“Will a keto cheat day be a DISASTER for my fat loss journey?”
It is a question everyone asks when they begin the magical keto diet.
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Why do I call it magical? Well, it is because you can LOSE fat by EATING FAT. That is quite a fascinating aspect that appeals to me the most about this diet. (Read our guide: Keto for Beginners)
If you are someone who has been following the carb-restricted diet for a while, you must be craving that “sugar high” and the ultimate satisfaction that comes with it. Your soul might be longing for a delicious piece of cake or that tub of your favorite ice cream.
Or if you are like me then you might be dreaming about hot dogs and pizzas. (Yumm!)
But what about ketosis? Will one cheat day knock you out of ketosis and ruin all progress? Read along to find out everything in this ultimate keto cheat day guide.
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Will one keto cheat day ruin ketosis?
This question has two possible answers: Yes & No
Yes, eating a meal high in carbs over your net carbs for the day will kick you out of ketosis.
No, one cheat day will NOT have a significant impact on long term weight loss.
“As soon as you introduce carbohydrates to your system, the body will use them preferentially for fuel,” claims Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, CSO, Seattle-based dietitian and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
It doesn’t matter if you eat half a pizza or just take a few bites. Anything over and above your net carbs will stop the process of ketosis and you will start utilizing carbohydrates instead of fat.
So can you have a cheat day on keto diet? Definitely! You can have a cheat day while in keto.
(Note: Some people are mandated by a doctor to follow the ketogenic diet. Do not indulge in cheating in such a case.)
After days or maybe weeks of counting carbs like a maniac and sticking to the high-fat diet, you surely deserve a “temporary-binge” to satisfy your inner soul.
You will be out of ketosis for the day, but you can quickly go back to ketosis and resume your weight loss journey from tomorrow.
You just have to stay committed to the macro-nutrient ratios in order to get back on track.
What happens when you cheat on keto?
When you have a high-carb cheat day, it puts your body out of ketosis. It will shift the energy source back to carbs and sideline fat as the second choice.
Cheating will spike your blood sugar levels suddenly after a long time of having little to no carbs.
Very high-carb cheat meals aren’t recommended for type 2 diabetes patients because the sudden change in insulin might be too much.
A cheat day also disturbs your levels of keto-adaptation. Keto adaption happens when you burn more fat with the same amount of carbs because your body becomes adapted to this ketogenic lifestyle.
Relish your cheat-meals fully with maximum satisfaction. But when you go to bed at night, tell yourself that you have to get back into a routine from tomorrow.
How long does it take to get into ketosis after a cheat day?
Recovery from a keto cheat day depends on the following factors:
- What you had for the cheat day
- How much keto-adapted were you
- How long had you been practicing keto
- Your particular body response (since every individual is different)
There is also a small possibility that your cheat meal didn’t kick you out of ketosis. We recommend using a ketone meter to check your ketone levels.
That said, most people get back into ketosis within one to three days after a keto cheat day.
Let’s see how you can speed up the process of getting back into ketosis.
How to get back into ketosis quickly
So you had your fair share of the fun cheating in the keto diet. Now it’s time to be serious and fall back to the diet in order to achieve your fitness goals.
The following tips will help you to get back into ketosis quickly:
Stick to the diet after the keto cheat day
After a binge on your favorite sugary and starchy foods, your body will expect more carbs. You might be tempted to cheat again and indulge in sinful foods.
Just visualize your dream physique and ask yourself “Is cheating worth it?”
Cravings are normal after a keto cheat day but don’t let them get to your head. Stay busy and occupied so that cheating on your diet is the last thing in your mind. If you have a meal plan and grocery list in advance, it will be easier to stick to the diet because you don’t have to spend hours thinking what to eat.
You can transition back into ketosis quickly but you might experience the keto-flu. Keep in mind that cravings and keto-flu symptoms will quickly disappear as long as you stick to the diet.
Supplement with Ketones
The ketogenic diet gets its name from the word “ketone”.
When you restrict carbs, the liver turns fat into ketones which supply energy to the brain. Ketones are the fatty acid byproducts of burning fat from the body.
You can supplement with ketones after a keto cheat day to help you get back into ketosis faster. It will also minimize the symptoms of keto-flu as you transition into ketosis.
Try Intermittent Fasting with Keto
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern (not a diet) in which you alternate between the eating “window” and the fasting window.
16:8 is the most common intermittent fasting method which works for most people. It refers to a 16-hour fasting window followed by an eight-hour eating window.
For example,you can fast from 8 pm in the evening till 12 pm the next day – and eating from 12 pm to 8 pm.
In the fasted state, your body will deplete the glucose stores generated from your cheat meal and turn to fats for fuel. It will push you faster into ketosis and get you burning fat in no time. This, accompanied by a decrease in insulin levels will setup your body for optimal ketosis.
(We strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before making severe changes to your diet.)
How to Cheat Smart in Keto
So you have decided to splurge on your favorite carbs and take a temporary break from eating, drinking and bathing in the pool of fats.
