Everyone can have a cheat day once a while, I mean, we are human.
But cheating on a Keto diet means (depending on your level of cheating) getting out of ketosis and stopping burning fat for fuel.
We asked Sevi Rutgrink, professional Keto coach, to share with us her opinion and tips on how to get back into ketosis ASAP, and also what it means to be in ketosis:
KC: Hey Sevi, tell us: If we had a few drinks on the weekend, or a cheat day on a holiday (like Christmas or Halloween for example), how do we get back into ketosis?
To get back into ketosis all you have to do is to start eating proper meals according to your macros, drink plenty of water and mind your electrolytes. If you feel up to it do some light exercise to help deplete glycogen stores. An often heard advice is to fast but I do not recommend that at all: if the cheating was with processed and high sugar foods chances are you are going to have to deal with serious cravings resurfacing and fasting will make dealing with them only worse.
Most people manage to get back into ketosis within a few days. However, if cheating is done repeatedly AND you are not fat adapted the majority of people find it gets harder and harder after each cheat to get back in, the body simply resists. It also means you would have to deal with cravings for a longer period of time, making it more likely to succumb again to non-keto foods. All in all, deliberate cheating should be avoided.
KC: Yeah, self-punishment... NEVER. Another curiosity many people have, is ketosis really necessary for getting the benefits of the Keto diet?
The purpose of a truly ketogenic diet is to become Keto-adapted: to switch the body to using fat for fuel and the brain to using ketones instead of glycogen. For that to happen you need to be in constant ketosis. Keto-adaptation helps tremendously with numerous medical issues such as diabetes, auto-immune diseases, insulin resistance etc and yes, in the process you will lose weight.
You can however also lose weight, and be healthy, without being in ketosis. By simply eating the nutritious and filling foods everyone eats on a Keto lifestyle (and leaving out ALL processed, sugary, starchy and inflammatory foods) you will end up feeling satiated and this, in turn, helps to lose weight.
So I would argue healthy people, especially without underlying medical issues, can try a more low-carb or Paleo approach at first if they are hesitant to start keto. Depending on the amount of healthy carbs they eat they may or may not see a difference in insulin spikes which will eventually also determine their weight loss. If the results are not good enough a cross-over towards keto will then just be an easier one.
The best thing to remember is to not punish yourself when you cheat. Don't feel disappointed with yourself or like you failed. All is not lost! Just get your sh*t together the next day, eat your favorite Keto meals and you'll start feeling the benefits of ketosis again very soon.