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Keto Diet Cheat Day: Is It Worth It? (Pros & Cons)

Keto Diet Cheat Day: Is It Worth It? (Pros & Cons)

February 23, 2024 5 min read

Anyone observing a diet regime, whether low-carb, high-protein, or keto, has one day that they look forward to throughout the week: cheat day. It’s like a free pass when you can forget about the limitations of your diet and eat something you really enjoy. For keto dieters, a cheat day can mean indulging in actual pasta, pizza, and other high-carb meals.

While many dieters think of cheat day as a well-deserved reward, nutritionists say there are downsides to it. Some disadvantages of having a cheat day on keto include getting knocked out of ketosis and hindering further weight loss. 

So should you include a cheat day in your keto diet plan? Let’s explore more about cheat days on keto and whether or not it’s worth it in this article. 

Why Include a Cheat Day on Keto?

Some may view the keto diet as restricting, especially when it comes to carbohydrate consumption. Since a lot of the food we regularly eat contains some form of carbs, it’s necessary to limit consumption or eliminate it entirely when observing keto. 

Especially for those just starting out, cravings for sugar, bread, rice, or pasta are going to kick in sooner rather than later. That’s why plenty of keto dieters look forward to having a cheat day — 24 hours where they can indulge in all their carb cravings without guilt. It’s a welcome break from any restrictive diet like keto, which can have both benefits and drawbacks, depending on how a cheat day is observed. 


Pros of Including a Cheat Day

The main advantage of observing cheat days has to do with your mindset and determination to continue observing your keto diet. When you are allowed one day a week to indulge in food that you missed, you give the diet flexibility that motivates you to stay on keto long-term. 

But keto proponents say that the benefit of cheat days on your will and determination depends on the dieter. While some can observe weekly cheat days and come back to their diet easily, others find it hard to stop indulging in carbs and fall off the wagon. 


Cons of Including a Cheat Day

According to keto experts, having a cheat day while on keto, unfortunately, has more drawbacks than benefits, especially if you go all out on your cheat day and observe it without certain limitations. 


More Cravings

The keto diet limits or completely eliminates carb consumption. While that’s a difficult feat to achieve in your first few months of observing the keto diet, seasoned proponents say it gets easier over time. 

Studies show that carbohydrates, specifically in the form of sugar, have a way of inducing reward and craving that’s comparable to addictive drugs — it’s difficult to stop once you get going. If you give yourself the luxury of increasing carb intake during your cheat days, you end up strengthening your cravings, making it harder for you to avoid carbs in the future. 


Losing Momentum

Observing the keto diet macros to a T can be a challenge for new keto dieters. But if you stay on it for long enough, you’ll find that consuming more fat and protein and less carbs starts becoming second nature. 

When you observe weekly cheat days, however, you add roadblocks to your progress. Nutritionists believe a day of staying off your keto diet macros is enough to stop your momentum and make it difficult for you to bounce back. 


Increased Hunger

Studies have associated keto and other low-carb diets with reduced hunger and increased satiety. This is because reduced carb intake can stabilize blood sugar levels, as well as hunger hormones like neuropeptide Y and ghrelin. When this happens, you feel less hungry throughout the day, helping with your weight loss objectives. 

But this only works if you reduce carb consumption or eliminate it entirely. Hunger hormones and blood sugar levels will spike if you consume more carbs than you’re allowed on cheat days, which, nutritionists say, will consequently increase your hunger and appetite. 


Guilt

Cheat days are often seen as a reward after a grueling week of limiting carb intake and holding off on food you actually want to eat. But when your cheat day arrives and you’re faced with that delicious slice of pizza or bowl of pasta, you can’t help but feel guilty for slacking off on your diet. Instead, consider indulging in a Keto Charcuterie Board, which offers a delicious and guilt-free way to enjoy your favorite flavors while staying on track with your low-carb goals.

Many keto dieters report feeling bad after having a cheat meal, to the point when they question if consuming those extra carbs was worth it. Oftentimes, the answer is a solid “no”. 

Tips For a Successful Keto Cheat Day

Cheating on your keto diet has its consequences. But nutritionists say you can still incorporate it into your keto diet regime, as long as you do it right. Cheat days shouldn’t be about recklessly eating all the carbs and sugar that you want. Instead, a successful keto cheat day should have some limitations. 

  • Make your cheat meal keto-friendly: Instead of eating a whole box of pizza or a tray of chocolate chip cookies on your cheat day, opt for keto-friendly alternatives like pork rinds — you won’t even know the difference. 
  • Eat in small portions: The less you eat on your cheat day, the less likely you are to overindulge. Only allow yourself a small portion of high-carb foods during cheat days instead of going all out. 
  • Make cheat days rare: If you make cheat days a daily occurrence, they stop becoming cheat days and start becoming a diet regime. Space out your cheat days generously, whether a week or two weeks apart. 
  • Make it count: You should be selective about what you eat during your cheat days. Don’t waste it on a bag of potato chips that don’t do your body (or your appetite) any good. Substitute them for our tasty barbeque pork rinds
  • Avoid sugar: This might sound like a bummer, especially if you were looking forward to eating sweets on your cheat day. But sugar is your number one enemy on keto — cheat day or not. Avoid sugar entirely and opt for keto-friendly sweeteners instead. 
  • Exercise right after a cheat day: Soon after your cheat day, make it a point to exercise. Studies show that exercise increases your body’s ability to process carbs, helping you get back to ketosis faster. 
  • Get back to your keto diet quickly: Cheat days shouldn’t last an entire week. Get back to your keto diet routine as quickly as possible so you don’t fall off track. 

Conclusion

Keto practitioners say that you can absolutely have cheat days while observing keto. But it’s important that you do it right to stay in ketosis and on track with your weight loss goals. Enjoy your cheat days — but be selective about what you eat, don’t overindulge, and make it a point to get back to your keto diet soon after. 

Keto Diet Cheat Day: Frequently Asked Questions


Is it ok to have a cheat day on keto?

It’s okay to have a cheat day while observing keto. But keto practitioners recommend you plan your macros carefully. Don’t go all out on your cheat day — know your limits so you don’t get knocked out of ketosis and become unable to get back. 


How long does it take to recover from a cheat day on keto?

If your cheat day knocked you out of ketosis, you need to get back to restricting your carb intake to 20 to 50 grams a day. Then, it will take between 2 to 7 days to reenter ketosis, but this will depend on your metabolism, exercise, and hydration. 


How do you jumpstart ketosis after a cheat day?

After a cheat day, you can help your body reenter ketosis by lowering carb intake and boosting fat consumption. Exercising, fasting, and staying hydrated can also help speed up the process.