I Tried the Ketogenic Diet for 30 Days and Here’s What Happened
As a rule, I shy away from extreme diets or eating regimens. Atkins? Never heard of him. Whole 30? Wholly not going to bother with it. Paleo? Some things are better left in the history books.
However, the simplicity of the ketogenic (keto for short) diet appealed to me, and seeing as I had a wedding to attend-and a bridesmaid’s dress to wear-I needed something effective to help me shed some weight, and fast.
Find out what happened when I decided to shun carbs for 30 days including how I did it, my successes, my challenges and my life-long takeaways.
How I Did the Keto Diet
I started the diet about one month before the wedding with a goal of losing 10 pounds. Since a low-calorie diet can produce up to a 2-pound weight loss per week, 10 pounds over 4 weeks didn’t feel extreme. If the keto diet was as great as had been touted, I thought 10 pounds would be easy.
Before I started, I spent several weeks researching the diet, following keto-focused Instagram accounts for inspiration, and creating a plan (see our healthy version of a keto meal plan to help you make a plan). This last part, I would soon learn, was the most important thing for my journey.
I used an online keto calculator to set a goal for calories, carbs and fat. I mostly followed the suggestions, with the exception of fat. The calculator suggested over 200 grams of fat each day. That’s tough to hit without loading ghee into my coffee or swigging some coconut oil before lunch. Can it be done? Absolutely. I just couldn’t get there. For me, the focus was on reducing carbs. I let the other pieces just fall into place.
I also asked a friend to join me as an accountability partner. She had tried the keto diet before with good success, so having a guide for my myriad questions was a big help. It was also nice to have someone to message at 10 p.m. when I really wanted a cookie so she could commiserate with me. (We agreed the cookie would be delicious, and then ate a cheese stick.)
My Biggest Challenges
Eating only 20 grams of carbs a day is hard.
The keto diet is a high-fat and low-carb (HFLC) diet. I would actually describe it as extremely low-carb-you’re allowed to eat just 20 grams in a day. Some people on keto follow a net-carb plan (you can subtract the grams of fiber from a food’s total carbs) and you’re allowed to eat more carbs in a day. For my 30-day diet and for the sake of simplicity, I stuck with total carbs.
As a rule, I aimed for 20 grams each day-2 at breakfast, 5 at lunch, 3 for snacks and 10 for dinner. I found that if I aimed for 20, I’d land under 30. That was successful enough for me.
The key to hitting my number was to plan, plan, plan. I worked out all three meals, down to the condiments, plus snacks on the weekends. If I knew what I was having and what I was “allowed” to have while staying under my carb goal, I found managing the infrequent cravings and hunger pangs easier. I can’t stress enough the importance of planning for a keto diet.
The food is repetitive.
I ate a lot of bacon, cheese, eggs and meat (steak and chicken mostly). For a person whose eating philosophy is typically more plant-based and whole-food-focused, eating processed pork products every morning took a lot of personal persuasion. It also took a complete mental shift, because eating multiple pieces of bacon every day for weeks on end goes against everything I’ve been taught for personal health.
This is a very low-calorie diet.
Keeping your carb count near 20 reduces your calorie consumption too. Carb-heavy foods are some of the most calorie-dense foods we eat, mainly because we eat a lot of them. If you cut carbs, you dramatically reduce your possible calorie intake. (See the 30 best low-carb foods.)
Some days, I struggled to get over 1,200 calories. For my goal of 1,800 calories, I fell short almost every day. That’s enough of a calorie deficit to produce weight loss, even without the low-carb count.
I came down with “keto flu.”
The “keto flu” is a term you’ll see on keto blogs and forums. For me, it was a very real event, but not everyone will experience it.
As your body breaks through the carb cycle and enters ketosis (where you rely on ketones, instead of carbs, for energy), you may experience fatigue, mental fogginess, even irritability. My “keto flu” only lasted a day, and once I passed it, I never experienced the symptoms again. I even ate a cookie one day during the diet to celebrate my birthday. I certainly came out of ketosis when I ate that treat, but I didn’t experience any repercussions for it. Learn more about sneaky side effects of keto.
My Biggest Successes on Keto
I beat my weight-loss goal.
While I set out to drop a quick 10 pounds, I quickly surpassed it. I was down 10 pounds within three weeks and hit 15 pounds two days before the wedding.
