Think You Can Cheato on Keto? Our Nutritionist Weighs In…
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Our Keto Nutritionist explains why cheating on the keto diet is cheating yourself.
How many times have you ever said, “I’m starting a keto diet on Monday?” If you’re like most people, you’ve probably fallen off the diet wagon a few times over the years and found yourself in a position where you had to start over. You’re not alone! It’s common to have great intentions, only to have them crumble when you cheat and break the “rules.”
Many people include “cheat days” or “cheat meals” as part of their diet plans, thinking that the cheating will actually help to keep them on track. But with a keto diet, this way of thinking can negatively affect your weight loss journey and keep you from reaping all the other health benefits of the keto lifestyle.
The keto diet is a low carb, moderate protein, and high-fat way of eating. The purpose is to get your body to burn fat (ketones) for fuel instead of carbs. When your body is burning fat for fuel, you’re in a state of ketosis.
The amount of time it takes a person to get into ketosis can vary. When first starting keto, some people are able to achieve ketosis within a few days, while it might take others a few weeks to adapt to burning fat. The better you are at following a strict keto diet, the more likely you are to be in ketosis and reach your health goals.
Carbs, which turn into glucose when eaten, are the easiest form of energy for the body to burn for fuel. When glucose isn’t available, your body will switch to burning fat for fuel. But as soon as you have carbs, your body will go back to relying on glucose. For many people, a high carb intake leads to weight gain. Your body can’t burn all the carbs you eat and the excess glucose is stored as fat.
It may be tempting to reward yourself on the weekends after doing such a good job following a keto diet during the week. But be careful – as soon as your blood sugars spike, you’ll be out of ketosis.
Weekend cheats can mean that your body will spend Monday through Wednesday getting back into full ketosis. Then, you may be in ketosis for Thursday and Friday, and then switch back to burning glucose on Saturday and Sunday. Cheating will prevent your body from fully adapting to ketosis, and you will never be able to get all the benefits of keto if you’re cheating on the weekend!
Cheating on keto could also lead to cravings and make it more difficult to get back on track. The stricter you are on keto, the less likely you are to have cravings or feel deprived. If you’re just starting a keto diet, it is recommended that you avoid cheating as much as possible.
Now, we do realize that there is no such thing as a perfect diet and slip-ups do happen. When you get off track, acknowledge it, and then get right back on keto. There is nothing you can do except move forward, so do your best to skip the guilt!. Don’t dwell on the pizza, fries, or donuts. Make a plan for what you’ll do next time you find yourself in a tempting situation, and then use these tips for getting back on track!
Going forward, make sure to keep plenty of keto-friendly food in your kitchen. Focus on protein and vegetables at meals. Make sure you’re eating enough fat throughout the day. If you skimp on fats, you’ll end up feeling deprived and hungry, which could cause you to binge on carbs in a moment of weakness.
Fat makes food taste better too, and it will help to keep your taste buds satisfied so you won’t be as tempted to cheat. Use butter, olive oil, coconut oil, cheese, nuts, seeds, full-fat salad dressing, and avocados.
Some other tips to avoid cheating on the keto diet:
- If you’re really craving a certain food, find a keto version. There are countless recipes out there for keto desserts, keto pizza, and keto breads. A keto treat can help to keep you on track!
- Count your macros: Every carb counts, especially on keto. And while it might feel like a lot of work to use software like MyFitnessPal to calculate your nutrition, at least consider this: there ARE fewer carbs to count than calories, so there’s that!
- Wait 20 minutes: That’s usually all it takes to get over that thing you REALLY thought you needed to eat. A small dill pickle is also a fantastic way to satisfy taste buds, especially if you’re craving sweets.
- Take your supplements: Studies suggest L-Glutamine and Chromium Picolinate help with carb cravings. (Of course, talk to your professional medical practitioner if you have questions.)
- Cope with the goofs: Did you sip a regular Coke thinking it was diet? Accidentally lick the frosting from your fingers? It happens to everyone. Just keep moving forward.
- Don’t wait to get back on plan: Did you eat off-plan for dinner? Cave to a Snickers? Don’t wait until tomorrow (or Monday) to keep going. Start with the next bite of food you take. By the time you wake up tomorrow, you’ll have been back on plan for eight or more hours already!
- Not quite ready to fully commit? Check out cyclical keto, also known as carb cycling, and have on and offs days to ease into full keto. You could also just start with a low carb diet and gradually reduce your carb intake over the course of a few weeks until you’ve reached 20-30 grams of carbs a day.
The bottom line is this: Eating keto is like no other diet, and it only works when you’re following the principles of ketogenic eating. This means that “cheat days” aren’t really an option for keto peeps, but once you’ve been eating this way for a while, you’ll find that the benefits are worth staying the course.
Regardless of where you are along your journey to better health, we’re here to support you along the way! ♥