- A guide to low-carb & keto diet cheating
- 1. Bad and less bad reasons to cheat
- 2. Side effects of cheating
- 3. Cheating without cheating
- 4. Cheating smart
- 5. Finally: Getting back on track – fast
- Will a cheat day throw me out of ketosis?
- How long does it take to get back into ketosis?
- You may go through the keto flu again.
- So should you cheat?
- But is getting kicked out of ketosis really the end of the world?
- Then what’s the point of ketosis anyway?
- What happens when you get kicked out of ketosis?
- What are the downsides to getting kicked out of keto?
- How do you avoid getting kicked out of ketosis?
- Can you have carbs AND keto?
- The Bottom Line
- Is Keto Cycling Healthy? Here’s What to Know About the Controversial Diet
- Disadvantages of Keto Cheat Days
- Implementing a Keto Cheat Day the “Right” Way
- There Are Plenty of Conscious Ways to Have a Keto Cheat Day
- How Long Does it Take to Get Into Ketosis and Keto-Adapt?
- Endogenous vs. Exogenous Ketosis
- Testing for Ketosis
- How Long Does it Take to Get into Ketosis?
- Keto Adaptation
- What Happens in the Body After Keto Adaptation?
- How Will I Know if I’m Keto Adapted?
- Adapt and Advance
- What Is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet? Everything You Need to Know
- Lowers Inflammation
- Balances Blood Sugar and Your Mood
- Improves Mental Performance
- Gives You Energy
- Ends Carb and Sugar Cravings
- Helps you Lose Weight
- Slows Down the Aging Process
- Reduces Your Risk of Chronic Disease
- Follicular Phase
- Luteal Phase
- Increase Healthy Fats
- Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: Is it Right for You?
- How Cyclical Keto Works
- Eating a Cyclical Keto Diet
- Cyclical Keto vs. Carb Cycling
- Benefits of Cyclical Keto
- Downsides to Cyclical Keto
- Is the Diet Right for You?
- What Is Carb Cycling?
- Is Carb Cycling the Same Thing as the Cyclical Keto Diet?
- Health Benefits of Carb Cycling
- How to Implement Carb Cycling
- Carb Cycling Could Support Your Keto Diet Goals
- All right, what exactly is keto cycling?
- How does keto cycling work?
- So, will I lose weight doing keto cycling?
- Should I try keto cycling?
- What Are Carb Cravings?
- 7 Reasons Why You Get Carb Cravings (+ How to Stop Them)
- #1: You’re Limiting Carbs Too Slowly
- #2 Your Macros May Need Tweaking
- #3: You Forgot About Fiber
- #4. You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
- #5. You’re Stressed, Bored or Prone to Emotional Eating
- #6. You’re Still Cheating or Doing “Lazy” Keto
- #7. Hidden Carbs May Be Sabotaging Your Work
- Carb Cravings Fade. Your Desire to Stay Keto is Stronger
- Carb Cravings on Keto (Spoiler: You’re Stronger Than You Think)
- What Does a Carb Craving Feel Like?
- Why We Get Cravings
- Are Cravings Worse on Keto?
- How to Deal With Carb Cravings
- Carb Cravings Will Go Away
- #1. Try Limiting Carbs at Once (Instead of Slowly Lowering the Amount)
- #2. If Necessary, Eat Until Full in The First Couple of Days, Without Restricting Calories Too Much
- #3. Be Patient – The First Couple of Days Are The Most Difficult
- #4. Watch Out For Hidden Carbs
- #5. Try Eating Pickles
- #6. Don’t Cheat (Especially In The Beginning)
- #7. Eat Whole Foods
- #8. Experiment With Different Keto Recipes
- #9. Drink More Water
- #10. Have a Keto-Friendly Snack
- #11. What Do You Really Crave and What Are You Trying To Satisfy?
- Bonus Tip: Remember Your WHY
A guide to low-carb & keto diet cheating
By Jennifer Calihan, Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD – Updated November 27, 2019
To cheat or not to cheat? That is the eternal question.
Almost everyone is occasionally tempted – are you? This five-part guide will help you think through low-carb cheating… and if you do decide to cheat, it will help you do it smarter.
In truth, we dislike the term “cheating.” We us it since many people relate to it, but what does it really mean? Does it mean you are “getting away with something?” Does it mean you are gaining something unfairly? What it really means is that you are just cheating on yourself. That’s why we prefer the term “going off plan.” That shows we have a plan, we are moving towards a goal, and sometimes we go off plan. And sometimes that’s OK, as you will read in this guide. However, since “cheat” is a commonly used term that many people relate to, we do use it frequently in this guide.
1. Bad and less bad reasons to cheat
Why cheat? Some reasons are better than others.
Politeness or wanting to fit in
Aunt Martha will get over it when you skip her gooey dessert. Your dining companion’s surprise when you swap out potatoes for extra veggies is typically fleeting. Don’t overplay others’ interest or investment in your personal dietary choices.
Remember, people are usually wrapped up in their own experience and quickly move on from yours.
However, some people do get overly curious about your food choices. When that happens, be ready with a line like, “I’m sorry, I have a sensitive stomach.”
An impulsive reach into that bowl of candy is an unsatisfying cheat. A last minute decision to eat a few of those cold French fries on your kid’s plate is rarely that satisfying.
Planned cheating can empower – random cheating undermines. Be true to yourself and stick to your cheating plan.
Grabbing a mediocre two-day-old sandwich from a gas station is a wasted cheat. Anything worth cheating on yourself for is, by definition, delicious. That stale sandwich is not.
Keep quality low-carb emergency food in your car, purse, or briefcase so you never cheat because you are starving.
- For tips about on-the-go low-carb foods, check out our travel guide.
- For great snack ideas, check out our low-carb snack guide.
- For how to eat at restaurants and eateries, check out “How to Eat Low-Carb When Dining Out”.
Less bad reasons
To stick with low-carb long term
A low-carb lifestyle lasts forever – if you go back to your old ways, the unwanted illness or pounds will creep back into your life.
Although it sounds counter-intuitive, occasional, deliberate cheating can help some people stick with their low-carb lifestyle forever. Here’s how:
- Knowing you can cheat occasionally reduces the feeling of deprivation.
- Planned exceptions can help keep you from feeling deprived of a favorite indulgence.
- Deliberate cheating gives your diet a bit more variety and makes you more flexible.
Most of us don’t have to be perfect. Cheat consciously and then immediately return to the healthy low-carb lifestyle you love.
Some of us, however, will have a more difficult time getting back on plan after a temporary detour. Which camp are you in? You may have to experiment to find out, but the resulting knowledge is empowering and will help you decide if planned diversions will work or not.
To take advantage of rare opportunities
Your favorite dessert – pumpkin pie – made just once a year by a dear family friend… perhaps this is a time to make an exception to your no-dessert rule.
Or that carefully spiced pyramid of couscous, served with stewed meat on your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Morocco… again, perhaps this is a worthy exception (if you like couscous).
Cutting yourself some slack to savor unique moments or unique flavors is probably a good use of your ‘cheating allowance.’
But keep in mind that birthday cake in the break room is not a rare or special occasion.
2. Side effects of cheating
So, there are bad and better reasons to cheat. What are the typical side effects of cheating?
Hunger and cravings
Many carbs make you hungry. You know this if you have given them up for any meaningful period of time. Cheating means potentially inviting hunger and cravings back into your life.
Proceed with caution – you could end up in trouble.
Cheating nearly always leads to immediate weight gain. First, too many carbs put your body back in fat-storing mode. Second, carbs can lead to hunger and cravings hence you eat more. Third, the water weight associated with high-carb diets returns.
Want to look and feel your best? Cheat rarely and carefully.
Blood sugar spikes
If you are keeping diabetes at bay with your low-carb or keto diet, cheating is generally a bad idea. When you eat too many or the wrong type of carbs, your blood sugar can spike to dangerously high levels. Over the long run you increase the risk of long-term complications like blindness, dementia, amputations, etc.
On the other hand, every time you manage to avoid a cheat, you’re one step closer to reversing your type 2 diabetes.1
For those with diabetes or prediabetes, the price of cheating may be too high.
Sickness and acne
For some of us, cheating can lead to dramatic and fairly immediate setbacks – bloating, stomach upset, gas, or even seizures (if you have epilepsy). Some people get acne and other types of skin trouble, too.
If this happens to you, is cheating really worth it?
One of the most annoying effects of cheating is that you often don’t feel great after having cheated. In addition to weight gain, blood sugar spikes and so forth, your mood can suffer – enthusiasm, focus, and confidence fall.
This is tough – and with hindsight, makes the decision to cheat seem questionable.
For those of you who are sugar (or carb) addicts, it’s potentially really dangerous to cheat. Sugar addiction is likely real.2 Eventhough debate exists, many scientists agree that sugar is psychoactive – it triggers the reward centers in your brain (similar to other addictive drugs). As a result, relapse can be immediate.
What can happen when an alcoholic grabs just one drink? The same can happen to a sugar addict, and you may end up going off the rails. Moderation is not an option for some, and the only safe choice may be complete abstinence.
For more on how to manage food addiction and compulsive eating, check out our video course with Bitten Jonsson.
Cheating on yourself
Finally, let’s be clear about what cheating means. Simply put, ‘to cheat’ means:
- to take something from someone by breaking a rule; or
- to prevent someone from having something that he or she deserves or was expecting to get.
Remember this: when you stray from your low-carb lifestyle, the someone who loses out is you. You are not cheating on ‘a diet’ – you are cheating on yourself.
3. Cheating without cheating
Is it possible to cheat without guilt or bad side effects? Certainly. These tips will teach you how to cheat without cheating.
Make low-carb substitutes
Dying for some pizza? Before digging into an unhealthy and probably mediocre pizza that will make you bloated, how about eating the delicious and healthy keto pizza?
Jonesing for some bread? Skip the blood sugar spike from a traditional loaf and instead eat this totally awesome keto bread instead!
Crave dessert? Before going for unhealthy options, try fat bombs, frozen treats, and brownies! You’ll love them.
There are more fantastic low-carb recipes for many of the comfort foods you crave. Cheat by eating these substitutes and you’ll enjoy fantastic flavors without the guilt. That’s cheating without cheating.
Cheat your mind with this delay tactic
Tempted to eat that chocolate croissant on the breakfast buffet? Tell yourself, “I can have it, I’m just going to eat something else first.” Then, load up on scrambled eggs and crispy bacon and other low-carb favorites. Eat as much as you want. What happens? Your croissant craving is so diminished you don’t even want it anymore. Well done!
Tempted to eat dessert at the dinner party you’re attending? Tell yourself, “I’ll wait and have chocolate when I get back home instead.” Later, at home, time has passed and your food environment has changed – you’re no longer watching friends inhale a tempting dessert. This reduces your urge for something sweet and makes it easier to skip the chocolate – and dessert – entirely!
These are examples of the mind games many of us play to avoid cheating. They work. Use them to help yourself stay on-plan.
If you really want to stay away from cheating – if you have a sugar addiction for example – use this classic tool. Tell yourself that yes, you can have what you want – tomorrow. Absolutely not today, but tomorrow you can have it.
Of course, tomorrow you’ll use the same tool.
Cheat your cravings with low-carb snacks
Feeling hungry and crave carbs? Having low-carb snacks at hand is a great way to kill those feelings before they overpower you.
Bring low-carb snacks such as walnuts, macadamia nuts or Babybel cheese with you at all times. When a craving strikes, act quickly and eat low-carb food before you cave into high-carb temptations.
For more great snack ideas, check out our low-carb snack guide.
If intermittent fasting, cheat with fat
If you are fasting intermittently it can sometimes be a little hard to get through the day without eating. If you find yourself tempted to break your fast before you planned to, do it with pure fat – coconut oil or butter in coffee or tea are great choices.
Doing this will take the edge off your hunger without knocking you out of the fat burning state intermittent fasting delivers.
4. Cheating smart
While we don’t encourage cheating, we do want you to cheat in the smartest way possible if you do. Cheat smart with these nine tips:
Be in charge and cheat consciously. You are cheating on yourself, so cheat in the best way possible. Do you do better with a strict daily regimen with an occasional day off? Or, will you feel less deprived with a small, daily off-plan indulgence? Can you maintain weight while cheating twice a week? Know thyself.
Writing down your intentions can help. Try this:
- Keep track of your cheating – write down when you cheat and what happened. A log will help you gauge how much you are cheating and understand the side effects.
- Set clear rules about the frequency and type of cheating you will and won’t allow. Write them down and post them in the kitchen.
Cheat with foods that are not high in carbs
This one is obvious, but so many people miss it. Cheat with the least bad choice possible. If you must eat regular pizza, thin crust is better than thick.
If you have decided to splurge on dessert, is there a cup of chocolate mousse or piece of cheesecake that will be lower-carb than that slice of frosted layer cake? All three are sweet, but the mousse and cheesecake contain more fat and fewer carbs than frosted layer cake.
Just because you are cheating doesn’t mean you have to throw all caution to the wind. Minimize the damage.
Cheat with small portions
When eating carbs, the less carbs you eat, the better. If you decide it is worth it to eat something off-limits, how about a taste – just one bite?
For example, if you crave a sweet finish to your meal, a bite of someone else’s dessert is a better choice than ordering your own. And ordering one dessert to share with your companion is better than ordering one for each of you.
Don’t be afraid to leave sugary or starchy cheat foods on your plate after just one or two bites. Go ahead – waste the rest without regret. Finishing a carb cheat when you don’t really want it is not smart.
Cheat after a meal
Yes, your grandmother was right when she insisted you eat that chocolate chip cookie after you finished your lunch. The timing of your food really does matter.
Starting with healthy low-carb or keto dishes reduces your appetite for the bad stuff so you will cheat less. Additionally, eating protein and fat first slows down the absorption of glucose into your blood and reduces the intensity of your blood sugar spike.
Cheat late in the day
Stick with your low-carb lifestyle during the day and only consider eating carbs after dinner. This helps in two ways – it limits the window for cheating and keeps your body in low-carb mode for the majority of the day. If you are taking advantage of mild ketosis, cheating late maximizes the time you spend burning ketones.
Cheat with less sugar
Once adapted to low-carb eating, your tastes change – especially your sensitivity to sugar. Sweet treats that used to taste just right will now taste too sweet. Take advantage of this natural improvement in your palate’s sensitivity. Go darker on the chocolate; put less sugar in your yogurt.
Whatever it is, when it comes to sugar, less is more.
Cheat with added fat
Dilute the carbs! Add butter to bread, cream to peaches, and cheese to crackers.
If you pair your carb cheat with delicious fats you will eat less of the carb yet feel more satisfied. Plus, you will slow down the absorption of glucose into your blood and reduce the resulting blood sugar spike, which means less insulin, less hunger… all good.
Cheat with food that matters to you
Make your carbs count. Don’t settle for that ordinary, supermarket-made lemon square your neighbor brought to the potluck. Instead, wait for your favorite – a sliver of lemon meringue pie – from the corner bakery.
Choose what you love and save your cheating for exactly that.
Cheat before or after activity
Cheating before or right after vigorous activity is the least bad time to cheat. If you eat carbs before a workout, your activity will burn off some of them so they don’t make it to your fat stores.
If you cheat immediately after a workout, your glycogen stores are depleted so some of the carbs you eat will replenish glycogen rather than convert to fat.
Don’t over-estimate the effect of exercise though… it’s not as important as most people think. While activity can reduce the damage of occasional cheating, you simply can’t outrun a bad diet.
5. Finally: Getting back on track – fast
When it comes to cheating an old saying applies – Get right back on the horse! When you have cheated, even if you broke your own rules, don’t beat yourself up. Remember that it sometimes happens to everyone – yes, everyone. So just get right back on the low-carb track.
