We all know that keto isn’t a walk in the park, especially not at first. If you’re used to eating carbs and sugars regularly, keto is a big departure from that. You may be wondering what the “rules” are around cheating while on keto. Because keto is such a scientific diet, relying on very specific macronutrient intakes, it’s a little more confusing to navigate than other diets.
The big question for many people before and during the keto diet is “what if one day I completely fall off the wagon and eat carbs and sugars?”. “Will my cheating be catastrophic or is it not so bad?”. “What are the rules?!”. These are all perfectly reasonable questions, especially when there are always so many temptations around us.
Let’s have a chat about keto “cheating” and how to make the ketogenic diet a little more flexible with a method called keto cycling…
Does cheating completely ruin everything?
Cheating on keto is basically eating over the carbohydrate allowance. This is simply because if you eat too many carbs, ketosis will be knocked over. However, I think “cheating” is a terrible word when talking about dieting, as it suggests we are under the pressure of some almighty diet god as opposed to being in control of ourselves. If you are on keto and you want to take a break, I wouldn’t call it cheating, I’d call it being in charge of your choices.
But does cheating on keto ruin all of the hard-earned progress? Well, it will likely take you out of ketosis, but this isn’t the end of the world by any means. However, if you are on keto for a specific health reason, talk to your doctor before deviating from the diet. (This article is aimed specifically toward people who are on the keto diet for fat loss and energy reasons).
If you happen to have a day or two of non-keto eating and then you get back on track, nothing terrible will happen. Promise. You might even find that you stick to your keto diet for longer and more accurately once you’ve had a little indulgence. Some people even find that by taking a break and eating a more calorie or carb-dense meal once in a while, their weight loss starts up again after a plateau.
It’s up to how you feel as an individual. If you’re really unsure, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or nutritionist about how to best approach your keto routine. That way, you can go about the diet confidently and with a steady plan. If not? Then go ahead and follow diet as best you can, while listening to your body and taking breaks if you need to.
The key is to choose the most nutrient-dense non-keto foods you can if you decide to take a break. If you go straight for the donuts and garlic bread you’ll likely feel tired, bloated, sick and sore. The shock to your system might not be worth the treat. But if you go for whole grains such as oats or brown rice, or a banana smoothie with honey you’ll feel satisfied but not ill. In other words…take a break but make it a smart one.
Can I do keto on and off...the keto cycle?
So, you may or may not have heard of keto cycling. To be honest, when I first read about it I thought “yes! That sounds awesome!”. Keto cycling is basically when you do keto most of the time and eat carbs some of the time. For some people, this is the perfect way to balance a low-carb diet during the week with a social weekend life.
Keto cycling is generally opted for when an all-out, 100% keto diet is too difficult to maintain and too taxing on the mind. It can also help to lessen symptoms of “keto flu” and helps with a more balanced, varied diet while still remaining relatively low carb. The great thing is that you can enjoy very healthy, plant-based carbs such as beans, lentils, oats, sweet potatoes and whole grain sourdough bread.
Keto cycling is a good way to incorporate carbs into a less restrictive diet without having the mindset of “cheating” or ruining your diet. If you’ve decided to follow a keto cycle, then your carb-containing meals are not cheating, they’re simply part of the plan!
At the end of the day, you are in control of your diet and your body. The ketogenic diet is very restrictive and isn’t for everybody. However, you can make it more malleable by practising keto cycling which allows you to eat in a more relaxed fashion for a small part of the week.
If you’re going to follow the keto diet, (cycling or not) you must remember to eat enough food in order to keep your metabolism running and healthy. And remember, the keto diet is a low-carb diet, not a serious calorie restriction diet. As long as you’re nourishing yourself properly, you can cater the keto life to suit you. And as for “cheating?”, scrap that word from your diet vocabulary and follow your gut.