It’s important to keep in mind that when you are on a low-carb diet of any type, you will lose several pounds in the first few days. That’s because your body is dropping water weight. When I returned to typical eating over the wedding weekend, I gained 4 pounds. I didn’t overeat that weekend. I had just returned to eating carbs, so the water weight returned.
I had more energy (but not every day).
Even better, I had so much energy and I didn’t experience the typical midafternoon energy slumps. Gym time was a bit of a challenge. Without carbs, your body has to burn fat for energy, and some days, that will leave you feeling drained of energy during a workout. That’s OK. Stick with it, and try again tomorrow.
I learned to be very creative in the kitchen.
It’s almost impossible to eat at a restaurant and keep your keto status. (After the third time you ask the server to hold the onions from your chicken fajitas, you’ll just want to never go into a restaurant again.) Luckily, I consider myself an adventurous cook, frequently cooked at home before the diet, and am willing to try new recipes.
Of course, with a keto plan, your ingredient list is dramatically shortened. I scoured blogs, Instagram, Pinterest and other sources for reliable recipes, and then I put my own thinking cap on and came up with several dishes I really enjoyed.
Write the recipes down, use a meal-tracking app like MyFitnessPal to record the ingredients, and you can figure out if a recipe can work for you. It takes a bit more work than an average meal plan, but it’s worth it.
I broke my sugar addiction.
You can’t eat sugar on the keto diet, and most of the no-carb sugar substitutes don’t work for me. So when you’re left with no recourse, you just have to quit sugar.
That doesn’t mean the cravings went away. In the first few days, the cravings for a peanut butter cup or a soda or even just a banana were strong. (Here’s when having an accountability buddy really helps.) When you go back to typical eating, you might find (as I did) that many foods you ate regularly are now just too sweet to finish.
Lifelong Takeaways from My 30 Days on Keto
I won’t be staying with keto for the long term—I really can’t eat that much bacon anymore—but I do expect I’ll return to it several times a year. If nothing else, the strict diet works well for me as a reset after a long splurge (hello, holidays!), and my month-long experiment helped me break my dependency on some of my biggest food crutches (sugar, pasta, crackers).
The keto diet is not for everyone. Certainly, if you have blood sugar issues or a history of heart disease, you should not try this diet without a doctor’s supervision. However, if you’re in good health and are looking for a weight-loss jump-start, the keto diet might be the opportunity you’ve been looking for. I just hope you really like bacon.
How Much Weight Can You Lose on the Keto Diet?
You’ve seen the headlines. Here’s How I Lost 50 Pounds on the Keto Diet! I Tried Keto for 30 Days and Here’s What Happened! I Almost Gave Up Trying to Lose Weight — and Then I Found Keto!
Success stories, especially when it comes to weight loss, are the thinspiration of the lifestyle blogosphere. Bonus points if they include before-and-after photos that may or may not be photoshopped.
But there’s just one problem with these testimonials: Each of them dictates one person’s journey through keto. And they might not even tell readers the whole story.
It’s possible to lose weight while following the keto diet. But the numbers may not be the same for everyone.
How much weight can you actually lose on the keto diet? The short and vague answer is: it depends. How long you remain on the diet, your end goals, and whether or not you experience side effects can make all the difference.
How long can you stay on the keto diet?
The keto diet has strictly medical origins, and it may be able to help patients improve their health in clinical settings. But outside the supervision of a health professional, it’s not always a sustainable or safe weight loss method — especially in the long-term.
Experts haven’t decided on a universal time frame that works best for weight loss on keto, mostly because every individual reacts differently to it. Some people do it for a month and then move on. Others claim to have kept up the diet for years.
In reality, most people who try the diet to lose weight without a medical reason won’t keep up with it that long. Why? Because it’s not an easy diet to follow. You’re extremely limited in terms of what you can eat in a day, and if you aren’t willing to get creative with your food choices, you might get really bored, really fast.
Those who claim they lost massive amounts of weight quickly while on the keto diet probably weren’t exaggerating. But what they might have failed to mention was whether or not they were able to keep up that pace of weight loss — or maintain it after the fact.
As with any diet, you might appear to lose a lot of weight in the beginning. But it will most likely slow down. And that’s typically when dieters get frustrated and quit.
