Ever thought about having diet cheat days while on your keto diet? Some recent research has suggested that it may have alarming results. More on this later but first let’s have a look at what they are and why dieters often have them.
While some people believe that having cheat days can make your weight loss efforts more effective, there are those who are totally against it. For them, cheating on your diet will just put all your efforts to waste and is just totally not worth it.
Related reading: 5 Bad Weight Loss Habits That Can Sabotage Your Efforts
The question of whether to cheat or not is a very controversial topic among keto dieters. Following a very low carb diet like keto requires utmost commitment, which is why others are tempted to break-free from such a restrictive diet every once in a while. But is cheating on your keto diet good or bad?
What Exactly Are Diet Cheat Days?
The term “diet cheat days” sounds exactly what it is – days where you cheat on your diet. So if you’re following a low carb diet like keto, your cheat days could involve eating high carb foods, such as your favorite bread or pasta.
Following a low carb diet is definitely not easy especially if you’re used to eating carbo-loaded foods. Sometimes, you might just find yourself craving some treats after avoiding these foods for a while to get into ketosis. This is why the idea of diet cheat days is tempting to many.
Cheat days are very popular to those who are following a certain type of weight loss diet. The common practice is to stick to the diet for an entire week except for one day. During this day, they will eat whatever it is that they desire, including foods that are not supposed to be eaten on their diet.
Followers of diet cheat days have different theories to back this practice. For some, this will serve as a “little reward” after successfully sticking to your weight loss plan.
Others believe that having cheat days can actually boost your metabolism, which aids in your weight loss efforts. This is due to the appetite-suppressing hormone known as leptin.
According to some studies, if we restrict our calories, leptin could eventually fail. During cheat days, your calorie intake will be increased temporarily and this can regulate the hormone and will lead to the increase of metabolism.
But will these theories work for keto?
Can You Have Cheat Days on Keto?
Unfortunately, diet cheat days will not work for keto. If you go back to eating carbohydrate loaded foods, you will definitely get knocked out of ketosis. According to Ginger Hultin, a dietitian based in Seattle,
“As soon as you introduce carbohydrates to your system, the body will use them preferentially for fuel,”
When you fall out of ketosis, you have to start all over again. You will need to strictly commit to the macronutrient ratios again so you will get back into the state of ketosis, where your body converts fat for energy instead of carbs.
Therefore, all the initial efforts you’ve spent will all go to waste. This is why diet reward days will not work for keto unless you are willing to start all over again.
Cheat days while on the ketogenic diet can postpone your weight loss efforts. Unlike other weight loss diets, keto does not have plenty of wiggle room.
That’s due to the ketones that your body needs so you will stay in ketosis, the state where your body burns fat for energy. If you introduce carbs to your body, your ketone production will be halted and your body will stop using fats for fuel.
Diet Cheat Days on Keto is Bad for Health
Abandoning your ketogenic diet to go on a temporary binge may also have a negative impact on your health. According to one study, indulging on glucose after strictly following a low carb diet could put you at risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The study, which was published in the journal Nutrients, nine healthy young men were asked to follow a high-fat, low carb diet for a week. Their diet consisted of 20% proteins, 10% carbs, and 70% fat, which is similar to the macronutrient ratio of a ketogenic diet. The participants were asked to drink a 75-gram glucose drink before and after the one-week period.
The results are pretty alarming. According to Cody Durrer, one of the authors of the study,
“What we found instead were biomarkers in the blood, suggesting that vessel walls were being damaged by the sudden spike in glucose.”
Even though the participants were young healthy men, the condition of their blood vessels after they consumed the glucose drink has become similar to that of people who have poor cardiovascular health.
Apparently, the damage to the blood vessels is a result of the body’s own metabolic response to the blood sugar spike, which may have led to the eventual impairment of the blood vessel cells.
Researchers believe that more work is needed to verify these results. Yet, this is still a worrying concern that keto dieters or possibly anyone else need to consider before going on cheat days.
Diet cheat days is tempting. There are really times where we just want to indulge in our favorite treats especially if we’re feeling sad or depressed. Food certainly has a way to improve our mood. But before you give in to the temptation, take time to think about the consequences that could happen.
Related reading: How A Keto Diet Can Boost Your Mood
Remember that if you have been used to restricting carbs to a maximum and you suddenly introduce carbs, it could take longer before you can go back into the state of ketosis once again.
And, as stated above, introducing glucose into your body after going low carb for a while could jeopardize your cardiovascular health. The little rewards that you will reap from giving in to your cravings are definitely not worth it given the consequences.
Related reading: 6 Damaging Effects Of Sugar On Your Body
If you find yourself craving, you may want to look for low-carb alternatives or experiment using low-carb ingredients. There are lots of delicious low-carb recipes that are absolutely satisfying and could satisfy your cravings without getting kicked out of ketosis.