Did you eat something that wasn’t on your ketogenic meal plan?
A cheat meal, perhaps?
If so, then you might be wondering how to get back into the state of Nutritional Ketosis quickly.
While it takes 1 to 5 days to initially get into the state of ketosis, depending on your food intake and activity level, cheat meals by themselves, don’t take nearly as long.
However, you don’t want to make cheat meals a habit, either.
The keto diet is a solution to your metabolic issues and hormonal imbalances.
Going off plan, even for one cheat meal on a regular basis, and those metabolic issues and hormonal irregularities can return to impact your health, as well as your weight, very quickly.
This is why cheat meals are not a part of the keto diet plan.
Keto is a way of life, and cheat meals temporarily switch you back to burning glucose for energy instead of fatty acids and ketones.
They also raise your insulin levels and can trigger binges and cravings for sugary foods.
On the other hand, it’s not practical to expect you to always stick to the program and never enjoy a higher carb meal.
Many healthy foods, such as sweet potatoes and winter squash, are higher in carbs than non-starchy vegetables and nuts.
While some people do have the strength to fast until they’re able to get ketogenic-friendly foods, not everyone can.
Below we list some of the best ways to get back to ketosis after a cheat meal.
1. Accept the Consequences for Your Actions
Getting back into ketosis after a cheat meal really isn’t that difficult to do, but you might need to take a strong stand against your mind and emotions to get it done.
If you’re fairly new to ketogenic living, you’re going to go head-to-head with your negative thought patterns right after you cheat.
This is because your justifications for cheating might begin to break down after the pleasure of what you were eating is gone.
True recovery involves more than just the physical ramifications from eating off plan. It also involves what your mind and emotions are doing, and sometimes your mind and emotional reactions can be quite brutal.
What you don’t want to do is stretch out that one cheat meal into a full day of overeating, or even a weekend. You want to be able to say:
“Okay. I cheated. Now, let’s get on with it.”
You need to get right back on plan with as little effort as possible.
You don’t want to waste time listening to any inner negativity that is criticizing you for cheating or telling you that you blew it, so you might as well give up completely.
Accept the consequences for the scale going up, or your cravings for carby foods coming back with a vengeance, and take the steps necessary to get back in charge of your life.
You know you blew it.
A cheat meal isn’t an accident.
A cheat meal is a choice you made at the time you ate that meal, so just own that decision and move on because even planned cheat meals can trigger your inner negativity when you see what happens on the scale.
Shove those thoughts completely out of your mind and accept the fact that your body is going to replace its missing glycogen with carbs.
It’s going to store water to convert that extra glycogen into glucose, as well.
Also, consider that the degree to which you get kicked out of ketosis depends on how full your liver glycogen was at the moment you ate that meal.
Everyone does not get kicked out of ketosis when they cheat. And gaining weight is not automatic.
How many extra carbs you ate over your personal carbohydrate tolerance for the day matters, so don’t let negatively rise up and convince you that Keto isn’t worth the effort. It is.
2. Be More Active
Ketosis is about draining your liver glycogen, but you can encourage the depletion to happen faster by doing things that affect your muscle glycogen stores.
Muscle glycogen and liver glycogen are separate body systems.
While muscles pull in glucose from the bloodstream when they are not insulin resistant, removing that glucose from the blood will cause the liver to convert more glycogen to glucose to bring that glucose level back up.
In fact, 70% to 90% of the excess glucose that enters the bloodstream after a meal is pulled into the muscles, rather than your organs and brain.
Muscles need a tremendous amount of energy, especially after exercise, because the muscles’ supply of glycogen will be vastly depleted.
Muscle glycogen is the main source of energy during intensive exercise, so the body will seek to replace that storage for future “fight or flight” events, stress triggers, where quick energy will be needed.
Drained muscle glycogen allows carbohydrates to be used to replace that glycogen instead of being made into fat and stored in your adipose tissues.
Exercise also improves insulin sensitivity, which means more glucose will be taken up from the bloodstream and converted into glycogen for storage.
In fact, the defect in insulin resistant individuals is the reduction of glycogen synthesis.
Carbs are stored as fat instead of being turned into glycogen.
Simple fasting depletes liver glycogen very quickly, but it does not deplete muscle glycogen because muscle glycogen is only used to fuel the muscles.
And you have to move or use your muscles for that glycogen to get used.
So get more active and use those muscles to help the process of getting back into ketosis go faster.
3. Go Right Back to Keto with Your Next Bite
Keto works by depriving the liver of glycogen, so stretching out your cheat meal to include the whole day or weekend will make it harder to get back into ketosis mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Make yourself a promise that you’re going to go right back onto your Keto program with your very next bite.
“Well, I blew it, so I might as well start over tomorrow.”
Starting over tomorrow means that it will take you much longer to get back into the state of Nutritional Ketosis and longer for the body to re-adapt to the switch in metabolic pathways.