How much weight can you lose in 1 month?
Even one month is a long time to sustain a diet like this, so let’s stick with a 30-day average for the rest of the article. Medically, professionals usually recommend an average of one to two pounds of weight loss per week when losing weight the “traditional” way. Is the keto diet any different?
At first — within the first several weeks — you’ll lose mostly water weight due to a decrease in calories. This will come off quickly, allowing you to drop 10 pounds or more, in total, in 30 days or less.
But what happens after that depends on whether or not you stick to the low-carb, high-fat life. Will you exercise while you’re doing it, or do you subscribe to the belief that you don’t have to because keto will do all the work for you? Will you experience side effects that make the diet unsustainable for you?
There’s no way to predict how much or how quickly you can shed pounds. But if keto ends up being a diet you can willingly and safely stick to, and it works for you, then it may be worth your time.
If you’re going to try keto to lose weight, know the facts before you come up with a plan. This isn’t a diet that’s magically going to make you 30 pounds lighter and keep you there. And just because it worked for one person doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Keto Diet Weight Loss Results: How Quickly Will I Lose Weight on Keto?
Weight loss is one of the most common goals of the ketogenic diet. If you’re using keto to drop pounds, you’re probably wondering how quickly you can expect to see keto diet results.
Since everyone is different, it’s hard to get an exact answer, but this article will cover the average weight loss rate for most keto dieters, tips for successfully losing weight on keto, and how to avoid common weight loss mistakes.
Weight Loss on Keto: Everyone Is Different
Everyone’s body is different, which means the weight loss rate for each person is different too. Your individual keto diet results can vary depending on four main factors.
Your Health Situation
Are you overweight? What’s your energy level? Do you have thyroid problems? Do you have insulin resistance or other blood sugar issues? What is your metabolic state?
Your overall health determines how fast you lose weight. For instance, if you have any hormonal or metabolic issues, the process might be slower than expected. That’s OK.
Your Body Composition
How much body fat do you have to lose? What’s your muscle mass? What’s your BMI (body weight to height ratio)? If you have a lot of excess weight you’ll likely experience more and faster weight loss in the beginning.
Your Daily Habits
Your exercise and eating habits make or break your weight loss efforts. What does your keto meal plan look like? Are you eating clean keto foods like coconut oil, avocado, and MCT oil, or do you choose high-fat junk foods like processed meats? Are you watching out for hidden carbs? Are you exercising? The energy you spend on a daily basis and your way of eating impact how efficiently your body burns fat.
Your Individual Fat Adaptation Period
Your body needs time to become fat-adapted, and the time it takes to get there depends on your metabolism. For instance, if you’re coming off a standard American diet (SAD), and your adult body has never run on ketones before, your adaptation period might take a little longer. You’ll lose weight when your body is in a state of ketosis.
The key to keto diet results is consistency. That means eating keto-friendly foods including healthy fats, veggies, and quality meats. Treat the keto diet as what it is — not simply a diet plan, but a lifestyle and metabolic shift in your health.
Set Yourself Up for Weight Loss Success
Before you embark on your keto weight loss journey, it’s important to get the basics right.
Some people think shifting from the high-carb standard American diet into a paleo or low-carb diet is enough to enter ketosis. But this isn’t always the case. It’s important to make sure you’re running on ketones instead of carbs. Otherwise, you’re not going to burn fat or lose weight.
Figure Out Your Keto Macros
Use the keto calculator to get your personal keto macros. Having a nutritional target based on your body composition will make it a lot easier to enter and remain in ketosis (and lose weight). It might seem like a lot of work to track your macros, but once you get an idea of how many grams of carbs, proteins, and fats are in the foods you eat most often, it will start to become second nature.
Give Your Body Time to Get Into Ketosis
Getting into ketosis usually takes anywhere between 2-7 days. It all depends on your specific body and metabolic state. Don’t rush this step if you want to avoid the keto flu or any other potential adverse effects. Women especially should allow time to get into ketosis to avoid over-stressing your system.
Test Your Ketones
Testing your ketone levels is the best way to track if you’re in ketosis or not, at least in the beginning. The most accurate tool is a blood ketone meter. If your levels remain above 0.5 mol/L, then you’re in nutritional ketosis. A less expensive option is to use urine test strips.
