Most people automatically assume that I hate the keto diet. That’s not exactly true, but first, in case you’ve been living under a bridge, here is what you need to know about the keto diet.
What is the Keto diet?
The ketogenic (keto for short) diet was initially developed for kids with epilepsy. The ketogenic diet was effective and reducing the frequency of seizures, and recently it has become popular as a weight-loss strategy.
Done correctly, the keto diet is composed of 70% fat, 15% protein, and 5% carbs. It requires continuous monitoring of ketone levels (in blood or urine) and diligent planning. Like any diet, it can be done healthy (avocado, leafy greens, etc.) or terribly (bacon and bulletproof coffee.)
It isn’t my first (or even in my top 10) recommendation for improving your health or weight loss but, I don’t hate it.
I dabbled in keto long before it became famous when I thought I had PCOS because a doctor made an off-handed comment that he “wasn’t totally convinced I didn’t have PCOS.” I didn’t have PCOS, you can read about how I got my period back after five years of nothing here.
So, I don’t hate the keto diet. I’m happy for those people who got results on it, I’m in support of any improvement to your health. I’m all for any improvement to your health. Recently, though, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from those who had some success on the keto diet but are looking to transition off the keto diet without gaining weight.
There are several reasons someone may want to transition off, let’s visit those, and then we will get to the how-to piece.
When You Should Quit The Keto Diet
Your Digestion Worsens
Lack of fiber can cause slow motility (read constipation) and deprive the good bacteria in the colon of food (read gas, bloating, etc.) Although some short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate found in butter can provide some food for your helpful microbes, it probably isn’t their preferred fuel. If you are starting to experience GI issues, like heartburn or constipation, it’s probably time to come off.
Your Not Enjoying Your Food
If you started to hate your meals, it’s better to come up with a game plan to get off keto without killing your progress, then snap one day and throw away everything.
You Lose Your Menstrual Cycle
Some women, with pre-existing insulin resistance such as in PCOS, may experience improvement in their cycle when on Keto. However, many women may see their cycles become erratic or non-existent when on Keto. This is a sign your body is not adjusting well, and you want to get off.
Your Weight Loss Has Stalled
If you’ve hit a plateau, then the diet has run its course. I use the word diet here because that’s what it is; it isn’t a lifestyle change; it’s a diet. It’s time to move to a different strategy, which I have outlined below because I find this is 99% the reason why people quit keto.
You’ve Been On It A Long Time
The thing is, we each have a set of genetics which makes us predisposed to certain chronic illnesses. And we have no idea how the keto diet in the long term influences your risk for things like heart disease and cancer. What we do know is that heart disease and cancer risk go down with a diet high in fiber and antioxidants, two things lacking on the keto diet. If you’ve been on it over a year, my recommendation is to come off of it or be okay with being a human experiment since we have ZERO long term research.
How To Transition Off The Keto Diet
A quick note here – most people know this, but you will regain some water weight. Up to 5 pounds, but 2-3 pounds is normal. If you can, it’s best to monitor your body fat percentage over pounds.
If you aren’t counting macros and testing your urine for ketones, you haven’t been doing the keto diet. You’ve been doing some modified low carb diet. If this is you, you can jump straight to carb cycling.
If you are counting macros and testing your urine for ketones, then you have been doing the keto diet correctly. Here is how to get off with minimal weight gain.
Step 1: Increase Variety of Vegetables
Introduce non-starchy vegetables you were previously avoiding like tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant. Drop your macros accordingly.
Week 1-2: 60% Fat, 20% protein, 10% carbs
Week 3-4: 55% Fat, 25% protein, 15% carbs
Step 2: Introduce Complex Carbs
Introduce high fiber complex carbs in one serving (no more than 30 grams at a time) per day AFTER your workout. Examples: sweet potatoes, beans, oats, brown rice, or quinoa. No fruit or other sugar yet.
Week 5-6: 50% Fat, 30% protein, 20% carbs
Week 7-8: 45% Fat, 30% protein, 25% carbs
Step 3: Introduce Higher Glycemic Index Carbs & Begin Carb Cycling
Move your complex carbs to another meal of the day and introduce fast-acting carbs after your workout. Usually, fruit is a great option here. My favorite post-workout snack is a banana (think they have too much sugar? See are bananas bad for you?) You’ll now adjust your carbohydrates to increase percentage-wise on the days you workout and decrease on the days you don’t.
This allows you to maintain the benefits of the metabolic flexibility you developed and continue to have low carb days, just not a low carb life. I wrote more about carb cycling and how to do it in this post.
This is where it gets essential to work with a coach to determine your macros (if you desire to count macros) because they should be individualized to You do not have to count macros to maintain your weight loss. Read that again.
If you want to continue to count macros because you like it and it doesn’t stress you out. Great! Get a custom macro calculation for your workouts and rest days (two separate calculations.) Most people do well on a 40/30/30 plan with some variation for workouts. If you need healthy recipes and meal ideas for this type of eating, I can help with that too! I have monthly meal plans that come with meal prep guides, and each day follows a 40/30/30 plan.
Each step in the plan can vary in length of time needed for their transition off of the keto diet. When I have nutrition coaching clients who are coming off keto, I give them custom macro calculations every week as we monitor their progress and make adjustments.
Some can go just one week with every step seeing little to no weight gain or even weight loss. Some will see the scale rise one week and fall the next as they adjust to more carbs in their diet; they need a little bit more time between adjustments.
While working through this plan, remember it’s important to tackle:
- hormone imbalances (pre-existing or created by keto)
- metabolism issues (pre-existing or created by eating too few calories while on keto)
- other health concerns (you may need to go faster or slower in your transition depending on health concerns)
Question of the day:
Have you tried the keto diet?