By now, you've certainly seen some of the jaw-dropping results people have experienced after trying the keto diet, where you eat low-carb in order for your body to go into ketosis, and produce ketones in the liver to use as energy instead of carbohydrates. Would it stand to reason, then, that the longer you stay in ketosis, the better your results will be? There's only one way to find out the truth, so POPSUGAR went straight to the experts to see if it's possible to have too much of a good (keto) thing. The short answer: there's no "one size fits all" approach.
The Case For Being on a Flexible Keto Diet
"Our bodies were designed to be in a state of ketosis periodically, and I don't recommend remaining in ketosis indefinitely," said Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, a certified doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic medicine, and clinical nutritionist, who is an expert on the pros and cons of the keto diet. According to Dr. Axe, what is more important than being in a constant state of ketosis is metabolic flexibility. "Keto cycling or carb cycling [when you alternate days of eating high amounts of carbs and low amounts of fat with days of eating low amounts of carbs with moderate amounts of fat] is very helpful for supporting you in achieving your health and weight loss goals."
Not only does this flexibility make it easier for you to use different sources of fuel for energy (whether that's carbs or fat), Dr. Axe advised that it is also "important for psychological health, potentially preventing adverse reactions to long-term dieting and even for busting through plateaus." Allowing for periods of time where you add in more protein and carbs than the keto diet allows, you can "replenish your glycogen supply [the storage form of carbs], support recovery from tough workouts, and restore your energy (and hopefully willpower, too!)."
This carb cycling plan can look a little different from person to person, but Dr. Axe suggested three days of strict keto followed by two higher carb days. "I recommend you limit your carb intake to 100 grams on higher carb days, and also plan for tougher workouts to fall on these days," Dr. Axe added. "By varying your diet and having some higher protein and carb meals/days (while still focusing on eating whole foods), you can achieve and maintain your ideal weight and health for a lifetime."
The Case For Staying in Ketosis For as Long as You Can
Dr. Anthony Gustin, DC, MS, a certified sports chiropractor, certified CrossFit coach, and creator of the Perfect Keto supplements, has a slightly different approach. "Ketosis is a tool. As long as you're using that tool and progressing toward your goal, you can remain in a state of ketosis," he said. If you are still losing weight, seeing improvements in physical performance, felling mentally sharp, and basically feeling like an all-around healthy badass, there is no reason to drop your keto routine.
In his opinion, "there are no safety concerns to using fat for fuel over an extended period of time, so keep it going if it fits your goal." Nutrition and diet are highly personal, so Dr. Gustin still suggests you do what works best for you. "Some people either feel better eating carbohydrates every now and then, or just enjoy them and want to have some carbs in a social setting. Will this kick you out of ketosis? You bet. Do you have to be in ketosis forever? Nope!," he honestly added.
At first, you may have to deal with the four to six weeks of symptoms of the keto flu. Brain fogginess, headaches, and tummy discomfort are totally normal, but "once your body starts using fat for fuel, going in and out of ketosis is super easy and, best of all, you won't feel any of those negative symptoms while you do it. Your body is set up to use a variety of fuels, so don't panic if you switch your diet from time to time," Dr. Gustin reassured us.
The fact that there are varying opinions on this topic really just drives home the fact that there is no set of rules when it comes to nutrition and diet plans. Both experts definitely agree on two things — going out of ketosis is not the end of the world, and you should only stick with the keto diet if it works for you.
Dr. Axe gave us a few final words of wisdom: "You shouldn't feel restricted, fatigued, or like you're lacking motivation to keep going." Dr. Gustin agreed, saying, "Don't worry if you eat a few carbs and get kicked out of ketosis. Don't beat yourself about it! Your body is an adaptable machine."