Eat a Clean Ketogenic Diet
The quality of your food matters, not just your macros. Sure, you can stay in ketosis by eating processed cheese singles and ham slices, but that’s not going to nourish you in the best way possible. Focus on quality keto foods like avocado oil, fresh leafy greens, wild fish, and grass-fed beef instead.
You’ll lose pounds faster if you increase your daily physical activity. Keep in mind you don’t have to go to the gym 6 times a week or jog every morning — just move more in your everyday life.
For instance, take a short 2-minute break from sitting in your chair every hour, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk during your errands if possible, get a standing desk, or take phone calls standing up and pacing around. These small calorie-burning movements add up at the end of the day.
Average Weight Loss on the Keto Diet
As you know by now, not everyone loses weight at the same rate. But below is a general outline of what people typically lose when following the keto diet.
First Week: Fast Water Weight Loss (2-10 pounds)
In the first week of the keto diet, many people see a very quick drop in weight — anywhere from a few pounds to as much as 10. That’s because when you lower your carb intake, your body releases a lot of water weight (not fat).
Why does this happen?
Carbs need water to stay in your body. When your body doesn’t use glucose immediately, it stores it as glycogen in your muscles and glycogen binds to water. Each gram of glycogen is stored with 2 to 3 grams of water.
When you first switch to keto, your body will burn all the glycogen reserves first before using fat. Once it runs out of glycogen, the water that was needed to store it gets eliminated. That’s why the number on your scale changes so drastically in the first week of the keto diet.
While this isn’t fat loss, it’s a sign that your body is working its way into ketosis: fat-burning mode. This rapid water loss may also lead to dehydration and constipation, so drink more water than you normally would each day to keep things moving.
Short- and Medium-Term: Steadier Weight Loss (1-2 pounds per week)
After a week or two, weight loss will usually happen at a slower, more steady pace. This is also the time when you’re getting fat-adapted as your body switches from burning carbs to burning fat, which means you’ll actually be losing fat now.
A safe average loss is around one to two pounds (0.5-1 kg) per week.
Here’s what studies say about losing weight on the ketogenic diet:
- One study found obese patients lost 13.6 kg (30 pounds) after 2 months on the keto diet, and over 88% of patients lost more than 10% of their initial weight by the end of the study. Lean mass was practically unaffected.That’s 3.5 pounds of pure fat per week.
- Another study found that obese patients weighing 101 kg dropped 10 kg (22 pounds) after 8 weeks. They lost an extra 2 kg (4.4 pounds) by week 16 and 3 more kg (6.6 pounds) by week 24. In total, they lost 15 kg (33 pounds) in 5.5 months.That’s 1.3 pounds per week.
- One study of volunteers with obesity and type 2 diabetes who weighed 108 kg dropped 11.1 kg (24.5 pounds) in 24 weeks.That’s 1 pound per week.
- A fourth study found 120 overweight hyperlipidemic patients lost 9.4 kg (20.7 pounds) of fat mass in 24 weeks. That’s 0.8 pounds per week.
- A meta-analysis that took data from 13 different studies found patients consistently lost more weight on the ketogenic than on a low-fat diet.
Weight loss varies depending on how long you’re on the keto diet, how much weight you have to lose, and your health condition. People seem to lose the most fat during the first 2-3 months of the keto diet, although you can continue losing weight as long as you follow the diet.
Long-Term: Slower Weight Loss
As you get closer to your goal weight, weight loss slows down. As your weight decreases, your total daily caloric needs also decrease. So even if you continue on a deficit of calories to lose weight, it will now make a smaller difference.
You might have some weeks where it seems you haven’t lost anything, then you’ll weigh a week or two later and be down 3-4 pounds. The key is to stick with it and not get discouraged. Just make sure you’re still in ketosis and give your body time to do its thing.
One study found that after one year on the keto diet, men and women between 30-69 years who weighed between 90-100 kg lost a total of 14 kg (30.8 pounds).
However, most of that weight was lost in the early stages of keto. They:
- Lost 7 kg (15 pounds) after 4 weeks
- Lost another 5 kg (11 pounds) between weeks 4 and 12
- Didn’t experience major changes from 12 weeks to 12 months (barely 1-2 kg)
This means the keto diet is effective for fast and sustained fat loss. You’ll see the biggest changes if you stick with it for a few months, and you won’t gain the weight back if you stick with it for the long-term.
