If you’re a big fan of foods full of carbohydrates and sugar, it’s likely that you’ll have to give up a lot of the foods that you’ve grown to love. I’m often asked if indulging in these foods from time to time would be detrimental. Can I have a cheat day while on the keto diet?
If you’re following keto as a means to lose weight, an occasional cheat day is not going to erase all the progress you’ve made. This is true even if the cheat day goes far over your carb allotment and you kick yourself out of ketosis.
Before you take what I just said and decide to inhale an entire chocolate cake, let’s take a bit and examine how a cheat day might affect you.
Can I Have a Cheat Day While On a Keto Diet?
No matter what kind of diet you consume, everyone looks forward to a cheat day. When you’re consuming a keto diet, however, cheat days may work a little bit differently.
Keto is a diet where you enter a state of ketosis by eliminating foods that are high in carbohydrates from your diet. When you take a day off from keto, you’re more than likely going to be reintroducing these foods, even if only temporarily, in large amounts.
While this might be great for your cravings and even better for your taste buds, doing so is bound to have an effect on your body, specifically when it comes to burning fat.
Before I go any further, I want to make it very clear that cheat days are not prohibited. You can’t be expected to go the rest of your life following a strict diet. It doesn’t work like that. There’s going to be birthday parties, weddings, sporting events, or just a weekend out with your friends. When you feel like you want a break from a strict ketogenic diet, don’t be afraid to take it.
With that said, having a cheat day doesn’t come without downsides and consequences.
What Are Side Effects of a Cheat Day On Keto?
Even though a cheat day on keto will allow you to eat some foods you may be craving, consuming them isn’t going to come without some side effects. What can you look forward to after a cheat day?
Not Feeling Well
After a cheat day, you’re probably not going to be feeling very good. You’re going to feel tired and lethargic. You may have to deal with stomach discomfort in the form of gas or diarrhea. Your mood can suffer as well. You won’t feel well and it might take several days after going back on keto before you begin to feel normal again.
When you’re just starting keto, your body craves the foods it’s used to. Over time, your body misses these foods less and less until the cravings disappear. For the most part, those cravings stay gone as long as you don’t eat those foods.
The problem happens when you eat one of those foods the body used to love. It doesn’t forget just because you haven’t eaten it. As soon as you eat that donut or cookie, you’re awakening the beast inside that will want more and more. A cheat day is an invitation for cravings and hunger to come back into your life.
Spikes In Your Blood Sugar
When you haven’t had any carbs and then suddenly eat a bunch of them, your blood sugar is going to spike. If you’re following keto as a way to keep your diabetes in check, these carbs could lead to a dangerously high spike, so you may want to reconsider the idea of a cheat day.
Temporary Weight Gain
The carbs that you consume will be viewed by your body as your way to replenish the glycogen that you haven’t been eating. When you start keto again, these glycogen stores will have to be burned off before you begin to burn fat for energy, which often leads to a temporary weight gain.
Will One Cheat Day Ruin Ketosis?
Whether it’s a ketogenic way of eating or another type of eating plan that restricts certain foods, many people use cheat days as a strategy to keep them going. Some people keep the cheating to a single meal while others take an entire day.
Personally, if I have any type of cheat on keto, I like to keep it to one single meal because for me, cheat days were too easily turned into cheat weeks or even more. With that said, giving yourself a little leeway to enjoy those forbidden foods from time to time may make it easier to stick with the diet long-term.
Cheat days are a little more complicated in a keto diet as opposed to diets that rely only on counting calories. The reason for this is because the diet doesn’t work unless you put your body into ketosis and keep it there. Ketosis is a natural metabolic state in which your body burns fat for energy since there are no carbohydrates.
Although the exact amount of carbs needed to stay in ketosis, a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that your body should get into and stay in ketosis as long as you’re consuming less than 50g of carbohydrates each day. To stay on the safe side, many people eat with a goal of eating 20g or less.
Eating 50g of carbs or less is relatively easy when you’re eating foods that are keto-friendly. During a cheat day, however, it’s not at all difficult for a single cheat meal to go over that amount significantly. If you’re having a full cheat day and go all out, eating all the foods you’ve been missing out on, you can go over by several hundred grams without even trying.
