Cheating on the Keto Diet

Cheating On The Keto Diet – Learn How to Resist Carbs!

Cheating On The Keto Diet – Stop Cravings In Their Tracks!

One of the most commonly asked questions asked by people that are just starting out on the keto diet, especially those individuals that are suffering from the keto flu, is ”What are the effects of a cheat meal on keto?”

While this question may seem relatively easy at first sight, there are several variables to a cheat meal that determine the impact on your progress.

A carbfull dessert!
Another important question that arises is why someone is tempted to cheat, as this usually indicates that something is wrong(or unsustainable) about the lifestyle.

Cheats are not supposed to occur if your habits are sustainable, and when they very occasionally do occur – they shouldn’t have been planned in advance, instead they should have ”just happened”.

Why Planning Cheats Is Wrong

The keto diet is not a plan to get lean in a few weeks, while it certainly is the best tool to do just that – you have to keep in mind that the keto diet is a permanent lifestyle change, not a plan to follow for a few weeks – only to ditch it straight after. This will eventually negate the results and cause you to go back to your old (likely overweight) self.

When you are planning cheats, which most likely involve carbohydrates, there is probably something fundamentally wrong with your nutrition, or lifestyle. Once your body is fat adapted – the bacteria in your digestive systems, which greatly affect whether or not you suffer from cravings, will only make you long for the ketogenic foods you are already consuming.

Carbohydrate cravings can have multiple causes:

You are consuming too few calories – If you are aiming for weight loss a simple calculation is to multiple your body weight in pounds x 13, track your progress on the scale and through body fat measurements. Aim to lose 1 pound a week and adjust calories if you are losing more than 2 pounds or less than half a pound a week. Reducing your calories too low can cause your body to crave rapidly accessible fuel, which are of course – carbohydrates.

You are not in ketosis – Reduce your carbohydrate intake too less than 30 grams of net carbs a day or increase fats. The best way to measure your intake of macronutrients(carbs, fats, protein) is to input all the food you consume per day in a food tracking app. My Fitness Pal is an excellent app that I personally use(It’s free to use) You might be surprised by the amount of calories you take in.

You are not consuming enough fiber – To ensure you are finishing your meal with a satiated feeling you have to make sure that you are consuming plenty of fiber and wash it down with enough water in order to allow it to pass through your digestive systems properly. Since fats often aren’t accompanied by fiber as carbohydrates are, you may have to supplement with fiber. I use psyllium husk fiber and eat at least 400 grams of vegetables a day.

You are not getting enough sleep – 7-8 hours a night is optimal to allow your body to recover, any less and you will not only suffer from irritability & impaired recovery – but you will also have to deal with sugar cravings caused by unstable blood sugar levels.

Your protein intake is too low – While the SKD(Standard Ketogenic Diet) calls for a moderate protein intake of about 20% of your daily calories, I have found that consuming more protein and slightly less fat that what is recommended for the SKD improves my satiety and reduces my cravings. I tend to take in around 30% of my daily calories from protein, this is especially viable for people that perform exercise on a regular basis. If you are having trouble taking in these amounts of protein, I recommend that you supplement with a keto protein shake like the Ketologic Meal Replacement shake which has the right ratios to keep you in ketosis.

These are some of the most commonly encountered issues that cause carb, or sugar cravings. Once you implement the steps above your body will get back in balance and you should not experience these cravings anymore, or on a much less regular basis.

On a side note; it is not uncommon when you are just starting out with keto(anywhere within 6 weeks of starting) that you are experiencing severe cravings despite adhering to all the steps above. The reason for this is that your body is still transitioning from burning glucose(carbs), to fats. The only solution for this is to keep up what you are doing and to give your body time to adapt to this new superior source of fuel.

Will A Cheat Meal Hinder My Progress?

Depending on where you are in your keto journey, a carby cheat can have a different degree of impact on your progress.

A Pizza

Lets say you have been religiously sticking to keto for 6 months and you have a serving of sweet potatoes along with your usual servings of fats and protein. Since you are completely fat adapted at this point, and the carbs that you do consume have a low glycemic index(they are absorbed at a slow rate) it likely won’t affect you very much. Depending on the quantity of the serving your ketone readings will probably be the exact same.

On the other hand if you have only been on the keto bandwagon for a couple of weeks, and you aren’t fat adapted yet – taking in carbohydrates, especially on their own(without fats and protein) will most likely kick you out of ketosis and it may take longer for your body to become fat adapted. The type of carbohydrates will also determine the impact on your ketone levels, candy(high glycemic) will have a larger impact than oats or sweet potatoes(low glycemic)

Fasting Your Way Back Into Ketosis

If you have just indulged on a carby cheat meal, and you now feel tremendously guilty for doing so – there is a way to give your body a boost which will get you back into ketosis faster. The solution is fasting.

I advise you not to fast too rigorously, despite the fact that you probably feel the urge to fast for one week straight – this is not a good idea since the carbohydrates have caused unstable & fluctuating blood sugar levels. If you fast for too long straight after this there is an increased chance of another carb cheat.

My recommendation is to fast for 14-16 hours after your cheat meal, this will not get you right back into ketosis, but it will get you there a lot faster.

