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Keto Cheat Day - What You Need To Know

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<article> <section> <p>When you think keto, what comes to mind? Is it all the fatty foods you can <i>eat</i>—things like <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/bring-on-the-bacon/" rel="noreferrer">bacon</a> , eggs, and butter? The delicious treats that are big no-no’s on your average diet plan? The alluring promise of near unlimited fats draws many to the ketogenic diet? Regardless of the reason, a lot of people are taking up the keto lifestyle because, well, it works!</p> <p>Still, going keto is far from easy. It means making a commitment to low-carb living. For all the fatty foods you can eat on the keto diet, there’s a list of carb-rich and sugar-laden foods that are off limits.</p> <p>But what if we told you that you don’t have to give up carbs completely? And, in fact, that eating carbs in a targeted way could actually help you reach your fitness goals? </p> <p>That’s the motivation behind a <i>cheat day</i>. </p> <p>Later in this article we’re going to share our plan for making carbs work <i>for</i> you not against you. We’ll show you how to do a cheat day the smart way. You can reach your goals without completely giving up the foods you love—at least for a day here and there.</p> <p>But before we get into the good stuff, let’s learn more about how not to cheat on the keto diet.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/ice-cream-cone-0210.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/ice-cream-cone-0210.jp2" type="image/jp2"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/ice-cream-cone-0210.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/ice-cream-cone-LR-0210.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="ice-cream-cone-0210"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Will One Cheat Day Ruin a Keto Diet? </header> <p>It all depends on how you do it!</p> <p>The main goal of the ketogenic diet is to stay in a state of ketosis with a low-carb, high-fat diet. Ketosis is the point when your body switches from burning your glucose stores—the energy you get from carbohydrates—to burning fat for fuel instead. </p> <p>We like to think of glucose as rocket fuel and fat as unleaded gas. Given the choice, your body is going to pick the rocket fuel to get a quick burst of energy. The problem is, most of us are consuming way too much glucose. Low-carb diets have made a splash over the last few decades, but the Standard American Diet centers around carbs. If we eat more carbs than we need to fuel ourselves in a day, the excess winds up getting stored as fat. </p> <p>When we switch to burning fat instead, we get sustained, long-term energy. Plus, once our body runs out of fats from the foods we eat, we start to burn right through our fat stores. Yes, those very same stores we want to get rid of to lose weight and improve health!</p> <p>But here’s the thing: to get into ketosis (and stay there), we need to follow a low-carb diet with less than 50g of carbs per day. It would surprise you how many grams of sugar and carbs are in even the healthiest foods—like fruits and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-best-low-carb-vegetables-to-eat-on-keto/" rel="noreferrer">vegetables</a>. For instance, an apple has 25g of total carbohydrates, 19g of which are sugar. </p> <p>Unfortunately, that means as little as two bananas or a cup of pasta could be enough to throw us off. As soon as our blood sugar levels rise, our body will flip the switch back to burning glucose for fuel. How quickly we leave ketosis will depend on a few factors: how long we’ve been at the keto diet, how many grams of carbs we eat, and our individual physiology. </p> <p>So yes, one unplanned cheat day—or even a cheat snack—may take you out of ketosis. But a single mistake won’t completely ruin your diet. It just might mean you have to do a little extra work to get back to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-into-ketosis/" rel="noreferrer">ketosis</a> . </p> <p>Still, all this relies on the idea that we have to stay in a permanent state of ketosis for the diet to be effective—a strategy we don’t recommend. So let’s find out more about…</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/adult-bowl-cute-eating-0210.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/adult-bowl-cute-eating-0210.jp2" type="image/jp2"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/adult-bowl-cute-eating-0210.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/adult-bowl-cute-eating-LR-0210.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="adult-bowl-cute-eating-0210"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>How Long Should I Stay in Ketosis?</header> <p>Many experts will tell you that you have to stay in a constant state of ketosis to see benefits from the ketogenic diet. At-home <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-to-measure-ketosis-with-a-home-ketone-meter/" rel="noreferrer">meters </a>are even available to test your blood and urine so you can see if you’re in ketosis or not every day.</p> <p>But we’ve identified three main problems with this approach:</p> <ol> <li><i>If you’re not satisfied, you won’t keep it up</i>. The keto diet encourages you to eat lots of tasty low-carb, high-fat foods, but it also restricts you from many favorites—pasta, ice cream, and fruit to name a few. Giving yourself a regular cheat day makes the low-carb lifestyle sustainable for the long haul, instead of a fad you can’t maintain. </li> <li><i>Your body needs a certain amount of glucose to do high-intensity activity</i>. Depriving yourself of that energy means you won’t be able to bring your all during workouts. That makes it harder to reach your health and fitness goals. You need a little blood sugar boost if you want to do intense activities like running and our bodyweight workouts.