So you’ve followed the ketogenic diet for a few months now. You’ve achieved ketosis, lost some weight and (hopefully) experienced the intense mental clarity that keto-fanatics rave about.
But after months of eating high fat, high protein and very little carbs, how do you reset your body to eat normally again?
“It probably took you a few days to get into ketosis when starting off on the keto diet,” says registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick. “So a sudden influx of carbs and sugar could wreak havoc on your body if you go wild with your diet.”
If you don’t transition properly off the ketogenic diet, you could be setting yourself up for some not-so-pretty symptoms:
- Weight gain.
- Bloating and other bathroom issues.
- Blood sugar spikes, which could cause fatigue and irritability.
- Increased hunger and sugar addiction.
Instead, follow these three tips on how to effectively come off the keto diet.
1. Focus on hard to digest carbs
When looking to incorporate carbs back into your diet after severe restriction, Kirkpatrick recommends focusing on eating carbs that are high in protein and fiber.
“Bean based pasta, crackers with seeds or sprouted breads are all great options when looking to bring carbs back into your diet,” she says. “Even starting to add in cashews or more avocados are great additions.”
There’s a reason carbs stand for CarboHYDRATES. You’re naturally going to gain a few pounds when you reintroduce them back into your diet because they contain water. The key is to pick healthy, whole carbs that won’t cause gigantic spikes in your blood sugar. The worst thing you can do is go hog wild and start eating donuts and cookies. Instead, focus on the quality of the carbs and pick kinds that take more time to digest.
Transitioning off the keto diet should take a few weeks. About 14 days is pretty reasonable for your body to adjust to the change. Some people find it helpful to increase their carb intake each day by about 10 percent, while others use an app to help keep track. Kirkpatrick suggests that the easiest way is to look at serving size and aim for two extra servings of carbs per day.
2. Be aware of the sugar pitfall
Don’t trade keto fat bombs for sugar bombs! One of the benefits of the ketogenic diet is the low sugar intake and eliminating added sugar in your diet.
“If you followed keto for a couple months, you probably noticed decreased sugar cravings,” says Kirkpatrick. “There’s research proving that sugar is addicting – so why would you want to go back to that?”
A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything with more than 4 grams of added sugar. Also be aware of too much naturally occurring sugar, which can hide in things like honey and certain fruits.
“If you have a bar that has 22 grams of sugar but it’s all from dates, that’s still not good and you’re going to spike your blood sugar,” she says.
3. Good habits help
When you first started keto, it probably took some time to educate yourself and learn about the diet. So coming off keto should be a similar and slow process.
“Weight loss isn’t just about the food – your environment, support system and lifestyle all play a factor in it,” explains Kirkpatrick. “So when keto is over and those things aren’t aligned correctly, it’s going to be easy to fall back into old habits and regain the weight.”
Staying hydrated is another important factor when working on healthy habits post keto. Being dehydrated causes irritability and can make you feel hungry when you’re actually just thirsty.
It all goes back to choosing healthy, balanced meals and snacks. Regaining the weight can be scary, but eating healthy fats, lean protein and quality carbs can still lead to weight loss.