Low-carb diets are a popular choice for dropping pounds, and with good reason. "A low-carb diet can be an effective approach for weight loss, especially if someone's diet is high in refined grains, starch, sugar, and processed foods," said Beth Bluestone, LD, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic. To be clear, we're talking about low-carb here, not the ketogenic diet, which is low in carbohydrates, but with the goal of putting your body into ketosis; you can read more about what the keto diet entails here.
Low-carb diets "can take many different forms," Beth told POPSUGAR. Typically, she said that a low-carb eating plan emphasizes vegetables, fiber, lean protein, healthy fats, and no added sugar. The amount of carbs you'll eat depends on your individual needs, but "I typically look at the percent of total calories coming from carbohydrates," Beth said. "It could take some tweaking to find the right number that works for someone." (Here's a low-carb equation to use as a starting point.)
So what do you do if you've calculated your daily carbohydrate budget, have stuck with it faithfully, and still aren't losing weight (or are even gaining)? There are a number of factors that might contribute, but Beth listed a few common ones to watch out for.
Why Am I Not Losing Weight on a Low-Carb Diet?
- You eat too many calories overall. You can cut carb-loaded snacks and sugary treats all you want, but if you're still consuming more calories than you're burning in day, it's going to be challenging to lose weight. A calorie deficit isn't everything when it comes to weight loss, but it's a big part of it.
- You eat unhealthy carbs. You're still eating some carbs on a low-carb diet, so it's important to look at which kinds you're putting in your body. "It is best to remove the unhealthy carbohydrates," Beth said, "such as added sugar, refined grains, sweets, and heavily processed foods." Instead, opt for nutrient-rich sources of carbs like non-starchy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruits.
- Carbs sneak into your diet from unexpected sources. You might be consuming more carbs than you realize, even on a low-carb diet. "I see this happen all the time with my patients, especially with beverages," Beth explained. Check the carb content in your coffee, tea, soda, and juice; those sugary drinks often have more carbs than you realize.
How Can I Lose Weight on a Low-Carb Diet?
Look closely at your low-carb diet to see why you're not seeing weight loss results. Beth recommended meeting with a registered dietitian, who can help you analyze your diet and come up with a weight loss plan that will work for you. To get a head start on your own, she suggested keeping a food log or journal. This can help you see what exactly you're eating and offer insight into changing your approach.
While a low-carb diet can be an effective weight loss strategy, Beth emphasized that it's not just about cutting your overall carbs; you also want to choose the healthiest kinds of carbs, and foods in general. "Think about choosing foods that provide more nutritional value, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein," she said. "Moving away from packaged and processed food alone can help facilitate weight loss."