Keto Cheat Day: Does it Destroy Your Progress? (2023)

By EMMIE SATRAZEMIS, RD, CSSD November 9, 2019

Wondering what happens when you fall off the keto wagon? It is entirely possible to include cheat meals on your keto diet and still lose weight. But how drastically and how often you have a keto diet cheat is certainly going to affect your progress in the long run, and you might end up undoing a lot of hard work if you aren't careful.

(Video) Will cheat days ruin my diet?

Here is everything you need to know about keto cheat days including what happens when you cheat and how to enjoy "forbidden" cheat meals the right way.

Burn more fat and get your keto diet on point with your free Keto Meal Prep Toolkit. Complete with personalized macro recommendations, food lists, and meal planning templates.

Can You Have a Cheat Day on Keto?

If your primary goal is to lose weight, cheating on your keto diet from time to time is not going to destroy your progress. Even if it kicks you out of ketosis.

Yes, you heard that right. If you just couldn't resist that slice of cake or pasta dinner and chose to indulge in a few extra carbs, don't stress. This cheat meal isn't a reason to throw your entire diet out the window.

Ketosis could have some potential health benefits, but it’s likely not the main reason you are losing weight - calorie control is.So as long as you aren’t going overboard with the cheat days and maintaining calorie control overall, all those carbs aren’t going to destroy all of your hard work.

Of course, if your goal is staying in ketosis for other reasons (not weight loss), cheating on a ketogenic diet might not be the best idea.

In one small study, researchers found keto cheat days could increase heart health risks among diabetics following a keto diet to manage blood sugar levels (1). While more research is needed, these initial findings indicate cheat days may not be ideal for everyone on a keto diet.

What Happens When You Cheat on a Keto Diet?

Here are all the things that go down when you add carbs back in with a ketogenic diet cheat day:

  1. Your blood sugar will spike, making an abundance of quick energy available and causing your body to switch back to glucose as a source of fuel.
  2. Ketone production will stop.
  3. A majority of the sugars you eat will likely be used to replenish glycogen stores. This may cause a temporary gain in water weight.
  4. Your body will continue to use up available glucose and glycogen stores until you run out.
  5. Ketone production will resume.

Going off a keto diet is likely not detrimental. Just because you start eating carbs again, especially just for one day, doesn't mean you will store a bunch of body fat.

(Video) Cheat days may help dieters lose weight, research finds

Carbs do not cause weight gain or increased body fat. Only eating too many calories can do this.

And while you may have a slight adjustment period with blood sugar levels and water retention, as long as you are maintaining calorie control, you shouldn't end up gaining any weight.

Because of the blood sugar spike, it is common for some people to notice an intense sugar crash after cheating with a carb heavy meal.

And depending on how long you've been cutting carbs, you might also notice some repeat symptoms of "keto flu" when resuming your keto diet.

How Many Grams of Carbs Will Take You Out of Ketosis?

The number of carbs needed to kick you out of ketosis can depend on the person and how long you’ve been doing keto. But, it’s safe to say that any high carb meal over your recommended daily carb limit will do the trick. And the effect is pretty immediate (aka the same day).

For example: if you need to eat less than 20 grams of carbs per day to stay on keto, a cheat meal with 20 or more grams of carbohydrates will probably cause you to fall off the wagon.

It might take you a little while to switch back once you get back to your keto meal plan since it takes anywhere from one day to a week to get into ketosis in the first place. But for most people, this process happens much quicker the second time around.

How long you've been keto and your ketone levels can also have an impact on how much a splurge is going to affect you.

If you have been on keto for more than 3 to 6 weeks, you are likely getting 70% of your energy from fat, and it will be much easier to go back into ketosis quickly, compared to someone who is not fully fat adapted.

How to Cheat on a Ketogenic Diet the Right Way

Cheat days have become a popular theme with many diets and for good reason. In fact, many experts have embraced diet cheats as a way to teach a more balanced approach to healthy eating.

(Video) Does a Keto Cheat Day Destroy All your Progress? [Shocking Results Revealed] 😲

Besides the fact that we are humans, not robots, and it can feel pretty impossible to stick to your keto diet perfectly, research says there may actually be some benefits to going off your diet. Including a strategic diet cheat may have some psychological benefits like reduced cravings and the ability to stick to your meal plan better overall (2).

Done right, cheating on your diet can help you stay motivated, and teach you how to have moderation as you build sustainable long-term health habits. Plus who doesn’t want to learn how to have their cake and eat it too?

