So you worked hard, you played by the keto rules and it all paid off. You have reached your goal weight! But, now what? This is a very common question and one worth asking. You spent a great deal of time and effort getting to where you are now and you certainly don’t want to throw it all away! Weight maintenance after keto looks different for many people but it doesn’t have to be scary! You have learned a lot on your keto journey and it will help guide you for the rest of your life.
The first thing you have to realize is that you can never go back to the way you ate before. The way you ate before made you unwell and ultimately unhappy. No weight loss will remain long term if you go back to eating junk food. Unfortunately, that’s just not the way our bodies work.
But, If you have been following Keto for a good length of time (and you likely have if you are considering long-term weight maintenance after keto) then odds are you have learned a few things along the way. Keto is a great way to develop a healthier relationship with our food. By following Keto you have probably increased the variety of vegetables in your diet (or at least moved away from the carrots, peas, corn and potato mainstays). You have learned how to make healthy and filling meals and most importantly, you have broken your sugar addiction. Your body has learned how to survive off of ketones and fat. All of these lessons will help you greatly for the rest of your life as long as you remember them.
Weight Maintenance After Keto – 4 options you might consider.
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Option 1 – Stay Keto, Increase Calories
In the end weight loss occurs when there is a calorie deficit in our lives. The bottom line to all diets is that you need to burn more calories then you eat in order to lose weight. Once you are no longer interested in losing weight but wish to maintain it at a certain point then the calorie deficit is no longer needed.
By increasing your calories but remaining Keto you will continue to benefit from the side effects and health benefits you might have been enjoying on this diet. You will need to consider your current exercise and raise and lower your calorie intake in response. More exercise equals more calories.
It might take a bit of experimenting before you find your sweet spot in maintaining weight and you will need to make sure carbs don’t start to creep back in with the additional food. By avoiding the lure to add carbs back into your diet its unlikely that any carb cravings will return. If you know that carb cravings are a weak point for you then this might be your best choice.
Option 2 – Transition to Low-Carb or Paleo
Many people are capable of weight maintenance after keto with a low carb diet and Paleo is especially popular in circles. By going low carb you will likely be leaving Ketosis behind and that’s okay if that’s what you want. By adding carbs back into your diet there will be an increase in water retention and the scale might reflect a few extra pounds.
Taking this route means remaining somewhat vigilant about what you are eating. Going low carb does not mean you should go back to binging on potatoes, rice, and bread. The extra carbs in your diet should come from the addition of fruits and more vegetables.
It is generally suggested that you raise your carb limit slowly in order to find a spot where you like the way you feel. Start by adding 5-10g of extra carbs a week and see how you feel. If you are maintaining your weight and feeling good then stay where you are. If you continue to lose weight you can probably add more, gain weight or feel bad? You need to cut back. The carb limit is different for everyone. Some only go up to 50g net carbs a day, others can go as high as 150g.
A good rule of thumb is to allow yourself a 5ib fluctuation window. If your weight fluctuates by more then that and then stays there then odds are you are gaining weight and it’s not just water retention.
Option 3 – Consider Cyclic Keto
Cyclic Keto is best suited for high-intensity athletes. If you want to gain some muscle or bulk after losing the fat then this is a pretty good choice for you! Cyclic Keto is a branch of keto all to itself and might require a bit of research to see if its a good fit for you.
In cyclic keto, you will leave ketosis on purpose for a brief period of time each week. The most common form is to eat a keto diet for 5-6 days followed by a 1-2 day higher carb diet. Following this plan and coupling it with several high-intensity workouts throughout the week will mean that you can benefit from the muscle building ability of carbs as well as the benefits of a keto diet. It also means that you can indulge once in a while without feeling guilty which many people like.
However, if you are not coupling this with a lot of exercise sessions then it won’t benefit you at all and you would be better off following either option 1 or 2 for long-term weight maintenance after keto.
Option 4 – Reintroduce Carbs, Count Calories.
This is what I consider to be the most dangerous option. Although it is possible to maintain your weight after reintroducing carbs as long as you watch your calories it’s a very slippery slope. It would be so easy to slip back into old habits.
By going this route you will lose the benefits of Low carb and keto. Most higher carb foods are pretty calorie dense and without the extra fat in your diet to keep you full its likely that you will feel hungry and be tempted to overeat. This path should only be chosen by those who have strong willpower.
Still, I know some people don’t want to be keto forever. They miss eating out and trying new foods which can be challenging on Keto. If you are very very careful then this can work … but I have a feeling it will be very hard. The good news is that you have the tools to go back to Keto if you find yourself unhappy and unwell again.
I want to restate that going back to the way you ate before is a bad choice, the weight will come back. You will start to feel bad again. If you choose this path, make smart choices about the foods you decide to indulge in.