Anyone on a diet will be tempted to have a cheat day at some point. Low-carb dieters are no exception. Unfortunately, since keto diets tend to be strict, it’s not obvious to most keto dieters how harmful – if at all – a keto cheat day can be. Below, we’ll discuss why cheat days and cheat meals are so prevalent in the diet, the benefits and drawbacks of cheating, whether cheat days can ruin your progress, and how to recover quickly from a keto cheat day and get back on track.
Why Do People Take Cheat Days?
No matter how you slice it, everyone is looking for a path to greater happiness. This basic principle explains why people have cheat days.
If you take a cheat day on keto, you believe it will bring you more satisfaction than sticking with your normal regimen. It’s that simple.
This logic applies to most cases of keto cheating. Here are four examples:
- Eating a piece of cake at a family gathering as a courtesy. (The underlying reason: Don’t want to feel uncomfortable saying no to relatives).
- Impulsively snacking on chocolate covered almonds. (Underlying reason: To relieve stress).
- Stopping at a fast food restaurant because you didn’t bring anything keto-friendly. (The underlying reason: To reduce hunger).
- Planning out a full day of pizza, pasta and bread indulgences. (The underlying reason: You believe that eating these foods will bring you happiness).
However, just because you intend to increase your happiness (or decrease your discomfort) does not mean that the net result of cheating is positive. The net outcome for your health, well-being and overall health depends on the actual consequences of the cheat diet or cheat day.
Pros and Cons of Keto Cheat Days
Pros of Cheating on Keto
The most popular argument for cheating on keto is the long-term argument. This argument is that if you give yourself the flexibility to cheat occasionally, you’re more likely to stay in ketosis for the long term.
Is this true? Unfortunately, we don’t have good data to answer this question.
It depends on the mental and physical state of the dieter. Some people can take meals without keto for days or weeksand come back easily. Others, however, will fall off the wagon and stay off.
You probably know which group you belong to. If you can get back on your diet after a break smoothly- by all means, go for it. But if not, consider adjusting your strategy.
Cons of Cheating on Keto
Here are some negative consequences of eating high-carb, high-sugar foods on Keto:
Eat too many carbs and you’ll kick yourself out of ketosis. (Carbohydrates raise blood sugar and insulin levels, bringing fat burning and ketone body production to a halt.) Unfortunately, this can interfere with your weight loss, fat loss, and other keto-related goals.
How many grams of carbohydrates will take you out of ketosis? It depends on your carbohydrate tolerance. Some people can eat 100 grams of carbohydrates and continue to burn fat, while others have an upper limit of 10 to 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. There is a big difference.
More Energy Swings
It is assumed that a cheat meal with a high carbohydrate content will raise blood sugar levels more than a low-carb meal. When blood sugar inevitably drops, energy drops with it. This is called the blood sugar roller coaster for a reason, and refined carbohydrates are your ticket to the ride.
In addition to stabilizing blood sugar, a low-carb diet stabilizes hunger hormones such as gastrin and neuropeptide Y, which allows you to cruise through the day without feeling hungry all the time. When you bring back the carbs, you may bring back the hunger too.
Carbohydrate and sugar cravings aren’t just in your head. They can be a sign of addiction.
Believe it or not, researchers have compared sugar addiction to cocaine addiction. Sugar may even be more valuable!
Cheating can strengthen these pathways and make it harder to avoid sugary foods in the future.
Guilt is an often overlooked consequence of cheating on keto. Ask yourself. Are cheat foods worth it if you’re going to feel terrible later?
Will Keto Cheat Days Ruin Your Progress?
A cheat meal can kick you out of ketosis. You’ve worked hard to get into ketosis, and one cheat day could kick you out of it. This could mean you have to deal with the keto flu all over again. Keto flu symptoms usually last two to three days or more. Remember, the longer you’re out of ketosis, the higher the risk of developing keto-flu symptoms.
Some people can go into ketosis faster than others. It may take you more than a day to recover from ketosis. For some people, it can take 2-5 days.
If you have specific goals for the ketogenic diet, such as weight loss, cheat days may hinder your weight loss progress. Even if you only eat one meal or don’t gain weight for a day, you may still experience plateaus, which can be frustrating if you have been making progress on a ketogenic diet.
You can plan if and when to eat cheat meals by prioritizing certain social activities or favorite foods, or you may decide to avoid cheat meals altogether.
Being in ketosis makes you feel more satiated and reduces your carbohydrate cravings, making it easier for you to remain in ketosis. If you get kicked out, you may have more carbohydrate cravings. Giving in to this craving encourages more cravings and the cycle continues, like a hamster on a wheel.
Especially if you’ve been low-carbing for a while, a high-carb cheat meal can spike your blood sugar and cause:
- Low energy
- Lethargy and fatigue
If you are taking keto to help your blood sugar levels or diabetes, then spiking your blood sugar to high levels with cheat meals can be particularly problematic. If you have a relatively good metabolism and are generally in good health, cheat meals shouldn’t be a big problem for you.
How to Recover from Cheat Meals?
If you’re cheating on keto, you’re probably out of ketosis. Once out of it, you will need to follow a strict keto diet to get back into ketosis. This process can take a few days to 1 week, depending on your carbohydrate intake, metabolism and activity level.
Here are a few tips to help you get back into ketosis:
- Try intermittent fasting. Combining intermittent fasting with a keto diet may help your body shift its fuel source from carbohydrates to fats.
- Track your carb intake. Taking note of your daily carb intake ensures that you don’t underestimate it.
- Try a short-term fat fast. Fat fasts, such as egg fasts, may help accelerate ketosis, which is a very high fat, low carbohydrate diet that is only intended to last a short period of time.
- Exercise more. Physical activity depletes your glycogen stores, which are your body’s stored form of carbohydrates. In turn, this promotes ketosis.
- Try a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) supplement. MCTs are rapidly absorbed fatty acids that are readily converted to ketone bodies.
The best way to know if you’ve reached ketosis is to test your ketone levels.
You can use tools that measure your body’s ketone levels, such as ketone breath meters, blood ketone meters, and ketone urine strips – which are often the cheapest and easiest way to do this.
The Bottome Line
You should avoid cheat diets and days on a keto diet. Consuming too many carbohydrates can take your body out of ketosis – it takes a few days to 1 week to get back into it. During this time, your weight loss may be disrupted.
Note that if you feel prolonged dizziness, upset stomach or decreased energy, stop the keto diet and consult your doctor.