Anticipate extra hunger and cravings
Prepare yourself for the extra hunger and extra cravings that typically come after cheating. Double down, recommit, and don’t look back. You can do this!
Learn from your cheat
Analyze the situation that led to cheating. Understanding your craving triggers and eating behaviors can help you avoid future setbacks. It is a process – keep learning and improving.
Beating yourself up for having cheated is not helpful. Be kind to yourself. Low carb, like life, is a journey – detours do happen. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep your eye on your long-term goal and return to low carb with confidence.
This not only helps you feel better – it also helps you succeed. Feeling bad just diminishes willpower and makes it easier to fall for more temptations, in a vicious cycle. Instead aim to forgive yourself instantly. It’s done, it’s over, it was a small thing in the grand scheme of things.
Feel good, knowing that you’re back on track now – that’s all you can do, and it’s all that matters.
A final word
Remember – cheating is a tool. Like any tool, it can help or it can harm. Maybe cheating isn’t right for you. Maybe it is. But if you do decide to cheat, do it smart. Develop great habits with deliberate exceptions.
And if you do decide it’s time for an exception, then enjoy every bite!
This Diet Doctor guide was written by Jenni Calihan, who also blogs at EatTheButter.org. Editing by Andreas Eenfeldt, MD.
What are your best tips for how to cheat on low carb? Please let us know in the comments below.
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If you’re on the keto diet, you might be wondering if you get a pass here and there on Thanksgiving and throughout the upcoming holiday season. I mean, grandma’s cornbread, green bean casserole, pecan pie and boozy cocktails—it’s hard to say no to these festive favorites you look forward to each year.
Holiday season or not, is it possible to take an occasional cheat day on your keto diet to splurge on some high-carb foods? Will one cheat day knock you out of ketosis and wreck all your progress?
Here’s what you need to know if you’re on the keto diet, but are looking to take a few hours off.
Will a cheat day throw me out of ketosis?
There’s no getting around this one: Yes, you will fall out of ketosis.
“As soon as you introduce carbohydrates to your system, the body will use them preferentially for fuel,” saysGinger Hultin, MS, RDN, CSO, Seattle-based dietitian and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
It’ll stay that way until you begin your keto regimen again.
“You’ll have to return to the ketogenic diet the next day and stay committed to the macronutrient ratios in order to get back into ketosis,” she explains. That means you really can’t forego your keto diet for a temporary binge—unless you want to start all over again when you’re done.
What’s more, it doesn’t matter if you eat half a pumpkin pie or just take a few bites. “It’s anything that pushes you over your net carbs,” she says. “Even one bite could do it, depending on what it was. Juice, soda, candy will meet that limit in small amounts.”
Matthew BoyerGetty Images
How long does it take to get back into ketosis?
The amount of time it takes to get back into that coveted fat-burning zone will vary based on the person, but it generally takes one to three days. “Getting back in is likely different for each person, and it depends on the level of carb restriction you choose to do,” Hultin says.
If you’re used to restricting to a maximum—and then suddenly introduce carbs—it could take longer to get back into ketosis. Likewise, if you eat a ton of carbs on a cheat day—rather than just a few extra grams—it may also take a little extra time.
“The body stores blood sugar as energy in the blood, liver and muscles,” she explains. “The more you have stored, the longer it will take the body to burn through it and get back into ketosis.”
And don’t forget, everyone’s metabolism is a little different, so there’s variation in when and how each person gets into in ketosis.
You may go through the keto flu again.
“When you go back to a ketogenic diet after being off it for a day or a period of time, you can easily get back to the diet the next day—but it will take a couple days to get the body back into the state of ketosis,” Hultin says.
You may experience “keto flu” symptoms again, depending on your metabolism and what kind of keto break you took. You might also have headaches, nausea, fatigue, stomach pain and body aches, brain fog, and mood swings.
Ugh—perhaps that cheating spree isn’t worth it after all.
So should you cheat?
It depends on various factors, including whether your keto diet is doctor-mandated.
“Many people are using the ketogenic diet for a medical treatment, and so they need to be on it all the time with no breaks,” Hultin explains.” Doctors and dietitians can guide each individual on if it’s safe or not to take breaks.”
In other cases, it depends on how you move forward after your big cheat day.
“Some people do well with taking breaks from a restrictive diet, while others have a hard time getting back into it,” Hultin says. “If you are finding yourself needing to take breaks or having trouble getting back into it, I’d raise the question, as a dietitian: Is this the right diet for you? Is it too restrictive?”
Isadora Baum Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and author of 5-Minute Energy.
Grandma is coming to town. She’s missed you dearly. So much so that she’s taking you out to Italian tonight.
No avocados or almond butter for you. You’re eating pizza and pasta tonight.
You’re insulin is probably spiking reading this. You’re…. breaking keto. (unless you make this keto pizza!)
What will happen?
Getting kicked out of ketosis sounds awful. Like getting kicked out of a party. Or getting kicked out of school.
But is it really that bad? Can we hop right back in after a “cheat day”? Or is our keto mission derailed, along with all weight loss and well-being?
In this post we’ll look at the science of eating carbs while in on the keto diet. And we’ll answer the burning question… what happens when you get kicked out of ketosis.
Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We’ll even show you some tricks for getting right back into ketosis after indulging.
But is getting kicked out of ketosis really the end of the world?
Have you ever read something like this on a low-carb forum?
“… and then I found it had MALITOL in it. I ATE CARBS. I’m not gonna be able to sleep tonight. My body just can’t handle carbs like it used to.”
Are you right to have a full-blown freakout after eatings carbs?
First understand this: ketosis and fat-adaptation. Two similar, but different things.
You can be fat-adapted, but not in ketosis.
Ketosis owns the name, but fat-adapted is what we really want.
Keto-authority Dr. Timothy Noaks explains:
“Fat adapted means that your whole body is adapted to burn more fat – from your brains to your muscles. It takes about 6 weeks.
If you become fat-adapted, you burn an enormous amount of fat during exercise. And you conserve carbohydrates. That’s how we measure fat-adaptation.
Fat adaptation is no small feat – remember you’ve been running off glucose almost your entire life.
You changed your cells, mitochondria, and liver to make this happen. An oven-toasted bagel ain’t gonna take you back. Not even a juicy slice of pecan pie. No, it would require a full return to the carb life (and who wants that?!) to spoil your fat-adapted benefits.
Much of keto’s magic is due to fat-adaptation. The fat-adapted person can:
- Stay full between meals. Fewer cravings and thus excess calories.
- Burn body fat and lose weight. The better you can oxidize your own body fat for energy, the easier you can lose weight.
- Improve athletic performance. Your body can store far more energy in fat than as glycogen. This is why you’ll see marathon runners slurping those gooey starchy packets on the trail. Evidence is showing fat-adapted athletes can outperform their carb-hooked competitors.
As long as the fat-adapted state is not compromised, many of keto’s benefits will continue. And it would take you weeks of dedicated “cheating” for this to happen.
Then what’s the point of ketosis anyway?
Ketosis means ketones are being produced in the liver from fatty acids.
This happens when liver glycogen (stored glucose) runs low. The body goes into starvation mode and turns on an alternate fuel source.
Fasting or eating a ketogenic high-fat, low-carb diet will start this process within a day or two.
Ketosis also gives us some unique advantages. Here’s Dr. Noaks again:
“Ketone bodies are remarkable because they are the only type of fat that is water-soluble. They circulate in the bloodstream and can be used as a fuel by the muscles and the brain.”
Your body is constantly making ketones. You probably have some after waking up after a long slumber. Okay, then what’s ketosis?
Once you cut carbs, ketone levels build up in your blood. Once your concentrations hit .5 mMol, you’re in. Why .5? Because that’s what keto’s inventors decided.
So the higher the ketone level, the better, right?
It’s not that simple.
You produce a lot of ketones once you start the diet. Then as you become fat-adapted, your levels decline. This is because your muscles learn to run off free fatty acids, and no longer need ketones for fuel (but your brain still does!).
These are all good things. You’re now burning fat at a higher rate.
But that darn blood meter is showing lower levels. No bragging points for you.
Ketosis is a transient state. It’s easy to get in, and even easier to get out. Down a glass of MCT oil powder and you’re in deep. Eat a pizza and you’re out.
You can fall out of ketosis by exercising. Good ole’ stress can do it too. This is because stress raises insulin, which lowers ketones production. Ketosis is a fickle thing.
High ketone levels can be a good thing. Many claim high ketone levels enhance their mood and boost their brain.
Our advice is to go by how you feel. The ketone meter can become an obsession, a source of joy or shame based on the day’s reading.
Forget the scary-sounding “getting kicked out of ketosis” and focus on what really matters… long-term fat-adaptation.
A carb meal will kick you out of ketosis, but it will not kick you out of fat-adaptation. Think of ketosis as a number on a screen, a point-in-time reading, while fat-adaptation is a long-term change in your metabolic function.
The longer you stay in a fat-adapted state, the less you need to worry about getting kicked out of ketosis. But if you are just starting out, save those cheat days for a rainy day!
And if the thought of a cheat day gives you anxiety, just know there are clean, delicious keto snacks you can turn to. A great option is our Crunchy Cheese Mixes made with crunchy nuts, flavorful cheeses and low-sugar fruits (yum!). Beyond that, we put together a list of the 27 best keto snacks you can buy on Amazon right now. No cheat days required!
What happens when you get kicked out of ketosis?
You lick your lips as that last bite of pasta goes down the hatch. Fettuccine alfredo, your favorite. Hey, at least you a healthy dose of fats in that cream sauce.
As those sweet carbs hit your system, blood glucose levels rise, and the pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin stimulates enzymes that store blood glucose in the liver as glycogen.
You are now in the “fed” state. And ketone production has ceased (boo!).
The carbs you take in will stop ketone production until they’re used up, or stored away in muscle. The good news is your liver can only store ~100 grams of carbs in glycogen. When carbs are removed again, your blood glucose falls, and the liver signals the release of the glycogen. This takes 12-16 hours depending on the activity level.
Once glycogen is depleted, ketogenesis resumes.
The return to ketosis is no different than when starting the diet. It just happens faster.
What are the downsides to getting kicked out of keto?
While breaking keto isn’t the end of the world, it can make you feel crummy. And we’re not just talking about guilt (which let’s be honest.. there shouldn’t be any!).
Here are a few of the big negatives people report when breaking the diet:
- Carb cravings. Insulin spikes force energy into your cells but can leave other cells in a starved state depending on how insulin resistant you are. Starved cells crazy more… you guessed it… carbs. It can be a vicious cycle that can take you off the rails.
- Fatigue. Ah, the carb crash. Remember those?! Insulin levels can leave you with low blood sugar and exhaustion.
- Brain fog. Ketones are your brain’s preferred fuel. Now back on glucose, you may feel a bit foggy up in the head.
These symptoms vary considerably person-to-person. There are reports of people being bedridden after a single carb indulgence. Remember that keto flu you worked so hard to get over?
Our best advice is to listen to your body and understand where your carb tolerance lies. Since you won’t need much stimulation to satisfy cravings while on keto, snacks sweetened with real fruit (like our Crunchy Cheese Mix) or Monk Fruit or Erythritol can be a great way to “indulge” without worrying about getting kicked out of ketosis.
How do you avoid getting kicked out of ketosis?
You won’t die. But getting kicked out of ketosis can be a big bummer.
You can feel crummy. Lose motivation. And worst of all, potentially reverse progress made on your diet.
So how do you avoid getting kicked out of keto in the first place?
The #1 reason people fall out of ketosis is…
While the keto diet will reduce your cravings, they will happen. It’s not a question of if, but when.
And having go-to keto options planned ahead of time is key to staying on track. You’ll want keto friendly foods and snacks on hand for every occasion – whether you’re craving something salty, sweet or something in between (spicy, anyone?!).
A great place to start to prepare for cravings is our popular article: The 27 Best Keto Snacks You Can Buy on Amazon.
Also think about where you might be when cravings strike. If you’re at home and can make a yummy batch of fat bombs, you’re all good!
But what about when you’re running around town on a hectic day? Or stuck at the airport before a flight?
Getting caught on the go is one of the biggest reasons people get kicked out of ketosis. But it doesn’t have to happen to you.
If you know what to look for, you can find keto-friendly options nearly everywhere. Check out our keto on the go guide and learn 7 top on the go situations and the #1 keto-friendly snack to save you.
As they say, the best defense is a good offense – plan ahead and don’t let cravings kick you out of ketosis.
Can you have carbs AND keto?
What if it was possible to devour your pasta AND stay in ketosis? Can you have your pasta and eat it to?
Sounds too good to be true…
But it isn’t. All you have to is bike 110 miles leading up to your Italian dinner. Make sure to climb at least 6,000 feet of elevation too…
Kidding aside, our story comes from Dr. Peter Attia. If you don’t know (and you should…) Dr. Attia is a longevity doctor, an ultra-endurance athlete, and one of the leading thinkers on the ketogenic diet.
On the last day of his ride, Dr. Attia consumed 351 g of fat, 243 g of protein, and 321 g of carbohydrates. That’s enough to make anyone on keto cringe.
Yet the following day he tested his ketones and… 2.2 mMol. Almost deep ketosis.
All that riding created a glycogen deficit in his body. And those carbs went to pay off his glycogen debt while the liver kept cranking out ketones.
You don’t have to be this extreme to kickstart ketosis. Almost any form of exercise will deplete glycogen and speed the return to ketosis.
The higher the intensity, the better. Cardio interval training or circuit training is best.
Heck, you could even do air squats in the bathroom before your second course. You’d be in good company – Tim Ferriss has been known to do this.
The Bottom Line
Forget what the ketone meter says. If you’re looking and feeling better, keto is working for you.
Carb breaks can be speed bumps along the way. You might feel crummy. But you can always pick it back up the next day.
And hey, life is short. Indulge every now and then.
To your health,
Ben & Brandon
Disclaimer: This website provides general information and discussions about health, nutrition and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Ben & Brandon are not doctors, registered dieticians or registered nutritionists.
Is Keto Cycling Healthy? Here’s What to Know About the Controversial Diet
Chances are, you’ve read about or know someone who’s on the keto diet, or perhaps you’ve experimented with it yourself. Short for “ketogenic,” the keto diet is an extremely low-carbohydrate eating plan that sends the body into ketosis—a state of burning fat for energy, rather than sugars.
People on a ketogenic diet consume 50 grams or fewer of carbohydrates per day and instead eat higher-than-normal amounts of fat and protein. And while they often lose weight quickly, health experts say the diet isn’t sustainable—and often isn’t healthy—to follow for long periods of time.
That’s where keto cycling comes in: Touted as a less restrictive, more sustainable way to get the benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle, keto cycling involves following a ketogenic diet for a few days in a row, then taking a break and eating high (or at least normal) levels of carbohydrates for a day. In other words, it’s the best of both worlds… right?
Well, as with most things science and dieting and weight loss, it’s not quite that simple. We checked in with two nutritionists—each with a difference stance on the keto diet in general—to find out what they think about this on-again, off-again approach. Here’s what you should know before giving it a try.
RELATED: 7 Dangers of Going Keto
What is keto cycling?
Because keto cycling isn’t a branded or trademarked term, there’s no exact definition for how it’s done. Some websites describe following a strict keto diet for six days a week followed by one “cheat day” or “high-carb day.” Others encourage switching it up more frequently.
Josh Axe, a doctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist, says his preferred method of keto cycling is a two-day-on, one-day-off pattern. Axe is a big proponent of the keto diet, and he sells keto-related supplements on his website. But because the diet is difficult to follow long-term, he believes it should ideally be done for just 30 to 90 days.
“After that, it’s a good idea to transition into another diet that’s going to be easier to maintain, and maybe that’s keto cycling,” says Axe. He says he was turned onto the benefits of keto cycling by his wife, who tried it herself after doing the keto diet for 30 days.
