Keto cheat day tips and what happens when you overdo the carbs

What I want to impress on anyone ‘going keto’ to speed up the fat loss process is to focus on the results so you can stick to it. Within a month you should have figured out some reliable low carb recipes and understand that meal prepping is key. Once you’re reliably on the keto journey, do you know how to cope with those bottomless brunches and weekends away?

I consider going low carb to be a relatively unsociable experience and one that can sometimes trigger slightly neurotic behaviour around macros when you’re all too aware of how easily one snack can take you out of ketosis. While you’re not supposed to cheat on keto with carbs, I can tell you it really isn’t the end of the world when you do… and I found it necessary to relax my eating habits once a month for special trips.

So, what can I tell you about cheating on the keto diet?

The keto-friendly cheat tips

Before you go crazy and set yourself back a step (oh yeah… we’ll get to that) consider trying to make a low-carb version of whatever you’re craving. There are plenty of companies producing all sorts of stuff and about 50% of it is great (both Carbzone wraps and  Lo Dough pizza bases are low-carb alternatives I recommend).

Alcohol is the next thing that can be easily substituted as my friends and I are partial to bottomless Prosecco brunches or going round-for-round at the pub on craft beers. Although there are light beers that are considered low carb, white spirits and sugar-free mixers are the easiest way to get away with it – just check the carb content on your mixer (slimline tonic has 7 carbs, you see…)

These two became my Summer favourites:

  • Vodka soda with lime
  • Gin & slimline tonic

The first cheat day: 5,000 calories

Let’s face facts, most people report that their weight goes up and they feel puffy after a good old fashioned carb and fat heavy cheat day when they’ve been on a low carb diet. I’d encourage you to just be smart and think long-term if it’s what you need to get back on the keto train.

I had cheat days peppered through my keto diet challenge because I’m a bit of a realist. The scary part of it in the first 1-2 months was how obsessively I’d update what I wanted to eat during the lead-up to each which isn’t exactly healthy.

Needless to say my first real cheat day was an alcohol-fuelled spiral which definitely affected my progress. I’d scheduled it to be the weekend  was away with friends in the Cotswolds as I knew it would be impossible to stick to my 50 gram carb limit and I wanted to be normal over the weekend.

But oh, did I spiral!

The day started off with good intentions, I stuck to gin & slimline tonic and avoided most of the mashed potato that came with my lunch, but that’s the problem with alcohol… it completely changes your attitude to food.

By 6pm I was on to cider, pub crisps and then completely let loose. I smothered bread in butter and shoveled in fries that were shared tapas-style (with me taking well beyond my fair share). By then it seemed pointless avoiding pork too, so dinner was a bottle of wine and pork belly… and then dessert. To say I felt sick was an understatement as all of us had truly overindulged – but I hadn’t really eaten the foods I’d been craving. So, what was the point?

The damage: +1.2kg and .6% fat gain & bloating

I was too scared to weigh myself the next day, and I felt new food-related anxiety creep in which is the first time I felt mentally unhealthy about what I was doing.

It took me two weeks to reverse what I had done. I learnt a pretty good lesson about how to approach cheat days from it, but the anxiety it caused worried me, and so I’ve been working to incorporate a healthier kind of cheat day into my week when I need it.

The second cheat day: 2,500 calories

This was unplanned, I hadn’t waited a month but I was happy with where I’d gotten to with my goals. I was cooking for myself over the weekend and decided to pop to the supermarket and grab a few items to make things I’d really been missing.

This time I noticed my brain didn’t try to persuade me to buy the family-size bag of crisps, I picked up 320 calorie halo top ice cream and the vegetables needed to make a healthy-ish version of enchiladas.

I’d cut back on breakfast and made a super low-carb lunch to try and leave a few calories free… but looking back, my unhealthy relationship with food had changed drastically. Where I usually would have gone all-out and picked up pure junk food, my brain wasn’t wired to encourage the really bad habits anymore. There was a balance present.

So yeah, I ate a snack-size bag of crisps and the whole tub of Halotop icecream… but there was no urge to keep going like my former labrador-stomached self.

(I seriously recommend Halotop icecream if you need a diet-friendly alternative)

The damage: +200 grams and 0.1% fat gain.

The conclusion

Yes, unfortunately going carb-crazy (+200g carbs) while on the keto diet for even one day within the month can set you back and seems to cause immediate fat and water-weight gain. However, it seems relative to how many calories you consume and whether you’re being smart when cheating.

My keto-cheating tips:

  • Try and keep under 2,500-3,000 calories
  • Indulge in foods you’ve been craving
  • Buy small portions so you can’t overdo it
  • Keep a record of what you’ve eaten to remain accountable
  • 1-2 meals should still be health-conscious

I know it sounds boring to cheat within confines, but I didn’t enjoy those 5,000 calories and I’d rather not become food-phobic.

If anyone reading this has cheated on a low-carb or keto diet, let me know what the results were as I’m super curious!

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