Common Keto Weight Loss Pitfalls
If you feel like you’re going through a weight loss plateau after sticking with the keto diet for a few months, your habits or food choices could be hindering your progress. Below are common weight loss mistakes and what to do about them.
Mistake 1: Not Being In Ketosis
This one may seem obvious, but it’s common to exit ketosis without realizing it. This is why tracking your ketone levels is crucial. One of the biggest reasons people don’t see keto diet results is because they’re not in ketosis.
What to do:
- Don’t stop tracking your ketones. An excellent way to keep your ketone levels up is by taking exogenous ketones. Just put a scoop in your favorite drink to get back into ketosis — it’s easy and delicious.
- Decrease carb intake. Review what you’re eating daily and make sure you aren’t eating too many carbs.
- Increase your fat intake. Make sure each meal and snack is heavy in healthy fat. Eating more fat can naturally reduce your carb and protein intake.
Mistake 2: Not Looking Out For Hidden Carbs
Some of the foods you eat can have more carbs than you realize. These hidden carbs can put you over your daily carb limit and bust your weight loss efforts.
What to do:
- Eliminate processed foods. These often contain a lot of sneaky carbs, even those branded as “healthy.” Stick to whole foods instead.
- Cut out artificial sweeteners. These can raise insulin levels and affect ketosis. Plus, they contain a lot of junk you’re just better off avoiding. If you must use a sweetener, stick with stevia or these top keto sweeteners.
- Beware of hidden carbs. This article can help you look for any hidden carbs in your diet.
Mistake 3: Not Checking How Your Body Reacts to Dairy
You don’t have to be lactose- or casein-intolerant to have a problem with dairy. It can impede weight loss even if you’re digesting it with ease. Some dairy — like yogurt and whey protein — may elevate insulin levels and kick you out of ketosis. Figure out which camp you’re in.
What to do:
- Measure your ketone levels. Do this before and after consuming dairy to see how your body reacts.
- Stick to high-quality dairy. Aim for organic or pastured dairy products such as those in this helpful guide.
Mistake 4: Eating Too Many Calories
Although it’s harder to overeat on a high-fat (and more filling) keto diet, it’s still possible to eat more calories than you need. If you don’t stay at a calorie deficit, you won’t lose weight.
What to do:
- Track your calories. If you don’t see meaningful weight loss after several weeks, make sure you use the keto calculator.
- Eat fewer nuts. Although some nuts are keto-friendly, they’re also high in calories and some contain more carbs than others. Coincidentally, they’re also easy to overeat, so measure your intake when snacking on nuts. Learn more about which nuts are best here.
- Try intermittent fasting. Only eating within a certain period of time — which is the basis of intermittent fasting — can help you lose weight faster and reduce overeating. By fasting, you’ll find it a lot easier to stay in a calorie deficit.
- Don’t go overboard. Make sure you aren’t eating too little. While a deficit is necessary, too little food can cause metabolic damage and do more harm than good.
Those who have yo-yo dieted a lot in the past might also need to give their bodies time to recover from damage. This might mean allowing your body to heal while focusing on healthy keto nutrition.
Don’t Discount Other Signs of Progress
When going keto, it’s important to focus on more than just weight loss — even if you have a lot to lose. Overall health should be the goal, so give yourself credit for any and all benefits you notice from the ketogenic diet. That could be:
- Healthier hair, skin, and nails
- More mental clarity
- Fewer cravings
- More energy throughout the day
- Lower inflammation
- Prevention of chronic diseases
Although losing weight is a good indicator of your progress, remember that it’s not all about the number on the scale. In fact, many keto dieters say they noticed differences in the mirror more than on the scale.
If you’re weight lifting at the same time, you might be replacing fat loss with muscle gain. This might not move the scale much, but it’ll show up on your body.
Keto Diet Results
The ketogenic diet can help you lose weight and improve your overall health, so stick with it and don’t be afraid to make changes as needed. Track what you eat, stick within your keto macros, and test your ketone levels frequently to make sure you’re staying in ketosis. Most of all, give your body time to respond to the great changes you’re making. Soon enough you’ll have the keto diet results you want.