“She started eating like that, two keto days and one carb day, and she noticed results probably just as good as doing the full-on keto,” he says. “Her hormones really balanced out, she lost about 10 pounds, and we found she was able to do this long-term rather than crashing and burning the way people sometimes do on long-term diets.”
RELATED: 4 Things You Need to Know Before Trying the Keto Diet
Carb cycling vs. keto cycling
Axe describes keto cycling as “the keto diet meets carb cycling.” So what’s the difference between the two terms? Carb cycling is a more general term used when a person cuts back on carbs for a few days (followed by a high- or moderate-carb day), but does not restrict so much that the body has to switch to burning fat for fuel.
“The ratios are slightly different,” says Axe. “Carb cycling tends to be more high-protein, moderate-fat, and you’re not really ever getting into ketosis. Keto cycling is higher-fat, higher-protein, and lower-carb than what you’d eat if you were carb cycling.” In both carb cycling and keto cycling, he adds, people may choose to match up their carb days with high-intensity workout days.
During keto cycling, the body goes in and out of ketosis depending on what fuel—fat or carbohydrates—is available for burning. “Our hunter-gatherer ancestors weren’t concerned with carb cycling,” says Axe, “but when you think about it, sometimes they were eating quite a few carbs and sometimes they were eating fat because of the natural fluctuation in food sources.”
Keto cycling benefits
Some proponents of keto cycling say that an on-again, off-again plan can help prevent side effects of a full-on keto diet. Theoretically, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, and other symptoms of “keto flu” may be lessened if people aren’t in ketosis for so many days at once. There’s also some concern that carbohydrate restriction over a long period of time may negatively affect hormones, cholesterol levels, or even people’s moods. Again, theoretically, these problems might be avoided with regular carb-replenishment days.
Because there are no published studies on keto cycling versus a regular ketogenic diet, however, no one can definitively say what the health benefits are of one over the other. But one thing is for sure, says Axe: Mentally, keto cycling can be much easier to stick with in the long run, and it allows for more variety in the diet—something most health experts would agree is a good thing for physical health, as well.
Axe generally recommends keto cycling as a way to continue the ketogenic diet after an initial 30- to 90-day period of everyday carb-restriction. “But the truth is,” he says, “somebody can just do keto cycling and can still really see results, even without doing full-on keto.
RELATED: Keto Flu Explained: Why Low-Carb Diets Can Make You Feel Sick and Tired
Keto cycling negatives
Kristen Kizer, RD, a dietitian at Houston Methodist Medical Center, says she advises her clients to avoid the keto diet. She says it’s unbalanced and restricts too many important food groups—and while people do lose weight, she says, they almost always gain it back once they add carbs back into their diet.
But that doesn’t mean she thinks keto cycling is any better. She’s concerned that the keto diet can promote disordered eating and that keto cycling especially can lead to binge behaviors. “A lot of people will think, ‘All I need to do is be very low-carb for five or six days, then on my cheat days I can eat as many carbohydrates as I want,’” she says. “It definitely is not supposed to work that way.”
Keto cycling is also likely to make people’s weight fluctuate, especially if they are just coming out of several weeks or months of full-on carb restriction. “It doesn’t establish a healthy relationship with food, and it can mentally throw people off if they regain all the weight they just lost,” says Kizer.
Kizer also points out that ketosis is an altered metabolic state, and, unlike Axe, she worries that it’s unhealthy to force the body in and out of it on a regular basis.
“People can fall in and out of ketosis, and they won’t really know where they are unless they’re monitoring their ketones,” she says, referring to acids in the blood that are produced as a result of fat-burning. “You can’t just take a break for a day and then pick up where you left off after eating pancakes and waffles.”
In fact, Kizer says she’d prefer that people follow a full-on ketogenic diet than keto cycling. “Again, I’d really prefer they do neither,” she says, “but I just feel there’s a lot more room for error when you start talking about cycling your carbs.”
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What to eat when keto cycling
If there’s one thing that Axe and Kizer agree on, it’s that there is a healthy way and an unhealthy way to incorporate carbohydrates in your diet. “Keto cycling doesn’t mean going completely off the wagon and eating pizza and a bag of chips and a tub of ice cream,” says Axe. “What you want is those good carbs we’d always recommend as part of a balanced diet—brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, fruit in the morning, that type of thing.”
Some of Axe’s favorite foods to recommend on carb days include açai bowls, berry smoothies with protein powder, sweet potato fries (alongside a grass-fed burger with a gluten-free bun, he says), pizza with cauliflower crust topped with chicken and buffalo mozzarella cheese, and “a little dark chocolate” for dessert. He suggests getting 30 to 40% of your food intake on these days from healthy starches and carbohydrates, versus just 5 to 10% on keto days.
Kizer says that regardless of carb cycling, ketosis, or any other diet that people may be trying, it’s always smart to choose carbohydrates that are as whole and unprocessed as possible. “I’m talking about whole fruit—not an apple strudel, but real apples,” she says. “I’m talking about brown rice, potatoes, beans, corn, and whole grains like quinoa, amaranth, and farro.”
“I try to have my clients focus on food being as less processed as possible and avoid things like white rice, white bread, and sugary cereals,” Kizer says. “Unfortunately, a lot of people are choosing things like muffins, French toast, or garlic bread on their ‘days off,’ and they’re using keto cycling or carb cycling as an excuse.”
Cheat meals. Everyone thinks about them, and the ketogenic diet is no exception. But is a keto cheat day really worth it? Or will it mess up your progress completely?
Intellectually, you know a cheat meal won’t help with your weight loss goals or allow you to experience the positive impact of the keto diet. At the same time, you don’t want to feel restricted, or develop a bad relationship (or fear) of any food. For these reasons, you may know people who purposely (and regularly) schedule treats, including on the weekends or at the end of the month.
Below, you’ll learn how to treat yourself on the keto diet. This allows the occasional indulgence that benefits your physical and mental health.
Birthday Cake Keto Bars are here!
The answer to your sweet tooth. 17g of fat, 3g of net carbs, incredibly delicious.
Disadvantages of Keto Cheat Days
Hopefully, you’re following the keto diet as part of a healthy lifestyle — one that makes you feel good, gives you energy, and doesn’t make you feel restricted. That said, the occasional indulgence outside a keto diet meal plan might have physical side effects, including those that follow.
It Could Take You Out of Ketosis
Eating a high-carb food — even as the occasional treat — could take you out of ketosis. For this reason, try to take a look at your overall carb intake of the day when indulging. For example, if you enjoy a slice of birthday cake at a friend’s celebration, be sure to stock up on plenty of leafy greens and high-quality protein throughout the day.
It’s a good idea to test your ketone levels to know if you’ve been kicked out of ketosis.
Cheating Affects Your Fat Adaptation
Your body has to make changes (such as altering specific hormones and increasing enzyme production) to transition to a fat-burning state. Having a regular dose of glucose can prevent your body from becoming fat adapted. This, in turn, could slow any progress made toward weight loss and fat loss goals (i.e. the reason you started keto in the first place).
It Could Spike Your Blood Sugar
One of the reasons keto is popular for those with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or poor cardiovascular health is that it can stabilize blood glucose levels. If you’re following the keto diet because of these health reasons, it’s important to know that eating cheat meals can cause blood sugar levels to spike. Plus, since your glucose tolerance has depleted on keto, chances are you’ll experience a nasty sugar hit. If you eat a dessert or high-carb food and don’t feel well the next day, it’s probably best to avoid it.
Cheating Causes Cravings
One study finds that a low-carb, high-fat diet like keto has been shown to reduce appetite and hunger cravings. While it does take an adjustment period to achieve these benefits, once your body becomes fat-adapted you are less likely to feel hungry and experience sugar cravings throughout the day.
By veering away from your keto meal plan and removing your body from a ketogenic state, you may find yourself craving carbs and sugar more than before.
You Could Experience Keto Flu (Again)
Fatigue, headaches, low energy, headaches, and bloating are all symptoms you might experience when transitioning to burning fat (instead of glucose) for energy. If you choose to eat a high-carb food, know that you could experience these unwanted symptoms of keto flu again. (If this happens, supplementing with exogenous ketones may help.)
Implementing a Keto Cheat Day the “Right” Way
Whether you’ve been following keto for a few weeks or a few months, it can be a lifestyle transition. While you may have started keto as a means to achieve weight loss, fat loss, or improved body composition, hopefully you’re experiencing other mental, physical, and emotional benefits. These could include improved energy, heightened mental clarity, and feeling good about your food choices.
Most of all, the keto diet can teach you to listen to your body. You’ve probably noticed you feel better when you eat a diet based on fresh, green produce, high-quality protein, and healthy fats than you do when eating lots of carbs and highly processed foods
In other words, once you’ve followed keto for a significant period of time, you probably won’t crave the high-carb, sugary foods you once did. If you do — whether it’s a special occasion or you simply would love to get your hands on a slice of pizza — know that there are plenty of ways (including delicious keto-friendly recipes) to enjoy these foods.
Follow a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
On the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD), you would only eat a strict keto diet for five days within a seven day period. Many times, people choose to eat a standard keto diet during the weekdays, and following a high-carb approach on the weekends.
While this will still likely kick you out of the metabolic state of ketosis, following a CKD can make eating keto more mentally manageable for some people.
Enjoy Keto Desserts and Comfort Foods
With the growing popularity of paleo, keto, and low-carb diets, the number of keto-friendly dessert recipes is endless. These recipes recreate your favorite treats and comfort foods with healthy ingredients with a low net-carb count so you don’t have to feel restricted.
For example, baked goods are often made from almond flour or coconut flour instead of white flour, and sweetened with monk fruit or stevia instead of white sugar.
On this site, you’ll find keto-friendly versions of some of your favorite desserts and comfort foods, including:
- Low-carb pizza
- Keto fudge
- Low-carb French fries
- Sugar-free homemade ice cream
- Crispy, gluten-free fried chicken
Experience Life Without Feeling Restricted
A diet that causes physical or emotional deprivation cannot be considered healthy. Therefore, if you’re experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime moment, such as eating Italian pizza in Rome or eating a slice of cake at your grandmother’s 90th birthday, then it’s your choice as to whether you want to deviate from strict keto.
Ideally, following keto will help you to eat intuitively, knowing when you want to treat yourself and when you want to stick to green veggies, protein, and healthy fats. When faced with an opportunity to deviate from your keto meal plan, no matter what the occasion, hopefully you take the time to pause, assess the situation, and ask yourself if that particular food (and the experience that goes with it) is worth it.
A slice of homemade apple pie from your grandmother? That might be worth it. A store-bought candy bar over your lunch hour? Maybe not.
There Are Plenty of Conscious Ways to Have a Keto Cheat Day
When it comes down to it, it’s ultimately up to you whether you want to have a keto cheat day. It’s your responsibility to assess the situation, weigh the physical side effects, and consider whether there may be a healthier, alternative approach.
For example, if you’re throwing a birthday party, offer to bring a cake that you can enjoy. Or, if it’s Thanksgiving, don’t offer to cook green beans or turkey (which are already keto-compliant). Instead, bring a low-carb pumpkin pie or make mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes.
Part of a ketogenic diet is learning to listen to your body, taking note of which foods make you feel good and which don’t. And you know what? Sometimes you may choose to indulge on a food — like dairy ice cream or a slice of pizza from your favorite pizza joint — that doesn’t make you feel your best. And that’s OK. But make sure it was a conscious decision to do so — not one done in a moment of sugar-frenzy cravings.
For plenty of ways to implement keto-friendly comfort foods and desserts, be sure to check out the recipe library on this site. Chances are, your favorite foods have been recreated into low-carb, keto-friendly versions that you can enjoy time and time again.
How Long Does it Take to Get Into Ketosis and Keto-Adapt?
You’ve likely heard of the three major macronutrients that provide us with energy: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. However, our bodies can use another substrate as a source of energy, a “fourth fuel” called ketones. Ketones are produced (and sometimes supplemented) when the body is in a metabolic state of ketosis; one where it’s breaking down or burning fat.
Interestingly, while ketosis is said to be an evolutionary adaptation that allows organisms to survive under conditions of low food availability, newer research is showing that ketones have several diverse and impressive biological roles in the body, and many health benefits. They’re more than just an energy source.
People are becoming aware of the many applications of ketosis—including weight loss, sports performance, and cognitive function. However, many people might not be aware of how to get into ketosis, how long it takes, and what happens when you do.
This article provides all the information you need about entering and staying in ketosis.
Endogenous vs. Exogenous Ketosis
Before we talk about the specific ways to achieve ketosis, let’s go over some basics. Ketosis can be classified in two ways; endogenous (meaning “within”) or exogenous (meaning from “outside”). We will only cover some of the basics here, but feel free to check out our in depth article on the fundamentals of ketosis.
When we talk about endogenous ketosis, we are referring to the process of the body producing ketones on its own. This happens in the liver. When glucose levels in our body run low and insulin falls, our body begins to burn fat. Free fatty acids (FFAs)—the breakdown products of fat—are then transported to the liver and used to produce ketone bodies. These ketone bodies are then transported back out of the liver, where they travel through the circulation to organs and tissues to be used for energy.
Endogenous ketosis can be achieved through several means, which we will talk about later. These include low-carb diets, exercise, and fasting.
In contrast, exogenous ketosis is achieved through the use of exogenous ketone supplements or precursors to ketone bodies like medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). In exogenous ketosis, your body isn’t producing ketones, but is still in ketosis. There are many examples of exogenous ketones, which we will cover below.
Regardless of the method used, ketosis is ketosis. However, there are benefits specific to exogenous and endogenous ketosis. Some of this has to do with how long it takes to actually enter ketosis through each route. Generally, endogenous ketosis is going to take much longer, while exogenous ketosis can be achieved within a matter of minutes.
Before going into specific methods for getting into ketosis, let’s take a look at how you can verify that you’re actually in ketosis.
Testing for Ketosis
There is only one true way to confirm that you’re in ketosis—measuring ketones. This will allow you to quantify your level of ketosis using commercially-available devices.
Traditionally, ketosis is considered to occur when blood ketone levels of the ketone body known as beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) are >0.5 millimolar (mM).
The only way to verify this is to test for BHB. Blood BHB can be measured using a blood ketone meter. This device is similar to a blood glucose meter, except it measures ketones instead of glucose. There are several great ketone meters on the market, which we reviewed in this post.
The main advantage of testing for blood BHB is accuracy. Furthermore, blood levels of BHB represent the ketones you’re actually using, and BHB is the ketone body most present throughout the circulation.
However, testing for BHB does require you to prick your finger and draw blood—which can be a downside for some people. If you’re testing often, blood testing can also get expensive, since you’ll need to continuously purchase ketone testing strips for the device.
Ketosis can be measured using two other methods. To measure acetoacetate (AcAc), urine ketone test strips can be used. These measure the amount of AcAc in your urine. Urine test strips are easy and non-invasive, making them attractive to people looking for a simple way to test ketones.
Acetone, the third ketone body, can be measured in the breath using a device known as a breathalyzer. This method simply involves breathing into the device and getting a reading on your level of ketosis.
Several new devices have appeared on the market that measure ketones in the breath.
Breath and urine testing do have a few downsides. These methods are far less accurate than blood BHB testing and only give a rough “estimate” of your level of ketosis, often only giving a qualitative output or a color that corresponds to your level of ketosis. These methods also become less reliable when ketone levels are high or you’ve been on a ketogenic diet for a long time.
While you can obviously enjoy the physical and mental benefits of ketosis without testing, it might be a good idea to measure ketones if you are new to ketosis. This way, you can know what gets you into ketosis, what takes you out, and how you feel at various levels of ketosis.
How Long Does it Take to Get into Ketosis?
