and you’re someone who tracks macros, it won’t hurt to be extra careful about sticking to your percentages. However, your best bet is probably to watch your calories more closely. It’s natural that our bodies want to hold on to little bits of extra weight, and you’ll have to fight harder to beat that. Calorie counting will be your most effective tool.

9. You might have a thyroid disorder

Thyroid disorders are serious business. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue; weakness; difficulty losing weight; coarse, dry hair; hair loss; cold intolerance; constipation; irritability; and memory loss. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, consider seeing your doctor and having your thyroid levels checked. People with certain types of thyroid disorders are encouraged to follow low carb diets, while for others, it could be more damaging than beneficial. At any rate, it’s something that you don’t want to mess around with. It’s worth a trip to your doctor’s office to make sure you don’t have any of these serious disorders.

Thyroid infographic
(Image from Saint John’s Health Center)

10. You’re stressed out

Stress seems like one of those things that you can gloss over; you assume it’s not a real problem, and move on to the next thing on the list. Right?

But in reality, stress is a huge influence on weight loss – or the lack of, that is. When we get stressed out, our bodies release cortisol – also known as the stress hormone. This is the hormone that kicks in and triggers a fight-or-flight response in our bodies. Not exactly the kind of chill, serene environment that those mindfulness gurus encourage. Cortisol also causes our bodies to store visceral fat (abdominal fat that tucks itself in and around our organs).

So you’re probably like, “well that’s all fine, but how can I not be stressed out?” I’m not here to tell you to quit your job or give up on making the kids do their homework. But it’s important to take some time for yourself, and actively engage in self care rituals. These rituals can be anything that makes you feel better – personally, I love wandering through used book stores. It’s something I enjoy, and it relaxes me.

Ways to destress

11. You’re not getting enough sleep

Like stress, a lack of sleep is something that many of us assume can’t be changed in our busy lives. It’s just a fact of life. But if you can change a few habits here or there so that you get more sleep at night, you’ll be doing your body a huge favor. A lack of sleep correlates with weight gain, and not sleeping enough affects our hormone levels. Those hormone levels affect our hunger and satiety, which in turn lead to overeating and weight gain. It may seem impossible, but simply getting more sleep may help trigger your weight loss.

12. It actually is working!

When we start a low carb diet, we often experience that “whoosh” of lost water weight that gets us really excited and fired up about our future loss. It’s great for motivation, but the reality is that we don’t continue to lose weight at the same rate once that water weight is gone. It’s crucial to stay consistent and keep doing what has already worked for you.

It can be a bit of a mind game, though. If you’re someone who weighs yourself every day, you’ll probably notice that your weight fluctuates like crazy. The important thing to remember is that weight loss is not linear. You’re going to have ups and downs, and it’s likely that you’ll see just as many gains as losses. The important thing to keep an eye on is your trending weight. Even if you’re experiencing daily fluctuations (and I know how frustrating those can be), if your overall weight is trending downward, you’re on the right path!

Take the guesswork out of your Keto or Low Carb diet!

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