Keto has been one ofmost popular weight loss diets in the world for what seems like almost a decade now, owing to its superior speed and effectiveness.
So, when do you start losing weight on keto?
That depends on what you mean by “seeing weight loss.” If the number on the scale is important to you, a week on keto will get you faster results than almost any other type of diet. If you mean visually, like in the mirror or from other people, I'd say about 2-3 months.
Having said that, there's more to keto than just wearing tighter jeans.
It's actually quite polarizing, as many of the opinions are diametrically opposed. Some argue that you shouldn't do keto at all, while others swear by it. There is, however, a gray area between the two sides, and I believe that is where the truth about this contentious diet lies.
We'll get to the bottom of those problems shortly, but first, let's lay some groundwork.
What happens to your body when you are in ketosis?
Or, more specifically, what is ketosis? It is basically when your body uses fat for energy instead of carbs.
It's significant because your body is normally supposed to convert carbs into glucose for energy. However, because you are only allowed less than 50 g of carbs on the ketogenic diet, you will not have enough glucose, so your body is forced to use fats, convert them to ketones, and use them for fuel.
That is why the ketogenic diet is so effective for fat loss in the first place, because you are literally using the fats you have stored to survive.
To give you a better idea of what to expect on the ketogenic diet, here is a basic timeline. It should also provide an answer to the question, “How long does it take to lose weight on keto?” Examine it out.
What to Expect During the First Week of Keto
You should expect to lose at least 2 pounds in your first week, with many people losing up to 10-15 pounds.
It appears to be a little extreme, but it is completely normal given that the majority of that weight is water.
You may now be questioning:
Why do you lose water weight when you're on a keto diet?
It's due to the carbohydrate restriction.
Your body, you see, has something called glycogen, which is your body's main energy reservoir. It is also derived from glucose, which is derived primarily from the carbohydrates you consume. Furthermore, research indicates that a gram of glycogen typically contains 2-3 g of water.
As a result, limiting your carbohydrate intake forces your body to use stored glycogen. And with every gram of glycogen consumed, you lose the water that it contains.
This is why, when compared to other more balanced diets, low carb diets generally result in greater weight loss during the first few weeks.
During your first week of keto, you may experience the dreaded keto flu.
When glycogen is depleted, your body is forced to use fat. The keto flu is thought to be caused by this transition from glucose to ketones. According to Harvard, this occurs between 2 and 7 days after beginning the ketogenic diet. Among the symptoms are:
- Brain fog
You might also have trouble sleeping, as well as a few other bothersome symptoms.
However, not everyone gets the keto flu. However, if you are unfortunate enough to contract it (as I was), the symptoms usually subside within a day or a week, depending on how quickly your body adapts.
What happens after a month on the keto diet?
After a month, if you adhered to your carbohydrate restrictions, high fat requirements, and moderate protein intake, you should be well into ketosis.
This means your body now runs on fat (ketones) rather than carbs (glucose), you're no longer experiencing the keto flu, and, perhaps more importantly, you're losing weight at a more regular and consistent rate because you've already lost the majority of your water weight.
According to the CDC and NHS, this should be around 1-2 lbs per week. By the way, this is also what many other experts in the field recommend. Anything more than that is simply not healthy or sustainable.
Also, because you're now burning fat to function, this is where you'll see the incredible fat loss that people rave about with keto. So, if you're still wondering, “Can you really lose weight on the keto diet?” I'm here to tell you that there's a good chance you can.
Now that we've discussed the weight loss aspect of keto, let's move on to safety.
Is the keto diet long-term safe?
Based on my observations, I believe this is the main source of the keto debate. However, as far as I can tell, it is primarily based on what you consider to be “long term.”
Some people, for example, appear to believe that 6 months is a long time to be on a diet. A study called the Long-term Effects of a Keto Diet in Obese Patients, for example, claims that following the keto diet for 24 weeks (6 months) can lower triglycerides, blood sugar, and “bad” cholesterol while increasing “good” cholesterol. So, yes, the keto diet is safe in that sense. Even healthy.
Others, on either hand — and I honestly believe this — believe that 6 months isn't all that long. In fact, StatPearls recently published an article (2020) in which they essentially stated that 2 years on keto is still considered short-term. More importantly, research on anything after two years on the keto diet is extremely limited, if not non-existent.
So, I guess the gray area here is that yes, keto is extremely effective for weight loss and yes, it has numerous health benefits. However, if you intend to do this for the long term, I recommend that you schedule regular doctor's appointments.
On a similar note, you may be questioning:
How long should I follow the keto diet?
Like the issue of long-term safety, opinions are split — and I say “opinions” because I haven't seen a study that says you should stop keto after a certain amount of time. Experts and professionals, on the other hand, have something to say.
There is a camp that believes you can do keto indefinitely, while others believe you should not go beyond 6 months.
The gist of what both sides are trying to say is that you should stay on keto as long as it's sustainable — and by sustainable, I mean that it's not negatively impacting your health or any other aspect of your life.
In terms of health, if you're experiencing any unusual symptoms or the doctor determines that it's causing your health to deteriorate, I believe it's best to discontinue the diet, regardless of how long you've been on it.
Also, are the extreme nutrient proportions interfering with your ability to celebrate your core relationships? Is it interfering with your mental peace in any way? Is it simply too expensive to keep up? Are there any other obstacles that make it more difficult than rewarding in the end?
If this is the case, keto is probably not for you, which brings us to…
Is keto proper for everyone?
No, it does not, and it all boils down to macronutrient proportions.
For one thing, cutting out carbs means eating fewer fruits and vegetables, which can lead to deficiencies in a variety of nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin C, and magnesium, to name a few. A lack of fruits and vegetables can also cause constipation, which no one wants.