Here’s how to include cheats without going off the rails.

Opt For Keto Approved Cheat Meals

Arguably, the best way to approach cheat days is by not cheating on your diet at all and splurging on keto-friendly substitutes to curb your cravings instead, saving true cheat meals as a last resort.

You can find a recipe a ketogenic version of just about any popular meal you can think of to keep you on course. not to mention the endless supply of packaged keto snacks and "cheat foods" hitting the market. So if it's an option to grab one of these instead, this should be your first line of defense.

Have Cheat Meals Not Cheat Days

If you are going to go off your diet, is way easier to stay on top of your overall nutrition and calories with cheat meals compared to entire keto cheat days. One large cheat meal can add 1,000 or more calories to your day, while a whole cheat day will add much more and potentially undo all of your hard work from the week.

Have a Plan

The easiest way to ensure your diet cheats don’t ruin your progress is to plan for them. Pick which meals you’re going to cheat and budget some calories and carbs in advance if you can.

You can also ensure your cheat meals are worth it by prioritizing certain events or favorite foods over random temptations that will always be there.

For example, if you know there is a social event coming up on the weekend, have a rough idea of how you will plan to cheat and enjoy it without going overboard.

You might also want to plan smaller cheats around exercise to help keep you in ketosis since you are using up the extra carbs quickly.

(Video) ASK UNMC! Is it good to have one cheat day a week?

If your goal is calorie control, aim to cheat no more than once or twice a week. But if ketosis is important for your progress, consider cheating much less often, like once a month.

And if you are new to a keto diet, wait at least a few weeks to get some progress going before even considering cheats. Look – if you're tired of thinking about what's allowed on keto, order keto meal delivery!

Keto Cheat Day: Does it Destroy Your Progress? (6)

Track Your Daily Intake

Don't forget to track your calories and daily macros. If your cheats are blowing your weekly nutrition goals out of the water, you might end up gaining weight.

Use a popular macro-friendly app to see how much damage you are doing.

Keto Cheat Day Recovery Tips

The best way to recover from a keto cheat day is to resume your low carb keto lifestyle. As long as you are being smart about how much and how often you are cheating on your diet, you likely don’t need to take any new, special measures to keep getting results.

Just enjoy the short break and then move on!

If you're finding that you are cheating on keto too often and having a hard time sticking to your keto diet consistently, it might be time to revisit whether or not this diet is right for you. At the end of the day, the best diet for you is going to be one you can stick to!

Need help managing your ketogenic diet? Have fewer cheat days and stick to your goals with keto meal prep delivery. Our expert chefs and nutritionists will do the planning, shopping, and cooking for you, so that you can focus on other things.

Keto Cheat Day: Does it Destroy Your Progress? (7)

(Video) How Much Damage Does a Cheat Day Do on Keto and IF Intermittent Fasting?

FAQs

Will I gain weight after one cheat day on keto? ›

Going off a keto diet is likely not detrimental. Just because you start eating carbs again, especially just for one day, doesn't mean you will store a bunch of body fat. Carbs do not cause weight gain or increased body fat. Only eating too many calories can do this.

Will a cheat day ruin my progress? ›

Do cheat days ruin your progress? A cheat day every once in a while will not erase weeks and months of consistent workouts and healthy eating. Cheat days can help keep you stay motivated long-term if you practice mindful eating. But remember, this doesn't mean you can get carried away on cheat days.

Can I do keto 5 days a week? ›

Some people choose to have five or six days on keto followed by a day or two off. Others will do keto for 10 to 12 days followed by three to four days off. Devine typically doesn't recommend taking more than two days off keto.

Can I eat carbs once a week on keto? ›

The standard ketosis diet is not for everyone. Adding clean carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, squash, and white rice once a week helps your body function properly. Your brain, your body, and your joints will all benefit from cyclical ketosis.

Is it OK to go off keto for a day? ›

Some folks can take meals, days, or weeks off Keto and come back easily. Others, however, fall off the wagon and stay off. You probably know which group you're in. If you can smoothly return to your diet after taking a break—by all means, go for it.

Will one day of eating carbs ruin ketosis? ›

Yes, a Cheat Day on the Keto Diet Could Throw You Out of Ketosis. Something to keep in mind this holiday season. If you're on the keto diet, you might be wondering if you get a pass here and there to enjoy your favorite carb-y foods.

How long to fast after a cheat day on keto? ›

Overall, you can get back into ketosis as soon as 12-16 hours after your last cheat meal (with the help of fasting and exercise) or it can take as long as it did when you first started keto.

