Carbohydrates are just as addictive as nicotine, if not more.
The first time I quit smoking after fourteen years, I quit it for two years. Then one night at a party I was offered a cigarette by someone I hadn’t seen for a while and I, figuring I was “cured,” lit it up.
The next day I bought a pack and jumped right back into smoking a pack a day for three more years before I finally quit again (2.5 years now!)
When it comes to carbohydrates, I don’t see a difference. Last year on my birthday, after doing keto for a solid six or seven months, my wonderful fiance got me a doughnut cake as a cheat day treat. A doughnut, the size of a cake.
I figured hey, it’s one day, one doughnut. But it wasn’t. The minute carbohydrates were back in my system it was as if they were never gone. And suddenly we were ordering Dominos and drinking Coca-Cola. And again. And again. In fact, I never ate pizza regularly or drank soda until that moment. It’s like one big doughnut was a gateway drug to everything bad, even things I didn’t eat before. Eight months and 20lbs later we were able to get the will power together to quit them again.
Losing Weight on a Low Carb Diet
If you’re on a low carb diet, you don’t need me to tell you the benefits. Some do it for weight loss, others for mental clarity, and others for illnesses like cancer and alzheimers.
But remember, quitting carbs doesn’t mean quitting real food. Every day I eat grass-fed meat, organic greens like spinach, and even berries. If you choose to drink diet coke and processed things loaded with fake sugars, with a block of cheese for lunch, you’re not making yourself healthier, you might even be damaging your body rather than helping it.
One thing I’ve learned from quitting carbohydrates and then falling off the wagon a few times is that the most frustrating thing in the world is when you plateau and you stop losing weight.
The first time I did keto, I lost five pounds my first week and then I lost none for a month. I also never felt hungry, which I found to be a benefit but was really my body telling me that my metabolism had basically fallen asleep. It wasn’t even trying to burn the food I was putting into it because I wasn’t putting enough in, even though I felt full and satisfied. I started monitoring my calories to make sure I was eating enough and started losing again at 1500 calories per day (and 20 net carbs per day).
The second time I did keto I was losing weight pretty steadily and two months in basically stopped losing weight again for a month. I got discouraged and had a cheat day. The next day I lost five pounds. Oh that pesky metabolism and its narcolepsy.
This time I’ve done something a little different, learning from these past two experiences, and it’s working better than ever before. In the first five days, my fiance lost 11lbs and I lost 8. My body feels balanced and healthy, which I felt before, but much moreso this time.
Carb Cycling on a Low Carb Keto Diet
On a keto diet, you typically have 20 net carbs per day. If you’re not losing weight on a low carb diet like keto where you only eat 20 net carbs per day, then you need to wake that metabolism back up.
What I’m doing now is rotating between 20 carbs per day and 50 carbs per day. I’ve also adopted a more paleo approach where I don’t eat processed foods and the food I do eat is high quality and even bought from local farmers when possible. Your body is a temple, and all that.
So by adding more carbs to your diet every day I’m not suggesting a “cheat day” every other day. I mean you get to indulge in more veggies, fruits, maybe even a glass of Trop50 orange juice (they use stevia).
I’m not going to judge people who eat bacon for three meals a day and the people who make keto desserts loaded with splenda, but I’ve found that a more balanced diet with high-quality ingredients works better and makes me feel better. I’ve done the keto cheesecakes and cupcakes in past keto lives, but not this time.
If you’re on a low carb diet like keto and are following it strictly but not losing weight, try out carb cycling and choosing better ingredients. Then, report back!
Hey there, I’ve been reading your blog for a while but wanted to say THANK YOU for this post.
THANK YOU for reading! 🙂 I hope it helps!
Do you ever get carb cravings from going from 20 carbs to 50 carbs? When I’ eating 20 I never feel hungry but I’m at a plateu and it sounds like this could work for me since I lose weight on cheat days too.
