How Long Does It Take to Lose Weight on Keto?

a person on a weigh scale

Weight loss is one of the main reasons people decide to follow a ketogenic diet, among other things like blood sugar control and higher HDL “good” cholesterol levels(1).

Losing weight doesn’t only increase a person’s self-confidence, but it also improves your mobility and health markers. If this is your goal, you might be asking what the average weight loss on keto is and how much can you lose within a certain period.

This article explains how ketosis causes weight loss, other factors that come into play, weight loss timelines, and strategies to control body weight after losing it successfully.

How Keto Can Lead to Weight Loss

The keto diet causes weight loss primarily through carbohydrate restriction. By bringing down your carbs to 50 grams or less, your body uses its stored fat (instead of glucose) to meet its energy needs.

Ketones, which are produced during ketosis or fat oxidation, suppress hunger and appetite. Research shows that people who follow ketogenic diets report feeling less hungry during a fasted state and even fuller after a meal(2).

Furthermore, when you’re reducing your carb intake, you’re able to maintain blood sugar at a low but healthy level. Having healthy low blood glucose and being able to rely on ketones for fuel will enable you to experience more stable energy levels throughout the day(3)(4). If you’re interested in exercising to incre

How Much Weight Can You Lose on a Ketogenic Diet?

While the amount of weight a person can lose on keto varies, they can lose as much as 20 pounds (or 9 kilograms) in 24 weeks (or 6 months). A randomized, controlled trial was able to show that this is possible in overweight individuals and that reducing carbs produced even greater weight loss than reducing dietary fat(5).

Of course, it’s possible to lose more than 20 pounds. However, it’s important to approach weight loss on keto from a health-promoting mindset and remember that “slow and steady” weight loss is always better. It allows you to build lasting habits and avoids the negative consequences of losing weight too fast, such as loose sagging skin and muscle loss(6)(7).

Factors Affecting Weight Loss on Keto

Reducing carbs is an effective way to reduce body fat, but it’s not the only factor that impacts weight loss. There are other things that should be put into consideration, such as:

  • Your total calorie intake: Although calories aren’t everything in weight loss, it’s still necessary to create a calorie deficit in order to lose weight on keto.
  • Snacking habits: Snacking can stave off hunger in between meals. However, you have to be careful because snacking excessively or snacking on processed foods may add extra calories, carbs, and sugar to your diet.
  • How active you are: Exercising or any form of physical activity is essential for maintaining a healthy weight, in addition to reducing your risk for disease.
  • Stress levels: Too much stress or prolonged stress may interfere with your ability to reduce body fat on keto by increasing your cravings for sweet, highly palatable foods.
  • The quality of your keto diet: Highly processed foods such as burger patties, frozen desserts, and granola bars — even if they’re keto-friendly — are sources of extra calories, sugar, and other additives that contribute to weight gain or a weight loss plateau.
  • Your sleep: Losing sleep at night can affect your weight loss progress by encouraging you to overeat and diminishing feelings of fullness(8).
  • Medical conditions: Individuals with a certain disease or who are taking certain medications that cause fluid retention may notice weight gain. If you notice unintentional weight gain, be sure to see a doctor.

Keep in mind that some of these things can change from time to time and are sometimes caused by events that are out of your control. For instance, an important gathering can throw your sleep off course by making you stay up until midnight.

Keto Weight Loss Timeline

Losing weight (and more importantly, body fat) is not a linear process. There are times when you’ll see changes on the scale and times when you won’t. Women, especially, may notice weight fluctuations during their menstrual cycle(9).

Regardless, knowing the answer to “How fast can you lose weight on keto?” can be helpful for tracking your progress.

Keto Weight Loss After 1 Week

A person may lose up to 10 pounds within the first week of starting the keto diet. Furthermore, larger people tend to experience greater losses than leaner individuals. This quick weight loss happens because your body sheds a lot of water as a result of reducing carbs. (Glycogen, the storage form of glucose, is bound to water in your body.)

Keto Weight Loss After One Month

After losing all that “water weight,” steadier weight loss occurs. If we consider the healthy weight loss rate of 1-2 pounds per week, you can lose up to 16 pounds after one month of doing keto(10).

Keto Weight Loss After 90 Days

If you continue the keto diet, you may notice a weight loss of up to 20 pounds or more. This was demonstrated in a 12-week trial in which the participants who reduced carbs lost 21.8 pounds(11).

Tips to Maintain Weight Loss on Keto

Checking for ketosis will help you identify that you’re in a fat-burning mode. On top of that, make sure that you’re implementing at least one of the success strategies below.

1. Focus on whole foods to meet your nutritional needs

Whole, unprocessed keto foods are always better than their processed counterparts. Take, for instance, store-bought frozen burger patties versus burger patties you make at home using only beef, salt, and a few spices.