</li> <li><i>The keto diet can affect your hormones, causing weight gain and decreased energy</i>. For <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/" rel="noreferrer">women </a>in particular, a high-fat diet can increase estrogen production which slows down the <i>thyroid</i>—the gland that keeps our metabolism in check. The keto diet can also cause an (often temporary) increase in <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/stress-and-your-health/" rel="noreferrer">cortisol</a>, another hormone that makes us store fat.</li> </ol> <p>You can stay in ketosis all the time if that makes sense for you and your lifestyle. There are plenty of keto-friendly snacks and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/keto/sweet-treats-cookbook/" rel="noreferrer">sweet treats</a> out there to curb your cravings and keep you in ketosis.</p> <p>But we believe in taking a little break on occasion to reset your system and help you stop daydreaming about pizza. After all, sticking to a low-carb, high-fat diet is tough! Having a little escape now and then will help you keep up the lifestyle and give you the energy you need to work out hard. </p> <p>Cheat days can do more than help you handle the low-carb life. They can actually make your diet <i>more </i>effective than if you didn’t let yourself do them at all.</p> <p>The trick is knowing how to do it right…</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/sport-woman-workout-0210.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/sport-woman-workout-0210.jp2" type="image/jp2"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/sport-woman-workout-0210.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/sport-woman-workout-LR-02103.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="sport-woman-workout-0210"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>How to Do a Keto Cheat Day the Right Way</header> <p>It’s all about exercise! Any good trainer will tell you that a health program works best with the right combination of diet <i>and </i>physical activity. </p> <p>As we mentioned before, one of the problems we’ve found with the keto diet is it affects our ability to do high-intensity exercise. When it comes to activities that require short bursts of energy, the low-carb lifestyle can sometimes leave us hanging.</p> <p>But when we eat carbs on a cheat day, our bodies can actually use them effectively. An intense workout on low glycogen stores will burn up any glucose left in our system. That means that when we do eat carbs and sugar, most of it gets shuttled to the liver and muscles to use later. Imagine: a slice of chocolate cake could actually help you work out harder rather than getting stored as fat!</p> <p>That’s why we recommend pairing your cheat day with one of our high-intensity workouts. You can do a program like the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/cheat-day-challenge-dirty-dozen/" rel="noreferrer">Dirty Dozen</a> in the morning, then eat to your heart’s content at night.</p> <p>A cheat day can do much more for our health than that. When we’re in ketosis, our metabolism gets used to running at a slow and steady level—think about that unleaded gas. Having a targeted spike in blood glucose is like adding a little rocket fuel to our metabolism. It lights the metabolism on fire for a short period, so we burn calories quickly and easily without going completely out of ketosis.</p> <p>Studies have also shown that eating more carbs can increase your testosterone levels and decrease <i>cortisol</i>—the stress hormone <sup>1</sup>. Higher testosterone can be linked to positive effects in both men and women including:</p> <ul> <li>Decreased body fat</li> <li>Increased lean muscle mass and strength</li> <li>Higher sex drive</li> <li>Improvements in energy, focus, and motivation</li> <li>Better sleep </li> </ul> <p>Meanwhile, high cortisol levels slow down the metabolism and trigger the body to store fat. Adding a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/when-is-the-best-time-to-eat-carbs-on-keto/" rel="noreferrer">well-timed</a> carb boost to your normal low-carb routine can decrease levels of cortisol. Plus, you’ll experience those incredible benefits from increasing your testosterone.</p> <p>We’ve based our ketogenic plan on a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/14-day-keto-diet-plan-and-menu/" rel="noreferrer">14-day</a> cycle, where we recommend you give yourself a cheat day during that cycle for the very reasons we’ve outlined here. Just make sure to pair your cheat day with a high-intensity <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/cheat-day-challenge-20-second-madness/" rel="noreferrer">workout </a>to get the best results.</p> <p>Now you know how it works, but you might be wondering… </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/burgers-fries-0210.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/burgers-fries-0210.jp2" type="image/jp2"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/burgers-fries-0210.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/burgers-fries-LR-0210.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="burgers-fries-0210"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Can I Eat Whatever I Want on a Keto Cheat Day?</header> <p>Again, it’s up to you. But we think it’s always important to consider what foods you’re putting in your body and what effects they might have on your health.