I thought I would but I don’t. I really believe my body was starving when I was staying at 20 carbs. I feel much more mentally satisfied with this method also, I don’t find myself always trying to make junkfood keto-friendly. I just don’t really want it or need it anymore.
do you still consider stevia “real food”, I am not losing weight but also don’t have much left to lose, but should I cut stevia?
It’s worth trying, I know artificial sweeteners can stall you on keto, I believe stevia does the same even though it’s natural, because it tricks the brain into thinking you’re eating something sweet in the same way. I personally rarely use stevia and avoid all the keto baking things that are loaded with it.
I have had great success with Stevia. Stevia has numberous health benefits that are well documented. Artificial sweeteners cause hunger cravings (by design) and because of toxicity (Stevia has none), your body creates fats to store the toxins.
You could always use Xylitol (Birch Sugar) and loose weight through dehydration / loose stools. Until your body gets use to Xylitol. Erythritol is another options.
Call me a purist, but over time I now personally prefer to skip them all together! Plus, Stevia makes my mouth numb, which is weird.
I am new to Keto and in just 6 days have lost 9 lbs! I am hooked and have been avidly reading your blog. I love the twisted sense of humor! But I had to respond when you said your mouth gets numb from stevia! Mine does that from too much equal so I stopped it all together a few years ago. Then my doc told me that was an allergy to it. But thank you so much for your recipes and knowledge and humor.
[…] now I’m adapting the diet which has killed that problem altogether and I feel much more balanced, […]
Hi there, I just found your blog and have been “devouring” it (har har), thank god for graveyard shifts I did want to comment on this though since I’ve had issues here as well. I’ve been doing keto for a few months now and after the first month, I stopped losing (I don’t touch the scale because I also lift weights and so I’ll get either depressed or panicked if I check). What I’ve been doing is a 5 or 6 days on keto (low low carb) and then 1 day of high carb, low fat. It really helped me so wanted to share.
SO glad to hear it!
I went from 20 carbs to around 50-60 carbs for 2 days which both knocked me out of keto, and (according to the scale) added 2-3 pounds of what I assume is mostly water weight. I got right back on and my keto sticks are pink again, but I was wondering if you ever found carb cycling to initially cause weight gain, or if this is just me?
Thank you for your time,
The goal is definitely to stay in ketosis so you may need to test how high you can get before getting kicked out, and then cycle back and forth between 20 and that number. I do usually gain a pound or two overnight though, and drop a few more over the next few days – great for a stall!
Great blog! We seem to be in the same boat. I’m usually an easy loser, definitely into the paleo approach to eating, and a have a major sweet tooth that has lead to binge after binge or crap I normally would sneer at in disgust at the grocery store.
I haven’t lost any weight on keto (eating between 1200 and 1500 calories per day) since dropping eight pounds the first week. It’s discouraging. I’ve been experimenting with fat-fasting a little, and that seems to help the scale budge, but only temporarily. I’m getting tired of the lack of veggies in my diet, so I’m going to give carb-cycling a try. I like that your approach is centered on whole foods and not extreme. Some carb-cycling sites want you to eat like 300 carbs on your high-carb days!!! I just don’t feel comfortable doing that because of the old sweet-tooth flare-up (maybe it’s more like a carb-tooth).
ANYWAY, my point is that I’m glad I stumbled upon this! 🙂 Cheers.
christiehall So glad you did! I find that if I don’t hit 1500 calories a day, I stall out, so 1500 is my minimum. It’s the reason why I can’t do low-cal diets. I could low cal every day and exercise 3 days a week and lose NOTHING. I don’t know why, guess my metabolism is sensitive, maybe yours is too!
Just started low carb and have one meal every week where I cheat. Its not cake or anything but a few red potatoes or some whole grain rice. Its now week 3 and I have lost 26 pounds. I feel great but having trouble sleeping. Any reason why you think this is?