You can’t just snap your fingers and magically get into ketosis—it takes a bit of time. It is important to realize that lifestyle factors, aspects of your own body and metabolism, and even sleep and stress could influence how quickly (or not) you can get into ketosis.
In general, there are three primary ways to get your body into a ketogenic state: a ketogenic diet, exercise, and fasting.
Also known as “keto”, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet that drastically restricts carbohydrates intake while advocating a moderate protein intake. Reducing carbohydrates limits the amount of glucose you have available and thus, lowers blood glucose and glycogen in the body.
In general, someone on keto will get about 80% of their calories from fat intake, 15% from protein, and less than 5% from carbohydrates (generally less than 50 grams per day). The keto diet prioritizes the intake of healthy fats including those from coconut oil, avocados, and animal products like eggs and fatty meat.
Due to the high fat and low carb consumption, the keto diet creates the perfect conditions in the body for the breakdown of fat, while providing a substrate (fat) for the production of ketones.
The keto diet will get you into ketosis—but the timing will vary.
For some people, it might take a week or two of keto dieting to reach sustained levels of ketones of 0.5mM or higher. However, in some people, just 2 – 4 days of a keto diet can raise circulating ketone body concentrations to 1 – 2 mM.1
How quickly ketosis occurs will depend on your level of carbohydrate intake as well as your physical activity levels. In general, lower carb intake and higher activity will allow you to enter ketosis faster.
Fasting seems to be all the rage among those looking to lose weight, biohackers, and even some athletes. There are nearly unlimited variations of fasting—ranging from intermittent fasting to time-restricted feeding to 5:2 fasting.
However, for ketosis, intermittent fasting (IF) might be the most effective strategy. IF involves “intermittent” but generally prolonged periods of food restriction; such as fasting for a few days each week or month. These more prolonged periods without food are needed to effectively reduce blood glucose, glycogen, and insulin levels throughout the body.
How long do you need to fast for ketosis to occur?
After an overnight fast, ketone body concentrations can reach about 0.1 – 0.5mM—just below the official “ketosis threshold”. However, fasting for around 48 hours can elevate circulating ketones to around 1 – 2mM, and after 5 days, levels might reach 7 – 8mM.1
If you’re looking to embark on a long-term fast—for ketosis or otherwise—it’s best to first consult your doctor or trusted health professional who can help advise you through the fast to ensure safety. It might be best to initially see how your body tolerates a restricted daily feeding window or a more moderate 24 hour fast before trying something more extreme.
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A final way to stimulate your body’s own ketone production is through exercise—particularly extended aerobic exercise which will reduce the body’s glucose and glycogen stores. Many studies in humans and animals have shown that exercise raises levels of BHB in the blood.2,3,4,5
The presence of ketone bodies in the blood after exercise is termed “post-exercise ketosis” and is a well-known phenomenon. Doing about 2 hours of exercise after an overnight fast can raise ketone levels to 0.5 – 1.0mM during exercise, with levels further increasing to 1 – 4mM in the period after exercise ends.1
Ketosis during and after exercise depends on many factors including intensity and duration of exercise, glycogen availability, nutritional status during exercise, and even your training status. If you want to accelerate ketone production with exercise; do your workout fasted—that’s what the research says.
Exogenous Ketone Supplementation
While the methods listed above generally will require at least a few days to induce ketosis, other methods can result in a rapid and high elevation of blood ketones, without your body needing to produce them.
This involves the consumption of exogenous ketones.
Exogenous ketones are a form of supplement that contains a ketone body bound to some other molecule.
When you ingest these supplements, they raise circulating ketone concentrations in the blood, allowing you to get into ketosis fast.
Exogenous ketone supplements come in two main forms: ketone salts and ketone esters. Sources of fat like coconut or MCT oil are also sometimes categorized as ketone supplements.
Ketone salts are made from a ketone body (usually BHB) bound to a mineral like sodium, potassium, or magnesium. They’re often found in a powder form.
Ketone esters can come in the form of an AcAc diester or, most commonly, a BHB monoester.
Ketone salts and esters are both effective at raising blood ketones quickly, and don’t even require fasting or a keto diet. This makes them of particular interest to athletes.
How long does it take to enter ketosis using supplements? Some studies have shown that blood BHB levels jump up to 3mM after ingesting a BHB monoester supplement, reaching peak levels after just 10 – 30 minutes. Others have reported levels up to 6mM following ingestion of a BHB monoester.6,7,8
In general, ketone esters seem more effective at raising blood ketones than ketone salts, and may come with far fewer side effects such as GI distress. As there are several types of ketone supplements available on the market, it might be best to experiment with a few to find what you tolerate the best.
Exogenous ketone supplements can allow you to enter ketosis quickly and achieve levels of ketosis that might only be feasible through multiple days of fasting.
You’ve probably heard the term “fat adapted” thrown around, but what exactly does it mean? Fat adaptation is the ultimate “goal” of the ketogenic diet—it’s a state in which your body has been in ketosis for a long enough time that it has transitioned from burning carbohydrates and sugar for energy to burning primarily fats. These fats can come from food or your own internal stores (body fat).
In keto adaptation, the metabolic machinery of your body changes, and you become a “fat burner”; able to efficiently burn fat and utilize it for fuel.
How Long does Keto Adaptation Take?
Given the lack of long-term research on humans and the ketogenic diet, we don’t really have a specific answer for how long the process of keto adaptation takes.
Even though ketosis can be achieved after a few days of fasting or a ketogenic diet, keto adaptation may take a bit longer—perhaps up to a month or longer. What this means is that your ability to actually use ketones doesn’t rise in parallel with the levels of ketones in your blood.
In other words, optimizing ketone metabolism doesn’t happen overnight.
What Happens in the Body After Keto Adaptation?
Keto adaptation occurs as a result of several changes throughout the body which allow for a greater production or a more efficient utilization of ketone bodies. These metabolic adaptations have been well studied, and can help give us an idea of the timeline for keto adaptation.
Increased Fat Burning
One of the main reasons that ketogenic diets are excellent for weight loss is the fact that they result in an increased ability to burn fat—a process known as lipolysis.9 Over time, and especially once keto adapted, a greater fat-burning capacity will result in more fat loss for people looking to lose weight.
However, increased fat burning due to keto adaptation may have benefits for athletes; especially endurance athletes.
For instance, runners who were “keto adapted” (they had been on a keto diet for at least 6 months) were shown to burn twice the amount of fat at a higher exercise intensity compared to athletes eating a mixed diet.10 In another study, athletes who ate a high-fat diet for just 5 days were able to increase their fat oxidation rates during aerobic exercise.11
A lower reliance on glucose—whether you’re an athlete or not—has its benefits. For one, our body can store about 30,000 – 100,000 calories worth of fat, but only about 1,500 – 2,000 calories worth of glycogen. Being able to tap into all of those fat stores means you can perform longer, without relying on external sources of energy once glycogen runs low.
Burning more fat may also stabilize energy levels. Rather than ride the highs and lows of glucose spikes throughout the day, keto adaptation can allow you to access a steady, consistent, and powerful supply of fat and ketones to fuel your body and mind. Just give it some time.
Glycogen is Conserved
It might seem obvious that reducing your intake of carbohydrates and glucose would lead to a reduction in stored glucose in the body, known as glycogen. Initially, this is true. Ketogenic diets naturally result in a reduction of skeletal muscle glycogen stores in humans.12
Athletes might be fearful of this response, since muscle glycogen contributes to energy production during long-duration exercise, after glucose has been exhausted.
However, once keto adaptation occurs, there is evidence to support that muscle glycogen is preserved in humans and actually spared during exercise.
Endurance athletes who were long term keto dieters (i.e. keto adapted) had levels of muscle glycogen that were similar to athletes eating over 600g of carbohydrates per day!
Keto-adapted athletes also had the same glycogen levels as carb-consuming athletes after completing 3 hours of running, and were able to replenish their glycogen stores to a similar extent.10
How could they do this without eating carbs? The explanation is a process called gluconeogenesis—GNG for short. GNG is a process by which the body can create glucose from non-carbohydrate sources like fat and amino acids from protein, which helps to maintain blood glucose levels at the necessary amounts to power a variety of physiological functions in the body that do require glucose.
Long story short; keto adaptation increases the body’s capacity for gluconeogenesis and therefore, is able to maintain blood glucose and muscle glycogen levels similar to those in someone eating ample carbohydrates.
More Ketones for the Brain
Our brains can run well on ketones, and may even prefer them as a fuel source.
Keto adaptation allows more ketones to become available for the brain. This happens because as tissues adapt to low-carbohydrate availability, they get better at using fats for fuel. This is especially true for skeletal muscle, which can directly oxidize fatty acids to produce ATP.
As a result of more direct fatty acid oxidation by the skeletal muscles, more of the body’s ketones are made available for the brain.
This has several benefits—increasing brain energy supply, reducing the brain’s reliance on glucose, and reducing the requirement for protein to help with gluconeogenesis.13
It could take anywhere from several weeks to months for muscle to become adept at using fatty acids for energy. Like all processes, optimization takes time.
Mitochondria Get a Boost
We’ve all learned it in high school biology class: mitochondria are the “powerhouses” of the cell. Without them, we’d be unable to create energy. Mitochondria keep us running—literally.
Fuel sources (carbohydrates and fat) are converted to energy (ATP) inside the mitochondria. In a simple sense, more mitochondria mean a greater ability to produce energy. Keto adaptation might have a role to play here, since several studies in animals have indicated that ketogenic diets actually increase the production of new mitochondria, a term known as mitochondrial biogenesis.14,15,16
Producing ATP inside the mitochondria results in the generation of “toxic” byproducts known as reactive oxygen species—or ROS—which can cause damage to cells and tissues in the body. This is a normal process, but too much ROS activity can cause havoc.
Just like carbs and fat, ketones are used inside the mitochondria to produce ATP. However, compared to glucose, ketones result in a lower amount of ROS production.13 In addition, ketones might reduce the amount of ROS in the body directly, or by increasing levels of cellular antioxidants like glutathione; which protect against ROS induced damage.17,18,19
3 – 4 weeks of keto adaptation might be enough to start boosting mitochondrial capacity…in mice at least.20,21 Humans might require a bit longer.
How Will I Know if I’m Keto Adapted?
Unfortunately, measuring or testing for ketones can’t tell you directly whether you’re keto adapted, but, there is one way to get a picture of your level of keto adaptation using ketone testing methods.
Urine and breath ketone testing methods measure ketone bodies present in excretion products—breath and urine. For this reason, as you continue to use these methods while on a ketogenic diet, you might begin to notice that ketone levels actually begin to drop. While this is one disadvantage of these methods (they become less effective over time), it signifies that you’re becoming more keto adapted—utilizing more and excreting fewer ketones.22
Subjective feelings may be just as valid for evaluating if you’re keto adapted. Making the transition from sugar to fat burning will come with a variety of bodily changes and feelings associated with the metabolic switch.
Once keto adapted, you’ll likely find it easy to go 4 – 6 hours, maybe even more, without food.
What’s more, you won’t get the “hangry” feelings you once did when low blood sugar levels ran low. On top of this, you’ll begin to feel increased and consistent energy levels throughout the day.
While some athletes report worse performance after initially transitioning to keto, after keto adaptation occurs, performance levels usually come back to normal or even improve. This occurs because your metabolic machinery will finally be able to meet the energy demands of exercising in the absence of a high-carb diet. This takes time, but many athletes find that the short term adaptation period is worth it in the long run.
Adapt and Advance
This may seem like a lot of information to handle, but there’s no need to be overwhelmed.
With a little self-experimentation, you can find out how your body responds to different methods of inducing ketosis, and how you feel while in ketosis. After a while, these concepts will become natural—a part of your lifestyle. Ultimately, that is the goal.
Ketosis can have several benefits, whether for a short period of time or throughout life.
If keto adaptation seems to be taking longer than expected, this isn’t a reason to ditch your diet or lifestyle regimen. Like everything, learning the ins and outs of ketosis will take time, but it’s worth it.
The best way to maintain ketosis
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What Is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet? Everything You Need to Know
Research on the cyclical ketogenic diet is very limited. Still, it may provide advantages.
May Aid Muscle Gain
Though some evidence suggests that the standard keto diet is effective at building lean body mass in resistance-trained athletes, some argue that the cyclical version is better for muscle growth (7).
Muscle-building — or anabolic — hormones like insulin are suppressed when following very low-carb diets like the keto diet (8, 9).
Insulin regulates muscle growth by allowing amino acids and glucose into your muscle cells, increasing protein synthesis and decreasing protein breakdown in muscle tissue (10).
Using the cyclical keto diet to strategically raise insulin levels on specific days could allow you to use the anabolic effects of insulin to promote muscle growth.
Keep in mind that there is not enough research on this diet to prove this method’s effectiveness.
May Boost Performance in Athletes
Refeeding with carbohydrates may benefit elite athletes who are following very low-carb diets.
One study in 29 elite race-walkers found that the athletes benefited from periodic high-carb intake — though it did not specifically test the cyclical keto diet.
The study revealed that the walkers who received periodic high-carb feedings prior to training sessions experienced significant improvements in performance compared to those following a standard keto diet (11).
The researchers concluded that athletes who periodically consumed a lot of carbs saw an improvement in performance, while those following a strict keto diet did not.
Decreases Keto-Related Side Effects
The ketogenic diet is associated with unpleasant side effects collectively known as the keto flu.
Symptoms of the keto flu include nausea, fatigue, headaches, constipation, weakness, difficulty sleeping and irritability (12).
These symptoms emerge when your body struggles to adapt to using ketones as a primary fuel source.
Cycling in carbohydrates 1–2 days per week can decrease these symptoms.
Adds More Fiber to Your Diet
Constipation is a common complaint among those first transitioning to a keto diet.
This is because some people struggle to obtain enough fiber when eating a high-fat, very low-carb diet.
Though it’s possible to consume enough fiber on a standard keto diet, transitioning to a cyclical ketogenic diet can make it much easier.
During refeeding days, high-fiber carbs, such as oats, sweet potatoes, beans and quinoa, are allowed.
Makes the Keto Diet Easier to Stick To
The keto diet is linked to various health benefits, such as weight loss, blood sugar control and a reduced risk of heart disease. Yet, it can be difficult to follow long term (13).
Because you must drastically reduce your carb intake to reach ketosis, many healthy — yet high-carb — foods are off limits.
Using the cyclical keto diet, you can eat carb-rich foods on refeeding days, which may make the diet more sustainable in the long run.
However, because there is currently little research on the cyclical keto diet, its long-term benefits are unknown.
Summary Following a cyclical keto diet may decrease keto flu symptoms, make the standard keto diet more achievable, boost athletic performance, increase fiber intake and promote muscle growth.
Keto and Carb Cycling for Women
Most people are walking around in chronic sugar burning mode dependent on high-carb, sugar-laden foods. This way of eating depletes your energy, causes irritability, and prevents you from thinking clearly. Consuming high-carbohydrate, high-sugar foods causes inflammation, weight gain, accelerates aging, and results in chronic disease. This is all due to massive fluctuations in blood sugar that occur when consuming this type of diet. To make matters worse, the addictive nature of these foods causes people to crave the very foods that are harming them. A ketogenic lifestyle with carb cycling can help reverse this damaging cycle.
To put an end to this cycle, more and more people are turning to the ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet transitions your body from chronic sugar burning mode to relying on fat for fuel. For women, implementing a ketogenic diet can pose unique challenges. This is where carb cycling become very important.
Keto for Women
To maximize the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet, women should employ carb cycling in sync with their menstrual cycle. The female hormones estrogen and progesterone have significant impact on carbohydrate metabolism. To follow a cyclic style of ketogenic diet, you eat a very low-carb meal plan for several days, then increase your carbohydrate intake to restore and replenish glycogen in the body. The amount of carbohydrates you cycle in will depend on the phase of your menstrual cycle.