Read also: Intermittent Fasting With Keto – The Complete Beginners Guide

Conclusion

Rather than treating the symptoms of cravings that result in cheat meals, it is important to look at the cause.

Consume enough vegetables, fiber and protein to feel full, make sure your sleep schedule is on point, and if you are just beginning with the keto lifestyle give your body enough time to get used to the new source of fuel you are feeding it with, fats.

Think about how you have primarily fed your body carbohydrates(glucose) your entire life, and now all of a sudden it is deprived of that fuel source that it knows so well how to burn. Makes sense that you start to desire them, right?

The good news is that after the first 2 weeks the desire for carbs will gradually diminish until around 6 weeks in, when you won’t even think about them anymore.

Instead of cheating with a snack/meal that is off-limits on the keto diet, I have always found it to be a fun challenge to find a viable, or direct alternative to the food that you are craving that is keto approved. My recipe for keto avocado brownies, for instance, tastes the exact same as their carby counterparts and are completely sugar free!

What are your tips on overcoming cravings? What is your best tip on getting back on track if you did have a cheat meal?

I’d love to read about it in the comment section below 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Bryan

 

7 thoughts on “Cheating On The Keto Diet – Learn How to Resist Carbs!”

  1. Hello Bryan,

    Great article, thank you for your knowledge on this subject. I think for many people it will be difficult to resist those carbs from time to time. But once you get adapted to keto you don’t even want to take those old snacks anymore! At least thats how it worked for me! I love keto and I feel much better in general…. like less nervous.

    I hope many more people will discover the amazing benefits of keto and this article will be a great start in resisting that old carb heavy lifestyle!

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • It is the first couple of weeks that are generally the part where people either stick with the keto diet for the long haul, or quit it altogether.

      In this transition phase you may experience severe carbohydrate cravings, headaches, fatigue & moodswings. While it is pretty normal for people to think that these symptoms are caused by switching to the keto diet – it is that way of thinking that is flawed.

      If you were living on a keto diet and transitioning to a carb diet from one day to the other you would experience similar symptoms as the formerly mentioned ones. This is simply caused by your metabolism – it doenst know how to run on fats yet if you come off a carby diet, or vice versa for that matter.

      As soon as your metabolism, pancreas, liver, and digestive systems have adapted to your new eating habits with fat as its main source of fuel you will find that your energy levels have increased back to baseline – many people report even higher than on their previous carbohydrate rich diets – all while burning your body fat as fuel for your body to run on.

      If you do still feel the need to occassionally indulge in carbohydrate rich snacks, just substitute those for their ketogenic counterparts. There are dozens of recipes from brownies, to pizza, to ice cream & cookies – all free of sugar and made with natural non-bloodsugarspiking sweeteners such as monkfruit, stevia & erythritol.

      Bryan

      Reply
  2. Cheat meals can be really hard to avoid sometimes. I find it often happens at get-togethers or when you are out and need a quick bite to eat. However, there are two methods I use to keep from going for a cheat meal. The first is to not go shopping while hungry. Not only could this lead to a cheat meal, but it could lead to buying snacks that will really throw you off your routine. The second is to plan ahead. When you plan, there is less of a chance that you will even have the ingredients, if you are home, to make a cheat meal. If you are out, planning can also save you from purchasing that quick bite that can really throw you off as well. 

    Thanks for writing this article as I found the tips to be really helpful!

    Reply
  3. Hello Brian,

    Great that you cover this because I was struggling with Carbohydrate cravings myself all the time. The hints you listed as why this happens really helps me out here. I found out the source of my cravings in that my protein intake was too low! The shake you listed might help me out here because i’m a very busy person and I don’t have the time to make protein meals all day 😉

    Excellent article, it helped me out!

    Reply
    • Hello Dorcas,

      Upping your protein intake with every meal is indeed a surefire way to promote satiety, and hence let the weight loss commence.
      I’ve found that taking in protein helps even more when you consume an extra protein shake about 20 minutes prior to a meal, this is enough time between the shake and the meal for the hormone leptin to be secreted which signals your brain that you require less food.

      If you pair this shake with a tablespoon of psyllium husk fiber(you can even mix it through the shake), and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar you will induce even more satiety, as well blunting the insulin response – that consuming protein may cause to a small extent.

      Cheers!
      Bryan

      Reply
  4. Quite often I find myself struggling to keep it up with Keto, especially when everyone around me goes full on carbs. I try to remember my own goals on those moments and focus the things that Keto has improved in my life.
    I sleep much better and I feel fitter in general, I recommend everyone to do the same if you struggle!

    It may be hard, especially in the beginning, but there are tons of great Keto approved snack that you will grow to love in time like the ones Bryan mentioned in his article about the Keto Box.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this Bryan!

    Reply
    • Hey Roderick,

      The first few weeks are the toughtest to keep up with the diet. I recommend that whenever you feel a craving coming up you drink a lot of water, or ingest something that is keto approved – like a keto meal replacement shake, or like you mentioned – keto snacks that are identical in taste to the carbohydrate versions.

      I know it can sometimes be tough, but i promise you that you will feel accomplished & proud of yourself once you have ‘beaten’ your craving – if you will 🙂

      Keep up the good work!

      Bryan

      Reply

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