Keto isn’t like your typical low-calorie diet where cheating just shortens your calorie deficit. Cheating on keto comes with real consequences.
So you need to stay aware of those consequences and keep a step ahead of what your brain and feelings are going to do after you cheat.
Make sure that the next thing you put into your mouth is something that is low in carbs, as well as Keto-friendly.
4. Don’t Eat Anything Until You’re Hungry
Once you’ve cheated by eating a moderate to high-carb meal, at least part of those carbohydrates are going to be converted into liver glycogen and stored.
This means that you need to give the liver some time to use up that stored glycogen, so the body will ramp up its production of ketones as quickly as possible.
Just like when you started your low-carb eating plan, the food restriction will force the liver to convert its glycogen stores to glucose to feed the brain and other important body cells.
If you stuck to just one cheat meal, and you didn’t go to extremes on the carbs, the amount of time it takes to drain your glycogen stores will be quite short.
There is no reason why you can’t get back into ketosis in as little as one day.
Going without eating will drastically cut down on the amount of time it takes to get back into Ketosis.
This is similar to fasting, but you’re fasting in a well-fed state because you just had a moderate to high-carb meal and you’re not hungry.
What you’re doing is giving up any snacking that you’re used to doing in between meals, and maybe skipping a meal, or at least delaying it, to make up for the cheating.
If you’ve upped your activity, this can really make a difference in just how fast you get back into the Nutritional Ketosis zone.
5. Severely Limit Your Carbs
Once you have accepted the consequences for cheating, have upped your activity, vowed to get right back on plan, and don’t eat again until you’re really hungry, what you eat is as important as your commitment to low-carb living.
Quickest way to get right back into Keto is to lower your carbs as much as you comfortably can and up your fats just a little bit, to make it easier to knock out any cravings that you might have picked up from cheating.
You want to do everything you possibly can to drain your glycogen stores quickly, and cutting back on carbs will do exactly that.
If you can eat just:
- meat, poultry, fish
- and hard, aged cheeses
You’ll see results fairly quickly. Nothing stops cravings and hunger faster than a zero-carb diet.
But if you can’t do zero carb even for one day, then you can also add a small salad or cup of steamed vegetables to your meals to make them easier to stick to.
What you want to do is go back to the basics of low-carb living.
Cut out the fancy low-carb products, trim your condiments as much as you can, and just focus on good, hearty food.
Don’t think about what the scale is doing.
Just concentrate on getting back into Ketosis, so you won’t have to fight your hunger or cravings.
Once you’re solidly back on plan, you can then trim the fat to be more in tune with what you need to eat to keep the pounds coming off at a fairly decent pace.
What About Taking Exogenous Ketones?
Exogenous ketones are the latest trend in ketogenic diet. Many dieters use them to get into the state of ketosis and recover from a cheat.
The claim is that you can take them orally and get into ketosis faster, burn fat, and experience an increase in energy and well-being.
But how true is that?
Ketone salts, the type of exogenous ketones that are marketed to ketogenic dieters today, are beta-hydroxybutyrate ketones (BHB) that have been combined with sodium.
While there are 3 different types of ketones, beta-hydroxybutyrate are the type that the brain prefers, so that is where those ketones are going to go first!
When you take exogenous ketones by mouth, the ketones do end up in the bloodstream where the body can oxidize those ketones for fuel, but their ability to bump up your blood level for ketones is quite small because the body uses those ketones first.
The drawback to that?
When ketones are used for energy purposes, less body fat is used, and the whole point of going on a keto diet is to lose those extra pounds of fat from around your belly, thighs, and hips.
The point isn’t to get your ketones to spike as high as possible.
That only results in an insulin spike.
While exogenous ketones might help boost you into the Nutritional Ketosis zone, at least on a ketone blood test, it’s a false sense of security because the body won’t need to mobilize and burn as much body fat.
Getting into the optimal zone for Nutritional Ketosis is important for becoming ketone adapted, but the point of going into ketosis is to teach the body to prefer burning fatty acids.
In other words, you’re burning the few oral ketones that make it to the bloodstream instead of mobilizing and oxidizing your body fat, resulting in natural ketones that the body recognizes and can use to keep your brain alive.
This means you’ll have less energy than you’ll have if you don’t take the supplement at all because ketone-adaption is about burning fatty acids for fuel.
It’s not about burning ketones.
And you aren’t burning as many fatty acids when you’re popping ketone salts.
Getting right back into Nutritional Ketosis after a cheat meal is vital to your success in losing weight for good.
Above all things, you need to be as consistent with your eating plan as possible, which means keeping those occasional cheat meals for rare or special occasions.
Taking personal responsibility and accepting the consequences for indulging in carbs that exceed your personal carbohydrate tolerance is just part of the process of getting back into the optimal zone.
You also need to stay active, wait to eat until you’re hungry, and then keep your carbs as low as possible.
When you utilize these best ways for getting into ketosis after having a cheat meal, you can get back on track faster and heading toward your weight-loss goal.