Eating healthy and following a diet requires a decent amount of willpower and discipline, especially as a beginner. When times get tough and the cravings kick in, eating junk food is almost inevitable. Most diets, including keto, allow you to have a couple cheat meals here and there, as it is been shown to help you stick to your goals in the long term.
The Downsides to Cheat Meals on Keto
On the ketogenic diet, the more you cheat at the beginning, the harder it will become to turn this way of eating into a sustainable lifestyle. Here are the disadvantages to having cheat meals on keto:
Hinders Your Fat Adaptation
Your body has to make specific changes to your metabolism to ensure effective fat-burning on the ketogenic diet. It can only run on one primary fuel source at a time:
- Glucose from carbohydrates
- Or ketones from dietary and stored body fat
The more you eat carbohydrates, the less efficient your body becomes in using fats as a primary source of energy. This means more frequent cheat meals make it more likely that you’ll forsake the health benefits that come with being in a state of ketosis.
Increases Keto Flu Symptoms
Symptoms of the “keto flu,” like headaches, brain fog, and low energy, are likely to be exacerbated when you teeter between eating lots of carbohydrates and then back to the low-carb ketogenic diet. Cheat meals can cause you to fall into a vicious cycle of going back and forth between eating keto and junk food. This constant teeter can worsen your “keto flu” symptoms.
Knocks You Out of Ketosis
The only way to get stay in a state of ketosis is by keeping glycogen stores empty. When you cheat with carbohydrates, you’re temporarily refilling your body’s glycogen storages.
Getting kicked out of ketosis frequently will delay your health and fitness goals on the low carb, high fat diet.
The Right Way to Have Cheat Meals on Keto
There are a few ways to approach cheat meals when you are eating a low carb, high fat diet. Here are three effective methods that will allow you to enjoy a cheat meal here and there without having to sacrifice your ketosis efforts.
Eat Keto Foods During Your Cheat Meals
Instead of binging on processed carbs like donuts and bread to satisfy your cravings, consider eating ketogenic-friendly foods instead. For example, if you have sugar craving, make yourself a quick keto fat bomb instead of reaching for cookies. Or prepare for one of the many delicious keto dessert recipes in the Carb Manager app.
Incorporate a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) allows you to eat carbohydrates one to two days out of the week to help with athletic performance. If you are experienced with keto and live an active lifestyle, adopting a CKD is a great way to backload your cravings for one day out of the week while still experiencing the benefits of a fat-burning state.
Exercise After Cheating
Your body’s insulin sensitivity is greatly improved after working out. This means you can tolerate and deplete glucose (from carbs) more effectively by exercising. If you accidentally had a large cheat meal, exercising a couple hours later will help you burn off those carbohydrate calories so you can start burning ketones for energy again.