How Fast Can You Lose Weight on Keto? Your Complete Guide to Keto Weight Loss

There is a lot of talk these days about the ketogenic diet—and for good reason. Developed in the 1920s as a way to cure epilepsy, the low-carb/high-fat diet is now being embraced for many of its other health benefits — weight loss being a primary one. If you search online, you’re bound to stumble across spectacular before-and-after photos of people who have lost a substantial amount of weight, seemingly overnight, thanks to the keto diet.

So if you’re thinking about trying the keto way of eating, you’re probably wondering how much weight you can lose and how fast you can lose it. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, it’s helpful to know the following:

Benefits of Weight Loss

Before looking at what kind of weight loss to expect on the ketogenic diet, it’s helpful to touch briefly on the major benefits of weight loss in general. Losing weight will help you look and feel better, but there is much more at stake. Understanding what is at stake will help you persevere when the diet becomes tough and cravings kick in.

According to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, more than two-thirds of American adults are overweight, which means they are more likely to suffer from a number of weight-related health issues:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even modest weight loss — anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of your body weight — can provide huge health benefits including improvements in blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Furthermore, a study in the National Weight Control Registry cited that participants who maintained significant weight loss reported increased “energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence.” In other words, losing weight on the keto diet won’t just help you look better, it will be better for your overall health, energy, mood, and confidence. Keeping all of this in mind will help you stay motivated on your ketogenic journey.

What Factors Impact Weight Loss?

As mentioned before, a number of individual factors will affect how someone loses weight, so weight loss won’t be the same for everyone across the board. While these certainly don’t cover all of them, they are the top factors to take into consideration.

  1. Current weight — In order to lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit which means you need to burn more calories than you consume. That being said, your current weight is the number one determining factor for how fast you’ll be able to lose weight. This is because the heavier you are, the higher your metabolic rate is (your ability to burn calories in a given day). So, individuals with more weight to lose typically lose weight faster and more easily in the initial stages than those who don’t weigh as much.
  2. Current lifestyle — Sleep, nutrition, and activity level are all key factors when it comes to weight loss. The more drastic the changes in these areas, the more likely you are to witness dramatic changes in your weight. In other words, if you currently eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, and are moderately active, you will lose weight on keto, but it won’t be as fast or as drastic as someone who isn’t eating healthy, getting enough sleep, or exercising.
  3. Sleep — Speaking of lifestyle, sleep is crucial for weight loss. According to Dr. Craig Primack, a member of the national board of directors for the Obesity Medicine Association, “People who sleep less than seven hours per night tend to have slower metabolisms,” which means they aren’t burning as many calories as they could be.
  4. Weight-loss history — If you’ve lost weight in the past, you’ll have a more difficult time losing weight now. That’s because as you lose weight, your metabolic rate decreases. If two men weigh 200 pounds, but one man used to weigh 275 pounds, the man who used to weigh 275 will burn fewer calories per day since his metabolic rate has decreased from where it once was.

How Much Weight Will You Lose on Keto?

The good news for those interested in the ketogenic diet is that it is an extremely effective method for weight loss for a number of reasons:

  1. It turns your body into a fat-burning machine
  2. The high-fat nature of the diet is more satiating, which means you’ll get fuller faster and stay fuller longer. One of the reasons people love keto is because they don’t feel hungry or deprived even though they’re eating fewer meals and consuming fewer calories.
  3. You’ll feel more energized, which will do wonders for your ability to exercise more efficiently. Many people also report having improved mental clarity and focus while eating keto.

With the importance of weight loss in the back of your mind, and an understanding of some of the factors that impact weight loss, we can now look at the amount of weight you can expect to lose on keto. This guide is based on the assumption that someone is following a strict keto diet where 75% of their calories come from fat, 20% comes from protein, and 5% comes from carbohydrates.

Phase 1 of Weight Loss on Keto

Time: Weeks 1-2

Anticipated Weight Loss: Rapid weight loss – up to 10 pounds (of water)

As you start removing carbohydrates from your body, your body will begin using the glycogen stored in your liver and muscles as its primary fuel source. This is exactly what you want, because once your body gets through the glycogen, it will start burning fat instead of glucose. And when this happens, you’ve made it to the holy land: ketosis. We’ll talk more about this in Phase 2.

During this first phase, people can expect to lose anywhere from 2 to 7 pounds of water weight. Some people may even lose up to 10 pounds! Studies indicate that each gram of glycogen in human muscle is bound to about 3 grams of water. So, as your body burns through the glycogen, it also rids your body of water. Even though you’ll be losing mostly water weight in these early stages, this is a great sign that you are on your way to achieving ketosis.