I started a low carb diet 2 months ago and have lost near 14lbs. I found this site a few weeks ago and love it everything tried amazing and better still my boyfriend likes them to so makes meal times so much easier. My self and a friend from work I introduced to the low carb diet are now on completion on making the things from this site and the most weight loss obviously. She’s beating me at the minute.
Does anyone know what I can substitute yellow and green squash for to make the ribbon pasta? I’m from the UK and we don’t have them, did think courgettes but not sure.
shazza1 Congrats! Yep, courgettes would be the reight replacement. 🙂
I’ve been trying this lately, but still getting the hang of it. I tried eating a small apple the other day and it kicked me right out of ketosis. I can get back in within a day, but if the goal is really to stay in then it’s tricky. I was wondering if you cut some fat on higher carb days? If so, how much and what do you replace the calories with?
Thanks for posting this though, all the other stuff I’ve found on carb cycling is written by male body builders, both of which I am not! Love your blog!
baconista Thanks! Apples are tricky, I think because they are 25+ grams of carbs each, they might just go ahead and spike your blood sugar and kick you out. You might try eating more carbs when you increase, but in smaller quantities at a time. I definitely kicked myself out a few times before determining that 50 is my ideal limit on a higher carb day, but no I don’t cut fat on the higher carb days since I’m still way below 200 or so carbs most people eat, and need it for fuel while in ketosis. 🙂 Hope that helps!
How many days do you do on and off for 20 carbs vs 50 carbs? I’ve been looking for what a successful cycle looks like that isn’t for a body builder. Love your site btw, started making all my own food a month ago and now I’m addicted to this way of life.
I was just reading through the comments on this post and thought I would share a book I found that helped me get started with the carb cycling diet. The book is written by Jesse Morgan, Carb Cycling: The Recipe and Diet Book. She has a website at http://fitrecipe.net/
How in the world do you hit your macros if you’re just not hungry? I don’t have “weight” to lose, just a few body fat %’s. Thanks in advance.
New to keto , lost 6 lbs i4 weeks. Had only 2 cheat meals and have been eating under 20 carbs a day and approx 1500 calories per day, mostly from fats, 70% and 25% protein. Never hungry but very constipated. Why am I not losing? Also do 2 half he HIIT WORKOUTS er wk
Also how can I measure when know if Ibin or out of keto?
Hi there! Please give an example of how to carb cycle? Is this like, one meal per day includes sweet potato or a fruit at the end of the day? Or is it keto for 3 days and paleo for 1?
Some advice would be great 🙂
BiancavanBreda It’s more like every other day I go between 20 and 50. The goal is to still stay in ketosis, but basically go to the top of your range where you won’t kick yourself out. A sweet potato is 25-ish grams of carbs so it would be a nice treat, but eating it all at once could spike your blood sugar, so maybe not a WHOLE sweet potato, but maybe half a cup with dinner, and maybe some fruit with breakfast so it’s more spread out. The seems to work for me.
Ormey Purchase some Keto Sticks online or at your local drug store. 🙂
Ormey The constipation may be why you’re not losing, I’ve heard this a lot. Try increasing your fibrous veggies, drink more water, and maybe add a magnesium supplement. Usually drinking some coffee with coconut oil in it, or a cup of bullion will do the trick! If you’re not going to the bathroom every day, you’ll get stuck in one place and might start to feel pretty bloated!
KameronSteele What’s nice is that fat’s really easy to get into your diet. Throw coconut oil in every coffee you drink, cook all your food in ghee, and any good piece of steak will be fatty enough to help hit your macros for the day.
EuthAnneAxia As a non-body builder and someone who won’t be burning off the extra carbs, I have done it every other day, but without kicking myself out of ketosis (50 is about my max). Thanks for reading!
Great, thanks, Amanda!
