Why Is My Weight Fluctuating On Keto?

  • Author: Kara
  • Date: September 20, 2023
  • Time to Read: 5 min.
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Many people find that their weight fluctuates up and down while following a keto diet. This can be frustrating if you are trying to lose weight steadily. However, some level of fluctuation is completely normal on keto. Here are some of the main reasons why.

Water Weight Fluctuations

One of the biggest reasons for weight fluctuations on keto is changes in water weight. When you first start keto, you flush out glycogen stores.

Glycogen holds onto water in the body, so as glycogen drops, you lose a lot of water weight quickly.

This is why you may see a big drop on the scale in your first 1-2 weeks on keto. However, your hydration status won’t stay constant every day.

Things like hormonal changes, sodium/potassium balance, stress levels, activity, etc. all impact hydration.

If your water weight goes up due to one of these factors, the number on the scale may increase even if you are still losing fat.

The opposite can happen too.

You may see a big drop on the scale due to water loss that can mask your true fat loss.

Here are some examples of normal water weight fluctuations:

  • Gaining 2-4 lbs around your menstrual period
  • Losing several lbs after an intense workout
  • Gaining a few lbs if you eat a very high sodium meal
  • Losing weight the morning after a drinking alcohol

As long as the general trend is downward over weeks/months, don’t worry about these short-term ups and downs.

Calorie Cycling

Another reason for weight fluctuations is natural calorie cycling. Your calorie intake and expenditure changes day to day based on your appetite and activity levels.

Some days you may eat a little more than usual without realizing it.

Other days you may eat less if you are very busy. Your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) also varies daily. Some days you may fidget less and move around less if you are sedentary compared to more active days.

These normal changes in calories can impact the number on the scale.

But it usually balances out if you look at the overall weekly average rather than obsess over daily weigh-ins.

Bowel Movements

This may be an awkward topic, but bowel regularity can also impact the reading on your scale. If you have gone a few days without a bowel movement, extra waste sitting in your colon can make the numbers go up.

Some find constipation is an issue early in keto adaptation.

After a good bathroom trip, you may see a drop on the scale of a pound or two just from clearing things out.

Muscle Mass Changes

As you lose weight on keto, the goal is to maximize fat loss while minimizing muscle loss. However, some loss of lean muscle is normal, especially in a big calorie deficit.

When you lose muscle glycogen and even small amounts of muscle tissue, it impacts the scale. Because muscle is denser than fat, it takes up less space in your body. 1lb of muscle lost may not equate to a 1lb change on the scale.

The opposite can occur if you are strength training and gaining lean muscle. You may see your weight go up as you build muscle, even as you lose fat.

Tracking body measurements and before/after pics helps account for these composition changes.

Fat Loss Isn’t Linear

Lastly, it’s important to remember that fat loss is never perfectly linear. You won’t see the exact same amount lost each day or week, even in a consistent deficit.

Fat cells don’t empty themselves evenly across the body at the same time.

Your unique hormonal environment impacts where you store and release fat. Things like age, gender, insulin resistance, and genetics all play a role.

Be patient through ups and downs, stay consistent, and the fat will come off over time.

Tips to Minimize Fluctuations

To help minimize daily fluctuations, here are some tips:

  • Weigh yourself at the same time each day, like first thing in the morning after using the bathroom. This gives a more accurate picture than random weigh-ins.
  • Stay hydrated and watch sodium intake. Don’t overdo it on high salt foods which can cause water retention.
  • Stick to a regular strength training program to preserve muscle mass.
  • Track measurements with a measuring tape in addition to the scale. Progress pictures also help.
  • Use an app like MFP to track weight trends vs daily numbers.
  • Focus on how you look and feel, not just the scale. Judge by how your clothes fit and your energy levels.
  • Be patient! The scale will catch up as long as you stick with your keto plan.

When to Take Action

A few pounds of fluctuation now and then is no big deal. But if you go weeks with no losses or keep gaining weight, it may be time to troubleshoot.

  • Carefully track macros for a few days to spot any overeating. Account for oils, dressings, drinks, etc. An extra few hundred calories can stall weight loss.
  • Consider intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating if you suspect excess calories are an issue. This helps control calorie intake.
  • Check for hidden carbs creeping back into your diet. Things like sauces, dressings, nuts, dairy and sweeteners can add up.
  • Make sure you are eating at enough of a calorie deficit for your body and activity level. Use a TDEE calculator to estimate your maintenance calories and subtract from there.
  • Evaluate medications or health conditions that could be impacting your weight loss. Check with your doctor.
  • Reduce alcohol intake, as alcohol is high in empty calories and can stall fat burning.
  • Consider intermittent fasting, alternate day fasting, or an extended fast to break through a plateau.
  • If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight, recalculate your macros and calorie intake, as your metabolism may have slowed.

Wrapping Up: Why Is My Weight Fluctuating On Keto?

In summary, weight fluctuations are very normal on keto in the short-term due to hydration changes, bowel movements, calorie cycling, muscle mass changes, and nonlinear fat loss. Don’t let the daily scale upset you.

Stick with the plan, stay patient, and make diet adjustments if you go weeks without seeing downward progress. As long as you remain in calorie deficit, the fat will come off over time. Consistency is key, and the fluctuations should even out.

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