You’ve decided that keto wasn’t for you, and you’re ready to move on. Let me be the first to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever. Following a ketogenic lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and you have to know what’s best for your body.
How do I come off keto safely? The best ways to safely come off a keto diet is to reduce your fat intake, fast on alternate days, perform HIIT exercises for two weeks, and try not to snack at all.
It’s imperative to make sure that when you’re moving away from keto, you do it the right way. Most of the people who trash talk this way of eating do so because they stop doing it and gain the weight they lost right back. In reality, they just came off the diet the wrong way.
If you are making a move away from keto, there is a strategy that will make it easier for you. Also, I feel like it’s important to know that although I plan to stay on keto for the rest of my life, you don’t have to. It’s perfectly okay to decide to go in and out of keto if that’s what you think is best for you. Just make sure you do it properly, so you don’t lose all the benefits you’ve gained.
Step 1: Reduce Your Fat Intake
Reducing the amount of fat you’re consuming is the most important thing you need to do when moving away from a ketogenic lifestyle. It would be best if you did this as soon as you start reintroducing carbs back into your diet, and the reduction needs to be significant. I’ve never been an advocate for a low-fat diet, but that’s precisely what you should consume for the first month after keto.
Since you’ve been eating a low-carb diet, you are extremely sensitive to insulin. You haven’t consumed large amounts of carbs, so when you reintroduce them, your body is going to remember them quickly. Even worse, it’s going to remember how you took them away and do everything it can to store them.
So what happens if you don’t reduce your fat intake first? Since your insulin is going to spike, not only will your body store the carbohydrates, but it’s also going to hold the fats as well. This will lead to rapid weight gain, and that’s the last thing you want.
While you’re getting your body used to eating carbs again, the fats you eat need to be kept as low as you possibly can. When I say low, I would stick to 20% of the amount of fat you were eating on keto or less. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows evidence that your body stores fat easier when not on a ketogenic diet.
The same study states that around 80% of any excess calories you consume from carbs store as fat, while over 90% of the extra calories eaten in the form of fat would be stored. Basically, if you’re not in ketosis, the fat is going to keep in your body a lot easier.
I recommend starting as low as you can for the first month and then adding in more fat slowly until you find your sweet spot.
Step 2: Alternate Day Fasting
When you are in a ketogenic state, you have the benefits that come with having plenty of ketones in your system. When coming off keto, those ketones crash hard. By using a strategy known as alternate day fasting, you can keep those ketones somewhat elevated.
Alternate day fasting is exactly what it sounds like. You fast on alternating days for a specified amount of time. Here’s the most popular version I’ve seen:
- Day 1: Fast for 22 hours
- Day 2: Eat on a normal schedule
- Day 3: Fast for 20 hours
- Day 4: Eat on a normal schedule
- Day 5: Fast for 18 hours
- Day 6: Eat on a normal schedule
- Day 7: Fast for 16 hours
- Day 8: Eat on a normal schedule
- Day 9: Fast for 14 hours
- Day 10: Eat on a normal schedule
- Day 11: Fast for 12 hours
- Day 12: Begin your normal eating routine
The reason that alternate-day fasting is such a good idea when you’re coming off the keto diet is because these longer fasting days helps keep your ketones at elevated levels, reducing some of the negative impacts from eating the carbohydrates.
When you’re in a fasted state, you’re able to ween yourself off the ketones slowly. Fasting lets you get the benefits that come with having ketones in your system without actually being in ketosis.
Step 3: Two Weeks Of HIIT
For your first two weeks off of keto, consider doing HIIT, which is high-intensity interval training. When doing high-intensity interval training, your body finds the carbohydrates in your system and uses them as a source of fuel.
By doing short but intense bouts of activity on a daily basis for the first two weeks off keto helps get your body used to finding those carbs and using them to fuel itself. HIIT will make you a little more flexible when it comes to your metabolic system.
What you’re doing here is getting your cells used to the carbohydrates again. When doing HIIT exercises, you’re moving so fast that your body has no choice other than to adapt quickly. It’s going to need an energy source quickly, so your body will find those carbs and start burning them.
The great thing about HIIT is that it puts your metabolism into overdrive, and will continue burning these carbs long after you’ve completed the exercise.
Some great HIIT workouts include:
- Treadmill Blast – This HIIT will take only 16 minutes out of your day. On your treadmill, start with a leisurely jog for 3 minutes before completing one of the levels listed below. Once you’re done, walk for three minutes as a cool down.
- Beginner: 10 20-second sprints followed by 40-second walks
- Intermediate: 10 30-second sprints followed by 30-second walks
- Advanced: 10 40-second sprints followed by 20-second walks
- 10-Minute HIIT Tone Up – Designed as a beach training, this HIIT workout can be done anywhere. Do the moves listed below for 30-seconds each back to back. Repeat three times with a 30-second break between each set.
- Single-leg bounds
- Plank drag
- Side shuffle
- Inchworm push-ups
- Long jumps
- Lower Body Blast – These exercises are meant to be done as straight sets. Between sets, rest for as long as it takes you to catch your breath and then move immediately into the next set.