This article will discuss the ketogenic diet and how the ketogenic diet benefits women. I will discuss the importance of carb cycling for women on the ketogenic diet and how to carb cycle around your menstrual cycle. I will also explain how to get started on the ketogenic diet and give tips for success on the ketogenic diet.
Keto Vs. Standard American Diet
The typical American diet is comprised of around 55% carbohydrates, ranging from 200-350 grams a day (1). This way of eating can cause extremely harmful effects on the body. A greater intake of refined carbohydrates is associated with a 44% increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome and obesity and a 20% increased risk of developing diabetes. It is estimated that 45.4% of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are associated with this type of unhealthy diet.
A beneficial alternative to the standard American diet is the ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet is a nutrition and lifestyle plan that helps your body use fat (stored fat and dietary fat) rather than sugar for fuel. This plan helps the body produce ketones from fat. Ketones are byproducts of the body breaking down fat for energy. Introducing carb cycling helps to further boost metabolic health and improve fat burning.
When the body is in ketosis, it utilizes ketones as an energy source instead of sugar. Burning fat for energy is much more efficient and produces less inflammation than burning sugar.
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate, moderate protein nutrition plan. 60-80% of calories are from healthy fats, 20-30% are from protein sources, and 5-10% are from net carbs (total carbs minus fiber). This style of eating encourages healthy metabolism and enables your body to function at a more efficient level.
How the Ketogenic Diet Benefits Women
A low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet is associated with many health benefits. The ketogenic diet lowers inflammation, balances blood sugar levels and your mood, improves mental performance, gives you energy, ends cravings, helps with fat loss, slows down aging, and reduces your risk of chronic disease.
The ketogenic diet drastically lowers inflammation. This is important because chronic inflammation is the root cause of most chronic health conditions.
Chronic inflammation is caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. Free radicals damage cells causing illness and aging. When you are burning ketones for energy instead of glucose, there is a reduced amount of free radical production.
The ketogenic diet also lowers inflammation by stabilizing blood sugar and insulin levels. Less inflammation means more energy production and a more efficiently functioning body.
Balances Blood Sugar and Your Mood
Have you ever heard the term “HANGRY”? This term refers hunger caused anger. What is actually causing your “hunger” and irritability is blood sugar instability. Blood sugar imbalances can cause rapid changes in a person’s mood and behavior.
When you are consuming a ketogenic diet, your blood sugar and insulin levels will decrease and stabilize. This provides your brain with a stable source of energy to balance your mood and eliminates cravings for carbohydrates and sugar. Including carb cycling helps to further maintain blood sugar levels and keep you feeling stable and energized.
Improves Mental Performance
You have probably heard the terms “Mommy brain” or “brain fog”. Many women notice some decline in their cognitive abilities after having children. Even if you have not had children, you may be experiencing issues with remembering things, thinking clearly, and focus. Ketones provide steady, clean fuel to energize brain cells. You will notice improved cognitive speed, memory and focus with a ketogenic diet.
Consuming healthy fat is critical for a healthy brain. The body uses fat to make new brain tissue and insulation for nerves. Ketones can be used by brain for energy, can shut down neuro-inflammatory pathways, and stimulate BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic growth factor). This is critical because neurological inflammation has been linked with depression, anxiety and poor cognitive function (2). By reducing inflammation in the brain, a ketogenic diet can improve cognitive function.
Gives You Energy
Women need energy for the many roles we lead. A ketogenic diet can give you abundant energy. The ketogenic diet creates the metabolic flexibility to use fat for an energy source. Your body produces significantly more energy from fat as fuel than when your body is using glucose for energy.
With lower levels of inflammation and stabilized blood sugar levels, there is more Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) production. ATP is the energy carrying molecule found in our cells. ATP is produced in the mitochondria (the energy factories of the cells).
The ketogenic diet also stimulates the growth of new and stronger mitochondria. Mitochondria have many important roles in addition to producing ATP. Mitochondria maintain glutathione levels, protect DNA, signal cell reproduction, activate cell apoptosis, and maintain cell electrochemical integrity.
Ends Carb and Sugar Cravings
Cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates are caused by chronic blood sugar instability. Blood sugar instability signals the brain that you are starving and need food. The body naturally favors sugar over fat as an energy source so we turn to sugar and high carb foods. These foods are very addictive and a harmful cycle is created.
The perpetual cycle looks like this: When you eat sugar, your blood sugar levels spike, dopamine is released in the brain, and mass insulin is secreted to drop blood sugar levels. Next, blood sugar levels fall rapidly and high insulin levels cause immediate fat storage. Then hunger and cravings increase because of the low blood sugar levels.
The key to breaking the destructive high sugar/high carb cycle is to convert from being a sugar burner to a fat burner. Healthy fats are stable source of energy that help balance blood sugar. Transitioning from a sugar burner to a fat burner with the ketogenic diet will eliminate those cravings for carbohydrates and sugar.
Helps you Lose Weight
A ketogenic diet can help with your weight loss efforts. When in ketosis, you are burning fat for energy. The fat burned is both dietary fat and stored fat so say goodbye to body fat! You are also less hungry and feel satiated quicker and longer on a ketogenic diet. This is due to the healthy fats, protein, antioxidants and fiber in the diet.
Several studies show that a high-fat, low carb diet is superior to a low-fat, high-carb diet for improving weight loss (3). Excess body fat, particularly in the gut, is associated with toxin accumulation and hormone imbalances. Implementing the ketogenic diet can be an effective fat and weight loss strategy.
Slows Down the Aging Process
The ketogenic diet has anti-aging and longevity benefits. A recent study found that a ketogenic diet extends longevity and health span (4).Ketones create more metabolic energy and significantly less free radicals and metabolic waste than glucose metabolism (glycolysis). This is equivalent to a vehicle that gets better performance and gas mileage and creates significantly less exhaust and carbon emissions.
Reduces Your Risk of Chronic Disease
The ketogenic lifestyle can improve many risk factors for metabolic and other chronic diseases. By reducing inflammation and improving mitochondrial function, the ketogenic diet allows the body to heal and mitigate disease processes more effectively.
Now that you know some of the benefits of a ketogenic diet and lifestyle, it is important to have guidelines for successful implementation of the ketogenic diet. For many women, one of the more important strategies you can use is carb cycling. This approach may help you get the best benefit from the ketogenic diet and lifestyle.
Carb Cycling for Women on the Ketogenic Diet
Carb cycling can be important for many women who want to be successful on the ketogenic diet. This practice is simply alternating periods of lower and higher carbohydrate content in your diet. For example, you can eat low-carb for 3 days, higher-carb for 1 day, low-carb for 3 days, or low-carb for 5 days and higher-carb for 2 days. For example, on the lower carbohydrate days, you would consume 50 or fewer grams of carbohydrates (perhaps less than 20). On the higher-carbohydrate days, you would consume 80-120 grams of carbohydrates.
The theory behind carb cycling is that it optimizes your body’s metabolic needs. While eating low carb, your body produces glucagon to help you burn fat, is more sensitive to insulin, and is more metabolically efficient.
The problem comes when you eat a low-carbohydrate diet for too long. Over long periods, your thyroid hormones may drop, you may become less sensitive to insulin, and you may gain weight. This is not the case with everyone, some women thrive in ketosis for months at a time without any of these issues. However, if you are struggling and noticing hair loss, lower energy, constipation, mental lethargy, coldness and possible weight gain then doing a carb cycling approach may be needed.
It is important to sync carb cycling with your menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle lasts for 28 days. The female hormones estrogen and progesterone are elevated at different points during the menstrual cycle. These important hormones impact insulin sensitivity and carbohydrate metabolism. Consequently, it is important to consider your hormone levels when determining the amount of carbohydrates to include in your diet.
The first two weeks of your menstrual cycle are called the follicular phase. Menstruation lasts from days 1-5 of this phase. Estrogen levels tend to be more dominant in these two weeks.
The female body is naturally more insulin-sensitive during the follicular phase. This means it tolerates carbohydrates better during these two weeks. Carb cycling to meet this hormonal change is an excellent strategy.
When cycling carbohydrates during the follicular phase, you may need up to 150 grams of net carbohydrates (total carbs – fiber). Overweight women who struggle with insulin resistance usually do better on lower levels of carbohydrates (50-80 grams net carbs when they carb cycle). Normal or underweight women may need more carbohydrates. Again, it is important to listen to your body.
The ideal foods to use to increase carb levels would be nutrient dense sources such as beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, carrots, legumes, berries and other fruit. These have tons of key trace minerals, phytonutrients and anti-oxidants that support the body much better than grains, corn, sugar and white potatoes.
The third and fourth weeks of the menstrual cycle are called the luteal phase which occurs after ovulation. During this phase, progesterone levels are at their highest.
The body is naturally less insulin-sensitive when progesterone levels are higher and does not tolerate carbohydrates as well. It is important to reduce carbohydrate intake during this phase when insulin-sensitivity is at its lowest. When you are carb cycling during the luteal phase, you may do better on 50-80 grams of carbohydrates.
The key to carb cycling during your menstrual cycle is to listen to your body. If your body is signaling that it needs more carbohydrates, you can up your intake to around 150 grams. If you are feeling great on fewer carbohydrates, keep your intake between 50-80 carbs when you cycle in carbohydrates. We are all different and respond to the ketogenic diet in our own unique way. These suggestions are guidelines for determining what may work for you.
How to get started on a Ketogenic Diet
When getting started on the ketogenic diet, I recommend that you transition to the ketogenic diet slowly. It can be extremely difficult for an individual to go from hundreds of grams of carbohydrates a day to 50 or less on the standard ketogenic diet. If you are already on a low-carb diet, you can transition quicker than someone who is eating a higher carbohydrate diet.
For anyone new to a low-carb lifestyle, the best way to start is to remove sugars, refined carbohydrates and industrialized seed oils from your diet. Eliminate grains and starches like bread, pasta, potatoes, and cereals that are prevalent in the standard American diet. Replace grains and starches with low to moderate carbohydrate fruits and vegetables such as cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, berries, and lemons.
Increase Healthy Fats
You should also increase your healthy fat intake. Healthy fats are found in things like grass-fed butter, coconut oil, MCT oil, pastured eggs, olive oil, olives, avocados, and avocado oil. High fat nuts like macadamia nuts can be great as a snack. By increasing your intake of healthy fats and decreasing your intake of carbohydrates, your body will adjust to this beneficial way of eating.
The body will begin to produce ketones within a few days of eating the ketogenic diet, but usually takes about 2-3 weeks for someone to become “keto adapted”. Keto adapted is when the body begins to convert fatty acids into ketones which are then used by the cells in the brain and body to produce energy. Once you are keto adapted, you can begin carb cycling as discussed above.
Tips for Being Successful on the Ketogenic Diet
The following tips will help you be successful on the ketogenic diet:
- Maximize nutrition and minimize toxins. To get the maximum benefits from a ketogenic diet, it is important to consume healthy fats, clean protein sources, and organic, antioxidant-rich vegetables and herbs. You do not want to consume processed animal products or commercially raised meats. It is also critical to avoid processed vegetable oils that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- Get plenty of sodium and minerals. On a low carbohydrate diet, your body will not retain sodium as it does on a high-carb diet. You will need to get plenty of sodium from generous amounts of pink Himalayan sea salt. Celery and cucumber are excellent to add to your diet because they are low carb and have natural sodium. 1-2 teaspoons of high quality salt daily is a good goal.
- Supplement with Betaine HCL, ox bile and digestive enzymes for proper digestion. I recommend BioGest and/or Keto Digest for optimal fat digestion. Also include MCT oil to support ketosis. MCT oil is refined from coconut oil and provides a readily absorbed source of ketones for energy.
- It is important not to eat too much protein. Excess protein will be converted to glucose.
- Make sure you are consuming enough calories. Calorie restriction for a prolonged period can shift your body to a state of conservation and negatively affect hormone levels.
- It is critical to stay very hydrated when on a ketogenic diet. Drink at least half of your body weight in water. Try to super hydrate first thing in the morning.
Incorporating these tips along with cycling carbohydrates, can help you be successful on the ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein diet that influences the metabolism to promote fat burning over sugar burning. This lifestyle can be extremely beneficial to women due to the amazing health benefits associated with the ketogenic lifestyle. The ketogenic diet lowers inflammation, balances blood sugar levels and your mood, improves mental performance, gives you energy, ends cravings, helps with fat loss, slows down aging, and reduces your risk of chronic disease.
For women, following a cyclic style of ketogenic diet in sync with their menstrual cycle is important. With a cyclical ketogenic diet, you alternate low-carbohydrate days with slightly higher-carbohydrate days. This cycles the body in and out of ketosis and is beneficial for hormone levels while keeping inflammatory levels very low.
During the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, estrogen levels tend to be more dominant, the female body is naturally more insulin-sensitive, and women may need higher amounts of carbohydrates. During the luteal phase, progesterone levels are at their highest, the body is naturally less insulin-sensitive, and does not tolerate carbohydrates as well. It is important to reduce carbohydrate intake during this phase.
Additional tips for success on a ketogenic diet are maximizing nutrition and minimizing toxins, using helpful supplements, getting adequate amounts of minerals and calories, limiting protein, and super hydrating. Cycling carbohydrates in sync with your menstrual cycle and following these tips will greatly benefit women on a ketogenic diet.
If you are looking for more great keto meal ideas than check out our complete Navigating the Ketogenic Diet program here
Sources for this Article Include
1. Masood W., Uppaluri K., Ketogenic Diet. 2018 May, Campbell University. PMID: NBK499830
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Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: Is it Right for You?
Celebrities, athletes, and everyday people—it seems like we’re all talking about the keto diet. If done correctly, your body can become a lean, mean, fat-burning machine. What’s not to love?
On keto, you don’t have to obsess over counting calories. You don’t have to fork over cash for expensive meal plans. The one thing you have to do is extremely limit carbohydrate intake (usually to less than 50g a day). But what if carbs could be consumed occasionally while still following keto?
People think of keto as an all-or-nothing diet strategy. Maybe it doesn’t have to be.
With the cyclical ketogenic diet, you can stay in ketosis most of the time while still enjoying carbs one or two days per week. It’s important to note the cyclical ketogenic diet is a less researched strategy based largely on experiments and anecdotal circumstances; but it may still be effective for some individuals when implemented properly.
Want to try the keto lifestyle but don’t want to give up carbs entirely? Here’s how it can be done.
How Cyclical Keto Works
The cyclical keto diet has a less formal structure than traditional keto.
Common practice is to eat keto several per week and consume controlled amounts of complex carbs the remaining day(s). While this may seem sacrilegious to the keto community, many strength athletes employ cyclical keto dieting because of the need for carbs on heavy training days. If you want to give cyclical keto a shot, first assess your needs, then figure out how to best implement them.
Phase 1: The Ketogenic Phase
As a quick refresher, the ketogenic diet produces metabolic adaptations in the body by almost eliminating carbs. The body will begin to employ fat as fuel, which also results in the release of ketones.
Ketones are a highly efficient fuel for the body, but one of their main benefits is also being fuel for the brain; unlike fat, ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier.
People on a cyclical keto diet follow the standard keto diet most of the time. Five or six days of the week you consume between 50g – 100g of carbs or less. The majority of calories in your diet will come from healthy fat sources with a moderate protein intake and an extremely low amount of carbs.
The following macronutrient ratio should be used for standard keto days:
Low carb intake will eventually result in depleted glycogen stores, typically within 24 – 48 hours, leading to a breakdown of fat, leading to ketone production, resulting in a metabolic change.