</p> <p>For many of us, cheat day involves lots of foods that aren’t great for us. Often we choose <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-ugly-truth-behind-the-standard-american-diet/" rel="noreferrer">processed foods</a> that contain high amounts of sodium, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/can-you-be-allergic-to-sugar/" rel="noreferrer">sugar</a>, unhealthy fats, and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-real-facts-about-gmo-foods/" rel="noreferrer">GMOs</a> <sup>3</sup>. Eating these foods—especially when we’re used to being in ketosis—can cause <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/can-ketosis-reduce-inflammation/" rel="noreferrer">inflammation</a>, bloating, digestive upset, and many more unpleasant symptoms <sup>4</sup>.</p> <p>Junk foods can also have addictive qualities—there’s a reason those potato chips are so hard to put down. Avoiding refined and heavily processed items altogether can curb the cravings.</p> <p>Even some store-bought, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/5-reasons-to-pass-on-dirty-keto/" rel="noreferrer">low-carb</a> items are packed with preservatives and unhealthy fats like vegetable, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/is-sunflower-oil-healthy/" rel="noreferrer">sunflower</a>, and peanut oil. </p> <p>Cheat days work best when we let ourselves indulge, but make an effort to stick to whole foods as much as we can. And there are tons of delicious cheat-day foods that won’t leave you in a sugar coma. </p> <p>Here are two of our favorite savory and satisfying cheat day recipes—created by Warrior Made’s own Chef <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/keto-wm/11-recipes/" rel="noreferrer">Elisa</a> —to help you get inspired!</p> <div class="sub-head">LOADED CHICKEN NACHOS</div> <p>PREP TIME 15 MINUTES | COOK TIME 10 MINUTES | SERVES 4 </p> <p>Ingredients: <br /> 3 medium pre-cooked chicken breasts, chopped <br /> 1 bag of sweet potato chips <br /> 1 can black beans <br /> 1 small can sliced black olives (optional) <br/ > 2 tomatoes, diced <br /> 3 green onions, diced <br /> 1 teaspoon cumin <br /> 1 teaspoon smoked paprika <br /> 1/2 teaspoon chili powder <br /> Salt, to taste </p> <p> For the guacamole: <br /> 2 tablespoons lime juice <br /> 3 avocados <br /> 1/4 cup chopped cilantro <br /> Salt, to taste </p> <p>Directions </p> <ol> <li>In a sauté pan, add chopped chicken, cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, and salt. </li> <li>Cook over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through and completely coated in the seasoning. </li> <li>Heat the black beans in a small pot. </li> <li>Assemble the nachos by placing the chips on a plate.</li> <li>Top with beans, chicken, diced tomatoes, diced green onions and olives—if using. </li> <li>Serve with a large dollop of guacamole.</li> </ol> <div class="sub-head">GARLIC STEAK WITH SWEET POTATO FRIES</div> <p>PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES | COOK TIME: 22 MINUTES | SERVES: 2 </p> <p> Ingredients: <br /> 1 teaspoon dried basil <br /> 1/4 teaspoon sea salt <br /> 1/8 teaspoon black pepper <br /> 3 tablespoons grass-fed butter, divided <br /> 1 pound sweet potatoes, sliced into wedges <br /> 1 pound grass-fed sirloin steak, sliced into thin strips <br /> 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic <br /> 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped </p> <p>Directions </p> <ol> <li>In a small bowl, mix together dry seasonings and set aside. </li> <li>In a cast iron skillet heat two tablespoons of grass-fed butter over medium heat until it browns slightly. </li> <li>Add the sweet potato fries and season with half of the seasoning mixture. </li> <li>Cook for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. Set aside on a plate. </li> <li>In the same pan add the strips of steak and coat with remaining dry seasoning. Cook for five minutes or until steak has reached your desired doneness. </li> <li>Add minced garlic and continue cooking for an additional two minutes. </li> <li>Make room in the pan for sweet potatoes and add them back to the skillet. </li> <li>Drizzle remaining tablespoon of grass-fed butter over steak and sweet potatoes. </li> <li>Cook for three minutes to heat thoroughly. </li> <li>Serve warm and garnish with fresh parsley. </li> </ol> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Putting it All Together</header> <p>The ketogenic diet combined with a regular, well-planned cheat day can take your health goals to the next level. To do your cheat day right, follow these easy steps:</p> <ul> <li>Pair your cheat day with a high-intensity workout </li> <li>Do a cheat day once per cycle of our <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/14-day-keto-diet-plan-and-menu/" rel="noreferrer">14-day</a> diet plan </li> <li>Let yourself indulge, but don’t go too wild with the refined and processed foods </li> </ul> <p>Now that you know a cheat day is A-okay, give it a try for yourself! And for those 12 other days of your keto plan, we’ve got plenty of delicious, free keto-friendly <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/" rel="noreferrer">recipes </a> right here on Warrior Made.</p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-unhealthy-low-fat-foods" rel="noreferrer">10 "Low-Fat" Foods That Are Actually Bad for You</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3573976" rel="noreferrer">Diet-hormone interactions</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318630.php" rel="noreferrer">Nine ways that processed foods are harming people</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://perfectketo.com/cheating-on-keto/" rel="noreferrer">Cheating on Keto: Here’s What Happens & How to Get Back In</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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