Keto Cheat Day: Should You Have A Cheat Day on Keto?

man smiling eating a keto burger

Keto Cheat Day: Should You Have A Cheat Day on Keto?

Most people who stick to a diet of some sort are familiar with cheat days. You follow your diet to a tee every single day and then once a week or maybe once a month, you indulge a little and ‘cheat’ on your diet. While some people swear by incorporating a cheat day, others will tell you that it sets them back in their diet and stops them from reaching their goals. When it comes to the keto diet, there are mixed opinions about cheat days and whether or not a keto cheat day will help or hinder your progress. Let’s get into it!

Disrupting Ketosis with Cheat Days:

Cheat days work well in most diets when you allow yourself to briefly break your diet to help you stick to it long term. The main issue with having a cheat day while on the keto diet is that you can risk breaking the cycle of ketosis. Eating  more than 50 grams of carbs per day  is a sure-fire way to disrupt ketosis and that’s incredibly easy to do if you have a cheat meal that exceeds your daily allowance. 

When this happens, your body will begin to use the carbs to fuel your body, rather than the ketone bodies. This could essentially stop your existing progress in its tracks, becoming a larger setback than anticipated. 

The Problem With Cheat Days: 

Aside from disrupting ketosis, dedicated one day as your keto cheat day can put you in the negative headspace where you’re constantly awaiting one day where you can eat whatever you want. That’s no way to live, especially when there are so many great keto foods to eat. 

It can also reinforce bad habits that may end up resulting in weight gain or binge eating. When you’ve put in so much work to reaching a state of ketosis and focusing on eating clean foods, is it really worth taking many steps in the wrong direction for a day of unrestricted eating? 

If that’s not reason enough to stay away from cheat days, you may also increase your risk of suffering from the  keto flu. Although the keto flu usually arises within the first week of starting the keto diet, cheat days can cause you to experience the same symptoms! No cheat days = no keto flu. 

Swap Out Your Keto Cheat Day For …

Sticking to the keto diet day in and day out is no easy feat. We’re only human after all! When temptation arises, here are a few things you can opt to do instead of indulging in a cheat day.

  • A free meal - Allow yourself to have one single meal that’s outside your keto restrictions. Try saving it for  special occasions or once a week. This way you aren’t risking throwing ketosis out the window (as long as your carb intake from that meal isn’t too high) and you can keep your sanity as well!

  • Take a diet break - This won’t work for everyone but sometimes it can help to take a break from sticking to a strict diet. Diets down-regulate specific hormones in your body in order to protect you and taking a break from your keto diet can help replenish those hormones and make the next weeks of dieting better than ever. 

  • Try a refeed - If you happen to be on the keto diet to help with athletics, the cyclical ketogenic diet (otherwise known as a refeed), may be better suited to you. It’s when you follow a typical keto diet for a certain number of days while alternating days when you have a higher amount of carbs. Those days are referred to as “refeed” days and will aid in athletic performance. It’s important to ensure there are more days where you follow a strict keto diet. For example, 5-6 days in ketosis followed by 1-2 days where you have a higher carb intake when you’ll be more physically active. 

  • Find Keto Snacks You Actually Enjoy - Sometimes all you need is a snack to help you fight cravings! Look for recipes that  incorporate these keto ingredients that should be on your grocery list and seek out healthy snacks that will help you get through the day. Keep in mind that the keto diet shouldn’t leave you feeling restricted so find foods that taste great and still fall under the keto umbrella. Low-carb pizza, keto fudge and sugar-free homemade ice cream are great options.  It can also help to have a  chocolate meal replacement on hand for days when you can’t be bothered to cook and want something that’s nutritious and tastes great!

Tips for Recovering From a Keto Cheat Day: 

No one’s perfect so it’s likely that you’ll encounter a keto cheat day at one point or another along your journey.  If or when it happens to you, you’ll need to find your way back to ketosis. You can begin by measuring your ketone levels to assess if your cheat meal(s) kicked you completely out of ketosis. Once you know where you stand, you’ll start working on getting your body back to a fat-burning state. 

It’s not uncommon to take anywhere from 1-3 days to get back into ketosis, depending on what you ate and how much you ate. Remember to go easy on yourself because you can always try again! 

Use the next few recovery days limiting your carbs and upping your fat intake. If you hope to get back into ketosis as soon as possible, you should compensate for your cheat day by going into a caloric deficit your first day back. With that being said, make sure you aren’t starving yourself just to make up for one day because it will only backfire on you, making it harder to stick to the diet long term. A deficit of about 20% should be fine! 

If you’re just starting the keto diet and aren’t quite sure if you’re on the right track, this  beginner’s guide will walk you through the essentials. 

What’s the Verdict?

After taking a look at what can happen when you indulge in a cheat day while on the keto diet, it’s clear that there’s more risk than reward involved. So long story short, you shouldn’t have keto cheat days if you can avoid them. Conquering the keto diet is no easy feat but the results will come if you stick to it. When you find yourself slipping, try out some of the alternatives to cheat days that we’ve listed above. You’re on your way to the best version of yourself so don’t give up! 

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