Phase 2: The Carb Loading Phase
The word “carbohydrates” is a four letter word for people on keto. But on cyclical keto, “carbing-up” or “refeed days” allow more carb consumption than traditional keto based on (usually) needs for training. These carb days are not designed to be full-on cheat-with-all-the cake days, but should allow you to eat healthy carbohydrate options. Start with one day per week and see how your body responds.
The carb loading days should follow a macronutrient ratio of 30% – 40% of calories from carbs (similar, but still lower than the standard Western Diet), 25% – 30% of calories from protein, and 30% – 40% of calories from fat. Carbs should come from micronutrient-dense, whole foods.
Foods containing processed sugar should be avoided, as they can cause an unhealthy, rapid spike in insulin levels and provide no valuable nutrients.
Certain athletes might benefit from the advantages of strategic carb use. Bodybuilders and strength athletes may perform better with carbohydrates, as they’re a fast-burning fuel best employed for high-intensity exercise.1 The carbs provide your body with the appropriate fuel to perform and recover, which are converted to muscle glycogen and may enhance performance in strength-based exercises.
Be sure to schedule your carbohydrate intake around your heaviest workouts (even timing carb intake just before or just after your workout). Thinking bigger picture, those heavy workouts can also come on days following a carb refeed, optimizing usage of glucose stores. Remember—carb loading days are designed to enhance performance, not to cheat on your diet.
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Eating a Cyclical Keto Diet
So now that you have an idea of the structure of your week cyclical keto dieting, lets talk about what you need to eat on each of those diet days.
The Ketogenic Diet Days
Here, you’ll be following the keto diet basics: eat lots of healthy fats, moderate protein, and very little carbs (less than 50g daily). Sounds easy enough, right? There may be more to it than you realize.
Here are some of the foods to consider including in your diet:
- Meats and fish: Choose unprocessed, organic or grass-fed meats high in fat, including beef and pork. Fish should be fatty, and contain a high amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, or tuna.
- Eggs: A staple of the keto diet, these can be cooked in endless ways such as scrambled, fried, over-easy, omelettes, etc.
- Non-starchy vegetables: Leafy green options such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and bell peppers provide micronutrients for essential vitamins and minerals.
- Low-carb dairy: Butter and high-fat cheeses can be included in the diet. Milk on the other hand is high in carbs and should be used sparingly.
- Nuts: Can be consumed in moderation, but be aware of their relatively high caloric content. The best low-carb options are raw almonds, pecans, and macadamia nuts.
- Berries: Most fruits are not recommended on keto days, but limited amounts of berries are acceptable due to their low carb content.
- Healthy oils: Coconut oil, avocado oil, and MCT oil are all healthy fat sources used for cooking or dressings. If you’re looking for an easy source of the highest-quality fats, try MCT Oil Powders. They are a delicious addition to any coffee or smoothie.
Some foods have a sneaky-high carb count; here are a couple to avoid, that you may be unaware of:
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potatoes
- White potatoes
Since you’ll be in ketosis most of the time, the goal is to reap all the benefits associated with keto. But now that you have extra carbs in your tool belt to use sparingly, let’s look at which kinds of carbs are the best to use.
The Carb Loading Days
Rejoice! You’ve arrived at the one or two days a week with increased carb intake. These “refeed” days replenish glycogen stores for upcoming workouts, and on these days, the carbs will likely pull you out of ketosis.
Refeed days should be focused on consumption of quality whole food carbohydrate sources—not the overly processed potato chips that have been staring you down from the cupboard. Choose micronutrient dense, healthy complex carb options for best performance on workouts.
Some of the best choices include:
- Sweet potatoes
- White rice
- Brown rice
- Steel-cut oats
- Butternut squash
- Black beans
Foods containing simple sugars such as white breads, baked goods, candies, cakes, cookies, and chips should be avoided due to their lack of nutritional value. They can also cause high glycemic variability leading to negative side effects.2 Healthy complex carbs provide better satiety when compared to foods containing simple sugars.3
Although carb intake is increased, be sure to eat adequate protein to conserve lean body mass (LBM). Most studies suggest at least 0.8g per pound of LBM to prevent muscle loss. The leaner you become, the more efficiently your body burns fat due to increased resting metabolism.4
The carb loading days will vary depending on the specific person. You should start with one day per week and listen to your body. If your body responds favorably, try to add another carb loading day. Your body’s response can also be dependent on the amount of carbs and quality of those carbs; don’t go overboard on the, it’s not a free pass to throw your diet out the window.
Getting Back into Ketosis
You’ve consumed carbs for a day or two. Now time to get the body back into ketosis. You have a few options.
Intermittent fasting is an easy way to help kickstart ketosis. Common fasting schedules include a 24-hour fast once weekly, or a 16 / 8 fast, where you eat for eight hours during the day, and fast for the other 16. You can try to stop eating carbs as early as practical on your carb loading day and do not eat until noon the following day. Intermittent fasting will help to deplete glycogen stores from increased carb intake, resulting in the body turning to fat as fuel (and thus producing ketones).
Another way to help you get back into ketosis is high-intensity workouts.
Performing high-intensity exercise training (HIIT) after high carb days will help deplete glycogen stores.
Workouts requiring the most energy, such as circuit training, will be best for depleting glucose storage. Using the stored energy obtained during carb refeed days is optimal for performance and better results.
Fasting and glycogen depleting workouts will help trigger the production of endogenous ketones naturally, meaning the body will be producing its own ketones. The other way of triggering ketosis is exogenously, in which blood ketone levels are increased with the help of an external supplement.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a great, everyday choice to help boost ketone levels. These are fatty acids that do not contain ketones, but instead are readily converted into ketones based on their shorter chain length. Specifically, MCT Oil Powders that contain pure C8 caprylic acid—the world’s most ketogenic MCT—will get you the most bang for your buck.
Other supplements, like ketone salts, can raise ketone levels but have some side effects. They can often lead to overconsumption of sodium, can cause GI issues, and don’t have clear performance benefits.
If you’re looking for a deep, immediate ketosis, try ketone ester drinks. These supplements have been shown to improve performance and recovery. Within 30 minutes, it can raise ketone levels to 3.0mM -5.0mM.5,6 This will get you back into ketosis rapidly, and back on the right track to enter the keto cycling of your dieting.
Cyclical Keto vs. Carb Cycling
On the surface, cyclical keto may appear to be similar to other diets—like carb cycling.
Cyclical keto involves a mostly ketogenic diet mixed in with limited carb days for athletes who need to restore glycogen stores. These carb days are designed to take the body out of ketosis temporarily before returning to ketosis shortly thereafter.
Carb cycling is usually based around variable carbohydrate intake alternating throughout the week, involving high, moderate, or low carb days.7 High carb days are reserved for intense workouts while low carb days are generally reserved for rest days. Carb cycling can even get more granular; where cyclical keto focuses on number of carb days per week, carb cycling can even mean eating carb strategically throughout the day.
Carb cycling does not necessarily induce ketosis. Carb intake is adjusted each day, but it’s likely never reduced enough to get you into a ketogenic state. Carb cycling can work for athletes but isn’t necessarily about increasing ketone levels. If you’re an athlete who’d like to become fat-adapted but still needs carbs for high-intensity workouts, maybe carb cycling is right for you.
Benefits of Cyclical Keto
Your diet should work with your life, from exercise to social needs. But if you do try a cyclical keto diet, here are some benefits you might expect.
May Increase Muscle Growth / Performance on Keto
Low carb diets can effectively maintain, or in some cases increase, lean body mass (LBM) and preserve muscle mass.8,9 The downside: it may be more difficult to train on keto.10
Performing regular carbohydrate refeed days may improve the performance of elite strength athletes on low-carb diets. Keto reduces insulin secretion but some people may argue insulin is important to allow amino acids and glucose into muscles increasing protein synthesis.11,12
Cyclical keto can be used strategically on intense training session days to enhance the anabolic effect of insulin for muscle development.
Preventing the Keto Flu
By entering in and out of ketosis, there’s a possibility you may experience the keto flu more frequently than someone who maintains ketosis constantly.
As the body struggles to adapt to using fat and ketones as primary energy sources, some symptoms may emerge during the transition period. The common side effects associated with carbohydrate withdrawal include: fatigue, irritability, weakness, nausea, and mood swings.13
Carb intake can help to get rid of the keto flu in the short term, but be warned, you may still get keto flu when you try to get back into ketosis. You can also try supplements, like ketone esters, to lessen these symptoms by introducing ketones to the body while its depleted of fuel.
Increases Nutrient Intake
By semi-regularly consuming healthy complex carbohydrate sources, your diet may become more nutrient rich.
Foods such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, butternut squash, and brown rice are difficult to include on a ketogenic diet due to their high carb content. However, they provide valuable nutrients such as vitamin A, fiber, manganese, magnesium, and more.
While carb sources are not required for obtaining these micronutrients, they’re an added benefit of practicing cyclical keto. A poorly formulated keto diet can be micronutrient poor as food choices can seem limited.
Makes Keto Easier to Maintain
Some people may have difficulty sticking to a standard keto diet due to its restrictive nature. Cyclical keto encourages occasional carb consumption from whole food sources, allowing for a more varied diet.
Some people may find cyclical keto easier to follow from both a mental and physical perspective. It can be difficult to stick to a keto diet 100% of the time. Sometimes you should be allowed to get off keto to enjoy social gatherings with friends and family. No matter what diet you choose, adherence is more likely if you enjoy what you eat.
May Improve Lifespan and Longevity
Animal models suggest lifespan and midlife mortality may be improved with cyclical keto. Although not yet proven in humans, this study found cyclical keto to improve certain aging related health markers in mice.
In one study, memory, survival, and health-span in mice all improved while on a cyclical keto style diet, but not with a regular full time keto diet.14
In contrast, another study published in the same journal showed regular keto could increase lifespan and survival in mice, so the jury is still out as to if regular keto or cyclical keto is best.15
These results definitely open up the possibility you may not need to constantly be in ketosis to benefit from a low carb diet.
Downsides to Cyclical Keto
The current human research on cyclical keto is somewhat limited at the moment. Although one or two animal studies have shown promising results as mentioned above, it’s impossible to know its full effect on humans at this stage.
Cyclical keto may be counterproductive to weight loss if too many carbohydrates are consumed on refeed days. If you are consuming too many carbs on a regular basis, it may be difficult to get back into sustained ketosis in between refeeds.
Increased carb intake following glycogen depletion may also cause water retention and temporary weight fluctuations. Don’t get too caught up in the numbers on the scale—do what’s best for your body.
The downsides of cyclical keto are minimal, but should be considered when switching diets.
Is the Diet Right for You?
The research on the cyclical keto dieting is currently limited, but it may show promising results for certain groups depending on fitness and nutrition needs. But it is important to choose the diet right for you—what works for one person may not work for another.
No matter which diet you choose, be sure to pick a sustainable diet you can follow long term.
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On the keto diet, you restrict your carb intake while increasing your fat intake to transition your body into a fat-burning state. For many people, this means eating 30 grams of carbs or less per day. Others, however, seem to benefit from eating higher amounts of carbs at specific time intervals. This is known as carb cycling.
While it might sound counterintuitive, some people find that carb cycling works better than consistently and drastically restricting their carb intake.
Weight loss, fat loss, and better sports performance are all reported benefits of carb cycling. Below, you’ll learn how to “cycle” your carbohydrate intake, the science behind it, and whether this specific keto diet approach could support your goals.
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What Is Carb Cycling?
The basic principle of carb cycling is to vary your carb intake throughout the week, month, or year. How many carbs you consume during this time will vary depending upon your body composition, activity level, and health goals.
Carb cycling is popular among people following low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet. People can choose to cycle their carbs for many reasons, including:
- Weight or fat loss goals: Many people restrict their carbs in order to lose weight, then reintroduce carbs to encourage muscle growth. Having a higher percentage of muscle mass per pound of body weight can improve metabolism, thus leading to greater weight loss.
- Athletic training goals: For those following a rigorous training program at the gym, alternating between higher-carb days and lower-carb days may support their workouts. Since training requires adequate restoration of muscle glycogen stores, eating high carbohydrates before or after exercise might help with training and recovery.
- Overcoming a plateau: When adhering to a low-carb diet, it’s not uncommon to experience initial weight loss, followed by stalled progress around the six-month mark. Sometimes, by going through a high-carb cycle, people can surprise their metabolism, thereby breaking through their “plateau.”
Is Carb Cycling the Same Thing as the Cyclical Keto Diet?
The cyclical keto diet (CKD) is one form of carb cycling, but cycling your carbs does not necessarily mean you’re following the cyclical keto diet.
The cyclical keto diet follows a standard ketogenic diet (SKD) for five to six days a week. On the remaining days of the week, you’ll consume higher amounts of carbohydrates. A carb cycle, on the other hand, may last weeks or even months.
A carb cycling diet and the cyclical keto diet have similar goals. Some athletes choose to follow the CKD in order to replenish their glycogen stores after heavy training sessions.
In other words, they intentionally eat large amounts of carbohydrates — even if it will kick them out of ketosis — to raise their blood glucose levels during intense training days. This lets them replenish their glycogen levels after exercise, allowing their muscles to recover.
Health Benefits of Carb Cycling
There are limited studies directly related to the effectiveness of carb cycling. However, related studies on training techniques, metabolism, and hormones support the theory behind carb cycling.
Could Support Your Hormones
Eating high amounts of carbs for several days will raise your anabolic hormones testosterone and insulin.
Testosterone is well known for its role in increasing muscle mass by increasing muscle synthesis.
Meanwhile, increased insulin levels will help replenish your glycogen stores, which helps your muscles repair following exercise.
Could Improve Muscle Growth
Many people interested in carb cycling have a rigorous exercise routine. Studies show that athletic performance improves after a “carb-loading” phase.
Other studies show that carbohydrates can help rebuild and repair muscles after exercise, which will then lead to muscle growth.
However, conflicting studies show that carb-loading days are not necessary to build muscle, as long as protein intake is sufficient.
Might Help You Lose Weight
Advocates of a carb cycling plan argue that since carb cycling appears to regulate your hormones, stimulate muscle growth, and help you recover quickly from workouts, you should, therefore, lose weight.
While there is anecdotal evidence of this theory, this has not been proven by science.
How to Implement Carb Cycling
You can cycle your carbs once a week, once a month, or during a specific season. If you’re an athlete, for example, you may choose to eat higher amounts of carbs during competition season.
On the other hand, if you’re a regular weekend warrior who completes two incredibly challenging workouts per week, you may choose to eat a high amount of carbs on those days.
Unlike the cyclical keto diet, where your carb intake will dramatically spike on one or two days per week, carb cycling usually entails gradually raising and lowering your carb intake.
If you implement a high-carb cycle each week, a seven-day span may look something like this:
- Monday: 30 grams of carbs
- Tuesday: 100 grams of carbs
- Wednesday: 150 grams of carbs
- Thursday: 125 grams of carbs
- Friday: 75 grams of carbs
- Saturday: 50 grams of carbs
- Sunday: 50 grams of carbs
On this schedule, the middle of your week (Wednesday) would also be your most intense training day at the gym. This might include a bodybuilding or HIIT workout. Low-carb days (Monday and Saturday) would include easy-to-moderate workouts, such as light cardio, while Sunday would be a rest day from the gym.
A Carb Cycling Meal Plan
If you’re already following the keto diet, implementing a carb cycling meal plan should be fairly straightforward.
Follow a strict keto diet on your low-carb days, stocking up on healthy fats, green leafy veggies, and a moderate amount of protein.
On your high-carb days, your plate might include a serving of brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, or other starch.
