“Oh No – That Chocolate Birthday Cake had Carbs?! It just Knocked Me Out of Ketosis!”– Every Low-Carber, at least once in their lifetime.
Keep Calm & Keto On.
While I do not believe it beneficial to be in a constant state of ketosis, I do believe we evolved to indulge in times of plenty, and use stored body fat for the bulk of our energy needs. At least, that’s where I feel most optimal.
So, if you are feeling optimal in ketosis but find yourself feeling off, you may have consumed a few too many carbs. How might you best bounce back in to ketosis? Let’s begin.
How Do I Know I was Knocked out of Ketosis?
Remember, ketosis is fat-burning. Fat-burning is blocked when insulin is high. We know Insulin levels can be raised by a few things. Primarily though – and in the context of low carb / keto diets – the culprit is usually hidden carbs.
Typical Signs You Over-Consumed Those Carbs:
- Hungry Despite Just Finishing A Huge Meal (Carb Cravings vs True Hunger)
- Difficulty Intermittent Fasting (ie: Hungry in the morning when Usually Black Coffee is OK)
- Feeling Bloated (Holding Water)
This list is basically a selection of opposites for my tell-tale signs of being in Ketosis. If you notice some of these, it’s likely you are down-regulating ketone production, and up-regulating glucose metabolism. So, you might want to check ketone levels but even more simply just take a few of the actions below and get back in ketosis!
Maybe You Didn’t Cheat – No Judgement!
Many foods you would otherwise believe Keto may surprise you in their carb content. “I didn’t know those sausages were 8g each! I had 3!” – damn those fillers!
Also, a large amount of keto-friendly foods could add up in terms of total carbs for a day. ie: A few extra handfuls of nuts or berries could refill your liver glycogen enough that your carb-based metabolism will kick back in for a while.
While it’s not the end of the world to go over your carb count eating copious amounts of zucchini or broccoli, there are repercussions metabolically that manifest as symptoms.
If you’ve still significant amounts of weight to lose but found you have maybe over-consumed carbs in a meal, don’t fret. Just learn to recognize the signs of being in ketosis vs burning carbs and you can make better decisions next time!
The Best Defence – Prevention
If your goal is to stay on plan and on keto, and you aren’t sure how something was prepared, just abstain! Ask yourself: “Have I felt it absolutely necessary to try everything on the table?” Most times, the answer is no. On keto, you understand how consuming something could alter how you feel for the rest of the evening.
If someone is pushing you to try this “super tasty dish” that is bathed in a mystery sauce (likely laden with sugar and flour), you don’t need to be that gal / guy who asks for the recipe or goes fishing for the packaging in the trash (although I am guilty of both). Instead, just go with a simple “no thanks maybe next time!” and you’r free to stay in ketosis no harm no foul.
Why Would I Want to Get Back in to Ketosis?
Ketosis offers a myriad of other benefits. One of the majors is, of course, fat loss. But there are benefits beyond that – mental focus, a sense of routine, and even energy levels all amount to something more than just any other diet. But if you’ve experienced ketosis, you already know what I mean and I am preaching to the choir!
Wanting to bounce back in to stable fat-burning metabolism is important to me, as I feel I operate best that way. So, to limit my time in glucose-burning purgatory, I’ve come up with a few tips on how to get there. Let’s go over practical ways to do just that.
I don’t mean you need to abstain from all food for 72 hours. This means… despite a little bit of heightened hunger, do your routine time-restricted feeding anyway. If this means having a second cup of coffee, do it. If it means making your fast a little bit shorter than usual, (ie: have a lunch at 11am instead of your planned 12) go for it!
The quickest way to deplete your stored liver glycogen from the carbs it has been refueled with is by not consuming anything. This is by far the most abrupt and effective method from a time perspective. There are many other ways that may be more ‘sustainable’ though, and I’ll hit those next.
After a higher carb meal, think of your body’s tank being topped up with octane fuel. That’s glycogen! It’s stored in your liver for ‘general use’ and also shunted in to your muscles for use in resistance training / aerobic exercise. So, you’ve got some quick burning kindling: Burn it (move!) or store it (fat)!
Think of our hunter-gatherer ancestors… around times of eating, they would also have had times of moving.
- Obtain food (hunt / pick)
- Build / tend a fire
- Process the food (skin / shuck)
- Transport food back to camp
So spending energy goes with consuming energy, remember that well! In the case of Type 2 Diabetics, taking a long walk post -meal has been shown to mitigate the blood sugar rise. Exercising after ingesting those carbs is more effective for glycemic control than if you were taking the walk at any other time during the day. So, if you are going to eat some carbs, time your exercise right after to ‘burn down’ the glycogen! And who doesn’t feel good after a post-meal walk? This is all intuitive, guys, just listen to your body!
It’s kind of a win-win… you burn up that glycogen, and in the process you kick start the anabolic response from your body to start rebuilding and repairing. Usually, after a high carb meal your insulin will be up as well… this isn’t the WORST thing for you, because insulin is the hormone that assists in building up tissues like muscle. So, leverage the insulin spike… do some work, and burn down the glucose. Amazing system we have isn’t it?!
3. Fuel up on Fat
If the hunger is getting to be too much, recognize it. And treat it like true hunger. Fuel up on fatty foods like meat, cheese, or eggs. Don’t consume more high carb food. Also, try to avoid feeding the sweet tooth with hyper-palatable keto desserts. The goal here is to curb any phantom hunger (ie: cravings), not intensify them.
Here’s an interesting experiment: eat to your absolute fill of a keto meal. Then, have a handful of berries or a sweet keto treat. If this neutralizes your perceived satiety from the meal, recognize that hunger as a craving for more carbs. Can you go back to the keto meal for more? Or do you really just want berries? Or maybe some yogurt, or some peanut butter etc etc etc? Your hunger signals have been hijacked by those carbs, and perhaps berries for dessert isn’t a good idea.
What I like to do is indulge heavily in protein and fat to really ratchet up the satiety signals so I am inarguably full and satisfied. This eliminates all questions of “maybe a little more of this” from my mind.
4. Recognize What Triggered the Craving
Pay special attention to how you feel after consuming certain foods. With your appetite back in control via low-carb living, it should be easier now to tell. If you find yourself consuming carbs in situations you normally wouldn’t, ask yourself some tough questions:
Was there a certain feeling / emotion you experienced that drove an uncontrolled response? An environment you were in?
5. Correct your Environment, Eliminate “Choice”
This is more necessary if you had time to make a choice, but made the wrong one. Remember, if you don’t have any carb-heavy foods accessible, when cravings come you won’t be tempted make the wrong choice. Be it from lack of information or preparedness, recognize what it was that made picking the wrong thing ‘easy’?
Was the choice made at home? Modify your grocery list, maybe avoid picking up those salted almonds next time.
Was the choice at a favourite restaurant? Maybe check out the menu online and see what substitutions you can make next time to stay low carb.
In these cases, you can choose ahead of time and save yourself from an impulsive decision which may or not be the best for your health goals.
Remember The Long Game
No matter the reason, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. What matters is consistency and time, and if you are making the right choices over long enough periods, these little dips out of ketosis will not impact you significantly. Remember to Enjoy the Process!
Bounce back. Learn something. Change your environment. Slipping and course correcting every now and again is healthy, and will lead you to a sustainable keto lifestyle. This keeps you on the road to health instead of yo-yo dieting / just giving up.
To sum up – don’t worry about getting momentarily kicked out of ketosis, your body will recover, and you’ll find the right balance. Ciao.