Why not cheat the smart way so that you do minimum damage and get maximum satisfaction from those delicious meals. Heck, you might even get back into ketosis the next day itself!
Follow these 6 steps for a smart keto cheat day:
1. Dilute those Carbs!
If you dilute your cheat meal with fats, it will be a more keto-friendly meal and you’ll get a lower insulin spike.
You will feel full much quicker and tend to eat less in your cheat meal. This creates a win-win situation.
For example: Add butter to your bread when making a sandwich, or have those crackers with some cheese.
Remember, this will work only if you lower the carbs and increase the fats in your meals. Don’t compensate the high carbs with high fat, instead swap carbs with fats as much as you can and get the maximum relief to your cravings.
2. Cheat Near Workout Time
Having carbs before or after your training session will prevent them from accumulating as fat in your body.
If you indulge in cheating before a workout, your body will utilize the carbs for energy requirements immediately instead of storing as fat.
Your glycogen stores are already depleted following a workout. If you have your cheat meal at this time, most of the carbs you eat will replenish these stores rather than adding fat.
3. Cheat When You Are Full
It is one of the most frequent advice you receive in the health and fitness community – “Cheat when you are full.”
The timing really matters in your keto cheat day.
Eat a keto-friendly meal before you grab that hot dog. Your cravings will be the same but your appetite will be reduced following the meal. This is the perfect time to cheat and satisfy your taste buds.
Eating a meal high in protein and fat also slows down the absorption of glucose into your blood. This will reduce the intensity of your insulin spike and hence less damage to ketosis.
If you feel full mid-way through the cheat meal, don’t regret leaving the remaining food in the plate. Remember, your goals and dreams are bigger than the unnecessary temptation to binge.
4. Quantity vs Quality on Keto Cheat Day
Will you get maximum satisfaction from a huge tub of low carb ice cream, or a smaller portion of a sugar loaded dessert?
I personally don’t get enough kick unless I eat a full medium sized pizza for a cheat meal.
Curious to know what I do? I swap the thick crust with the thin one.
You have to choose the alternative least damaging to your keto diet.
5. Know Thyself
To make the maximum satisfaction and minimum damage to ketosis, first step is to know yourself.
Would you do better with a small cheat day in a week? Or, will you feel much more satisfied with a huge multi-combo cheat meal a month?
(I know you are already thinking of pizzas, hot dogs and tubs of ice cream!)
If it is difficult to decide right now, you should start keeping a log of when you cheat. That way you can write down how you felt and why you cheated. This will help you better understand your tendencies and plan a cheating routine smartly.
Set clear guidelines about the time and the food for your cheat meal. If you follow a set pattern week after week, chances of going off-track are less.
6. Cheat in Keto Mindfully
Mindful eating is maintaining an awareness of the foods you eat, observing how it makes you feel and the signals your body sends about taste, satisfaction, and satiety.
Similarly, mindful cheating refers to the art of enjoying each and every bite of your cheat meal. Here are a few tips you should implement:
- Eat slowly and relish each bite
- Shut off all distractions like Netflix and your phone
- Eat in a quiet place
- Notice how the food makes you feel
- Stop immediately when you are full
When I started applying these principles in my keto cheat day, I saw some amazing results including lesser cravings the next week.
If you cheat mindfully, you will slowly start realizing how normal the food experience is. You might even get junk-food-enlightenment.
We tend to have a bad relationship with the food because we put it on a very high pedestal in our mind. But in reality, the experience of having a pizza or a bowl of pasta isn’t a surge of happiness. It just gives a carb high which lasts for a few seconds.
Will one cheat day ruin ketosis?
One cheat day will kick you out of ketosis for a short time i.e 3 to 4 days. However, if you stick to your keto diet, then you can quickly get back into ketosis within a week.
Can you take cheat days on keto?
You can definitely take a cheat day on keto. It will throw you out of ketosis, but you can get back on track within a week. If you supplement with ketones or engage in exercise, then you can get back into ketosis within three to four days.
Is it bad to go in and out of ketosis?
Going in and out of ketosis is called keto cycling. There is not enough data to confirm its safety, but we do not recommend going in and out of ketosis regularly as it may disturb your hormones.
Can cheating on keto help you lose weight?
Cheating on keto can throw you out of ketosis for a week. If you want to lose weight in the short term then cheating is not recommended. However, if you have long term goals, then you can cheat sometimes.
What happens if you go off Keto for one day?
If you decide to go off keto for one day, then expect to be out of ketosis for a week. However, if you get back to the diet, you will again enter ketosis and start losing weight after one week. You might have to go through the Keto-Flu again.
Every individual is different and you need to sort out a cheating routine for yourself.
Many factors affect your recovery time to fall back into ketosis: What you ate, how much you ate, the level of keto adaptation, etc.
You will definitely get back into ketosis. Don’t be hard on yourself for cheating once in a while. Although you can’t accurately predict how soon you’ll get back into ketosis, but following the tips mentioned in this guide will speed up the process.