Sometimes humans are just filled with thoughts of amazing, delicious foods. And most of the time we indulge in it without any guilt by having the best part of any diet-cheat days. It is amazing how just a 24-hour day can be so wonderful.
However, one thing you might have noticed about the keto diet is that there are absolutely no cheat days mentioned on it. It doesn’t really bother you when you start your diet, what with all the excitement and the concept of losing insane amounts of weight. But when the realization that you actually have to do the entire thing, it really sucks to realize that.
Now even though, most low-carb diets have cheat days (like Atkins), one must always keep in mind that keto diet is designed to make you lose weight way faster and with more efficiency than most of them. So it seems fitting like it will not have cheat days, right?
What is Cheating?
Most of the diets consider cheating to be part of the diet itself, necessary to maintain the diet. However, because of keto diet’s basic strictness and also it’s different mechanism as well as fast results, a lot of keto dieters do not have cheat days.
Cheating basically refers to derailing off of your diet, to keep yourself from derailing off the path of sanity. It breaks you mundane as heck routine and allows you to eat what you want basically.
Disadvantages of Having A Cheat Meal on Keto Diet
It starts craving
What is really, really awesome about the keto diet is that your body does not have ‘hunger’ until your fat is completely gone. However, once you eat something with high carbs, your body’s digestive system starts up again and it, honestly, sucks. It will make the rest of your keto diet a lot harder, interrupt your bowel movements and make your fingers tingly and numb. Not worth it, to be honest.
It ends your ketosis
Although it is not certain that you will stop being in a state of ketosis, it is quite probable. If your cheat meal has fats, proteins etc., you will probably still be in ketosis by the end of it. However, if you eat more than about 15-50 grams of carbohydrates (rice, flour, noodles, pasta etc.) you are likely to stop being in a state of ketosis.
It will affect your hormones, big time
Basically, when you get into a state of ketosis, you entire chemical system adjusts to the changes in your digestive system. It helps in fat burning, reboots your system, and cleanses your body. Once you have a heavy cheat meal, these chemical signals get a little bit messed up. Your fat burning goes really down, and it may affect your metabolism quite negatively. Yes, it sucks.
To be honest, these changes only remain right up until you decide to get into ketosis again. However, are you okay with giving up all this time of holding yourself back, only to lose the best part of the diet? Basically, the main machinery of it. Not to mention all the water-retaining. It isn’t that bad for your body, but once you see that scale go up again, be warned, it won't be pretty.
Imbalance in your blood sugar levels
It may seem like a concern for your diabetic patients. However, glucose imbalance in your body can lead to many other bodily effects that will make you regret your cheat meal big time.
Your Keto flu might come back
Most of us have been through the most unpleasant part of the keto diet. The intense, awful flue. Headaches, dizziness, an overall wish to pass out. After about a week it goes away. However, once you cheat it is very much a possibility that it will come back with full force.
This will not only make you hurt physically for a while, but you will also feel emotionally unstable and vulnerable for as long as it lasts. Kind of a big price to pay for a meal, don't you think?
Benefits of Having A Cheat Meal
Obviously, the big benefit would be to ease your mind that is constantly telling you to ‘eat, eat, eat’. If only it is for a moment.
It also helps you get back on the social scene, maybe go to a few dinners and some meetings without sitting there feeling awkward and kind of staring at everyone’s food.
It is also somewhat a healthy mechanism. On a strict diet, mentally vulnerable people fall into the risk of getting eating disorders. Having cheat meals assures you that you are not afraid of certain foods and certainly not carbs.
What to Eat on Your Cheat Meal (safely)
It may be tempting to go all out, once you have started eating. But in between eating5-50 grams of carbohydrates lies your effort. It all depends on how far your cheat days are.
If you indulge only once or a few times in a year, you can eat pizza, pasta, whatever you like. However, if your cheat days are closer, you will need to keep yourself within limits. Make sure you eat fewer carbohydrates and if you are craving sugar, eat frosting, which will ruin your progress less than if you eat a sugared donut.
It may also help you to cheat frequently with foods that will not kick you out of ketosis.
Some of these are:
· Fried chicken (no breadcrumbs!)
Sounds tempting, no? It is quite to your advantage if you keep all your cheat meals keto-friendly.
How Many Carbs Are Too Much
To be honest, it is impossible to give you this answer, it depends on your digestive and metabolic system. Your insulin secretion and daily exercise also affect how many carbs are too much for you during a keto cheat meal.
Eating 20-25 grams of carbs is a healthy amount of carbohydrates, and is sufficiently low for nearly everyone. Even if you limit is higher, do not start experimenting or binging, as it will surely sick you out ketosis, straight into gaining weight.
If you eat more than 100 grams of carbohydrates you ill certainly be out of ketosis immediately (some people like athletes are the exception). If you eat a non-keto dessert, pasta, rice, anything made of flour, it is definitely way too much carbs.
What to Expect After You Cheat
Different people have different reactions to cheating on your Keto diet. If you are carb-sensitive the symptoms might be more severe like:
· Nasal congestion, headaches (keto flu)
· Hives plus rashes
· Vomiting plus nausea
· Weight fluctuation
· Water retention
· Stomach ache
· Muscle Ache
Now, this may scare you a little bit; however, rest assured that very low percentage of people experience such intense effects. Mostly, you will be a little gross if you feel guilty after such a thing. But please, do not binge, as it will make you feel worse.
Getting Back into Ketosis After Cheat Meals
It does not take very long to get into ketosis after the cheat meal. However, it will be quite hard due to the keto flu. Your age, gender, health, and overall body muscle constitution will affect the time you will get into ketosis again. Also, if you eat a lot of barbs on your cheat day, and if most of it is wholegrain, you are in for a hard time before you enter ketosis again.
Basically, when your glucose reserves replenish, your body will turn to fats and shut down your carbohydrate digestion system and voila! You are in ketosis again. This adaption stage may take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks.
There are both disadvantages and advantages of eating cheat meals on a keto diet. You can either stay on your keto course and not derail at all, which kind of makes it easier for you in the long term. You do not need to start from day 1, again. Nor do you need to experience those horrid flu-like symptoms and general hunger that happened during the start of your keto diet.
Your sanity, however, probably needs a burger. Or two, if you are feeling wild. It is more important to establish healthy relationships with food than it is to lose weight. You need to make sure that just because you are restricting carbs, you do not turn them into a ‘fear food’. This leads to horrible diseases like anorexia, and makes your entire emotional and physical system thoroughly messed up.
We recommend having cheat meals on your keto diet-but only smart cheating. Make sure you keep within your limits, and try to avoid carbs completely if you can. Some good advice is to eat what you normally eat for mealtimes-to fill your stomach, and then have apportion of whatever you have been craving recently.
This way you can cheat but not have significant consequences. Enjoy your cheat meals, keep losing weight. A win-win.