Ketosis occurs when the body is forced to convert fat for energy purposes rather than glucose.
This metabolic state is typically controlled by a ketogenic diet, which is a low-carb and high-fat diet designed to help the user lose weight quickly.
The diet is typically followed by those who wish to lose visceral fat while maintaining their lean mass.
As with any diet, it’s completely normal to have the occasional cheat day on the ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet is tough, so it’s natural to have a cheat day when you can eat whatever you like.
However, having a cheat day on this diet can cause bloating, headaches, and sudden weight gain.
So, how do you get back to ketosis after a cheat day? Is it even possible?
If you’ve just had a cheat day, and you’re feeling guilty about potentially ruining your diet, you’ve come to the right place.
Here is the ultimate guide on how to get back to ketosis after cheat day!
What Is Ketosis?
Firstly, let’s take a look at the science behind ketosis. In a body that is not partaking in a ketogenic diet, the body burns glucose for energy found in food.
The ketogenic diet is a type of fasting diet that encourages the body to burn fat for energy.
It’s not a form of starvation, but rather a controlled fast that uses the body’s existing fat as a fuel source.
The human body naturally breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is a blood sugar, to use as fuel.
The glucose is stored in the liver and used when needed.
When you restrict the body from carbohydrates, and therefore glucose used for energy, it has no choice but to burn fat instead.
This produces compounds called ketones, which then become the body (and brain’s) main source of energy.
Ketosis can occur as a result of the ketogenic diet, a low-carb and high-fat diet that encourages the body to use ketones for energy.
This diet is great for short-term weight loss and training your body to need less food to function.
How To Get Back To Ketosis After Cheat Day
So, you’ve had a cheat day, and it’s time to get back into your keto diet. Here are our main tips for getting back to ketosis after a cheat day.
Forgive And Forget
First and foremost, don’t be too hard on yourself for having a cheat day. Cheat days truly aren’t the end of the world – after all, life is short and carbs are delicious.
Regardless of how much bread and pasta you consumed, it’s okay to treat yourself during a strict diet like keto.
Without having the mental ability to forgive yourself for the cheat day, you’ll find it harder to get back into the diet properly.
You also don’t want to punish yourself for eating carbs by starving yourself and taking the ketogenic diet to new levels, because this will result in some nasty side effects.
However, you also have to keep in mind that you shouldn’t cheat regularly while on keto.
This isn’t because you don’t deserve to have a cheat day, but having regular cheat days can cause more harm than good on your body.
You will naturally crave carbs the day after a cheat day, but it’s time to be resilient and push through those cravings to get back into ketosis.
Try not to let your cheat day turn into cheat days.
If you’re struggling with this, particularly if you have a history of disordered eating, you may need to seek help from a specialist therapist or nutritionist.
Figure Out Why You Have Cheat Days
Another way to forgive yourself for having a cheat day is to figure out why you had a cheat day in the first place.
This is especially true if you find yourself having cheat days more often than not.
Cheating on keto isn’t always a slippery slope, but if you have a cheat day every week (or even every few days), then you might want to find out why.
One of the most common reasons why you have regular cheat days is that you don’t have a good relationship with food.
The ketogenic diet is tough, and not one for those with bad relationships with food, because it might cause you to either fast long-term or binge.
Both are bad for your body, which is where a nutritionist or specialist therapist comes in.
Likewise, you might be lacking in the right support and accountability you need.
It’s not easy to hold yourself accountable if you keep justifying cheat days to yourself, so, it might be worth finding a nutritionist or personal trainer to hold you accountable as an external source.
Or, find a friend who is also on a keto diet or join an online keto group to boost your morale.
Alternatively, feeling the need to have regular cheat days might be your body’s way of telling you that the diet is too restrictive for you.
You might not be following the right diet – for example, there’s a chance your gut isn’t getting enough fiber.
In which case, it’s worth following a new keto diet plan to see if it helps your cheat day cravings.
If you are a woman and you find that you want to have regular cheat days during your cycle, this is probably because your hormones are imbalanced.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about your menstrual cycle.
