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Water Retention Weight Gain on Keto

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

You’ve gone on a low-carb keto diet, you’re getting into ketosis, and you feel great. You’ve got more energy, enthusiasm, and excitement for life than you’ve felt in years—but for some reason, the number on the scale has gone up. Not only that, but you’re feeling puffy and your ankles are swollen!

There are several possible reasons for weight gain from water retention on keto. Let’s take a look at what might be going on to prevent your weight loss.

fat burning

What is keto?

The keto diet promotes healthy weight loss by changing your body’s energy source. Instead of getting your energy from glucose, your body adapts to burning fat for energy. 

When your body burns fat, the fat is broken down into ketones, which your body can use as fuel. Ketones are a much better “fuel” for your body than glucose, which is what most people run on. 

The keto diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet that can help you get healthy and lose weight. Once your body begins running on fat, you can actually start to burn your own body fat. 

Because the ketogenic diet greatly lowers your carb intake, it can help to control insulin spikes and improve insulin resistance. Not only does this promote healthy weight loss, but it also promotes healthy blood sugar levels. 

Keto promotes a healthy lifestyle by eliminating processed foods, pre-packaged foods, and sugar from the diet. These foods are replaced by keto-friendly foods like full-fat dairy products, low-carb vegetables, and a moderate amount of protein. 

The Healthy Keto® diet combined with intermittent fasting is an excellent way to get healthy and lose weight. Check out these Healthy Keto weight loss success stories and keto before and after photos!

Water weight explained

As your body adjusts to using ketones for fuel rather than glucose, you may experience water retention, causing weight gain. 

Glucose is stored in the body as glycogen—a string of glucose molecules. One gram of glycogen bonds to 2.7 grams of water. When you’re running on glycogen, your body is holding on to excess water, making it difficult to lose weight.

Excess glucose encourages your body to retain sodium and deplete potassium. Your body will start diluting the glucose with water as a defense mechanism, which is why diabetics experience frequent thirst.

Water retention can continue to be a problem when you start a ketogenic diet as your body adjusts. Let’s look at some of the reasons why this happens. 
 

body composition

Causes of water retention on keto 

Low in vitamin B1 

A vitamin B1 deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies and can cause fluid retention, also known as edema in your ankles. 

Low potassium 

Potassium deficiency is tricky and can stall your weight loss temporarily. Low potassium is typically caused by not consuming enough vegetables.

Too much fiber

Too many vegetables can also cause water retention as you’re adjusting to keto. 

Sometimes high vegetable intake can have too much fiber for the microorganisms in your digestive tract to handle.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both types of fiber retain fluid. 

If you don’t have enough microbes to digest this fiber, you can also become constipated, which can lead to a few excess pounds.

High sodium

If your diet contains too much sodium and not enough potassium, your weight loss efforts could be stalled due to fluid retention. The proper potassium-sodium ratio should be 4 to 1 (4:1). 

When these two minerals go out of balance, edema or fluid retention can occur in your ankles, fingers, and around your eyes. 

Consuming too much sodium-rich food can deplete your potassium levels, causing you to gain weight on the keto diet. 

Too many carbs 

If your carbohydrate intake is too high, your body weight may continue to creep up instead of down. Hidden carbs are everywhere and cause your body to retain fluid like a sponge! 

Here are some common sources of hidden carbs:

  • Low-fat salad dressing

  • Low-fat peanut butter

  • Liquid eggs

  • Sauces/gravies

  • Condiments

  • Flavored yogurt

  • Coleslaw

  • No-sugar added foods

  • Vitamins

  • Sun-dried tomatoes

  • Protein bars

  • Root vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes, and carrots

Nutritional yeast in bowl

5 ways to reduce water weight on keto 

1. Consume nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of vitamin B1. Nutritional yeast comes in two forms, flakes or tablets. Many people enjoy the flavor of the flakes because they are similar to grated cheese. 

You can sprinkle nutritional yeast over steamed vegetables, add it to smoothies, or use it as a replacement for Parmesan cheese.

2. Increase vegetable intake slowly

If you become bloated or constipated after sharply increasing your vegetable intake, cut back to a smaller amount. Slowly increase your vegetable intake over time to give your body a chance to adjust. 

