What Kicks You Out of Ketosis & How to Avoid It
Written by Toni Sicola
on May 12, 2020
Having trouble achieving or staying in ketosis on the ketogenic diet? You're not alone. With carbs hidden in unsuspecting places in the Standard American Diet (SAD), it's not a surprise that getting into and staying in ketosis can be a challenge. Unless you've been doing the low-carb keto diet for a long time, chances are, you're not already fat-adapted. Meaning, you're burning glucose for energy, not ketones.
What Foods Kick You Out of Ketosis?
Now that you've been doing the keto diet for a while, you might be craving a cheat day. Cheat days can be enticing on every diet, regardless of how easy or challenging the diet is. While we don't recommend cheat days on this diet, we understand that they happen. It's important to know which foods will kick you out of ketosis, how you can tell if you've been kicked out, and how to get back in.
Foods that will knock you out of ketosis pretty quickly are:
- Sugar/sugar-sweetened beverages
- Too much fruit
- Processed meats (they often have hidden sugars)
- Fat-free and low-fat dairy (too much lactose, a dairy sugar)
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and certain winter squash
- Too much alcohol (read our keto alcohol guide here)
How You Can Tell if You've Kicked Yourself Out of Ketosis
Beyond testing your urine daily (or even after each meal), there are a few things that may come up if you've eaten something that kicked you out of ketosis. After a long time of being fat-adapted, your body is extra sensitive to carbohydrates and may react differently than it did before you started the keto diet. The main signs you're not in ketosis are:
- Intense sugar cravings
- Stalled weight loss
- Crashed energy (likely a sugar crash, including feeling lightheaded or dizzy, fatigue, brain fog, and irritability)
- The return of keto flu symptoms
- High blood sugar levels
Each of these indications can signal that you might have gone over your carb limit. But that doesn't mean you should give up on the diet. Don't beat yourself up about it, just get back on the horse and you'll be back in ketosis in no time.
The metabolic transition into ketosis can be rocky for some, with side effects like the keto flu, brain fog, fatigue, and other frustrating symptoms. But if you can get through that initial transition and stay on the keto diet for three to six months, it will be a lot easier to get back into ketosis should you get kicked out.
The big question for you is, what kicks you out of ketosis, and how can you avoid it for maximum benefit while living the keto lifestyle?
It might seem like overkill, but the only way to know for sure if you're fat-adapted is to test your ketone levels. There are a number of ketone meter options, but the easiest way to test is with keto strips. Keto strips test your urine for ketones and can give you a rough idea of whether or not you've achieved ketosis. While the strips aren't necessarily the most precise tool, they're the most affordable, and since you'll want to be testing often, they should be a great option for you.
How to Get Back Into and Stay in Ketosis
The good news is that it's a lot easier to get back into ketosis after you've been fat-adapted for three to six months than it is to start from scratch at the beginning of the diet. There are a few steps you can take to help you get back on track after a cheat day or meal where your carb count got a little out of control.
When you've eaten something that's kicked you out of ketosis, your body switches back to using blood glucose for energy rather than ketone bodies. The quickest way to switch back to ketosis is to get rid of the excess glucose. And exercise is just the thing. Both endurance cardio and high-intensity training will burn through your glycogen stores quickly. It's up to you which type of exercise you like best and which makes you feel better in your body. Just don't overly stress your body, or you'll counteract the positive effects but flooding your system with cortisol.
#2 Eat More Fat
Healthy fat is the lynchpin to success on the keto diet. If you've kicked yourself out of ketosis, the best way to get back in is to feed the body what you want it to use: healthy fats. This includes avocados, MCT oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter and full-fat dairy, and nuts like macadamia nuts.
#3 Find Keto Alternatives
If you're still craving sweets, there are keto alternatives out there that don't include artificial sweeteners. While retraining your tastebuds to crave fewer sweets over time is ultimately an essential aspect of long-term success on the keto diet, it doesn't mean giving up all sweets forever. There are tons of keto alternatives out there, including desserts sweetened with stevia, erythritol, or monk fruit, all keto-approved sweeteners that can help you kick your cravings without kicking you out of ketosis.
#4 Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is another way to burn through your glycogen stores quickly after you've gotten out of ketosis. IF is less about what you're eating and more about when you're eating it. There are a few ways to do it, but the most popular way is to eat your dinner early and your breakfast late, thereby fasting in the hours before you sleep, while you sleep, and a few hours after you wake up. Ideally, you're fasting for around 16 hours, giving you an eight-hour eating window during the day.
Just like your net carb count on keto can vary from person to person, so too can the fasting window for IF. You don't want to overly stress your body, so if you're feeling super hungry during your fast, you can reduce the window and see if that's less stressful for you. Women, in particular, should pay attention to how they feel when combining IF with keto to avoid any hormone disruption.
