A low-carb diet cuts out a major source of calories and helps reduce your appetite, so you successfully lose weight. This type of eating plan proved more successful in prompting weight loss as compared to a low-fat diet according to a 2014 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. As a added bonus, the diet also reduced participants' risk factors for heart disease.
If you've jumped on the low-carb diet train but aren't experiencing the results you're looking for, it's possible your diet and lifestyle need a few extra tweaks. Troubleshoot your approach to low-carb eating so you experience all the great side effects of ditching starches and sweets to reduce inflammation, heal your gut and become a natural fat-burner.
You May Not Be Low-Carb Enough
A standard American diet calls for 45 to 65 percent of your calories to come from carbohydrates. On a 2,000-calorie diet, this amounts to 225 to 325 grams of carbs daily. So by definition, a low-carb diet could reduce your intake to 200 grams or fewer daily. In fact, many moderately low-carb diets restrict you to about 100 to 150 grams of carbs per day, which does represent a reduction -- but it may not be reduced enough for you to experience weight-loss success.
Some people won't experience significant weight loss with a low-carb plan unless they reduce their intake to 20 to 50 grams daily. This type of very low-carb diet can put you into a state of ketosis, which increases your ability to burn fat. Your body starts to produce ketones, chemicals that can fuel your brain; your appetite reduces and energy soars. But you can't reach this state until you've dropped your carb intake significantly -- to 50 grams or fewer per day.
Such a diet consists mainly of protein, healthy fats and watery, fibrous vegetables. Intake of all other moderate carb-containing foods, including milk, yogurt, fruit and nuts, is extremely limited.
You're Cheating With Hidden Carbs
Commitment to a low-carb eating plan is commendable, if you're acting on it. Restrict carbs at just one or two meals per day, but regularly find excuses -- such as a work event or travel -- to have a high-carb food "just this once," and you're probably sabotaging your efforts.
You may even think you're eating low-carb, as you've cut out pasta, bread and soda, but are unknowingly still eating a far amount of the macronutrient. While fruit is a healthy food, for example, its naturally occurring sugars make it high in carbohydrates. On a very low-carb diet, you'll need to limit intake to just one piece or 1/2 cup of berries daily, if you eat any at all.
Nuts, too, are a healthy snack on a low-carb diet. But, nuts are energy dense and do contain carbohydrates. Just 24 almonds have a little more than 2 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 tablespoons of cashews contain 5 grams. Think how easy it is to grab of handful of these nuts and easily eat double or triple that amount.
Maybe You're Stressed or Sleep Deprived
You might be doing all the right things with your diet, but ask yourself if you're also taking care of other aspects of your health. A stressful job situation, family woes or financial troubles wreak havoc on your hormones -- particularly encouraging an excessive production of cortisol, a stress hormone. Too much of this hormone puts your body into a constant state of defensiveness. Your body is unwilling to release fat because it fears an emergency. Consider taking up yoga, meditation or other relaxing pastimes that help you ease stress and calm down.
Too little sleep can also interfere with your ability to lose weight on a low-carb plan. Your body becomes sluggish, so you slow down daily activity. You may find it harder to resist high-carb treats and be too tired for exercise, another essential component on any weight-loss plan. Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Cut out electronics about an hour before you turn in, ease off afternoon caffeine intake, and prepare a room that's cool and dark to make it conducive to sleep.
You've Got Another Medical Condition
Some medical conditions make it hard to lose weight, regardless of what diet you follow. An underactive thyroid slows your metabolism and makes it hard for you to drop pounds. Consult your doctor if you just can't lose the weight, feel fatigued all the time and are intolerant to cold; tests can determine if your thyroid is to blame. Also, certain medications can cause weight gain or make you resistant to weight loss. Talk to your doctor about this possibility too.
You're Over- or Under-Eating on Your Low-Carb Diet
Cutting out carbs can mean you're trimming a considerable number of calories, especially if you stick to lean proteins only. You may actually be eating too little if you subsist on leafy greens and chicken breast all the time. A woman needs a minimum of 1,200 calories per day and a man 1,800 calories, to prevent a slow-down of the metabolism that can stall weight loss. Your body reacts to insufficient calories as if it's starving and holds onto fat. When you switch to a low-carb plan, still consume notable servings of healthy fats -- in the form of fatty cuts of meat, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, olive oil and seeds.
On the other end of the spectrum, it is possible you're eating too much, even when your choices are low-carb. Nuts and nut butter are low-carb, but high in calories -- especially if you find yourself polishing off cupfuls to satisfy cravings. Too much protein can also push your calorie intake too high, and deprive you of other important nutrients. For the most effective and safe weight loss, aim for a low-carb diet that contains a fair amount of fat, moderate protein and lots of leafy vegetables.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition and Metabolism
- Authority Nutrition: Top 15 Reasons You Are Not Losing Weight on a Low-Carb Diet
- Atkins: Phase 2 Acceptable Foods
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism is Modifiable with the Right Lifestyle Changes
- Annals of Internal Medicine: Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets: A Randomized Trial