I stumbled along your comment while reading the article and I wanted to let you know I had similar symptoms when I started keto. For me, it was too much dairy fat, but not reaching my fat macro goal for the day. Avacados were my cure. They average 23 carbs but 20 fiber, so a net carb of 3. All the fiber and pure fat skyrocketed me into ketosis and out of constipation. Make sure to drink tons of water, too
pcook011579 Have you tried magnesium? I’ve read a lot about how the process of ketosis makes you flush out more of your electrolytes so you have to consume more sodium, and a low electrolyte balance can keep you up. People say taking Magnesium before bed helps.
In the past when I did the keto diet I would eat less than 20 carbs each day for 6 days and then on the 7th day I would still eat my regular low carb meals but I would also have ice cream. Most of the time when I lost weight it was the day after eating the ice cream. I never realized what I was doing was “cycling” until I read your post….it was just something I happened upon and it worked for me so I kept doing it.
Just came across your article and I agree with you when it comes to stalling. I have been doing Keto for 2 months now. And I just love everything about it. The mental clarity and the non-drowsiness is amazing. I am full of those. But recently weight loss has stalled. And after seeing you carb cycle every-other day sounds like a great idea. I work out 4-5 days a week and I don’t know if my body just needs a little “pick me up” or what. I can’t wait to try out your method and see what happens. I was wondering though, since you carb cycle, do you incorporate a “reefed” day anywhere? Thank you!!
I personally don’t, as I do try to stay in ketosis even when carb cycling, but I know some people do. I’m not sure if it’s a great idea to pull your body in and out of ketosis, but that’s somewhat out of my range of expertise. I’d love for someone else to chime in though!
Awesome post! There are a lot of things about going keto that people do not understand and this post refers to one of the most important things people need to learn: if you take carbs out to quickly or don’t have enough carbs and create an energy deficit, you will have a thyroid hormone problem and T4 will converted into reverse T3 instead of T3. Reverse T3 does exactly what its’ name implies and will slow you metabolism down and will prevent weight loss. The key to success with a ketogenic diet is a proper transition and adaption. In the beginning you still have to have carbs but have to eat carbs in a way that won’t down regulate your fat metabolism. You need the carbs in the beginning because without your fat metabolism being fully unregulated, you simply do not have the metabolic machinery to solely run off of fats. When you don’t have the metabolic ability to solely run off of fats yet eat mostly fats you are creating an energy deficiency and a slowed metabolism is the result.
Great explanation, Bryan!
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I just started Keto about four days ago. I am pretty sure I had the Keto flu. But it’s gone now. Doing small amounts of MCT Oil and olive oil in salads and coffee. I used the ketostix yesterday and saw I was in Ketosis. Did it today and I wasn’t. Weird. Is this normal for those ketostix?
Also I think I might do one days week of a higher carb. Because ice cream….
Do you recommend waiting a little longer before I do the cycling or jut start now? I can’t sleep much and I’m tired but awake. It’s weird adapting! .
Oh and I lost 3 pounds. Without 💩🙊
Keto Sticks are a very simple measure of ketones in your urine, but they’re not without fault. On that note, it usually takes more than three days to get into ketosis.
Since you’re just starting out, it’s best to try and be strict for at least a month. You’ll learn a whole lot about your body, and what keeps it in, and kicks it out of ketosis during this time. Then, once you feel like you really have the hang of it, and you’re not losing as quickly, and you’ve learned how many carbs you can have without kicking yourself out of ketosis, you could try carb cycling.
But I wouldn’t recommend it starting off, and ice cream is likely to kick you out of ketosis and will spike your sugar, so I can’t advocate for that either, sorry! 🙂
I’ve been low carb high health fat for about 4 months due to ilabs showing insulin resistance and borderline prediabetic both of which are now under control. I lost 18 lbs but now I’m stalled out for about a month and my labs show T3 is low. My doctor wants me to start low dose thyroid meds. Your information suggests it is possible to reactive metabolism and thyroid through carb cycling and kick start weight loss again. Any suggestions on where to start with that process? I want to keep my blood sugar under control.