Can 1 cheat day ruin a diet? ›

The question: Will one "cheat day" a week ruin your weight-loss plans? The expert: Rachel Beller, M.S., R.D., author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win. The answer: No, in fact, it's encouraged!

Will you gain weight after a cheat day? ›

In order to gain a pound of fat, you would need to add about 500 calories a day on top of your normal diet, every day, for about 7 days. This makes gaining any significant amount of fat from even the craziest all-out cheat days extremely unlikely.

Is it OK to have 1 cheat day a week? ›

Yes. In fact, having a regularly scheduled cheat day each week can actually be good for weight loss by preventing binges, reducing cravings, providing a mental break from dieting, and boosting metabolism—if it's done in a healthy way.

What does ketosis feel like? ›

People often report brain fog, tiredness, and feeling sick when starting a very low carb diet. This is termed the “low carb flu” or “keto flu.” However, long-term keto dieters often report increased focus and energy (14, 15).

How many days should I stay in keto? ›

While some people have success staying on keto for an extended period of time, “the long-term research is limited,” says Jill Gulotta, RDN, who's based in White Plains, New York. Gulotta recommends staying on keto for six months max before reintroducing more carbs to your diet.

What do you do when you cheat on keto? ›

To get back into ketosis after a keto cheat day 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.

How do I get back on keto after carb binge? ›

Exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to get back to ketosis after a binge because it depletes your glycogen stores faster. Glycogen is a form of glucose that is stored in your muscles and liver. It provides energy for muscle contractions during exercise.

What happens when you start eating carbs again after keto? ›

When you transition off keto and start reintroducing carbs into your diet, your body is naturally going to need time to adjust to the change. Even if you reintroduce carbs slowly, you may still experiences weight fluctuations, bloating, blood sugar spikes, and increased feelings of hunger for the first few weeks.

Does exercise cancel out carbs on keto? ›

Imagine that you eat 30 grams of carbs before your workout. As soon as you burn 120 calories, you have burned off the carbs consumed and you are back in ketosis. You can accomplish this in under 30 minutes if you are exercising vigorously.

Do you gain weight back after keto? ›

While the ultra-restrictive keto diet may have helped you lose some weight, chances are you'll gain some of the weight back that you lost.

What happens if you only eat once a day on keto? ›

Clinically speaking, eating OMAD on keto may help to reduce blood sugar, control diabetes, and overcome metabolic disease.

Will one slice of pizza take you out of ketosis? ›

In fact, a single slice of such classic Pizza can take you out of ketosis. It is so high in carbs because it contains: All-purpose Flour: 4-6 times higher in carbs than keto-friendly flours.

How many carbs will stop ketosis? ›

Most ketogenic diet guidelines recommend limiting your total carbohydrate intake to 15-30 grams or 5%-10% of your total calorie intake a day. Eating more than 50 grams of carbs may disrupt ketosis.

How do I get back into ketosis in 24 hours? ›

If you're serious about reaching ketosis in 24 hours, then forget about food. You need to shut the fridge, close the cabinets, and embrace the glucose-burning power of fasting! If you maintain a low-carb diet leading up to your fast, you'll have a much easier time.

What ruins ketosis? ›

What Foods Kick You Out of Ketosis?
  • Grains.
  • Sugar/sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Too much fruit.
  • Processed meats (they often have hidden sugars)
  • Fat-free and low-fat dairy (too much lactose, a dairy sugar)
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and certain winter squash.
May 12, 2020

Can you eat too few carbs on keto? ›

Severe carb limits can cause your body to break down fat into ketones for energy. This is called ketosis. Ketosis can cause side effects such as bad breath, headache, fatigue and weakness. It's not clear what kind of possible long-term health risks a low-carb diet may pose.

Should I fast after a cheat day? ›

A good time to fast would be after a cheat day, when you've ingested extra calories and other toxins. It doesn't even need to be a whole dedicated to fasting. Instead, you can just skip a meal or consolidate eating all your calories into one window of time.

Is it easier to lose weight after a cheat day? ›

Research shows that after a cheat meal, the body increases its metabolism, causing you to burn calories faster. This is caused by increased levels of leptin, a hormone secreted by fat cells and responsible for maintaining energy balance in the body.

How many more calories on a cheat day? ›

How many calories should I eat on a cheat day? 'There is not an exact number of calories that you can eat on a cheat day but a good guideline to follow is to not consume more than 150 per cent of your regular calorie intake/limit,' according to Bodies by Byrne, run by a nutritionist and fitness instructor.

