Low-carb, high-protein diets can help many people lose fat because they improve metabolism and reduce hunger. However, the exact details of a low-carb eating plan can be confusing. The following are a few common reasons you might not be losing weight on a low-carb diet. Solve these issues for better results:
1) You aren’t eating real food.
Are you eating processed or packaged foods? Low-carb products like those sold under the Atkins labels need to be replaced with fresh, whole food—organic meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.
2) You need to restrict carbs more.
Low-carb is a vague term. The U.S. RDA recommends 400 grams a day, which will undoubtedly make most people fat and diabetic.
Meanwhile, a review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests the 50 to 150 g/day range is too high for fat loss. The review authors define “very low-carb” as consuming less than 50 grams of carbs a day, which is more reasonable for fat loss. This will lead to the productions of ketones—the body is no longer relying on glucose for its fuel source—and significant metabolic benefits.
For best results, eat those 50 grams of carbs after exercise and get them from vegetables and select fruits, such as berries, pomegranate, or kiwi.
3) You are eating hidden carbs.
If you aren’t reading nutrition labels, you might accidentally be eating carbs. For example, if you are taking a post-workout protein shake, is it sweetened? Does it contain sugar or fructose? Those are carbs you don’t want. Get a pure protein source with no sweetener. Likewise, is your yogurt sweet? It shouldn’t be. You want plain, whole fat Greek yogurt on a low-carb diet.
4) You are intolerant to an element of your diet: gluten, dairy, soy & corn are common culprits.
Is gluten sneaking into your diet, even in tiny quantities? If so, eliminate it, and see if you don’t feel better and start losing fat. Dairy, soy, and corn are all increasingly allergenic and can inhibit fat loss.
5) You are relying on the scale and are actually losing fat.
Research repeatedly shows that low-carb, high-protein eating will lead to muscle gain while decreasing body fat. This may lead you to lose less weight overall than if you were restricting calories and eating low fat, which causes muscle loss.
Losing muscle is the last thing you want to do because it will lead to a slower metabolism, less strength, and a less firm-looking body. With more muscle, you’ll have a much better body composition and will look leaner.
Ditch the scale in favor of body fat tests with skinfolds—find a practitioner who will do a 12- or 14-site test for best results. Take your waist circumference with a tape measure and rely on how your clothes fit to judge fat loss if you can’t get body fat tested regularly.
Westman, E., et al. Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition and Metabolism. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007. 86, 276-284.