It is important to note that while you’re in this first phase, you’ll want to make sure to drink extra water to prevent yourself from becoming dehydrated. Additionally, you may also notice flu-like symptoms — nausea, vomiting, tiredness, and maybe even some irritability. This is what people call the keto flu and could last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Don’t fret. This is simply a sign that your body is getting adjusted to a new fuel source i.e. transitioning to fat-burning mode.

Phase 2 of Weight Loss on Keto

Time: Weeks 2-4

Anticipated Weight Loss: Average weight loss – 1 to 2 pounds per week

After the initial drop in weight due to water loss, your body will then begin to adapt to using fat as its main energy source. At this stage, you’re becoming “fat adapted.” This is the point in the process when you achieve a state of ketosis, meaning your body switches from using glycogen as its fuel source to using fat. When your body starts burning fat for energy, it produces ketones (also called ketone bodies). You can test your body’s level of ketones to determine whether or not you’re in ketosis.

During this fat-burning stage, you can expect to lose a consistent 1-2 pounds per week. You’ll also begin to feel less hungry in this stage because the fat you’re consuming will make you feel more full. This will give your weight loss process a huge boost because you’ll have an easier time eating fewer calories.

Phase 3 of Weight Loss on Keto

TIme: 1-3 months and beyond

Anticipated Weight Loss: Slower weight loss – potentially 1 to 2 pounds per week

Once you’ve gone into ketosis, you’re going to feel like you’ve reached enlightenment. Well, almost. You’ll definitely feel like you have more physical and mental energy and endurance, and any carb cravings you may have experienced in the beginning will disappear.

In this phase, you may continue to lose 1-2 pounds per week, or it could slow down. If your weight loss slows down, that’s okay! Remember, as you lose weight, your metabolism will slow down a little as well. Your caloric needs will also lower, which means you’ll have to eat less to maintain your deficit. Stick with it. The CDC suggests that people who lose weight gradually and steadily at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week are more successful at keeping that weight off.

What if You’re Not Experiencing Weight Loss on Keto?

The ketogenic way of eating is an extremely effective weight loss method, but every person is different. Don’t compare yourself to the drastic before and after photos you see online. If you don’t experience the weight loss you’re seeking, stay positive and make sure you’re following these tips:

  1. Watch out for hidden carbs — Carbs are everywhere, especially in processed food. If you’re consuming more than the recommended amount of carbs (5% of your calories), your body will revert to burning those as opposed to burning fat. Try to stick to wholesome, unprocessed foods and be very careful about what you’re putting in your body. Read the nutrition facts on all your food and use our carb counter to help you monitor your carb intake. Know the difference between net carbs and total carbs. Net carbs = total carbs – fiber – sugar alcohols. To achieve and stay in ketosis, most people have to keep net carbs around 25 grams per day.
  2. Don’t eat too much protein — In addition to limiting your carb intake, you need to limit your protein intake as well. You should aim for about 20% of your calories to come from protein. If you eat more than that, your body will turn the excess protein into glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. Your body will then try to burn this glucose off instead of fat and will kick your body out of ketosis.
  3. Make sure you’re in ketosis — To reach your optimal weight loss goals, you must stay in ketosis. The nice thing about the keto diet is that you can measure whether your body is in ketosis by measuring the ketones being produced. For an in-depth look at the different ways to measure your ketones, check out our guide here.
  4. Keep moving — In addition to ketosis, the best thing you can do for your weight-loss journey and your overall health is to get moving! It’s extremely easy to wake up, go to work, sit at a desk all day, come home, and then sit on the couch for the rest of the evening. But when you do this, you aren’t burning calories like you should if you want to lose weight. For best results, take up a combination of resistance training and cardio. Building muscle will give your metabolism a boost since muscle in your body burns more calories than fat, and cardio will further help you burn calories. And even if you don’t want to go to the gym or get outside for a run, try to get in a 30-minute walk 3-4 times per week. A 30-minute walk at a brisk pace can help you burn about 150 calories. Plus, working out will boost your mood and help you stay motivated on your health journey.

Here are more ways to break a weight loss plateau and the ten most common mistakes on the keto diet which could be preventing weight loss.

Here’s to Health with the Keto Lifestyle

While each person’s keto journey will be unique, the fact remains: going keto is an effective way to shed extra weight and kickstart a life with better health. You’ll look better, feel better, and perform better in everyday life. But as with any diet, there will be times when the weight effortlessly slips off, and other times when the weight stubbornly hangs on. When you hit those weight loss stalls, the best thing to do is stick with it and stay on track. The ketogenic diet works and the health benefits of losing weight could transform your life.

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