For followers of the keto diet, a cheat day is really something to look forward to. On that day, you can increase the number of carbs you eat and enjoy something that you haven't in a while, like actual pasta instead of zucchini noodles.
However, there are a few downsides to these cheat days. They can knock you out of ketosis, leave you feeling sluggish, and help you gain back the weight that you've already lost.
In order to avoid backtracking with your cheat day, you need to be careful and watch the number of carbs that you eat, as well as keep an eye on your other macros. Want to know how to indulge in the perfect cheat day? Find out here!
Why Do You Want a Cheat Day?
The keto diet can be tough to follow. It's very strict, requiring adherents to eat a specific ratio of macros (protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates) every day. For people who spent their lives enjoying things like pasta and cookies, going without or sticking to very small amounts can be tough.
Enter the cheat day. It's nice to have something to look forward to when following a strict diet: a day where you can eat what you want, or at the very least, indulge in one of your favorite carb-filled meals.
Studies have shown that a cheat day now and then makes people more likely to stay on a strict diet. Some keto followers simply can't handle the requirements, like counting macros and avoiding carbs, so they end up giving up so that they can eat all of the bread and pasta they want.
When a cheat day is introduced, it gives dieters a break. It's a day where they can relax and be less strict on their bodies. This makes them more likely to stay on their diets, as they can get right back to it the next day.
Staying in Ketosis
Some say that the hardest part of following a keto diet isn't giving up carbohydrates; instead, it's staying in ketosis. To remain in the state where your system burns off body fat for fuel instead of relying entirely on the foods that you eat, you need to be very careful about how many carbs you eat.
Plus, you need to test your ketosis state on a regular basis, using those handy ketosis strips to track your progress. Getting to this state and staying there is tough, which makes those cheat days dangerous. Too many carbs, and you need to start all over again.
What does this mean for cheat days? Although you can have some extra carbs or enjoy a treat that you usually avoid, you need to make sure that the number of carbohydrates you eat stays low enough to keep you in ketosis. Otherwise, you'll end up starting the process all over again to ensure that you continue to lose weight.
What Happens When You Eat Too Many Carbs While on Keto?
It's common to reach for the carbs when you decide it's time for your keto cheat day. However, that isn't always the best option. If you eat more than 50 grams of carbs in a day, you'll throw your body out of ketosis.
As a result, you'll stop burning that belly fat and converting it into energy. Even worse, you'll have to go through the whole process of getting back into ketosis, which can take up to a week or more.
In addition to having to get back into ketosis, eating too many carbohydrates after not including many in your daily meals can cause some side effects. You may feel bloated and uncomfortable since your digestive system isn't used to all those carbs. The brain fog you haven't had to deal with since going into ketosis may be back, thanks to the carbohydrates.
Even worse, you could awaken your cravings for everything bread-like and sugary, causing you to indulge in sweet snacks that will send your diet in the wrong direction.
This doesn't mean that you can't have a keto cheat day. You just need to plan it well and ensure that you don't go out of ketosis. Otherwise, you'll end up feeling the difference and will need to go back into ketosis all over again.
How Often To Schedule a Keto Cheat Day
You need to consider a number of different things when scheduling a cheat day. Here are some things to think about:
Do You Plan on Going Out of Ketosis?
If you want to go all out on your cheat day and don't care whether the food you eat that day throws you out of ketosis, consider how long it will take to get back into that state. If you know that you'll spend a week getting back into ketosis, then schedule your cheat days for once a month or once every other month.
This way, you'll be able to remain in ketosis long enough to reap the benefits of the diet. However, if it takes you less time to get back into ketosis, you can schedule your cheat days more often.
Do You Plan To Still Limit Your Carbs?
If you want to limit the number of carbs you eat on your cheat day, you can schedule those days more often. Once a week will work just fine for those who plan to stay under the 50 grams of carbs limit in order to remain in ketosis while still eating some additional treats that day.
Limiting Your Carbs Even on Cheat Days
The trick to remaining in ketosis and still getting to enjoy a cheat day involves limiting the number of carbs that you eat on that cheat day. Also, you can minimize the usual amount of carbs that you eat for several days before your cheat day, so you have a little leeway and can remain in ketosis. For example, knowing that your cheat day is coming up, you can shrink the number of carbs you eat from 40 grams to 30 grams or even lower.
You'll still need to eat some to remain healthy, but cutting them back when you're following the diet may not be as noticeable. To make up for the lesser carbs, increase the amounts of protein and healthy fats that you're eating on those days. Then, when it's time for your cheat day, you can eat 50 grams of carbs. You'll feel as though you're getting a treat and cheating on your diet while still remaining in ketosis.
Another method is to simply keep an eye on your macros. If you measure them carefully, you may be able to raise your carbs on your keto cheat day while still staying in ketosis. A small increase, say to 55 grams from 45 grams, may keep you in ketosis while still allowing you to enjoy that little bit of pasta. It all depends on how your body responds to the carbs and how long you've been in ketosis.
By increasing the number of carbs included in your meals only slightly on your cheat days, you'll be able to avoid many of the issues that come with suddenly introducing a lot of carbs into your system. You may be able to avoid the bloating feeling, lack of energy, stomach upset, and brain fog.
What Should You Eat?
What you eat on your cheat day is entirely up to you, and similar to how often you want to have a cheat day, it depends on whether or not you want to stay in ketosis.
If you don't care about staying in ketosis, then enjoy eating pasta and bread. If remaining in ketosis is your goal, carefully measure out your macros so that you can have a full 50 grams of pasta while enjoying every bite.
Keto Cheat Days Are Definitely Possible
It's entirely possible to have a cheat day while staying in ketosis, as long as you plan your macros carefully. However, if you want to go all out on your cheat day, be ready for some of the side effects and the fact that you'll more than likely have to spend some time getting back into ketosis. No matter what, enjoy your cheat day! After all, you've earned it.