Does Low Carb Mean Weight Gain?

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First Thing's First: Low Carb or Keto?

On the low carb bandwagon but still experiencing weight gain (or not seeing the weight loss results you hoped for)?

Research shows that a low carb way of eating (WOE) will be ineffective unless your body actually reaches ketosis.

What is ketosis? It’s the state in which your body functions when it doesn’t have enough carbs to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat and helps you lose excess weight.

Why lose weight using ketosis? Attaining a healthy weight can help people with diabetes avoid the risks associated with it, as well as make daily management easier.

A keto WOE allows people with diabetes to lose weight while keeping blood sugars in-range (fewer carbs) and still getting the nutrients they do need (protein, good fats, and fiber)! 

6 Reasons You're Gaining Weight While Eating Low Carb

Some people experience weight-gain while attempting this new way of eating, which can be extremely frustrating.

Below, check out 6 reasons you may be gaining weight while trying to be keto, and how to fix it!

You’re Still Eating Too Many Carbs

Carbohydrates hide in unexpected places. And even if you’re cutting out “carby” things like bread and pasta, your carb count may still be too high for your body to reach ketosis (you have to stay under about 50 grams of carbs per day).

For instance, apples and bananas are the highest carb fruit.

A medium-sized apple has the same carb-count as a small McDonald’s fry; a medium-sized banana has the same carb-count as a McMuffin. Neither of those will help you in your keto journey!

Instead, try blackberries, raspberries, or strawberries with your favorite nut butter or plain yogurt.

You Aren’t Eating Nutritious Foods

Apples and bananas may be high in carbs, but they’re still better than something processed (like those McMuffins).

Studies show that eating less processed foods without changing macros (calories, carb count, fat content, protein, etc) helps you lose weight. You can read more about processed versus unprocessed foods here.

This is where things get tricky for some people. Rather than eating natural foods, they opt for a completely processed -- albeit, low carb -- diet (think: protein bars, protein cookies, protein shakes, etc.). While they are eating low carb “foods,” the diet is entirely comprised of unnatural foods.

Protein bars are awesome -- in moderation. But always try to opt for the more natural choice. Like eggs! Or an avocado salad. If you’re low carb way of eating is made up of only processed, low carb foods, you may run into some weight-gain challenges.

You’re Consuming Too Many Calories

If you’re trying to reach ketosis, a medical professional should prescribe a calorie goal that’s appropriate for your age, weight, and health. Chances are that this goal will be lower than you’re used to.

To make sure you’re sticking to your goal, pay attention to how many calories you’re consuming and know what appropriate serving sizes are.

When I don’t measure my almond butter, I end up having 4+ tablespoons (which is a lot of calories - yikes! I think I’ll bike instead of taking the train tomorrow). 

Please, please, please do not stress about calories or choose a more processed food just because it has a lower calorie count. However, if you’re struggling to lose weight on a keto diet, it may be because you’re blasting through your suggested calorie goal.

Awareness is key.

Your Eating Schedule Needs Tweaking

Decide when you’re going to eat and stick with the program!

Set reminders for meal and snack times in your phone. Try not to snack often or at night. This can be difficult, as those of us with diabetes need to maintain a certain blood sugar level. But the goal is to plan ahead so you avoid unnecessary calories and carbs.

For example: I know that I always get hungry around 3pm. To avoid the vending machine options (think: cold, plastic-wrapped burgers and sugary granola bars), I pack a yogurt and carrots.

You’re Stressed or Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

As a stress-prone person, I won’t tell you to chill out. But do make sure you’re looking out for your mental health, as this affects everything -- from our relationships to our physical health.

Commit to seeing a counselor on a bi-weekly basis. Or, if that’s not your speed, invest in some fancy bath salts! Make sure you’re taking care of you. And if situations in your life prevent that, consider making changes.

Both stress and sleep deprivation affect appetite control. When you’re stressed and exhausted, your body is on the hunt for more fuel. Chronic sleep deprivation (under 6 hours per night) increases your risk for obesity.

Bottom line? Make time for sleep. 7-9 hours every night. Once you hit ketosis, most people actually find that they have an easier time sleeping.

You Need to Exercise More

Your body can’t burn fat in ketosis if you aren’t moving enough.

Ketosis can make you feel weak; you shouldn’t be doing high impact training while losing weight quickly.

However, there are several ways to increase your activity (and they all happen to be things I do when I have a busy week and can’t hit the gym).

  • Walk more - while you talk on the phone, listen to a podcast, or are heading to work

  • Stand at your desk instead of sitting - this also helps with the after-lunch drowsiness

  • Take the stairs instead of elevators and escalators - I’ve made this my policy (with exceptions in cases of extreme lateness!).

  • Yoga - when I don’t have time to go to the studio, I’ll pull up a video on YouTube at home and follow along at my comfort level. The best part is no one sees when I mess up!


This post has three underlying themes that will help you lose weight while eating keto and stay healthy long-term: awareness, communication, and consistency.

Be aware of how many calories you’re consuming, your body, and what we know about processed foods.

Communicate with your doctor, your mental health professional, and your loved ones.

Be consistent in how much you eat, when you eat, and how much you sleep.

Eating keto (or any low carb meal plan) is excellent. You've made a great decision. With small tweaks, you will start to see the results you want! 

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GV
Grace Vlaha
Sep 06, 2019

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