Here is what a sample day may look like, depending on where you are in your carb cycle:
High-Carb Day: 162 grams of carbs
Low-Carb Day: 23.4 net carbs
- Breakfast: 2 chocolate protein pancakes (0 net carbs)
- Lunch: Keto taco salad (7 net carbs)
- Pre-workout snack: Triple chocolate smoothie (4 net carbs)
- Dinner: 2 servings of sheet pan sausage and peppers (10 net carbs)
- Dessert: Avocado brownie (2.4 net carbs)
Carb Cycling Could Support Your Keto Diet Goals
Carb cycling involves moving between periods where you eat high amounts of carbs and low amounts of carbs. A given “cycle” could last anywhere from one week to one year.
Carb cycling is popular among athletes and those following a low-carbohydrate diet. People motivated to try carb cycling are usually looking to boost athletic performance, improve body composition, or break through a weight loss plateau.
The cyclical keto diet is one form of carb cycling, where keto dieters eat high amounts of carbs for 1-2 days per week. For more information on whether the CKD might be right for you, check out this comprehensive guide on the cyclical keto diet and how to follow it.
Just when you think the keto diet has run out of steam (seriously, how many more variations can there be??) some new #ketocontent pops up. This time: keto cycling.
All of these different keto plans—ACV and keto, keto reset—stem from the same idea: The OG keto diet is hard AF to follow. Yes, you can have butter and bacon, but you also have to drastically cut carbs and protein—so it makes sense why people would look for a shortcut (or just something to make the transition a little easier).
So, keto cycling sets out to make your keto diet a little more bearable (read: easier to stick to)—but does it work?
All right, what exactly is keto cycling?
There’s not a standard definition to go by (even though everyone is talking about it). But, “most of the time, the definition is that you stick to strict carb-restricted keto diet five to six days a week and have one day that is either a cheat day or a planned day of higher carbs,” says Robert Santos-Prowse, R.D.N., author of The Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.
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Basically, keto cycling differs from a typical keto diet because you’re consuming more carbs than usual one day a week, in order to kick your body out of ketosis (only to go back into ketosis the next day).
It’s actually similar to carb cycling—where you alternate lower and higher carb days, often to go along with what type of workout you’re doing (think: high carb days for high-intensity workouts). The main difference: You don’t cut enough carbs (or eat enough fats) to go into ketosis with carb cycling.
How does keto cycling work?
While there are no formal studies testing out keto cycling, the theory is that it may help regulate your hormones, says Santos-Prowse. “There’s some indication that prolonged carb restriction may be disruptive to thyroid hormone levels, which can be particularly frustrating if you’re trying to do keto for weight loss,” he says. Cycling in and out of keto may help you avoid that problem.
It may also help you deal with that whole keto flu thing, where you feel miserable on the keto diet as you transition into that high-fat life. Adding in a day or two of carbs on the keto diet (which is basically what keto cycling is) might help to quell those miserable feelings like sluggishness and nausea.
Plus, there’s the whole mental factor—giving yourself one day of carbs might make it easier for you to stick with the keto diet, and sustainable diets lead to, well, more sustainable weight loss results, says Santos-Prowse.
So, will I lose weight doing keto cycling?
Here’s one caveat for keto cycling: If you take this day-off approach, you’ll likely see the scale tick up almost immediately, says Santos-Prowse. But don’t freak: It’s just because eating carbs will prompt your body to hold onto more water, he says.
It’s not fat gain, but water weight—and when you kick out the carbs again, it’ll drop off. “When you get back into ketosis, this water weight should come back off,” he says. Long-term, if this approach helps you stick to a keto diet, you could lose more weight over time.
Should I try keto cycling?
First, know that cheat days can easily get out of hand and lead to cheat weeks or months, says Santos-Prowse. But if you don’t have a problem with binging behavior, a cheat day can be helpful.
“The keto diet is incredibly restrictive, and for many people, it’s probably too restrictive to follow long-term,” says Santos-Prowse. “If you give yourself allowance to deviate and you know you’re going to do it, it makes staying with the diet more manageable,” he adds.
But you still need to keep healthy eating habits in mind. “It’s not going to help meet any of your health goals to go crazy with donuts, pizza, and sugary lattes, but brown rice, higher-sugar fruits, sweet potatoes, and even whole-grain bread can supply your body with nutrient-dense sources of carbs,” says Santos-Prowse.
The bottom line: Keto cycling may help you stick to the keto diet by giving you a little more wiggle room.
Jessica Migala Jessica Migala is a health writer specializing in general wellness, fitness, nutrition, and skincare, with work published in Women’s Health, Glamour, Health, Men’s Health, and more.
Are you fighting carb cravings on keto?
Wondering why you get them and — most importantly — how to make them go away?
Since the struggle is all too real, we’re getting to the bottom of carb cravings in today’s guide to find out:
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After you learn what they are, you’ll never feel hostage to a carb craving again. So that’s exactly where we’ll begin.
What Are Carb Cravings?
This isn’t a trick question: a carbohydrate craving usually takes the form of an intense desire for foods in the carb family.
That may mean pizza, nachos, ice cream, pasta, chips, beer — you name it.
Carb cravings occur most often at the beginning of your keto transition even though there are several reasons you may encounter them down the road (more on this next).
Pre-keto, your body will be used to operating on sugar and processed carbs for energy.
Eat a meal high in carbs and sugar and you’ll also have a rise in your blood sugar levels. Your pancreas then sends out insulin to deal with all this glucose chillin’ in your bloodstream.
As you probably already know, constantly high blood sugar and insulin levels put you on the path to metabolic syndrome, which puts you at an increased risk for developing:
- Insulin resistance and insulin sensitivity issues
- Heart disease
- Obesity and weight gain
- Type 2 diabetes
- PCOS (if you’re a lady)
- Certain cancers
When you finally stop the sugar train with a low carbohydrate diet like keto, your body tends to go a bit berserk instead of thanking you.
And this monster is what’s known as a carb craving.
What a Carb Craving Feels Like
Your body loves working on glucose; it’s fast-acting and you can store it for later in case you get lost in the desert without food.
But sugar’s a terrible energy source.
The second you run on anything less than a full tank of glucose, your body throws a temper tantrum and becomes a burden to deal with.
You’ll experience the side effects of low blood sugar levels, which include:
- Fatigue and excessive tiredness
- Extreme hunger and thirst
- Irritability, anxiety and mood swings
- A hollow, churning, nauseous feeling in your tummy
Since your body associates carby foods with energy, feeling full and happiness, it will start to crave sugar as a quick fix for all those negative symptoms we just covered.
Your body’s addicted to sugar the same way an addict needs their next fix.
But there is a light at the end of the seemingly never-ending tunnel: once you get in ketosis, carb cravings all but disappear and your taste buds will literally change for the better.
Your body will get used to and prefer working on fat and ketones and perform better.
But, again, that’s only after you reach ketosis.
If you’re not quite there yet, you may have to keep on fighting off carb cravings.
Other than sugar withdrawal, there are other issues that can make you start craving sugar and stand in your way to carb-free nirvana, as we’ll see next.
7 Reasons Why You Get Carb Cravings (+ How to Stop Them)
As we just learned, most carb cravings are the result of sugar withdrawal. But they can also strike if you make any of these common mistakes on the way to ketosis.
So let’s identify and learn how to fix them:
#1: You’re Limiting Carbs Too Slowly
There are two ways to approach starting a keto diet:
- Go cold turkey on carbs and immediately start day one with your goal carb macro set. Most people reach ketosis by limiting their daily net carbs to 25g.
- Gradually cut carbs until you reach your goal. So you’ll track your normal carb intake pre-keto and then cut 50g of carbs per day until you reach your goal (i.e., 25g per day).
Many people go cold turkey on carbs since it’s the fastest way to reach ketosis.
However, it’s a much harder shock to a woman’s body to drastically cut carbs like this — and may even cause weight gain.
That’s why women may find better results with keto by gradually easing their bodies into the low carb life.
The only downside here is the carb cravings can take longer to shake off.
Since you’re still feeding your body carbs, even in decreasing amounts, your body will always crave more.
Stop eating carbs completely and you may have to deal with carb cravings for a week or month until you’re in ketosis. Go slowly and you’ll take the same time, plus the weeks it takes to wean yourself to your daily carb goal.
How to fix this: If you can go cold turkey without any ill side effects, that’s your best bet for fast-tracking carb cravings and crossing the ketosis line.
But if you have to cut carbs slowly, that’s totally okay too. Just stick it out!
Adjusting to your daily net carbs is the hardest hurdle you’ll have to jump over on your keto journey. But once you find your sweet spot it will be smooth sailing from there.
Adjusting your macros, on the other hand, is a chore you’ll face more than once. And if you’re not doing it right, it could trigger carb cravings as well.
#2 Your Macros May Need Tweaking
It’s almost impossible to get your keto macros right on the first try.
On a low carb diet, carb cravings are sometimes your body’s way of saying you’re hungry for more protein or more healthy fats.
Protein and fat are both satiating so they’ll curb your hunger and leave you less likely to crave carbs.
How to fix this: Recalculate your macros using the Perfect Keto Macro Calculator and experiment from there.
Eating 4 oz. of protein or snacking on high-fat foods like keto fat bombs will both stop a carb craving in its tracks — but you have to know which one your body needs.
Load up on the wrong macro and you may not see the weight loss and body results you’re hoping for.
Generally, if you’re feeling hungry and sluggish, more protein may be the answer; but if you’re just a bit hungrier, fat may be the better choice.
The only way to know how your body responds to protein or fat is to track everything you eat and how you feel afterward.
Fiber is another important staple you may need more of on keto.
#3: You Forgot About Fiber
Carby foods like rice, pasta, and oatmeal fill you up even if they’re not nutritionally satisfying. Fiber does the same, except it’s better for your health.
See, fiber is a carb your body can’t digest. Since it takes a while to pass through your system, studies show you’ll feel less hungry, crave fewer carbs and eat fewer calories the more fiber your diet contains.
Fiber also helps your digestion run smoothly so you don’t face common troubles like constipation on keto.
If you’re missing your fiber mark, you’ll find yourself constantly grazing for food in the carb world though nothing will ever quite fill you up.
How to fix this: Aim for at least 30-40g of fiber every day. The best sources of fiber on a ketogenic diet include healthy carbs like:
- Veggies like asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radishes, zucchini, artichoke, spinach and swiss chard
- Fruit like avocado, blackberries and raspberries
- Nuts such as almond, pine, pistachio, hazelnut and pecan
- Seeds like chia, flax and pumpkin
Another biggie you’ll want to keep track of in addition to fiber is your water intake — especially if you want to lose weight.
#4. You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
Did you know sometimes prowling for carbs may actually be your body’s way of saying you’re thirsty?
It’s true; the signs of dehydration are so similar to hunger you may not know the difference if you’re new to listening to your body. These include:
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Trouble concentrating or focusing
It doesn’t take a lot for your body to become dehydrated — just a 1-2% drop in your normal fluid levels is enough to feel the effects. And if you’re chowing down when you should be hydrating, your waistline will show it.
In one study, researchers found a link between adults with poor hydration and those with higher BMIs.
The scientists concluded those who weighed more needed to drink more water but were actually eating instead of drinking because they couldn’t tell the difference between actual hunger pangs and signs of thirst.
How to fix this: Drink more water. Period. And check out this guide on electrolytes and dehydration for more help.
Another time you may mistake carb cravings for real hunger is when you’re in the wrong headspace.
#5. You’re Stressed, Bored or Prone to Emotional Eating
If you’re the type to smash a pint of ice cream after a breakup or eat a whole pizza when you’re stressed, the first few weeks of keto may be a challenge for you.
And that’s because certain cravings can be a response to your emotional state and stress.
For example, researchers tell us cravings for sweets align with times when you’re either happy or want to be happier.
And when you’re frustrated or angry, it’s not uncommon to seek out crunchy or spicy foods of equal emotional intensity.
Studies even show those with diets high in processed foods and refined carbs have a higher risk of depression.
Since eating carbs triggers brain chemicals that make us feel rewarded, going for them may be a form of self-medicating when you’re sad, worried or lonely.
So whether you’ve been keto for a month or a year, your carb cravings may indicate a deeper need to satisfy an emotion you’re experiencing but may not be aware of.
Every time you use carbs to fill your boredom or provide temporary joy, you only reinforce the cycle of needing them to be happy or fulfilled.
How to fix this: Learn the difference between real hunger and emotional malnourishment.
When you’re actually hungry, your symptoms start gradually and go away with healthier foods such as protein or fat.
Emotional eating tends to come on quick and strong, triggering those specific coping mechanisms like reaching for “comfort foods” and snacks out of a vending machine.
Since carb cravings go away in less than an hour, focus your attention on a more positive activity while they subside, such as:
- Brushing your teeth, which suppresses your desire to eat carbs or anything else.
- Going for a walk, which will increase dopamine and boost your mood and energy levels. Research shows a 15-minute walk also lowers cravings for sweet snacks in overweight people.
- Meditation, yoga, and grounding in nature will also help lower your stress and help unpack your thoughts and feelings.
- Keto menu planning. Figuring out what you’re going to eat for the week — including snacks and desserts — will ensure you always have keto-friendly options around when you’re in no mood to think healthy.
Meal planning is key to losing weight and winning keto. You may just be spinning your wheels if you’re doing anything less as you’ll see next.
#6. You’re Still Cheating or Doing “Lazy” Keto
Without tracking your food intake, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of eating too many carbs and stalling fat adaptation.
If you’re still having cheat days to give in to your carb cravings, they’ll never leave you alone.
That’s why many experts agree you can’t have cheat days on keto. One day of cheating has the potential to put all your hard work to shame and bring you right back to square one.
You’ll have to go through the dreaded keto flu and fight off carb cravings on your way back to ketosis. Not so fun.
How to fix this: Get to the root of your cheating and learn why you’re doing your body a disservice when you cheat on keto. You’ll be less likely to jump off the wagon to satisfy your sweet tooth in the future.
Start replacing the carby cheats you’re craving with keto-friendly alternatives.
If you do fall off the wagon, you can take Perfect Keto Blood Sugar Support to help stabilize your blood sugar levels and curb energy crashes.
Don’t forget to stock your keto pantry with the best keto foods and snacks, including:
- No- or low sugar beef jerky
- Seeds, nuts, and nut butters
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Pickles (bonus: pickle juice is full of electrolytes)
- Pepperoni (try baking in the oven for crunchy chips!)
- Coconut oil
A perk of being more strict with your diet is sleuthing out hidden carbs before they have a chance to derail you.
#7. Hidden Carbs May Be Sabotaging Your Work
Carbs are everywhere — even in foods you may consider keto-friendly.
From carbs in low-fat dairy to hidden names for added sugar, if you’re not tracking your food intake with an app like MyFitnessPal, you’ll never know how many of these hidden carbs quickly add up before you blow your macros for the day.
How to fix this: Check out this guide on the worst hidden carbs on keto. Stick to whole natural foods and avoid suspect ingredients, preservatives, and questionable additives.
Tip: Whenever you eat hidden carbs by accident, you can take Perfect Keto Blood Sugar Support to ensure healthy carb metabolism and help stabilize your blood sugar levels.
Whole food sources will also provide the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs. If you’re only doing lazy keto, your carb cravings could be due to missing out on these.
Carb Cravings Fade. Your Desire to Stay Keto is Stronger
You’ll never starve or die from a carb craving — despite what you may feel when you’re in the middle of one.
If you ride out the pain and crankiness, you’ll be rewarded by making it one step closer to ketosis and ridding yourself of carb cravings for good.
If you feel one sneaking up, just think about all the damage carbs and sugar have done to you in the past. Remember all the times you couldn’t get off the couch or became a hangry monster around someone you love.
No carb craving is stronger than your desire to take control of your life, end this vicious sugar cycle and finally have the energy and willpower to lose those stubborn pounds.
Follow today’s tips and it’ll be easier to give your carb cravings the cold shoulder for the rest of your keto life.
