If one thing is true about the keto diet, it comes with a lot of side effects. How to transition off keto without experiencing even more side effects? Go slow.
Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time in a Keto Facebook group. Many people have found a lot of success with the keto diet and a plethora of before and after stories and personal anecdotes appear in the group every day. It’s really inspiring.
In my professional opinion — any diet that works for you is a good diet for you. As long as it is healthy, sustainable, and doesn’t isolate you from social events and your family, it’s a-ok.
However, keto can come with health risks. It can come with nasty side effects like keto flu, bad gas, constipation, and worse. But many proponents swear up and down that it’s worth it! All the power to them I say!
But what about how to transition off keto?
Maybe you’ve lost the weight and want to move to a more sustainable eating habit that includes healthy carbs.
What if you are sick of the side effects from the keto diet? What if you are not losing weight? Or worse, gaining weight when you don’t want to?
I asked folks in the keto group what the side effects were when they’ve quickly gone off keto without a plan. Here were some of there answers:
- “The opposite of constipation”
- “A three day hangover from a bit of pasta or rice”
- “Super painful stomach cramps”
- “Horrible heart burn”
- “Weight gain”
There is a safe and effective way to transition off the keto diet. It’s important that you do not just fall back into whatever old eating patterns you had before going keto! This could no only result in nasty side effects, but also, weight regain.
Weight regain after restrictive diets like this is SO common it’s almost textbook. In fact, about 80 percent of people who diet eventually regain the weight.
Restrictive dieting leads to changes in hormones, metabolism, and cognitive/attention functions that make it difficult to sustain long term and keep the weight off.
Yo-yo dieting can even increase the number of fat cells you have, making a bad situation even worse.
The idea of foods that boost metabolism is a great money-making opportunity.
Fat bombs and coconut oil can hack fat loss, protein powders that burn calories, teas that flush toxins and fat. It’s all marketing.
The bottom line is that the calories burned from digestion only account for 5 to 10 percent of your total calorie burn.
Calories burned due to digestion is called the Thermic Effect of Eating (TEE). Digestion is an active metabolic process and uses energy to complete.
The type of food that uses the most calories to digest is protein. Protein is very thermogenic, taking more energy than other foods to digest.
I have written an informative post on protein, so if you would like to learn more about this effect, read The Ultimate Guide to Protein.
THERMIC EFFECT OF EATING (TEE)
- Protein = 20 to 30 percent
- Carbohydrates = 5 to 6 percent
- Fats = 3 percent
Besides this, your body will use more calories, digesting whole foods that are minimally processed than it will with processed foods. Even protein powders, which are often marketed as metabolism boosters are processed foods
In fact, whey protein is very easily digestible and so, being processed and digested quickly, will not increase metabolism like chicken breast or salmon will.
This is discussed above but let’s dig a little deeper.
To increase metabolism, your diet must support your strength training routine and your daily activity (NEAT).
So, instead of thinking of foods that boost metabolism, think about how your diet can help you increase your energy to strength train and move throughout the day.
DIET FOR FAST METABOLISM:
- Plenty of protein
- Whole, minimally processed foods
- Healthy fats like EPA and DHA which have been shown to help burn an extra 400+ calories per day
- Enough carbohydrates to maintain energy for strength training (see my guide on Carbs)
- Enough calories to support your activity — remember, too few calories will cause a slow metabolism (efficient)
See more about this in my post on How to Increase Your Metabolism.
What If You Are Not Losing Weight On Keto?
A restricted diet (by calories or by specific macros like carbs), can do the very opposite of what you intend.
Your body can become adapted in ways that are not beneficial to weight loss or health and can cause you to hold on to or even gain belly fat.
Especially if you are combining a low carb or keto diet with exercise, you can end up doing some real metabolic and hormonal damage to yourself.
It’s also important to note that if you are exercising at any level of intensity, carbohydrates are primary fuel. If you want to be able to workout at a level that burns fat, you will absolutely want to have carbs in your arsenal.
The typical path people go on when beginning a weight loss program is to eat less and exercise more. This combination can wreak havoc on your hormones, especially for women.
Even worse is when that diet is low carbohydrate and you are training hard or a person who really functions best with moderate to high carbs.
Everyone is different and sometimes the side effects of the keto diet are not going to pass because they are signs your body is crying out for help. This diet might not be for you. Time to transition off keto.
Please evaluate how YOU feel, not just the latest trends and what you have been told or what you think is best.
And remember that men often tolerate things like fasting and low carbohydrate diets much better than women do. It may just be a bad idea for you.
An even more shocking and less known fact – willpower depends on glucose. This means that if you are low in glucose, you are not nearly as capable of making good decisions not to give in to cravings and unproductive or unhealthy behaviour. Crazy, huh?
Of course, the keto-diet is not quite the same as a typical low-carb diet (to which there are many, many variations). It does produce a unique process in your body that other diets do not.
But does that translate into magical fat loss and health beyond your wildest dreams?
In short, no.
This is key: There’s a huge difference between being a “fat burner” and actually burning your body fat. If you are over-consuming calories, the most advanced diet in the world will not let you burn body fat. That’s all there is to it.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO INSTEAD?
The reason people have success on low carb diets is that it is an efficient way to lower calories.
This is important because people DO in fact tend to eat far too many carbohydrates (and therefore calories) than they need to. They also eat too much fat, too much everything.
There is more to weight loss than calories in, calories out. I will not claim that it is that basic and straightforward, BUT, that is the main battle.
Highly palatable foods in large quantities and too little movement (calories out).
Read more: The 25 Healthiest Foods for Weight Loss
So Let’s Get to How to Transition Off Keto
I have created a detailed guide on how to transition off keto with minimal to no side effects. This is a gentler approach that will not cause weight to regain as long as you are balancing your calories in and out.
The guide explains how to count and monitor your carbs with a couple of different methods —either by actually weighing and counting macros, or a more simple approach so you don’t have to spend so much time monitoring it.
With that said, you will probably see weight fluctuations as you increase carbs because carbs hold on to water (muscle glycogen) and you may become a bit more puffy or swollen looking than usual.
This will balance out and pass with time. Be sure to drink plenty of water in the meantime.
Grab the Guide!