How to Get into Ketosis in the First Place
Getting into ketosis is a step by step process that can feel different for every individual. There are a few options here, depending on how well you tolerate the changes required in your diet.
If you're totally ready to make the switch and are eager to start seeing results, regardless of the potential (temporary) side effects, you'll probably want to make your macronutrient adjustments pretty quickly. This means removing all the processed foods, starchy vegetables, alcohol, sugars, and grains from your diet all at once. You'll replace these calories with high-fat foods, thereby forcing your body and brain to burn fat instead of carbohydrates.
This metabolic change won't happen overnight, no matter how drastically you change your diet. That's because it takes your body time to transition and optimize your ability to burn fat instead of carbs. Usually, it takes about three weeks for your body to adjust. How you feel over those three weeks is individual to you. Some folks experience those negative side effects, and some don't.
If you're worried about the side effects we mentioned, you might consider a slower transition, reducing carb intake over a month or two rather than overnight. Start slowly by eliminating the worst offenders first, then start adding other carbs to the list. Reduce and then eliminate sugar-laden foods, drinks, and desserts. Then move to processed carbs like pasta and bread, then potatoes and whole grains, until you've reduced your daily net carbs to below 35 grams. (Net carbs are total grams of carbohydrates minus fiber and sugar alcohols.)
Frequently Asked Questions About Ketosis
How much sugar will kick you out of ketosis?
The answer to this question is different for everyone, but a good guideline is to try to stay between 20 and 35 net carbs per day. The best way to know for sure is to test often to see which foods affect you personally.
Does alcohol kick you out of ketosis?
Alcohol can kick you out of ketosis, due to the liver's preference for processing alcohol before anything else. However, if you don't overdo and choose your alcohol wisely, you should be able to have a drink from time to time without a problem.
Is it ok/healthy to go in and out of ketosis?
It's not ideal to go in and out of ketosis. It's stressful for your body to swing in its metabolic processes from burning glucose to ketones back to glucose, etc. It can increase your chances of experience keto flu symptoms and can increase your cortisol levels, which can lead to insulin resistance and elevated glucose levels.
Will one cheat day ruin ketosis?
The answer to this question depends entirely on what you've eaten, how much you've eaten, and your individual metabolism. If your cheat day is literally all day long at every meal of the day, then yes it will likely kick you out of ketosis. If you eat a piece of rich chocolate cake early in the day and exercise later that day, you might be able to dodge the consequences. Either way, if you follow the steps we've laid out, you should be able to get back into ketosis in no time.
How long does it take to go back into ketosis?
If you've been fat-adapted for at least three months, chances are, you can get back into ketosis in 24-72 hours.
What about gluconeogenesis (GNG) Can eating too much protein kick me out of ketosis?
Gluconeogenisis is a controversial topic among keto experts. Some say that eating too much protein will cause gluconeogenesis and kick you out of ketosis. Others argue that, since gluconeogenesis is happening during ketosis no matter how much protein you eat, it doesn't matter and won't sabotage your keto
How long does it take to get knocked out of ketosis?
This is also an individualized answer. You can knock yourself out of ketosis temporarily by overeating in just one meal, but you might find that the natural fasting that occurs while you're sleeping could reset your metabolism again. If you consistently overeat or overdo carbs for days on end, chances are it'll be a bit more challenging to get back into fat-burning mode.
Can medication kick me out of ketosis?
Certain medications, especially chewables, gummies, and liquids, are sweetened with sugar to make them more palatable. Watch out for those. Other medications may have a higher carb count than you'd expect. Read Dr. Berg's account of what to look out for when taking medication on the keto diet.
Can fiber kick me out of ketosis?
Fiber has a net carb count of zero and will not kick you out of ketosis. In fact, it could mitigate the effects of non-fiber carb intake.
Can sweeteners kick me out of ketosis?
Regular and artificial sweeteners can kick you out of ketosis. Stevia is calorie- and carb-free and will not kick you out. Other keto-approved sweeteners are fine to eat in moderation and should not cause a problem.
Can exercise kick me out of ketosis?
On the contrary, exercise is a great way to keep your glycogen stores low. Just don't overstress your body or work overly hard to exhaustion to avoid hormonal disruption on the keto diet.
What is ketosis?
We did a full write up on what ketosis is, here > but in short, ketosis is a highly desirable metabolic state in which your body uses stored fat for energy instead using of dietary carbs. You can achieve ketosis in a few different ways, but the main way is by adopting a ketogenic diet (also known as keto).
Author: Toni Sicola
Toni is a wellness professional with a Master's in Integrative Health, is passionate about spreading health, happiness, and personal fulfillment to as many people as possible. She has a professional background in health and wellness, dietary supplements, and nutrition, and embarks every day to live a well, balanced, happy life.