Carb Cravings on Keto (Spoiler: You’re Stronger Than You Think)
You’re minding your own business, going about your day like a good keto follower, when all of a sudden it hits you: a carb craving. Carb cravings can strike whether you’re on day 1 or 1,000 of following the keto diet, and unfortunately, they can feel pretty powerful.
Although carb cravings are unpleasant, you might take comfort in knowing that they’re not all in your head; there’s biology behind your cravings, and if you understand why they happen, you can take steps to not only fight them off but to make them fewer and farther between.
What Does a Carb Craving Feel Like?
A carb craving is an intense and sudden desire to consume food in the carb family, be it bread, pasta, pizza, or even a starchy vegetable like corn.
You’ve no doubt experienced cravings for other foods in your life, but before going on the keto diet you may have been able to make them disappear simply by giving in or distracting yourself with a similar treat.
When you’re on keto, it’s not so easy. The cravings can feel even more intense than normal because the food you want is truly “off-limits” and there are higher stakes associated with fighting the craving. If you give in to it, your hard work to stay in ketosis could go out the window.
Instead of throwing in the towel, stand firm. Keep reading to learn a few of the underlying reasons for your cravings and some actionable steps to deal with them.
Why We Get Cravings
There are a number of reasons we get cravings, from the physical to the mental. Here are three of the biggest carb craving culprits.
Your Blood Sugar Is Low
This is the primary reason for carb cravings in the early stages of adopting a keto lifestyle. Your body is used to running primarily on carbohydrates for fuel, so when they’re not there, your brain signals for you to refuel by way of eating carbs.
Cravings in this stage can range from mild to almost painful and can be accompanied by headaches, fatigue and mood swings–symptoms commonly known as the “keto flu.” While it’s uncomfortable, it’s not actually an illness. It’s your body going through withdrawal-like symptoms while transitioning from carbs to fat as its primary fuel source.
The good news is that this phase will pass as your body gets used to relying on ketones from fat rather than carbs as its number one fuel source.
You’re Not Getting Enough Calories
Though this is another common culprit for new keto dieters, it can happen to even the most dedicated keto follower.
Let’s say you forget to grab breakfast on your way out the door or you work through lunch on a busy day. You’re going to be hungry, plain and simple, and if you’re hungry enough without a low-carb snack nearby to fill you up, you may be more susceptible to falling into old habits, like reaching for a slice of pizza or a bag of potato chips. Old habits die hard, and when we’re experiencing a moment of uncertainty our brains fall back on old habits by default. Hence, a carb craving.
Since you can’t rely on carbs to get your recommended daily intake of calories while on the keto diet, it’s super important to get enough calories from fats and proteins–perhaps more than feels natural at first. Getting a sufficient amount of calories for your body each day is key to preventing cravings.
As if being stressed out wasn’t taxing enough on its own, it’s also a prime time for cravings to hit (thanks a lot, biology!).
When we’re under stress, our body releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a cravings nightmare because it makes us want to eat. And it’s not just any food our bodies crave–one of the biggest things it wants is sugar. Sugar, unfortunately, acts as true comfort food in moments of stress. Sugar has a feedback effect on our bodies that dampens stress-related emotions and makes us feel better in the short term.
But, as we know, in the long term sugar is one of the worst things you can put in your body. It’s responsible for weight gain, inflammation, increased risk of heart disease and more. So, having alternate tools to deal with stress is an important factor in fighting carb cravings.
Are Cravings Worse on Keto?
It’s important to know that although cravings may feel worse on keto, science says cravings aren’t actually made worse by restricting a certain type of food and thus they’re not “caused” by following any specific diet. In fact, a high-fat, low-carb diet was shown to be associated with fewer cravings than other types of diets.
What this means is that the cravings most likely feel worse simply because of the old paradox: we want what we can’t have. When carbs are off-limits, it’s all that much harder not to think about eating them.
While you can’t prevent carb cravings completely, you can dramatically increase your chances of getting through them successfully by arming yourself with some tools to deal with cravings.
How to Deal With Carb Cravings
Practice these three tried and true techniques to beat carb cravings on the keto diet.
Fill Up On Something Else
The first step to take in the moment a craving strikes is to eat something keto-friendly instead. If the food you’re craving contains a carb substitute, reach for that right away. Some examples are:
- Zucchini noodles for pasta
- Mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes
- Kale chips or popcorn for potato chips
- Bulletproof coffee for a latte
- Halo Top ice cream for regular ice cream
- Lettuce wraps for tortillas
You can also curb cravings by eating plenty of fiber. Fiber not only keeps us feeling full, but it’s actually a carb that’s keto-friendly. Unlike other carbs, fiber can’t be broken down into sugar molecules and instead passes through the body undigested. Some good high-fiber snacks are chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, and avocados.
Finally, be sure to drink plenty of water. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger, so if you feel a sudden craving for a keto enemy like carbs, drink a tall glass of water and wait a few minutes. You might find the craving passes because your body was actually signaling for hydration rather than a snack.
Though we generally think of mind games as being a bad thing, when it comes to cravings, they can be our friend. Studies have shown you can effectively stave off a craving by focusing your mind on something else, like playing a game on your phone, for a short period of time.
Aim for an activity where your mind is required to focus on something–even something mindless–rather than wandering back to food. You might try:
- Playing a game on an app like Angry Birds
- Calling a friend to catch up
- Doing a crossword puzzle or Sudoku
- Drawing or coloring
- Doing a puzzle
- Cooking a low-carb dish
- Finishing a work-related task you’ve been putting off
Experts say food cravings may last only a few minutes (assuming, of course, you’re not lacking calories as we talked about earlier), so getting your mind off your carb urge and focusing it on something else, even for just a few minutes, can be an effective way to ride out a craving successfully.
Deal With Stress The Healthy Way
As we’ve discussed, stress can be a big trigger for carb cravings. Instead of turning to food to ease your anxiety, de-stress in a healthier way.
Exercise. Experts say any form of exercise, from running to yoga, can act as a natural stress reliever. When we get your body moving it produces endorphins, the neurotransmitters that cause a feel-good response. Exercise also has a meditative effect, taking your mind away from the day’s stressors.
Deep breathing. This is our body’s natural way of calming itself. When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to relax and let go. Your muscles relax, your heart rate lowers and your blood pressure slows down. Next time you feel the stress start to rise, take a step back and try a few deep breaths.
Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation elevates the stress hormone cortisol, which can then further disrupt our sleep patterns. It’s a vicious cycle. Experts recommend most adults aim for getting seven to eight hours of shut-eye per night.
Carb Cravings Will Go Away
There’s a light at the end of the carb-craving tunnel.
As your body adapts to getting fuel from ketones rather than carbohydrates, your cravings for carbs should drop in intensity and frequency. In fact, followers of a low-carb, high-fat diet have reported fewer cravings across all food groups than before they went on the diet.
You might still get hit by a craving every now and then, but by using the coping skills we outlined above you’ll get better at recognizing it when it happens and taking action to combat your craving before it gets the best of you.
About Left Coast Performance
Left Coast Performance is your trusted retailer for clean, keto-friendly products like MCT oil, collagen and protein powder to keep you on track with your low-carb diet. All of our products are made from premium ingredients with no artificial colors, flavors or fillers.
On our blog, you’ll find a wealth of lifestyle tips, keto recipes and frequently asked questions to help you along the way. Every Left Coast Performance order comes with free shipping, world-class customer service and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Follow us on Instagram for keto tips. Learn more and shop now at www.leftcoastperformance.com.
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Carb cravings or sugar cravings can be incredibly tough in the beginning of a ketogenic diet but do not despair, they won’t stay forever.
In case you’re struggling with them, here are our tips on how to deal with and eliminate carb cravings, especially when you first start the low carb ketogenic diet.
#1. Try Limiting Carbs at Once (Instead of Slowly Lowering the Amount)
Although it might seem like a good idea to slowly ease your way into a keto diet, it isn’t necessarily so.
To get into ketosis, you need to severely restrict the amount of carbs that you are consuming to 20-25 grams of net carbs per day.
If you’re staying at an amount that is higher than that, it might take you much longer to get into ketosis, and you might be constantly switching between your previous metabolic state and ketosis. Your carb cravings will linger on for a longer period of time.
Instead, we suggest diving into keto head on and without fear! Yes, go cold turkey! The first couple of days might be a bit unpleasant, but that phase will soon be over and you’ll feel much better once you become fat-adapted.
This will greatly help you control your hunger for carbs while it might be tough to deal with it in the first 3-4 days, it will greatly subside after that.
#2. If Necessary, Eat Until Full in The First Couple of Days, Without Restricting Calories Too Much
Carb-rich foods are usually bigger in volume than the foods you’ll be eating on a ketogenic diet, and if you find it difficult to feel satisfied, you might want to eat to satiety for a couple of days without worrying too much about calories. However, this doesn’t mean you can eat all the foods you want or eating way more than your daily energy expenditure.
You still want to keep an eye on your macros (by planning in advance and tracking what you’re eating), and especially on carbs, but if you struggle with hunger, use fat as a lever to help you stick to your diet.
If your goal is fat loss, in a week or two you should limit calories because they do count, even on a keto diet. That being said, most people experience decreased hunger with keto, so you might not even want to eat that much.
#3. Be Patient – The First Couple of Days Are The Most Difficult
Once you switch to a keto diet, your body will need to adapt to it, and based on your previous diet, this might be a bit of a challenge at first. Going from 200g-300g to 25g net carbs per day is an enormous change.
Thankfully, our bodies do an amazing job at adapting, and the keto diet is no exception.
If you were eating a lot of processed carbs before, limiting them is likely to provoke some particularly strong cravings, and sugar cravings are usually the worst.
There’s hope, though. These typically only last a couple of days or a week. After that, you’ll start noticing that you’re craving a whole new set of delicious foods such as roasted meat and salad, for example!
#4. Watch Out For Hidden Carbs
We live in a world where carbs are almost everywhere, even in products where you wouldn’t expect them to be, and hidden carbs definitely have the power to bring back old cravings.
What’s worse, even products that claim to be low carb are not always that low in carbs (or at least not as low as you need them to be on a keto diet).
That’s why it’s best to prepare your own meals. In this way, you can accurately track and measure everything without having to decipher complex labels.
#5. Try Eating Pickles
As strange as it sounds, a lot of people in the keto community find that pickles are an especially effective way to combat carb cravings.
Pickles are very low in carbs and in calories (although you still need to check the label because sometimes they have added sugar), and also contain a lot of sodium and potassium. Many people drink pickle juice as a way to replenish their electrolytes.
In addition to that, they will help you curb your hunger in the moments where you find it difficult to control it.
#6. Don’t Cheat (Especially In The Beginning)
Cravings don’t go away if you succumb to them. It’s actually in their nature to become even stronger each time you give in. The more you feed them the bigger they become, and they’re almost impossible to satisfy.
If you decide to have that chocolate brownie that you have been craving, you will very likely be kicked out of ketosis, and in addition to that you’ll soon find out that you want a second one, and also a slice of pizza, and some ice cream, and so on.
If you cheat during your adaptation phase, you risk having the keto flu all over again, and you’re not helping your body adapt to burning fat for fuel.
Of course, mistakes happen. If you happen to cheat, just move on and go back to eating keto foods as soon as possible.
Related: Possible Consequences of Cheat Meals and How to Get Yourself Back Up
#7. Eat Whole Foods
If you need a keto dessert from time to time and if it’ll help you stick to your diet, that’s completely okay.
We have plenty of delicious recipes on our website that we have personally tested and we’re sure you’ll love each one of them.
However, it’s a good idea to have the big part of your calories come from simple, satisfying dishes with lots of meat, eggs and veggies and healthy fat. Whole foods will give you all the essential nutrients you need, while also keeping you full for long periods of time.
#8. Experiment With Different Keto Recipes
If you’re really missing pizza, ice cream or sushi and cannot imagine your life without them, just relax! You can actually make fabulous keto-friendly versions of these foods.
Fat bombs can also help with sweet cravings. This will allow you to still enjoy special treats from time to time without cheating (and without all the negative side effects). They can help you stay on track and curb a specific craving while staying in ketosis.
#9. Drink More Water
Next time when you crave something sweet, try drinking 1-2 glasses of water instead. Notice how this reduces the craving altogether. Keep a glass of water next to your bed to help you deal with craving during the night and remember to drink water first thing in the morning when you wake up.
Related: How much water to drink in a day
#10. Have a Keto-Friendly Snack
Sometimes a craving, even if it’s for something specific, might actually be hunger. If a high-carb snack sounds appetizing, but a hard-boiled egg also sounds like a good option, then maybe you’re actually hungry. And that’s completely okay.
Sometimes hunger can manifest itself first as a craving (for a food that we were previously used to have). Of course, if you’re dieting to lose weight, you’ll sometimes be hungry, and that’s completely normal – some discomfort is inevitable and you need to accept that.
In general, we discourage snacking, as it makes it harder to stick to your diet in the long run, and also because in many cases snacking is done out of stress or boredom. To prevent snacking, try to always have a few big, filling meals.
Nevertheless, if you find yourself genuinely hungry and a snack would help you stick to your diet, and not overeat later, it’s ok to have one.
If you need ideas for keto-friendly snacks, we’ve compiled a list with plenty of easy options for you.
#11. What Do You Really Crave and What Are You Trying To Satisfy?
Food cravings actually have a lot to do with your emotional state (1).
Research reveals that when you crave for something, you are trying to satisfy an emotion depends on the specific emotion you experience at that time. When you look for salty foods, you try to satisfy boredom, crunchy foods for anger or frustration, spicy for excitement or intensity and sweet for joy and contentment.
Basically, you are feeding your feelings, not body. You are feeding your emotional hunger, not physical hunger.
Physical hunger comes on gradually and can be satisfied by any number of foods while emotional hunger feels sudden and urgent and caused by very specific cravings such as chocolate, pizza, or ice cream.
When your cravings arise, pay attention to what they are triggered by and acknowledge it. Ask yourself what psychological needs you are trying to fulfill by eating that food, and then find a better and resourceful solution to meet that need.
Maybe taking a walk, going for a run or talking to your loved one can help you meet those emotional needs.
A recent study published in PLOS ONE journal showed that taking a 15-minute walk can reduce the craving for sugary snacks in overweight people (2).
Bonus Tip: Remember Your WHY
When cravings arrive, instead of thinking of cheating on your diet, ask yourself why you started keto in the first place. Think about your goals and the benefits and reasons WHY you want to keep going.
Instead of thinking about the things you can’t have on keto, start focusing on the amazing and delicious low carb foods you can and want to eat.
In our meal plan section, you’ll find plenty of great recipes to choose from.
Don’t think of the keto diet in terms of restriction – instead, see it as a way to shift your focus and desires from carb-heavy, highly processed food to food that is whole, nutritious, healthy, and doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes and fatigue.
Sure, if you’re doing keto there are a number of foods that are off-limits, but how much do you actually need them, in order to properly fuel and nourish your body? Yeah, in many cases – not very much. Of course, there are plenty of natural, whole foods that are heavier in carbs, such as rice or potatoes, or most fruits, but you could add these later on, once you reach your weight loss goals. The key is to do it in a sensible and controlled manner in order to not regain the weight you’ve just lost.
Don’t think about all the foods you cannot have as a limitation that’s imposed on you – instead, see it as a choice, and own it. Because, in the end, that’s what it is – you’re choosing to follow a ketogenic diet for the sake of your health.
Instead of “oh, I cannot have this food anymore”, tell yourself “oh, I choose not to have this food now because I don’t like the way my body would feel if I eat it”.
Use the keto diet as a learning opportunity – it will teach you plenty of things about nutrition, your body and your health, about the way food affects you, and even about the way food can affect your mental state.
Food cravings will subside but your goals and the person you want to become will always be there waiting for you. Keep fighting and pushing every day and you will get there. Keto on!