Can You Cheat on the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is a very low carb, high fat diet that’s popular for its weight loss effects.

It encourages ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body burns fat as its primary source of energy instead of carbs (1Trusted Source).

As this diet is very strict, you may find yourself tempted by the occasional high carb food.

As such, it’s natural to wonder whether you’re allowed to have cheat meals or cheat days on keto — or whether this will kick you out of ketosis.

This article explains whether you can cheat on the keto diet.

woman with sandwich in a lunchbox

Cheat meals or days disrupt ketosis

Cheat days and cheat meals are common strategies for strict diets. The former allows you to break the diet’s rules throughout the day, while the latter lets you have a single meal that breaks the rules.

The idea of planned cheating is that by allowing yourself short periods of indulgence, you’re more likely to stick to the diet over the long term.

While cheating may be helpful for some eating patterns, it’s far from ideal for the keto diet.

That’s because this diet relies on your body staying in ketosis.

To do so, you need to eat fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day. Eating more than 50 grams can kick your body out of ketosis (2Trusted Source).

As carbs are your body’s preferred energy source, your body will use them over ketone bodies — the main source of fuel during ketosis, which are derived from fats — as soon as a sufficient number of carbs are available (2Trusted Source).

Because 50 grams of carbs is relatively few, a single cheat meal can easily exceed your daily carb allowance and take your body out of ketosis — while a cheat day is almost certain to surpass 50 grams of carbs.

In addition, some research suggests that suddenly reintroducing a high carb meal to a ketogenic diet may damage your blood vessels (3Trusted Source).

It’s also worth noting that it’s easy to overeat while cheating, which may sabotage your weight loss efforts and promote unhealthy eating habits (4Trusted Source5Trusted Source).

How to recover from cheat meals

If you’ve cheated on keto, you’re likely out of ketosis.

Once out, you’ll need to strictly follow the keto diet to reenter ketosis. This process takes several days to 1 week, depending on your carb intake, metabolism, and activity levels (6Trusted Source7Trusted Source8Trusted Source).

Here are a few tips to help you get back into ketosis:

  • Try intermittent fasting. Combining intermittent fasting with the keto diet may help your body shift its fuel source from carbs to fat (9Trusted Source).
  • Track your carb intake. Taking note of your daily carb intake ensures that you don’t underestimate it.
  • Try a short-term fat fast. Fat fasts like egg fasts, which may help expedite ketosis, are very high fat, low carb diets meant to last only a brief period.
  • Exercise more. Physical activity depletes your glycogen stores, which are your body’s stored form of carbs. In turn, this promotes ketosis.
  • Try a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) supplement. MCTs are a rapidly absorbed fatty acid that’s easily converted into ketones (6Trusted Source).

The best way to know if you’ve reached ketosis is to test your ketone levels.

You can use tools that measure your body’s ketone levels, such as ketone breath meters, blood ketone meters, and keto urine strips — which tend to be the cheapest and easiest method.

Tips to avoid cheating

You can implement several simple strategies to help curb the urge to cheat on the keto diet. Some tips include:

  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness involves paying attention to your body, which may help you resist cravings and emotional eating (10Trusted Source11Trusted Source).
  • Plan out your meals and snacks. A solid dietary plan makes it less likely that you’ll get hungry during the day.
  • Make your everyday diet enjoyable. Try incorporating different keto-friendly meals to vary up your diet and make it enjoyable.
  • Keep tempting foods out of the house. Keeping treats and other tempting, high carb foods out of sight can make cheating inconvenient.
  • Have an accountability partner. A buddy or accountability partner can help you stay motivated to stick to your diet.

The bottom line

You should avoid cheat meals and days on the keto diet.

Consuming too many carbs can kick your body out of ketosis — and it takes several days to 1 week to get back into it. In the meantime, your weight loss may be disrupted.

To resist cheating on keto, you can keep tempting foods out of the household, rope in an accountability partner, practice mindfulness, and make a strong daily diet plan.

Note that if you’re feeling prolonged symptoms of dizziness, stomach upset, or decreased energy, stop your keto diet and consult your doctor.

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