To answer the question of this section, a cheat day is going to kick you out of ketosis unless you somehow get very lucky. As if that’s not bad enough, you won’t just be back into ketosis the next day. You’ll have to be patient and start the process all over again.
Finally, since you’ll no longer be in ketosis, you’re going to have to deal with the feelings of discomfort and lethargy that occur when your body gets the foods you haven’t given it in quite some time.
If you have a cheat meal, it’s a good idea to still be conscious of the number of carbs you’ll be eating. If you’re careful, you might not actually kick yourself out of ketosis. To be sure, you can check your ketone levels using a blood ketone monitor or ketone strips.
Do You Get Keto Flu Every Time You Cheat?
The keto flu is a topic I delve into deeply in this article, so be sure to check out for a lot more details. This side effect of starting a ketogenic diet is not fun at all, and thinking that you could experience it again should be enough to scare off a lot of people from cheating.
The truth is, you may or may not get the keto flu after cheating. If you’ve been doing keto for quite a while and take a break for one meal or, at most, one day, you probably don’t have a lot to worry about.
On the other hand, if your cheat day turns into a cheat week or more, which can happen even if that isn’t your intention, you may be in for a world of hurt when you start cutting your carbs again.
You have to remember that carbohydrates and sugars are almost like a drug to your body. When it doesn’t get them, it craves them. Once you give these substances to your body, it will revolt when taking them away, which is why you get keto flu in the first place.
If you’re going to cheat on keto, there are a few things you can do to in order to try to keep the keto flu at bay. They include:
- Drink a lot of water
- Eat more salt or add salt to your water
- Eat more fat
Doing these three things may help prevent keto flu. Even if you do get it, following these tips will help keep the symptoms mild.
What Is The Best Way To Have A Cheat Day On Keto?
If everything you’ve read here hasn’t scared you off from having that cheat day, you may be wondering if there are ways to go about it that won’t be as detrimental as going all out and eating everything in sight. The answer is, yes, there is absolutely a correct way to cheat on keto.
Before I go into these, it’s vital to know that cheat days on keto should be something you don’t do very often. They should literally be a rare occurrence because they can do a lot of damage to your goals. If you haven’t had a cheat day in a while, here’s what you want to do:
- Keep eating keto while you cheat – I know this one is going to be a head-scratcher, but hear me out. What if you can still cheat while staying close to keto? Say everyone is eating pizza and you want a couple of slices, go ahead and eat them. When they move onto desserts like cookies and donuts, consider having a fat bomb or keto cheesecake to balance things out.
- Exercise after your cheat meal – You’re probably going to feel so miserable after your cheat meals that exercise will seem like a chore, but having a good workout is great for your body’s insulin sensitivity. This allows you to deplete the glucose from those carbs, making it easier for your body to return to fat-burning mode faster.
- Limit the portions of your non-keto foods – Just because you’re going to be eating foods that aren’t part of your normal diet doesn’t have to mean you go overboard. Go ahead and enjoy your meal, but don’t go back for seconds.
- Consider a cheat meal instead of a whole cheat day – When you are having a meal that’s not keto, it’s easy to just make an entire day of it. After all, if you’re already breaking your diet, why not go all the way with it? As temptimg as it may be, this is not the way you want to look at things. You’ll already be adding plenty of calories from a single cheat meal. Why undo a weeks worth of progress by taking a full day?
What To Do After A Cheat Day On Keto
The first thing you should do after taking a day off keto is take a deep breath and relax. Many people feel guilty after a cheat day and turn it into a cheat week or more. All this does is prolong the amount of time it takes for you to get back on track.
There’s a term that I love to live by in these situations: Keep Calm and Keto On (often abbreviated online at KCKO).
The best thing you can do for yourself is to jump right back into your keto lifestyle. After all, you’ve already seen all the progress you’ve made and you know that keto works. There’s no need to prolong the negatives just because you’ve taken a day off plan. You had your break. You enjoyed foods that you’ve been missing. You’re human. Now it’s time to move from the break and back into keto.