However, this would explain why you have cravings for sugar and carbs during this time.
If you find that you can’t fight the period cravings while on a keto diet, try talking to your doctor or nutritionist about diets to follow that will soothe those cravings.
Alternatively, you could always try a new contraceptive method to see if it will balance your hormones.
Plan A Fast
After forgiving yourself for your indulgent carb-related sins, it’s time to get back into action by planning a fast.
Fasting isn’t just about starving yourself and then binging when you’re so hungry you could faint.
Instead, try and plan a fasting routine that works best for you and what your days look like.
Fasting isn’t designed to be a punishment. Instead, fasting encourages your body to use the rest of the glucose that had been stored after the cheat day.
It’s kind of like your body’s version of using what’s left in the refrigerator for food, rather than filling it up again unnecessarily.
One example of a fast after a cheat day is a simple 24-hour fast. During this time, you cannot consume any food or drink other than water and coffee.
However, this isn’t a good long-term fast plan, because it doesn’t provide you with the necessary nutrients to lose weight safely.
If anything, you will gain water weight if you do this for more than a day.
Instead, commit to a 24-hour fast for the first day after a cheat day. Then, do an OMAD fast for the next following days.
An OMAD fast is where you eat one meal a day, or within a chosen time period.
For example, this can be one lunchtime meal a day, or allowing yourself to eat within a 6 or 4-hour window.
The key is to not punish yourself too much during these fasting days. It should only take a few days of controlled fasting to get back into your regular keto diet.
Don’t go on for too much longer than 3–4 days of fasting, as this can do more damage than good.
Do Weight Training
If you want to actively get rid of the sugar and carbs you consumed on a cheat day, go to the gym and do some weight training.
Strength training workouts are a great way to quickly burn all that sugar and glucose, because your body will use the remaining glucose for energy.
All you need is to follow a 30-minute strength training workout.
Try not to work out for too long, because your body won’t have enough glucose stored to keep your energy levels high after working out.
Not only does working out help to burn the leftover glucose from the day before, but doing a high-intensity workout will prevent you from wanting to fill your body with carbs.
Track Your Food Intake
When you’re in the midst of a keto diet, you become so used to the restrictions that you don’t always need to track.
However, after a cheat day, tracking your food intake will help to kick-start your diet back up again.
Again, this isn’t a form of punishment, it’s just a good way of seeing exactly how many carbs you are consuming.
This is particularly good if you are fasting for the first few days after a cheat day.
Tracking your food intake and using a ketone test strip will also show you which foods and fasting techniques work the best to get you back into ketosis.
Avoid Fatty And Sugary Foods
When you’re back on your keto diet, whether you decided to fast or not after your cheat day, try to stay away from fatty and sugary foods.
This includes dairy, nuts, and anything filled with sweeteners. This is because you will gain weight rather than lose weight.
Interestingly, the fat in dairy and nuts isn’t actually the reason for weight gain.
Your body won’t be used to such fatty and filling foods when it’s been in ketosis, causing it to become inflamed and hold on to water.
This typically causes weight gain that is actually water gain.
When you cut out these inflammatory foods, your body will shed that water, and you should lose that weight after a few days.
Once you’re back into ketosis, you can reintroduce these foods back into your diet – just do it slowly and in small amounts to prevent your body from becoming inflamed.
Drink Lots Of Water
Now, if you have to avoid fatty foods because your body will gain water weight, why are we saying you should drink lots of water after a fast?
Won’t water add to water weight? Not quite.
While drinking lots of water (and electrolytes, too) will probably make you bloat a little more than usual, this is actually a preventative measure against keto flu.
Keto flu occurs within the first week of a keto diet, resulting in fogginess, fatigue, headaches, nausea, sleeping problems, and constipation.
If you go straight into fasting after a cheat day, you’re more than likely to experience keto flu again. You’ve done it before, and it’s horrible.
So, the best way to prevent keto flu from hitting you like a truck is to consume lots of water and electrolytes.
Plus, water is good for the body, so it’s hardly like this is a bad thing anyway.
