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Why Am I Gaining Weight on Keto?

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  Published on March 24th, 2023
  Reading time: 6 minutes
  Last modified March 13th, 2023
Not losing weight on keto

The truth about weight loss is that it’s not a linear journey. The ketogenic diet may be a powerful approach for losing weight—and many people lose the first 10 pounds very quickly—but at some point, they stop seeing progress. If you’re experiencing this, you might ask: Why am I gaining weight on keto? 

In this article, we examine the possible reasons for weight gain on keto or a weight loss plateau, and practical ways to overcome it. 

Is It Possible to Gain Weight on Keto?

It’s usually more difficult to put on weight while following the keto diet than on a standard American diet, but the short answer is yes, it’s possible to gain weight on keto. There are different reasons for gaining weight on keto. Sometimes, it involves a combination of both eating habits and lifestyle.

Before you quit keto out of frustration, it’s important to explore why you’ve gained back some of the weight you initially lost. Perhaps you’re eating more carbs than what’s allowed on the keto diet or you’re chronically stressed out. Find out more in the next section. 

Reasons You’re Gaining Weight on Keto

As you’ll learn below, what you eat isn’t the only factor that contributes to weight gain—although your eating habits play a huge role. Below are common reasons you’re not losing weight anymore. 

Hidden carbohydrates

One of the challenges of keto is that it’s easy to unintentionally go over your daily carb limit of 20-50 grams per day unless you eat only fresh animal foods, which have very little carbs (usually less than 1 gram) or zero carbs. 

Sources of hidden carbs include low-carb condiments (ketchup, jams, sauces), nuts, keto baked goods and other packaged foods (cookies, bread, bars, brownies, chips, and crackers), fruits, vegetables, and restaurant and fast food meals.

Keep in mind that just because your excess carbs come from healthy options, doesn’t mean you won’t gain weight. Remember that these generate excess glucose and fill up your glycogen stores, promoting fat storage. [1] If you’re eating too many carbs to stay in ketosis, you won’t reap the benefits of the keto diet.


Be sure to track your carbohydrate intake. This should be easy with carb-tracking apps like Carb Manager and the KetoDiet App. 

Additionally, trying a meat-based or keto carnivore diet takes the hassle out of counting carbs each day without sacrificing optimal nutrition. Some people are not comfortable with the idea of eating mostly meat, but it can be worth a try if you’re struggling to bring carbs down. Even deciding to eat just meat and a small assortment of vegetables, such as leafy greens, can be a good way to get and stay on track with keto.

Cheating on keto the wrong way

Some people decide to have “cheat days” on keto to give themselves a mental break from trying to fight their cravings. Others do it to boost their performance in the gym (if they feel too depleted) or celebrate with their families during special occasions. 

Whatever your reason, a cheat day can be interpreted in many different ways—from having a big bowl of a healthy salad to chowing down burgers and ice cream. Cheat days have consequences on top of weight gain, such as stronger sugar cravings and digestive issues.

Too many carbs on cheat days can cause weight gain on keto

While higher carb days may have a place in your lifestyle, the wrong way to cheat is by bingeing on refined carbohydrates for the entire day. Refined carbs include white bread, pasta, and sweet desserts. 


First and foremost, avoid a cheat day if you’re still not adapted to keto. Wait until you’re metabolically flexible—meaning, you can switch from ketones to glucose (and vice-versa) as your fuel source without feeling uncomfortable—before incorporating more carbs occasionally

If you plan a cheat day, it’s best to get your carbs from keto-friendly sources (ideally high fiber and high fat) to avoid sudden blood glucose spikes. Also, stay physically active around your cheat meals. Go for a walk, lift weights, or do high-intensity interval training

Artificial sweeteners

Sugar substitutes like aspartame and sucralose seem like the perfect way to lose weight without having to eliminate sweets. These alternatives are found in diet soda and some products that are labeled keto-friendly. 

