What do you do after you give in to the temptation of cheating on keto? How can you shift your metabolism back into a state of ketosis as smoothly as possible? Many keto dieters avoid cheat days or cheat meals on keto because it can cause certain problems or hinder your health and fitness goals.
What’s The Problem With Cheating on Keto?
A cheat meal can kick you out of ketosis. You worked hard to get into ketosis and one cheat day could knock you out of it. This could mean you have to deal with the keto flu all over again. Keto flu symptoms usually last for two or three days. Remember the risk of developing keto flu symptoms is higher the longer you’re out of ketosis.
Some people can get into ketosis quicker than others. It might take you more than one day to get back into ketosis. For some people, it takes 2-5 days .
If you have specific goals for the ketogenic diet, such as weight loss, a cheat day could stall your weight loss progress. Even if you don’t gain weight with just one meal or one day, you might still hit a plateau, which can be frustrating if you’ve been making progress on keto.
You could plan if and when you want to have a cheat meal by prioritizing certain social events or favorite foods or you might decide to avoid cheat meals altogether.
Being in ketosis keeps you more satiated and reduces your carb cravings, making it easier to continue to stay in ketosis. If you get kicked out, you might have more carb cravings. Giving in to the cravings encourages more cravings and the cycle can continue, akin to a hamster on a wheel .
Particularly if you’ve been low-carb for some time, a high-carb cheat meal can spike your blood sugar and lead to:
- Low energy
- Lethargy and fatigue
If you’re on keto to help with your blood sugar levels or diabetes, it can be especially problematic to spike your blood sugar to high levels with a cheat meal. If you’re more metabolically adapted and in good health overall, a cheat meal shouldn’t be as much of a problem for you.
Tips for Getting Back on Track After Cheating on Keto
Don’t let a cheat meal turn into a cheat day or week. Here are some top tips for returning to ketosis:
1) Don’t Harbor Regrets or Disappointment
There’s no point crying over spilled milk as they say, so let go of any negative feelings. Disappointment and regret won’t take away your carb cravings or help you get into ketosis. With a positive and motivated mindset, plan accordingly for the week ahead and get ready to go keto again!
2) Stay Hydrated
A key sign of the keto flu is dehydration since the keto diet might cause you to rapidly shed water stores. Make sure you’re staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration and have a smoother transition back into ketosis [3,4].
Do you find yourself having a difficult time drinking enough water? Here are a few tips for improving your hydration status!
- Always keep a refillable water bottle on you!
- Try infusing your water with fruit (like strawberries or lemon) to add flavor.
- Develop a routine (try to drink 8oz right when you wake up to start the day off right!)
- Cut back on diet sodas! The caffeine in diet sodas can act as a diuretic and make you more dehydrated. Plus, the carbonation can fill your stomach and cause you to drink less.
3) Increase Electrolyte Intake
Switching to ketosis can deplete electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium. This is one of the reasons people experience the keto flu and symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and headaches.
Sodium is one of the easiest electrolytes to add back into your diet! Simply sprinkle salt onto your food or add it to a drink! Try to opt for nutrient-dense salts rather than high processed (white table salt). Redmonds real salt is a nutrient-dense Ketogenic Certified salt that is perfect for replenishing sodium levels!
2) Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Fiber
If you have constipation and certain digestive issues when trying to transition to the ketogenic diet, it could be due to a lack of fiber. Fiber has been associated with relieving constipation and maintaining healthy body weight. Read our detailed article on fiber for more info about the different types of fiber and how fiber fits into the ketogenic diet [7,8].
5) Try Intermittent Fasting
While it’s important you don’t over-exercise and over-exert yourself, appropriate exercise can help you get back into ketosis by sending stored glucose to your muscles. This means you use up your glucose stores quicker, making you one step closer to burning ketones and fat for fuel instead of glucose .
Low-intensity steady state cardio is great and all but HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is a great option if you are trying to get back into ketosis as quickly as possible. HIIT will help deplete glycogen stores more rapidly (and burn some extra calories).
7) Get Your Beauty Sleep!
A lack of sleep is detrimental to your overall health regardless of ketosis. Research shows a lack of sleep can increase carb cravings and hunger. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body also becomes less effective at using insulin .
8) Take Exogenous Ketones
You might want to take exogenous ketones. Exogenous refers to something that comes from outside your body. Exogenous ketones can supplement your body with ketones and significantly decrease blood glucose.
9) Plan Ahead and Find Tasty Alternatives!
Satisfy any cravings that might show up again with the plethora of keto-friendly recipes. Read our tips for satisfying your sweet tooth on keto. From pizza to breakfast bagels and snickers bars, get creative in the kitchen with keto-friendly alternatives to your carb-heavy favorites. Planning ahead, meal-prepping, and staying organized on keto can make it easier for you to stay on track! Stock your pantry with keto-friendly staples that are ready to go!
If you aren’t sure whether you are still in ketosis or you are trying to determine when you do enter a state of ketosis again, you might want to test your ketones. Your body produces three different ketones and you can test these ketones in three main ways: blood, urine, or breath. Blood testing tests for BHB (beta-hydroxybutyrate), urine ketone strips test for acetoacetate, and breath meters test for acetone. Blood meters are widely considered to be the most accurate and reliable form of measurement, but they are more costly. Urine strips are the most cost-effective method of testing; however, they have low reliability and accuracy.
Conclusions On What To Do After Cheating On Keto
Especially if you have long-term health and fitness goals, it might be best to avoid cheat days or meals on keto, at least until you’ve achieved your goals. If you do allow an occasional cheat day or meal, use these top tips for a smooth transition back to ketosis.
How Do You Get Back into the Swing of Things After Cheating on Keto?
Share your tips for recovering from a cheat day with our keto community!
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Steph Green is a writer, researcher, and singer/songwriter with a passion for all things wellness. In 2016, after four years of struggling with her own health problems and painful autoimmune disease, Steph developed a life-changing and extensive knowledge of keto, nutrition, and natural medicine. She continues on her healing journey and enjoys helping others along the way.