- Dumbbell Sumo Squat – 4 sets of 21
- Bulgarian Split Squat – 3 sets of 10 per leg
- Stability Ball Wall Squat – 4 sets of 12
- Bench-Assisted Sissy Squat – 4 sets of 15
- Jump Squat – 3 sets of 30
- Switch Lunge – 4 sets of 12
- Sprint – 30-seconds
Step 4: No Snacking
This might be the most unpopular step on the list, but it’s going to be a necessity. When you are coming off keto, you have to follow a strict no snacking policy. For how long? Preferably forever because snacking is really what messes us up, but I know that’s not sustainable. You need to follow this for the first month, at least.
As stated earlier, when you’re coming off keto and back onto a traditional diet, you’re going to be very sensitive to insulin. This means every time you eat something; your blood sugars are going to spike, putting a stop to any fat burning that was taking place.
It doesn’t matter what you eat; your body is going to stop burning fat until whatever you consumed is completely gone from your system. Sure, your insulin has always spiked when you’ve eaten, but the effects are amplified when you’re reintroducing carbs into your system.
Planning is going to be your best friend for this step. If possible, plan your meals for the same time each day so you can mentally prepare yourself to know that those are the only times you’re going to be eating. Between those meals, you can have water or diet beverages, but absolutely nothing that’s going to trigger an insulin response.
Step 5: Low Glycemic Carbohydrates
This one is a no-brainer, but a lot of people get so excited about eating carbs again that this step often gets overlooked. You already know that you should be eating healthy carbohydrates instead of the ones filled with sugar. That’s a given. Choose your carbs wisely.
Step 6: Resistant Starches
Resistant starches give you a way to consume carbs without having to deal with the negative impact that comes from too much blood sugar.
An excellent example of resistant starch is when you bake a potato, but you don’t eat it right away. Instead, you put it in the refrigerator and heat it up later before you actually eat it. What happens during this process is that the molecular structure of the potato turns into a resistant starch.
One of the benefits of resistant starches is that it confuses your body because it isn’t quite sure how to break them down. So things like potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasts, and root vegetables that have been cooked, cooled, and reheated become resistant.
Does this mean you can eat as much as you want? No, that’s not what I’m telling you at all. What I’m saying is that your body is going to have a much harder time absorbing glucose from these foods.
You’ll want to use resistant starches when you start craving more carbs because they’ve been reintroduced to your diet. They’ll act as filler material to keep you feeling full so that the transition can be more manageable.
Step 7: Soluble Fiber
Just as fiber was important when doing keto, it’s just as important when coming off keto. It slows down the absorption of the carbs you eat. Soluble fiber is always the better choice over insoluble fiber because you can get by with less. Try to include soluble fiber with every meal.
Some good examples of soluble fiber include:
- Black Beans
- Lima Beans
- Brussels Sprouts
- Sunflower Seeds
- Sweet Potatoes
- Kidney Beans
- Flax Seeds
- Chia Seeds
Step 8: Increase Antioxidants
The last step to coming off keto is to be sure you’re significantly increasing your antioxidants. When switching from burning ketones to burning carbohydrates, your body may become stressed. If this happens, it can trigger oxidative damage.
When you were on keto, you didn’t need as many antioxidants because they were built into the diet so well. Now that your body isn’t burning the clean fuel in the way of ketones, it needs help keeping the system running smoothly.
The best thing you can eat for antioxidants is dark chocolate. Gram for gram, it has the highest overall antioxidant count. Just one or two squares before bed should do the trick.
Not a fan of dark chocolate? Try some blueberries instead.
Can You Get Sick From Going Off Keto?
Even if you follow all the steps outlined perfectly, there may still be some physical side-effects when you’re coming off keto, especially if you’ve been doing it for quite some time. You won’t get dangerously sick to the point where you’ll do irreparable damage, but here are some things that might happen:
- Blood Sugar Fluctuations – Your body isn’t going to be used to the up and down roller coaster blood sugar levels. These fluctuations may cause fatigue, jitteriness, hyperactivity, and changes in mood.
- Weight Gain – Gaining weight is one of the most common things that happens to someone coming off keto, especially if it’s the first time you’ve done so. Some of the weight gain will be a result of water retention.
- Bloating – Bloating is another common symptom, again, thanks to your body retaining water. Fortunately, the bloating doesn’t last all that long and should go away within the first week or two.
- Hunger – The healthy fats you were eating with keto worked to help keep you feeling full. Carbs are much faster to digest than fat, meaning you’ll feel hungry again much sooner.
- Anxiety – If you already suffer from anxiety, switching to a carb-heavy diet may bring it out more. It can become a vicious cycle because when you become anxious, you go for that sugary treat. Once you get your fix, you feel better for a little while. When you get to the sugar crash, the anxiety comes right back.
What age should someone start keto? There is not a minimum age to begin keto. Exhaustive studies have been conducted that show keto is safe and beneficial for all ages, from newborns to older men and women.
Why am I starving on the keto diet? You shouldn’t be hungry if you’re following a ketogenic diet correctly. If you are, you need to identify what’s causing the hunger and correct it.