You can take supplements to compensate for nutrient and fiber deficiencies, but that will cost you more money. Furthermore, I am a firm believer in getting the majority, if not all, of your nutrients from whole foods. That way, I believe, is more enjoyable and sustainable, but hey, you do you.
On a completely different note, you may experience frequent bouts of diarrhea as the excessive amounts of fat can overwhelm your gallbladder.
Keto is probably not the best diet for anyone suffering from liver disease, as the conversion of fat to ketones occurs in the liver. Furthermore, if you have insulin resistance (e.g., diabetes) or high blood pressure, you should proceed with caution when doing keto.
You also have all of the social and economic obstacles that we mentioned, which not everyone can overcome. I, for one, am not sure I could. Or, at the very least, not for a long time.
With that said, you've probably already decided whether or not this diet is right for you. If you still believe it is, you're probably wondering where and how to begin. Let's get into it.
Where to Starting on the Ketogenic Diet
Understand your macronutrient proportions.
You must plan out exactly how much fat, protein, and carbs you will consume because even minor mistakes can knock you out of ketosis.
As an example, consider the macronutrient ratios of the standard ketogenic diet. On a 2000-calorie diet, those calories must be made up of:
- 75% fat
- 15-20% protein
- 5-10% carbs
Of course, we all have different caloric needs. A 7-foot male football player, for example, would require far more calories than someone 5'7” and working a desk job.
But, whatever your needs are, there are calculators all over the internet that can help you navigate through your macros.
Perfect Keto's calculator is what I used when I did keto because I thought it made things easier, but use whatever you see fit.
Learn which foods to avoid.
I keep repeating myself here, but it all comes back to strict proportions for the nth time.
You know you're supposed to eat a lot of fat, almost no carbs, and a moderate amount of protein, but I think it's a lot easier if you know what foods to avoid.
We have a comprehensive list of ketogenic foods to avoid that you might want to look at, but to give you a taste, these include most fruit, starchy vegetables, most alcohol, rice and grains, and other common grocery store items.
Begin to prepare your own meals.
You know exactly what you're eating and how much of it you're eating when you do this.
You also don't need any prior cooking experience to prepare tasty meals. Begin with whole-food recipes and simple cooking techniques. You'll get better and faster over time, and hopefully gain enough confidence to try more complicated recipes after you've finished with keto.
Here is a list of 25 easy keto diet recipes to help you cut down on your effort.
Know what to do if your keto diet isn't working.
There is always a chance that you will plateau in your weight loss efforts, no matter which path you take. It's stressful any time this happens, but it's especially stressful when you don't know why.
So, if you ask me, this is a critical piece of information that you should be aware of before embarking on the keto diet.
We go into more detail about this in our Why Am I Not Losing Weight On The Keto Diet Anymore? article, but in general, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you still in ketosis?
- Because if you aren't, that explains why you're not losing weight. To be sure, use a keto stick to test your ketone levels.
- How much food are you eating?
- Because, even if you eat the right foods, eating too many of them can stymie your weight loss efforts.
- Are your macronutrient proportions right?
- Because it only takes one gram of sugar to knock you out of ketosis.
- Do you exercise?
- You should if you haven't already. If you are, you might want to experiment a little.
- How are you sleeping?
- Make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, as lack of sleep has long been linked to poor weight loss results.
- Have you been constantly stressed?
- Because long-term stress has been linked to obesity.
On a similar note, you may be questioning:
Will the keto diet cause you to gain weight?
While it is commonly used for weight loss, doing keto can actually cause weight gain, especially if you are not careful.
Fats, which you're supposed to eat a lot of in keto, have 9 calories per gram. That is nearly double the amount of calories per gram of carbs and protein, both of which are 4 calories.
In a nutshell, I believe that if you know what foods to avoid, what to eat (and cook), how much of them to eat, and have the foresight to see what problems you might encounter, you're pretty much ready to begin your keto journey.
So, what comes next? What happens after the keto diet?
Whatever your reason for quitting keto is, whether it's because you've realized you can't keep it up anymore or because you've reached your goal weight, you want to do it correctly.
That means not bingeing on all the carbs and protein you've been deprived of on the day you decide to stop. Rather, gradually reintroduce them into your life while decreasing your intake of unhealthy fat.
For example, you could omit a few strips of bacon from your breakfast and replace it with chicken and avocados.
After you've reached your weight-loss goal with keto, you could aim for more muscle. This should be easier now that you can eat more carbs and protein.
You could also try out different diets. Many of my peers have found success in maintaining their weight after keto by gradually transitioning to intermittent fasting. You can do that as well, but if it were up to me, I would opt for a clean eating lifestyle over another diet that may or may not work for you.
With that said, it's almost time to wrap this up, but before we do, here's a recap of all the pros and cons we've discussed:
What are the pros and cons of the keto diet?
- It’s insanely effective for weight loss based on countless anecdotal and scientific evidence
- You lose a lot of weight on the first week (albeit most of it being water) which can be motivating to some people
- You learn that you have the power to literally change how metabolism works which, I believe, can extend to other areas of your health (e.g. PCOS, insulin resistance, etc.)
- It comes with several health benefits including better blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and a healthier ratio between “good” and “bad” cholesterol
- The ratio between carbs, fat, and protein are so out of the norm. The carb restriction, in particular, is ridiculous.
- It can be unsustainable to a lot of people largely because of its probable impact on health and relationships
- There’s very little evidence (if any) of what good or harm it can do to your body should you decide to do it for more than a couple of years
- The notorious keto flu just straight up sucks
- It’s not for everyone. If you have liver or blood pressure issues, you might want to try something else.
Look no further than the ketogenic diet for one of the most effective ways to lose weight. I mean, you can lose up to 15 pounds in the first week alone! Of course, this figure will dwindle over time, but it is still extremely impressive.