Consuming seven to ten cups of vegetables daily gives you an adequate supply of potassium and helps with your potassium-sodium ratio, but it may take time to work up to this amount. 

Potassium pushes excess fluid out of the body and can help improve fluid retention that can temporarily arise as you adjust to a ketogenic diet. 

Vegetables like kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, avocados, peppers, lettuce, sprouts, and celery all have high amounts of potassium and very low quantities of sodium. 

You can also take a potassium supplement or an electrolyte powder high in potassium as your body adjusts to the increased vegetable intake.
 

3. Avoid hidden carbs

Read the labels of all packaged or processed foods, including vitamins, to ensure that there are no hidden carbs or sugars. 

Skip gravy, sauces, condiments, and dressings unless you know they’re keto-friendly.

4. Limit sodium

Consuming too much sodium can deplete your potassium levels and cause you to retain water. Increasing your vegetable intake and avoiding fast food can help get your potassium-sodium ratio under control. 

5. Try an herbal diuretic

Diuretics help release fluid from your body. Luckily, there are several herbal diuretics that can help you lose weight related to water retention. 

Here are 7 natural diuretics to try:

  1. Dandelion

  2. Uva ursi

  3. Horsetail

  4. Garlic

  5. Black tea

  6. Parsley

  7. Stinging nettle root

Check out this fascinating study analyzing the advantages of natural diuretics. 

Key takeaways

The good news is that water retention is temporary and is typically an easy fix. The ketogenic diet offers sustainable weight loss—but it may require some tweaking in the beginning as your body adjusts.

If you’ve noticed that water retention is preventing weight loss success, try one of these five natural ways to lose water weight.

FAQ

1. Why am I gaining weight on the keto diet?

If it seems like you’re not losing weight on keto and you’re following a low-carb, high-fat diet, your weight gain could be due to water retention. 

2. Is it possible to gain weight on a ketogenic diet?

It’s possible to gain weight on the keto diet, but it is likely due to water retention, not body fat. It’s unlikely for you to gain fat if you are following the keto diet correctly. 

3. What causes water weight gain on keto? 

Water weight gain on keto can be caused by potassium or vitamin B1 deficiencies, too much salt, or hidden carbs. If your protein intake is too high, it may convert to glucose in the body, so make sure to consume a moderate amount of protein. 

4. How do I stop gaining weight on keto?

First, ensure you are following a low-carb diet and not consuming too many hidden carbs. Increase your vegetable intake to correct any potassium deficiencies, but do so slowly to prevent bloating and constipation. 

5. Why am I bloated and gaining weight on keto?

Bloating can be caused by excess fiber in the diet from consuming large amounts of vegetables. Although vegetables are necessary and recommended for adequate potassium, it may take some time for your digestive system to adjust to consuming large quantities. 

6. Do you gain all the weight back after keto? 

The keto diet is a healthy lifestyle change and diet plan, not just a temporary fix. In order to lose weight and lose body fat, you have to change your lifestyle and maintain a low-carb diet. 

7. Is it normal for your weight to fluctuate on keto?

When you first start keto, you may experience weight fluctuations as your body adapts to running on fat fuel. Be sure to consume healthy foods, increase your fat intake, and minimize your carb intake. 

8. What is water weight?

Water weight is fluid retention in the body or constipation. Water retention can make it seem like you’re not losing weight—even if you’re burning body fat. If you stick to a healthy low-carb diet, you will eventually lose weight.

9. How do I stop water retention on keto?

You can stop water retention and avoid weight gain on keto by avoiding hidden carbs and excess sodium. Check labels on processed foods and avoid common culprits like salad dressings, gravies, and vitamins, unless they’re keto diet friendly.

10. Is it normal to gain water weight when you start keto?

Although it doesn’t always occur, it can be normal to gain weight due to water retention when you start keto. 

11. How did I gain 2 pounds overnight on keto?

If you gain weight quickly or overnight while on keto, it’s likely due to constipation or water retention. This is only a temporary phenomenon as your body adjusts to keto as you find out the proper nutrient intake for your individual body type.

Some people need to start slower as they increase their vegetable intake. Don’t worry, the weight gain is due to water retention not an increase in body fat.

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Healthy Keto Guide for Beginner

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