Busted: What to Do When You Fall Off the Keto Diet Wagon

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Now and then, no matter what diet you follow, a cheat day is bound to come around, whether it’s a special meal to celebrate an occasion or a vacation where you simply can’t resist temptation. 

So, how quickly can you get back on track after cheating on a keto diet, and what happens when you go against the grain?

Cheating on keto certainly isn’t the end of the world. However, depending on how much you consider to be a “cheat,” a few things can occur, such as a spike in blood sugar levels or falling out of ketosis.

While this can be frustrating, restoring all your hard work doesn’t take much. 

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is the metabolic state your body reaches after you’ve lowered the amount of carbs you consume and replaced them with healthy fats. 

When this happens, your body begins burning fat for fuel instead of carbs. 

It takes the body around two to four days to get into ketosis. However, this ultimately depends on how strict you are with the diet, your age, weight, and circumstances. But, regardless of how long it takes, it won’t be a long-term procedure, so long as you’re following the keto diet to the book.

To remain in ketosis, you should consume between 20g – 50g of carbohydrates daily. When you consider there is 15g of carbs in just a single slice of bread, cheat days are likely to rear their head from time to time. Get your exact carb needs by using a keto calculator.

Therefore, having a cheat day here and there isn’t going to ruin your hard work too severely. 

What Happens When You Cheat on Keto?

Cheat days are usually a part of most diets; they allow you to have something to look forward to or a goal at the end of a week or a month’s hard work. However, there is a process that takes place when you indulge in that cheat meal on keto. 

The main effect of this is a spike in blood sugar levels. This will result in a sudden surge of energy and a sudden crash. 

There are also some risks associated with cheating on keto, which is said to cause heart problems because of this sudden spike in blood sugar. This is especially the case if you have diabetes.

Suppose you’re following a keto diet with diabetes. In that case, it’s recommended to plan any cheat meals carefully and get advice from a personal dietician who can advise you on what’s best to avoid. 

Another thing that happens is that the release of ketones will stop, and your body will start using the consumed sugar to replenish glycogen; this could lead to short-term water weight gain. 

However, one good thing to note is that going off plan from your keto diet for a single day isn’t going to affect your body fat. Within a few days of being back on track, ketosis will kick in.

Can You Have a Cheat Day on Keto?

Having a keto cheat day is debatable among those following this low-carb, high-fat eating plan. While some argue that a cheat day can provide a mental break, others caution against it due to potential setbacks in achieving and maintaining ketosis.

Consuming high-carb foods during a cheat day can disrupt ketosis, making it challenging to get back on track. However, some individuals incorporate strategic ‘carb cycling’ or occasional indulgences while adhering to keto guidelines.

Ultimately, cheating on keto should align with one’s specific goals and the ability to manage potential consequences.

Advantages of Cheating on Keto 

While cheating on a keto diet is generally discouraged, there can be a few potential advantages when done mindfully. First, it provides a psychological break, helping individuals stay committed to their long-term dietary goals by satisfying cravings temporarily. 

Cheat days can also foster social flexibility, making dining out easier or sharing meals with friends and family who may not follow keto. Additionally, controlled cheat meals can replenish glycogen stores, potentially improving workout performance for athletes on a targeted ketogenic diet. 

Disadvantages of Cheating on Keto 

Cheating on a keto diet carries several disadvantages. It often leads to pronounced energy swings as the body shifts in and out of ketosis, resulting in fatigue and reduced productivity. 

More Energy Swings

Frequent cheating disrupts the body’s transition in and out of ketosis, leading to erratic energy levels and increased fatigue.

More Hunger

Cheat meals often trigger heightened hunger, making it difficult to maintain portion control and calorie limits.

More Cravings

Carbohydrate-rich foods during cheating can reignite cravings for unhealthy options, potentially derailing progress.

More Guilt

Cheating on a keto diet can bring on feelings of guilt and self-criticism, impacting mental well-being and self-esteem.

The Wrong Way To Cheat Keto Diet 

Cheating on a keto diet can be tempting, but doing it the wrong way can have detrimental consequences. One of the most common mistakes is indulging in unhealthy, highly processed carb-loaded foods during cheat episodes. 

This disrupts ketosis and can lead to blood sugar spikes, leaving you feeling sluggish and craving even more carbs. Another misstep is excessive cheating, turning an occasional treat into a regular habit, which can hinder progress and make it harder to achieve and maintain ketosis. 

Tips To Do Cheat Days Right 

  1. Plan Ahead: Schedule cheat days strategically to minimize disruptions to your diet and overall goals.
  2. Portion Control: Enjoy treats in moderation to prevent overindulgence.
  3. Choose Wisely: Opt for healthier cheat options to minimize the impact on your progress.
  4. Stay Active: Engage in physical activity to help offset the extra calories consumed.

Tips to Avoid Cheating on Keto 

  1. Meal Prep: Prepare keto-friendly meals in advance to curb cravings and temptations.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to help control hunger and maintain ketosis.
  3. Find Keto Alternatives: Explore satisfying low-carb substitutes for your favorite foods.
  4. Seek Support: Connect with a supportive community or partner to stay accountable and motivated on your keto journey.

Recovering From A Cheat Day on Keto

Once you’ve enjoyed your cheat meal, you will want to focus on getting back into ketosis the following day. 

One thing many people make the mistake of doing is falling off the wagon after a cheat day, so it’s best to plan these and stick to them. 

Here are some steps you can take to get back on track.

  • Move More – The more you exercise, the more you will deplete your glycogen stores. Going for a long walk or hitting the gym the day after your cheat meal can help you get back into ketosis faster
  • Stay Hydrated – Drinking plenty of water will help you replace lost electrolytes. 
  • Positivity and Focus – It can be easy to fall off the wagon after a cheat day or feel like you’ve let yourself down. One cheat day here and there will NOT make you fail unless you allow yourself to. Remain focused on your objective and adopt the mindset that will get you there. 
  • Intermittent Fasting – After a cheat day, try intermittent fasting for between 12 and 16 hours. It will force your body to use its glycogen stores. 
  • Keep Up With Sleep – Sometimes, a cheat day goes hand in hand with a heavy weekend or a late night. Lack of sleep is proven to increase carb cravings and could send you in circles back to binge eating. Either way, keeping up with your beauty sleep is vital when getting back into ketosis. 

Summary

It can be wise to avoid cheat days or meals while on the keto diet, at least until you’ve met your goals, particularly if you have long-term health and fitness objectives.

Use these top suggestions for a seamless return to ketosis if you do permit the occasional cheat day or meal.