Cheat days on keto can ruin your efforts, but there are also situations where occasional cheat meals can be good for you on this diet. Find out what cheat days on keto mean in the long run.
The concept of a cheat day on keto seems pretty awesome. Since you’re used to cutting carb intake down to below 25 net grams a day and increasing fats to make them the bulk of your diet (around 75-80 percent of daily calories), the thought of digging into a slice or two of pizza or drinking a few beers with wings for game day seems oh-so tempting.
Yet, a cheat day on keto is a bit complicated, since that cheat day will definitely take you over your carb budget for the day and kick you out of ketosis. And if you tend to take cheat days each week – or even a few days each week – it could stop your progress on keto entirely. On the flipside though, if you begin to feel too deprived and burnt out, you might just throw the keto diet out the window all together.
So, can you have a cheat day on keto? Or even a cheat meal on keto? Here’s what to know before giving in to temptation.
Can You Have a Cheat Day on a Keto Diet?
Yes, you can – but it may come with consequences. Cheating on keto means that you are going over your carbohydrate limit for the day and are stopping your body from producing ketones to then use as fuel to burn fat.
And if you do that, then your body will go back to using the excess carbs as fuel instead. Over time, if let’s say you choose to have a keto cheat day once a week, then you might impair your progress in terms of ketosis benefit and weight loss, where you are not losing as much or feeling as great as you would if you obliged by the diet seven days a week.
Still though, you can and there are even some variations to keto, such as keto cycling or targeted keto, where people cycle their carbs and eat a few extra before or after workouts, for example. There are benefits to this method, as it can make you perform better during workouts and repair muscles afterwards.
And the body will adjust to a cheat day on keto in this format if given time. While it might not yield the same benefits as someone doing a full-on keto diet with no cheat days, it can still give you some great results and the ones you are looking for (like better fitness gains).
Will a Cheat Day Kick Me Out of Ketosis?
To be fair, it probably will! Perhaps one cheat meal on keto won’t, depending on how many grams of net carbs you went overboard on during that meal and then the total number of grams of net carbs for the rest of the day. If you end up eating something with 20 grams of net carbs for one meal but then don’t eat more than 5 grams of net carbs for the rest of the day, then you’ll probably stay in ketosis.
Yet, if you have a cheat day on keto, where you are over those 25 grams of net carbs by end of day, then yes, you will fall out of ketosis and you’ll need to let your body get back into it. As for the number of grams that will kick you out of ketosis, it varies based on the individual, but if you go over your limit, you can expect to fall out. At least be prepared to!
What Are the Downsides of Having a Cheat Day?
If you do have a keto diet cheat day, or even a cheat meal on keto that is way too high in carbs, you can expect several downsides – so proceed on a keto cheat day with caution.
For starters, you will resume symptoms of the keto flu. What’s that? You’ll feel fatigued, have brain fog, and you may experience nausea, excess thirst, bloating, and cravings for – you guessed it – sugar and carbs! Basically, you will feel icky – much like how you felt for the first week or two when beginning keto. Do you really want to go back into that again?
Plus, unfortunately, the infamous keto flu could take 1-4 days before you get back into ketosis depending on how your body works (it can vary based on the person) and what you’re doing to speed the process in getting back into a ketosis state.
What’s more, having a cheat day on keto could also overwhelm your body with that influx of carbs and sugars in one sitting, and it could damage your heart and blood vessels long-term, according to research 1. So, consider the big picture too!
And lastly, if you do have a cheat day on keto, you might lose motivation to get back into the keto diet and stick with it. After not eating bread and fried foods for a while – and then enjoying them again, likely in a fun, social setting too – you might be reminded of how amazing they taste and not want to give them up again. It could lead to a pattern in taking cheat days on a regular basis, and that can ruin your results for sure.
How Long Before I Enter Ketosis Again?
That depends on the person, since everybody differs, but you can expect between 1-4 days. Of course, if you don’t have another cheat day on keto or cheat meal, and you go straight back into keto diet protocol, then the number of days will be shorter. If you keep being lenient, it’ll be longer.
You can speed things up with a few measures though, such as taking exogenous ketones (these will create more ketones in the body and help you manage flu symptoms), fasting for a few hours the following day or two, getting a workout in, taking an MCT oil shot for an added boost in the metabolism, and drinking ample fluids (non-sweetened, so think water and plain tea or coffee) to fight dehydration and bloating.
- Overall it’s up to you! If you have a birthday party or wedding, you might want to give yourself a cheat day on keto and celebrate. And that’s totally cool—you are human after all. Yet, just know what to expect and take proper action afterwards to get back into ketosis as quickly as possible.
- If you do struggle to get back that keto motivation after cheating on keto, or if the keto flu symptoms and transition back is too difficult on your body, then it might not be worth it in the long run.
- Cheat days are not good for you – let’s be clear – but if it does happen to make you feel better able to stick with keto long term by getting some wiggle room in there and you’re still getting the results you personally are looking for on keto, then it could be good from a mental perspective without doing much physical damage! Yet if the mental and physical struggle to get back into it is too challenging, keto diet cheat days don’t offer any real benefits.