These artificial sweeteners may contribute to weight gain in the long term by making you more dependent on sugar. Although they don’t contain calories or refined table sugar, they’re hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar. As a consequence, your appetite for highly palatable and sugary foods may increase. [2]


Obviously, sugar cravings are the main culprit behind the use of artificial sweeteners. An effective way to combat them is eating more protein, such as meat and eggs, to keep you satiated. Protein also helps stabilize your blood sugar levels while promoting weight loss by boosting your metabolism. [3]

Another important strategy is to manage your stress well. Sweet-tasting foods don’t have to be your go-to stress relievers—which takes us to the next point… 

Too much stress

Chronic stress can interfere with weight loss. Along with emotional eating and decreasing your motivation to exercise, too much stress can increase cortisol. Eventually, this contributes to insulin resistance and ultimately, weight gain. 

It’s possible for a person to be doing everything necessary on keto, but still gain weight because they’re always stressed.


Mental health plays an important role in weight loss. If you cannot change or prevent your stressor, you can keep it under control by learning to say no, practicing reframing (seeing the problem from a different perspective), and making sure you get enough sleep. 


The keto diet allows for occasional alcoholic drinks like rum, vodka, and low-carb wines, but keep in mind that alcohol in and of itself is not a weight-loss-friendly option. 

Note that the calories in alcohol are considered “empty calories” in that they don’t have any nutritional value. 1 gram of alcohol has 7 calories. A few glasses can quickly add hundreds of calories to your daily intake without providing the benefit of nutrition.

Alcohol also affects your judgment around food. Your self-control and willpower decrease. It’s common for people to feel hungry when they’re drunk! So it’s no surprise that night of drinking (even keto-friendly alcohol) can turn into a night of overeating carbs–or just calories.


If you must, stop drinking alcohol completely. Avoid situations where you would feel tempted to drink. You might also want to replace drinking with something else—like a new hobby that boosts your health and weight loss. 

For those who think they have a drinking problem, it’s best to seek professional help.

Eating Too Many Calories

For many people, going keto and making sure that they are in ketosis at all times is enough to cause their bodies to lose weight. Keto has the benefit of being a very satiating diet, which makes it possible to consume fewer calories without feeling hungry. However, it is possible to consume too many calories on keto, which may make you gain weight or may cause your weight loss to stall.


Begin counting calories (a calorie-counting app can help). The keto diet is relatively high in fat, but you may find that you are consuming too much fat. Make sure you’re getting the right proportions of protein, fat, and carbs in your diet. You may want to try increasing your consumption of protein and keto-friendly vegetables to keep you full without adding too many calories. You may also want to check on the number of calories in any keto-friendly packaged goods, like bars or cookies, that you’ve been eating regularly.

Maintain Your Weight Loss Results on Keto 

Many people on diets of any kind, including keto, find themselves on a plateau–or even gaining back a little weight–eventually. Be patient and be mindful of the fact that there are no quick fixes for healthy weight loss. 

Here at Ketogenic.com, we provide tools and resources that make keto more manageable for you. Check out our success stories as well to learn how keto dieters like you have lost excess weight, improved their body composition, and reduced symptoms of health conditions.

Tiffany is a health writer and registered nurse who believes in low-carb nutrition, exercise, and living simply. She has carefully followed the ketogenic diet (mostly clean keto) since 2019, which helped her lose 44 pounds, heal PCOS, and gain more energy. She hopes to educate and inspire others through her content here at Ketogenic.com and on her personal blog Ketogenic Buddies.



Hantzidiamantis PJ, Lappin SL. Physiology, Glucose. [Updated 2022 Sep 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545201/


Yang Q. (2010). Gain weight by "going diet?" Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings: Neuroscience 2010. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 83(2), 101–108.


Heather J Leidy, Peter M Clifton, Arne Astrup, Thomas P Wycherley, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Natalie D Luscombe-Marsh, Stephen C Woods, Richard D Mattes, The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 101, Issue 6, June 2015, Pages 1320S–1329S, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.114.084038

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