Processed versions of foods contain additives such as sweeteners, artificial coloring, and flavorings that increase their calories and carbs, and have negative effects on your health. Furthermore, processed foods are highly palatable and they stimulate overeating by affecting your metabolism(12).

2. Give intermittent fasting a try

Intermittent fasting (IF) or alternating between periods of eating and fasting can make you lose more weight than doing keto alone. Many individuals who are already fat-adapted consider IF to drop their body fat further while preserving muscle mass.

Popular IF methods include the 16/8 method, alternate-day fasting, one meal a day (OMAD), and the 5:2 diet (where you consume only 500-600 calories for two days).

3. Make exercising a habit

Exercise improves your overall health and lowers your risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, anxiety and depression, heart disease, and several types of cancer. For people trying to lose weight on keto, exercise should be a priority in their lives.

If you’re new to exercise, the easiest way to get started is to pick the activity that you enjoy. You can do brisk walking, running, swimming, and bodyweight workouts (such as jumping jacks and squats).

As you gain more experience with working out, you might want to experiment with fasted workouts — working out on an empty stomach. This will increase your body’s fat-burning potential during exercise.

4. Consider adding more protein (high-protein keto approach)

Replacing some of your carbohydrate and fat allowance with more protein on keto may help reduce body fat further. Here are the ways protein increases weight loss:

  • Protein has a higher thermic effect than carbs and fat. When you consume calories from protein, 30% of those calories are burned to metabolize protein(13). So, at the end of the day, eating more protein makes you burn more calories.
  • Since protein is highly satiating, protein-rich diets tend to reduce your hunger and appetite. It can also cut your cravings.
  • Muscle tissue burns more calories in a day than fat tissue. Muscle is metabolically active. Eating more protein is key to preserving muscle mass (aside from exercising) to sustain fat loss.

5. Strive for quality sleep each night

Many studies have found that not getting enough sleep is linked to an increased risk of obesity(14). Adults should aim to sleep 7 to 9 hours each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation guidelines(15).

If you’re noticing a weight loss plateau and you’re getting less than 7 hours of sleep, sleep might just be the missing factor to your success plan.

To get better sleep, you may need to implement a few changes in your lifestyle, such as avoiding caffeine after 3:00 pm, avoiding blue light exposure from electronic devices during bedtime, and mindfulness meditation.

Potential Drawbacks of Keto for Weight Loss

The need to avoid high-carb foods can be very challenging for a lot of people. While this can be overcome in time through consistency and finding keto-friendly replacements for your high-carb favorites, some people simply choose to give up.

Another common drawback is the keto flu. This is a temporary phase that happens when you’re new to keto. You’ll experience flu-like symptoms such as headache, fatigue, intense food cravings, nausea, and digestive issues as a result of cutting carbs.

These two drawbacks are reasons why people consider keto a restrictive dietary approach. It goes without saying that no one diet works for everyone.

Before trying the keto diet (or any other diet for weight loss), it’s best to do your research so that you’ll know what to expect. Try it for a few weeks while being consistent and listening to your body.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have more questions on keto and weight loss, read the FAQs below.

Is the keto diet good for weight loss?

In essence, the keto diet is an effective strategy for losing weight. It works through carbohydrate reduction, which then trains your body to use its fat stores for energy.

Can I speed up my weight loss on keto?

Speeding up weight loss or breaking through plateaus can be possible through intermittent fasting, adjusting your macros, cutting back on processed foods, increasing your protein intake, and doing weight training to preserve or build muscle (since muscle is metabolically active).

How long does it take to lose belly fat on keto?

It will take a few weeks to start seeing changes in your belly area. Your belly fat decreases along with the fat from the rest of your body as you continue the keto diet. Take measurements. Check how your clothes fit. More importantly, be patient with the process.

Does keto work without exercise?

The answer is yes, you can lose weight on keto even without exercise. In fact, when you’re a beginner on the keto diet, you may feel the urge to cut back on exercise temporarily or reduce the intensity to help you handle keto flu symptoms. However, it’s still good to include exercise as part of your life for long-term health and fitness.

The Bottom Line

Research shows that you can lose a lot of weight on keto — up to 20 pounds or even more in less than a year. However, the rate of weight loss tends to be faster during the first week since your body sheds water first due to carbohydrate restriction. This is then followed by a slower and steadier fat loss.

Even though you know the average weight loss on keto, don’t be surprised if you’re not losing the weight you expect within a certain period. A lot of circumstances can get you off-track. Don’t give up and remember that you can always overcome a stall by making small changes to your diet and routine, such as eating cleaner, incorporating fasts, and exercising.

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Fact Checked

This article is based on scientific evidence, written and reviewed by experts.

The founders of Ketogenic Buddies are health care professionals. As we grow, we include other qualified subject matter experts as part of our content team.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.