How to get back into ketosis quickly after cheating (or how to get back into ketosis after a cheat day).
Getting back into ketosis after cheating with a cheat day (or a few), depends on a couple of different things. The level of ketosis prior to cheating , the amount of carbs consumed, the duration of how long carbs were consumed, your underlying metabolic status, physical activity and the foods you eat during re-induction, all play a role in how long it takes to get back into ketosis.
- Pre-cheat ketosis status
- Amount of carbs consumed
- How long carbs were consumed
- Underlying metabolic state
- Activity levels
- Re-induction meals
Pre-cheat ketosis status
The very first thing to consider when thinking about cheating on the keto diet, is what level of ketosis you are in. See “What happens to the body during keto?” to see the different phases of ketosis in detail. In short, there is the Induction Phase, the Transition Phase, and the Maintenance Phase.
During Induction, the body is getting into ketosis. During Transition, your body is in ketosis, but it is still adapting to using fat as fuel instead of carbs. During Maintenance, your body is fully adapted to using fat as fuel.
Basically, the less adapted your body is to ketosis, the more cheating will damage your diet. Obviously, there are other factors as well, but your pre-cheat ketosis phase will make a difference.
During the Induction phase, even small amounts of carbs can keep you from reaching ketosis. Your body is still in carb burning mode, so your body will quickly revert back to using carbs for energy. This can completely reverse any progress you’ve made already.
Someone in the early Transition Phase will have a significantly harder time getting back into ketosis than someone in the Maintenance Phase.
If you cheat during the Transition Phase, your body is still adapting and that adaptation will stop. You may even find yourself starting the Transition Phase over again.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of research on Carb Cycling in relation to phases or even ketogenic diets in general beyond medical usage.
During the Maintenance Phase, a single cheat day shouldn’t derail your diet too much, assuming you don’t overdo it on carbs. Just keep in mind that if you eat more carbs than you burn, the left overs will be converted into glycogen for storage.
As long as you burn off the glycogen before your next carb intake, you should be back in ketosis in no time. If you don’t, you will stay out of ketosis until you can burn it all back off.
If this happens in one day (thus cheat day), you probably won’t lose the fat adaptation you have already gained, so you will only “lose” the time you were out of ketosis.
Again, there is no scientific research on this subject, but it is likely there will be no long-term damage to your diet (i.e. you won’t have to go back through Induction again).
Amount of carbs consumed
The amount of carbs you eat also matters. If your cheat day consists of 100 grams of carbs, you will be back in ketosis quickly, assuming you were already fat adapted (after Transition) and you go back to a regular keto diet.
If you use KetoSavior™ before your cheat meal, this becomes much easier. KetoSavior™ and KetoGuardian™ both work by inhibiting sugar absorption (among other things), so the amount of carbs ingested will have a much lower level of impact on your ketosis. In fact, if you use the products and maintain a reasonable intake of carbs, you won’t even break your ketosis.
However, if your cheat meal includes a pizza, a couple Mt. Dews and a bunch of gummy bears, it will be much longer until you are back in ketosis, as there are a lot more carbs being stored that you will have to burn through before you are back in ketosis.
How long carbs were consumed
Duration of carb intake matters too. Remember, the longer you are out of ketosis, the more carbohydrates are stored and the longer it will take to get back into ketosis. If you are out of ketosis for more than a day or two, you might as well plan on losing at least some of your fat adaptation.
After 3 days or more, be prepared to be completely out of ketosis and need Induction again. Cheat meals are one thing… multiple cheat days or a cheat week will make you start over from scratch.
Underlying metabolic state
Your underlying metabolic rate does play a role in getting back into ketosis, albeit a lessor role than phase, amount or duration of carb intake. If you are a fit person and have a high metabolism, you will also burn through whatever carbs you store much more quickly than a sedentary person might.
This is because of how fast and how easily your body utilized stored energy. If you find it difficult to lose weight on a low-calorie diet with moderate activity, your metabolism will probably make it more difficult to rebound from a cheat day. Again, the number of times we say “probably” is due to lack of scientific research on the subject.
Activity is another influencer on how long it will take to get back into ketosis. Activity in general and activity around meal time are both important.
In general, activity helping or hurting ketosis is more about your metabolism than anything, although exercising can definitely help get you back into ketosis.
More importantly though is the timing. As we discuss extensively on the Enhancing Ketosis page, the biochemistry of ketosis is tied very closely to circulating insulin levels (regardless of diabetic status).
The longer you have high levels of circulating insulin, the longer your body is out of ketogenesis (where your liver makes ketones from fatty acids).
However, you can use this to your advantage. If you are active (take a walk, doing housework, really anything that keeps you moving muscles) immediately after eating carbs, insulin will help move the sugar into your muscle cells and use the sugar for energy.
If your body uses them, it can’t store them. Plus, if your body uses the sugar, it comes out of circulation and your insulin needs decrease, so you will spend less time with elevated insulin levels and, therefore re-enter ketosis faster.
Basically, the more active you are right after eating, the better off your ketosis is. There is an effect here and it does make a difference, but it isn’t significant enough to use as a control device to maintain ketosis.
Basically, don’t expect to drink a 20 oz Mt. Dew and stay in ketosis because you walked around the block a couple of times.
This last section is of some controversy. What to eat during Induction or Re-Induction is debated by proponents of ketogenic diets. For a discussion on entering ketosis for the first time (or after an extended cheat), please see “How do you get into ketosis?”.
Admittedly, for re-induction after a break of 3 or more days, you have probably lost some of your fat adaptation, so you may need to start over. For shorter breaks in ketosis, like a cheat meal, there are some additional options.
If your body is still fat adapted, it is definitely easier to get back into ketosis. In fact, all you need to do it burn off any carbs stored during the cheat episode.
Beyond fasting, which was discussed as a quick, but emotionally difficult way to induce ketosis, we recommend a protein-only diet for 24 hours (while drinking plenty of water), assuming you are doing keto for weight loss. If weight loss isn’t the primary concern, just restart your regular keto diet.
If not back in ketosis after 24 hours, we would add fat back into the diet (even if doing keto for weight loss), but maintain as low of a carb intake as possible. By doing this, you are decreasing the risk of muscle wasting due to lack of protein, but keeping carb and calorie intake low.
This will force your body to use energy stores faster and thus get you back into ketosis as quickly as possible (short of a total fast).
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.