I started this similar keto/paleo life style change in september 2016 but have been on and off with cheat days (sometimes weeks) since April. Your story resonates with me. I was going strong for almost 130 days and I had never felt better. Then one day I thought I would have a cheat day and it’s been difficult to go back into keto lifestyle for more than a few weeks at time. I also used to carb cycle and lost almost 40 pounds in 7 months. I am pretty sure I have gained 10-15 pounds since I stopped being strict with it in April. I am gathering the will power to start again. Today is day 1. I came across your website trying to remind myself why I started this in the first place. Will frequent the site to help stay motivated and find cool recipes to keep things interesting.
I agree. For me the carb cycling seems to be a better approach. Eating straight Keto low carb for months and stalled for another few months. Went on vacation had a few cheat meals but still kept with healthy eating for the most part…Came home thinking I had gained 5 lbs to find out I lost 5 lbs! Now I mostly follow low carb keto menu during the week and sneak in some corn or sweet potatoes etc on the weekend. But I do still try to keep the cheats in moderation and not overindulge. Seems to work better for me and I’m happy with it.
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I went keto cold turkey so to speak about 5-6 weeks ago, I initially lost 10lbs like in the first few weeks. I have now been up and down the same 2 lbs for weeks or close to a month now witg no real loss on the scale. I feel less energy, I’m eating my calories and mostly staying under 20g carbs per day. I truly feel my metabolism is down but I have tried upping carbs to 40/45 for a few days. I’m still in ketosis bit still no change on the scale. I’m debating on trying cutting dairy but I love dairy so I know I cannot sustain that as a lifestyle choice. Possibly thinking I should try carb up first? I’m also pretty sure I’m insulin resistant, I started this diet after being told I’m prediabetic. I have a lot to lose (60+) what should I eat if I carb up, im terrified I’ll binge on carbs if I allow too much. I do eat veggies and have done corn and even some black beans on my 40 carb days.
When you carb up, I’d stick to keto foods, so no beans or corn which could spike your blood sugar and make you crave more or make you feel crappy in general. You could add more carbs by having larger servings of your favorite keto veggies and berries. Some people do struggle with dairy if you’re sensitive so it might be worth seeing if reducing dairy, especially heavy cream and cheese, could have an impact. Instead of butter, try using ghee!
So to carb cycle you do 20 carbs 1 day then 40 to 50 carbs the next? Please send me more info.
Recently started keto diet. I experienced keto flu just a few days. Already increasing my energy level because I’m not taking a nap when i get home from work. I will buy some keto sticks, thanks i learned about them here. I have judged if I am in ketosis by the terrible taste in my mouth or not!
Ok, here is my hang-up. I was a candidate for being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome BUT only after a fluke deal of experimenting with being a vegetarian, i found out that I do NOT have chronic fatigue syndrome but that meat makes me fall asleep. I have been a vegetarian now for over 20 years..I quit eating meat and i literally woke up!! (low stomach acid and inability to digest animal proteins is possibly the culprit). I also can’t do dairy and i am gluten intolerant (celiac disease in my family). SOOOOO I can’t eat meat, i can’t eat dairy and i can’t eat gluten. I started Ketogenic diet because after my 40th birthday i started gaining weight and i CANNOT lose weight. I have been doing keto diet for 2 weeks and I am hopeful. Anyway, my vegetarian life was satisfying with all my gluten free bread and cornbread and corn toritllas, beans and rice! Now what do i eat…literally everyday: butter in my coffee, eggs cooked with avocado oil or olive oil, fish cooked in olive oil, salad, almonds and sunflower seeds. This is NOT a lot of variety. I am completely bored with 2 eggs and fish everyday! Any ideas. I would love some variety but not able to eat meat or dairy really limits me. Thank you for this page. Going to order me some keto sticks right now. Thank you!!!
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you may have answered this before, i did not read through all the comments. do you lower your fat intake on your higher carb day?