Limit Your Carb Intake
When you’re on a keto diet, you’ve probably been tracking your net carbs, which is the total carbs minus the fiber.
However, after a cheat day, it is recommended that you start tracking your total carb intake instead.
Don’t subtract the fiber from this amount, and instead keep your carb intake under 20 grams daily.
The ketogenic diet is all about limiting your carb intake.
Because our bodies crave carbs more than any other nutrient, you’re more than likely to eat a lot of carbs on your cheat day.
During your fast, or if you decide to just go straight back to your regular keto diet, limit your carb intake to below 20 grams.
Once you have re-entered ketosis, you can go back to your regular keto carb intake.
To put it simply, when you restrict yourself from carbs, your body will be forced to use whatever glucose it has left before using the ketone bodies for energy. This will get you back into ketosis quickly.
Can You Have Cheat Days On A Ketogenic Diet?
If you’re wondering if you’re allowed to have cheat days on a strict diet like the keto diet, you’ll be happy to know that you can.
Planning your cheat days is a common strategy used to treat yourself while maintaining ketosis.
However, if you don’t plan your cheat day and eat whatever you want (the whole point of a cheat day, after all), you might struggle with the side effects.
The key to having a cheat day while staying in ketosis is to plan your macros.
Of course, this still means you will be restricting yourself from all the calories and carbs you wish to eat.
If you eat whatever you like, this can take you out of ketosis, resulting in bloating, weight gain, digestive issues, and lethargy.
However, don’t let this prevent you from taking a cheat day during the keto diet.
The key to mastering a cheat day while staying in ketosis is to eat less than 50 grams of carbs on a cheat day. If you eat more than this, you can easily force your body out of ketosis.
Eating less than 50 grams of carbs isn’t exactly the cheat day you might be planning in your head.
Unfortunately, having a cheat day on a keto diet isn’t the same as a cheat day for a low-intensity diet.
If you want to get back into ketosis safely and quickly, you still need to consume a small amount of carbs.
How Do I Get Back Into Ketosis In 24 Hours?
If you have had a cheat day and want to quickly get back into ketosis within a day, you need to commit to a 24-hour fast.
During this time, you can only consume water, coffee (unsweetened and with no dairy), and electrolytes.
A 24-hour fast will force your body to use up whatever glucose is left in your body to use as energy.
After a full day of fasting, you then need to commit to intermittent fasting, or one meal a day fasting.
This should take a few days before you get back into your keto diet routine.
However, you’re not always going to get back into ketosis after 24 hours.
If you have had a big cheat day when you filled yourself up with carbs, it will take longer to get back into ketosis.
You can’t just have a 24-hour fast and expect results straight away – you’re likely to experience keto flu all over again, and you will probably gain water weight.
Still, fasting is undoubtedly the quickest and healthiest way to get back into ketosis after a day of cheating.
If you have had several cheat days in a row, then this transition period back into ketosis is likely to take longer than 24 hours.
Will One Cheat Day Ruin Ketosis?
To put it simply, if you control your cheat day, then it won’t ruin ketosis. Lots of people will have a cheat day while maintaining ketosis, but only some will do it successfully.
The key is to continue limiting your carb intake to prevent your body from storing too much glucose. So, try not to get too excited about carbs on your cheat day.
Not only can this lead to weight gain, but it will also slow down the production of ketone bodies, which are responsible for ketosis.
Instead, limit yourself to less than 50 grams of carbs on a cheat day.
This is only slightly more than the recommended net carb intake (total carbs minus fiber) for a keto diet. This way, you’re safely cheating the keto diet without ruining ketosis.
Even if you do have a cheat day, try not to beat yourself up about it.
Ketosis is hard to achieve and maintain while continuing your day-to-day life, and even the most experienced keto dieters will have the occasional cheat day.
So, there you have it! If you have had a cheat day and want to get back into ketosis, there are several ways to get back into that metabolic state safely.
Sure, there’s a chance you might experience the dreaded keto flu again, but if you have a strong support system, you should get back on track within a few days.
Hopefully, this guide has given you tips on how to get back to ketosis after a cheat day, and helped you feel less guilty about breaking your diet.