When should you weigh yourself after a cheat day? ›

Don't weigh yourself for at least 2-3 days after cheat day. As long as you do everything right, you should still make progress after this period. Remember, for every gram of carb your consume, your body holds nearly 3 grams of water. Plan for extra water the day after your cheat meal.

What is the 3 bite rule? ›

The 3-bite rule breaks down like this: take one bite to say “hello,” one bite to savor the flavor, and one bite to say “goodbye.” With each bite, slowly chew the food so you can really taste it.

How often can you have a cheat day without gaining weight? ›

There is no specific guideline for when or how frequently your cheat meal or day should occur. Often people will include one cheat per week, but this can change depending on what the person's health or weight loss goals are.

Will a cheat day break my plateau? ›

A planned cheat day can sometimes shock your body into breaking through the plateau and going back to weight loss mode. It can also give you a mental break from being so careful with what you eat.

Will one cheat day take me out of ketosis? ›

Will a cheat day throw me out of ketosis? There's no getting around this one: Yes, you will fall out of fat burning mode. Here's a little refresher on ketosis, which is when your body burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates—its preferred source.

How much weight will I gain after a cheat day? ›

The bottom line is that a 1000-1500 surplus of calories for a day means you'll only gain about 0.70-112 grams of fat. The scales might say you've gained more, but that's because of the water weight excess sodium and carbohydrates bring along with it.

Do you weigh more after a cheat day? ›

Drink More Water

Chances are, you've eaten some sugary or fatty, greasy, and salty foods for your cheat day. These unhealthy foods can cause your body to hold onto more water weight than normal, which will push that need on your scale higher. The day after your cheat day, make sure you drink more water than usual.

What happens if you go over your calories one day on keto? ›

However, if you do end up eating more calories than your body needs, they'll still get stored as fat, even if you're in ketosis. This is where, at a fundamental level, calories in calories out holds true.

Why did my weight go down after cheat day? ›

Research shows that after a cheat meal, the body increases its metabolism, causing you to burn calories faster. This is caused by increased levels of leptin, a hormone secreted by fat cells and responsible for maintaining energy balance in the body.

Is it normal to gain 4 pounds after a cheat day? ›

In order to gain a pound of fat, you would need to add about 500 calories a day on top of your normal diet, every day, for about 7 days. This makes gaining any significant amount of fat from even the craziest all-out cheat days extremely unlikely.

Does one bad cheat day ruin your diet? ›

The question: Will one "cheat day" a week ruin your weight-loss plans? The expert: Rachel Beller, M.S., R.D., author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win. The answer: No, in fact, it's encouraged!

How many calories should I go over on cheat day? ›

How many calories should I eat on a cheat day? 'There is not an exact number of calories that you can eat on a cheat day but a good guideline to follow is to not consume more than 150 per cent of your regular calorie intake/limit,' according to Bodies by Byrne, run by a nutritionist and fitness instructor.

How did I gain 5 lbs in one day? ›

Dehydration causes your body to retain excess water, which can lead to 5 pounds of weight gain overnight (5). When you feel thirsty and drink a lot of fluid at once, you'll absorb the extra fluid quickly and it shows up on the scale within 24 hours.

Does keto restart your metabolism? ›

The good news: ketosis may not make you burn body fat all the time, but it does ramp up your metabolism significantly. People in ketosis burn an average of about 300 extra calories every day, which is about a 15-20% increase in metabolic rate[*].

Will one chip ruin ketosis? ›

Yes, even just one carb-rich meal can quickly get you out of ketosis. The carbs eaten on a cheat day will halt the production of ketones immediately until they are all metabolized by the body.

Why am I gaining weight on keto? ›

One of the biggest culprits of weight gain on keto is not tracking your food intake. It's important to track everything you eat to be sure you're not overdoing it in any area. You also want to ensure you're keeping your macros in check.

Videos

1. A "Cheat Day" RUIN Your Progress? 🤔
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2. Refeeds & Diet Breaks: The Most Misunderstood Fat Loss Tools
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3. Will Cheat Days Ruin Your Diet?
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4. How To Minimize Damage From Your Keto Cheat Day?
(Advanced Nutrition and Health)
5. Did You GAIN Fat On Your CHEAT Day? | Binge Eating Explained!
(Nick Caligari)
6. What Does a Cheat Day (Meal) Do To You On Keto?
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