It's reasonable to wonder whether your weight loss will reverse if you reintroduce carbs (and thus inflammatory foods) into your diet and exit ketosis for an extended period of time or permanently.
Will I Gain The Weight I Lost After Keto?
10-Nov 2021, curated from Keto Mojo
One concern that people have when trying the ketogenic diet is whether they will regain the weight they lost if they stop following the ketogenic diet, change their eating habits, and begin eating things like whole grains, legumes, and other high-carb foods.
The answer is that if you are careful during and after the transition, you will not necessarily gain weight.
There are numerous reasons why people decide to discontinue following a high-fat diet that keeps them in ketosis. Traveling and major life transitions are two examples of situations that make sticking to a specific eating plan difficult (such as having a new baby at home and friends dropping off meals). Meanwhile, some people feel best when they cycle in and out of ketosis for extended periods of time, whereas others have met their keto goals and simply want to reintroduce more net carbs into their diet.
While you can simply discontinue the keto diet at any time without experiencing symptoms such as the keto flu (which is common when you first begin keto), here are a few guidelines to follow if you decide to leave the ketogenic lifestyle. They can help you avoid regaining all of the weight you lost on the keto diet while also preparing you to maintain your health.
Make a Slow Transition Off Keto
First and foremost, think slow and steady when transitioning to a post-keto lifestyle. Any significant diet change can have an impact on your digestive system and weight, so you should avoid abruptly transitioning from keto to a standard American diet, which is extremely high in carbohydrates and low in nutrients. If you go all-in on carbs, you may find yourself regaining weight quickly (including nearly instant water weight) and suffering from digestive distress as a result of the carb overload. You don't want to start a diet that will make you feel worse than you did before you started keto, do you?
Your best bet is to gradually reintroduce carbs into your diet for the first week and beyond, keeping your macronutrients in check and gradually increasing your carbohydrate grams. Begin by incorporating one serving of starchy vegetables or fruit per day, and gradually work your way up to more veggies (perhaps a nice bit of sweet potato), while maintaining a healthy diet and considering calorie restrictions to keep yourself in check. See how adding one serving back into your diet feels for a couple of days, and then gradually increase if desired, while maintaining your usual fat and lean protein intake.
Remember that even when you're not on the keto diet, there's no need for a lot of processed carbs or or any carbs at all; most of them don't provide many health benefits. Keep in mind that low and slow is the best way to god.
Stick to Real, Whole, Unprocessed Foods
When transitioning out of ketosis, continue to stick with a “clean” diet, avoiding processed foods to avoid excessive weight gain.
"Obesity probably resulted from changes in the caloric quantity and quality of the food supply in concert with an industrialized food system that produced and marketed convenient, highly processed foods from cheap agricultural inputs. Such foods often contain high amounts of salt, sugar, fat, and flavor additives and are engineered to have super-normal appetitive properties that increase desire and consumption".
— Obesity journal, Did the Food Environment Cause the Obesity Epidemic?(3)
To put it another way, processed foods are high in calories, make you want to eat more, and do not provide adequate nutrition. Furthermore, highly processed grains and sugar promote weight gain(1) and inflammation(2), the latter of which is the root of many disease processes in the body, including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and autoimmunity.
Consuming high amounts of carbs can also put you back on the “blood sugar roller coaster.” The human brain runs much more efficiently on ketones than on glucose. Your brain cannot synthesize or store glucose(4), so when glucose runs low, you may get irritable and feel shaky until you consume more. The more processed and sugary foods you consume (such as bagels, cereal, bread, chips, pasta, and candy), the more you may struggle with blood-sugar regulation.
You've worked hard to lose weight and improve your health while on keto. If you stop following a keto diet, your best option for not gaining weight and feeling good is to make clean food choices, such as vegetable carb sources, wild-caught fish, and grass-fed pasture-raised meats; continue to nourish yourself with real whole foods. Maintain a healthy fat intake and eat fat with your carbs to help slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream.
If you decide to reintroduce grains and grain products like bread and pasta into your diet, choose organic versions of ancient varieties like amaranth, millet, and quinoa that have not been selectively bred like modern wheat and corn products. Also, eat these grains in moderation because the carbs will still trigger an insulin response in the body.
Incorporate Movement Into Your Routine
While transitioning out of ketosis, remember to keep your activity level up throughout the day. Research shows that regular movement throughout the day has a much greater impact on your overall health than one heavy exercise session.(5) Ongoing movement can help with keeping the weight off and increase your overall feelings of well-being. We’re not talking multiple jogging sessions, either. It can be as simple as taking a few breaks from work to go for a walk, standing up and stretching, or doing a few yoga poses throughout the day.
The Final Word
Whether you’re considering a keto diet and want to know what happens “afterward,” or are dieting and are considering transitioning off keto, remember these simple tips if you want to avoid gaining weight as you evolve your diet. The best way to keep off the weight when transitioning out of ketosis is to go low and slow, eat carbs from vegetable and fruit (real food) sources, continue to nurture your body with healthy eating and real food, avoid highly processed foods, and move your body throughout the day. You may also want to consider integrating intermittent fasting into your lifestyle.
Additionally, whenever making dramatic changes to your diet, it’s a good idea to consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist to make sure your choices are best for your unique body.
- Ultra-processed food consumption and excess weight among US adults, British Journal of Nutrition
- Whole and refined grain intakes are related to inflammatory protein concentrations in human plasma, The Journal of Nutrition
- Did the Food Environment Cause the Obesity Epidemic?, Obesity
- Hypoglycemic crisis, Romanian Journal of Veterinary Medicine & Pharmacology
- Incidental movement, lifestyle-embedded activity and sleep: new frontiers in physical activity assessment, Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism