Most diets allow for the occasional cheat day here and there when cravings start to strike. However, the ketogenic diet depends on maintaining a strict state of ketosis, and even a few grams of carbohydrates can throw off your body’s fat-burning abilities while also taking a toll on your progress.
Of course, giving in to the occasional indulgence is inevitable, even for the most dedicated dieters out there. This article will take a closer look at how cheat days can impact ketosis, the best ways to “cheat” on the ketogenic diet and some simple ways to get back on track after a slip-up.
Is a keto cheat day OK?
Depending on your definition of a cheat day, straying too far from your diet can definitely kick you out of ketosis on the ketogenic diet. A single serving of high-carb foods like pizza, donuts, candy and soda, for example, can nearly knock out your carb allotment for the day and get your body to start burning sugar for fuel instead of fat.
Falling out of ketosis not only hinders your progress, but can also mean going through keto flu symptoms all over again as your body tries to adapt and adjust. In fact, transitioning back into ketosis after a slip-up can cause symptoms like brain fog, fatigue and changes in mood.
However, that doesn’t mean that the occasional cheat day is entirely off the table on the ketogenic diet. Picking keto-friendly ways to indulge is an easy way to stay on track while still allowing some room for flexibility in your daily keto diet plan.
Best ways to cheat on keto
So what’s the best way to cheat when you’re following the ketogenic diet? Here are a few simple tips to help quench your cravings.
1. Swap in low-carb substitutes
No matter what foods you’re craving, there are plenty of healthy substitutes you can use to keep your carb count low. For example, you can give pizza a keto-friendly twist by using cauliflower crust instead of regular flour crust. You can also swap zucchini noodles for regular noodles, use lettuce leaves in place of wraps or whip up turnip fries instead of French fries.
2. Cheat with high-fat foods
If a cheat day is absolutely unavoidable, be sure to pick high-fat foods to indulge in. Dark chocolate, cheese, avocados, nuts and seeds are all high-fat ingredients that can be added to fat bombs, milkshakes or keto-friendly ice creams, dips and snacks.
3. Drink smarter
While ordering a mixed drink, beer or cocktail may sound pretty tempting on your next night out, it can ramp up carb consumption and quickly kick you out of ketosis. Instead, go for red or white wine, both of which are low in carbs, so you can enjoy your cheat day without the extra sugar. Alternatively, select pure forms of alcohol like rum, tequila or vodka and combine with your favorite low-carb mixers such as seltzer or sugar-free tonic.
4. Enjoy smaller portions
If the strategies above don’t work for you, you may want to consider simply scaling back on your portion sizes instead. Eating smaller amounts of even high-carb ingredients can help reduce your carb consumption without cutting out your favorite foods altogether. Try eating more slowly, minimizing distractions during mealtimes or using a smaller plate to decrease portion sizes and keep your carb count low.
If you fall out of ketosis, how to get back fast
If you do fall off track and wind up out of ketosis, have no fear. Ensuring a seamless transition back into ketosis is simpler than it seems.
Start by tracking and measuring your carbs more meticulously than usual, and keeping carb consumption low to kickstart ketosis. Be sure to carefully limit most carb-containing foods during this period especially, such as fruits, dairy and sweets.
You should also stay active, as this can help burn up any extra carbs you may have eaten to get back on track fast. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great option for a daily workout, which involves cycling between short bursts of activity and brief rest periods.
Finally, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Many keto flu symptoms are actually worsened by dehydration, so drink up to prevent those negative side effects.