How Should You Stay Keto After Reaching Your Goal?
Losing fat and achieving the look you’ve always wanted is only a part of the equation – keeping it off can be even more challenging. Why is that, though?
Should you stay keto after you reach your goal weight, to make sure the weight doesn’t creep back up?
You officially hit your goal weight, now what? What is the best strategy to keep the weight off?
What would my life look like after keto? What are the best keto maintenance strategies?
Let’s find out.
But first, let’s start with a more basic question:
Why Is It So Difficult To Keep The Weight Off After A Being On A Diet?
So, what makes it so challenging to keep the weight off?
In most cases, it’s because people go on a diet, looking for a temporary solution, and then go back to their previous eating habits, once they manage to lose the fat.
However, in order to keep the weight off, you need to make permanent changes in your habits and in your relationship with food. You cannot expect to eat the same way as before and to achieve different results.
Think about it. If the things that you were doing before made you gain weight in the first place, why would it be any different this time?
In addition to that, your body strives for maintaining a balance, so if you lose weight, especially if it was at a rapid pace, your appetite will naturally increase.
If you then do nothing to control it and to be mindful of the amount of food you’re eating, hunger will make you eat more and you will slowly gain the weight back.
Doing keto has probably taught you a number of important things about nutrition, and especially about the role each macronutrient plays in your diet, as well as about the calories in the food you eat.
You now know that different foods affect your hunger and satiety signals differently, and that some foods feel much more satisfying than others.
You’re probably much more aware of the health benefits of eating a diet that is rich in natural ingredients, as well as of the role vitamins and minerals play in maintaining good health.
If you use that knowledge to create a consistent plan about how to maintain the weight once you’re done with dieting, you have much better chances to keep it off than someone who simply falls back to the comfort of their previous habits.
What’s The Best Way To Keep The Weight Off?
In short, you need to do the things you did to lose fat, minus the calorie deficit.
For the best results, you need to continue eating mostly natural, whole foods, while keeping total calories in check. Even if you decide to increase your carbs, you need to be mindful of the different macro proportions and how they’re affecting you.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to continue weighing and measuring yourself regularly, in order to be able to spot weight gain right away and react accordingly.
In this article, we’ll be exploring 4 different strategies that you could use to maintain your weight after keto, as well as some healthy habits that will help you be successful in the long run.
Should You Continue Doing Keto After You Achieve Your Weight Loss Goal?
Whether you decide to stick to keto or not, that’s more a matter of a personal preference.
Some people feel at their best if they follow a strict keto diet indefinitely, while others prefer adopting a more relaxed approach and not tracking everything, or eventually decide to increase their carbs.
The effects of doing keto long term (for more than 6-12 months at a time) are not well researched at the moment. That being said, many people feel great after years of keto and plan to stay on it indefinitely.
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with either approach if you do it sensibly. There are plenty of different ways to be successful, but most of all, it takes consistency and building healthy habits.
We’ll now look into 4 of the best strategies to keep the weight off after losing it with keto. They aren’t the only way to maintain, of course, but tend to yield very good results if done well.
Top 4 Different Strategies For Maintaining Your Weight Loss After Keto
#1. Stay Keto, Continue Tracking And Go For Maintenance Calories
The first strategy is to stick to keto, at least for the time being, and to just increase your calories to maintenance levels.
If you used a calculator to figure out your weight loss macros and you were happy with the results, you could just use the same calculator to check what your maintenance macros are. You could also use our calculator for that.
Keep in mind that all calculators give you an estimation, and there isn’t any that will give you a 100% correct number.
Your energy needs vary slightly every day, according to how active you are. If you need some flexibility, for example, being able to eat more on weekends, you can lower your calories slightly for the rest of the week.
#2. Do “Lazy Keto” Where You Don’t Track But Continue Eating Keto Foods
“Lazy keto” is basically eating keto foods without tracking everything, and letting your hunger cues guide you.
By doing lazy keto you might not always be in ketosis, as you might sometimes accidentally eat too many carbs. However, if you stick to your eating habits from when you were doing strict keto, you’re likely not going to eat too many carbs on a regular basis.
You could track your food intake from time to time to make sure you’re still following ketogenic macros. Alternatively, it’s easier to stick to a pre-calculated keto menu tailored to your macros needs..
The advantage of this approach is that you’d still be able to keep your appetite in check, even if you decide to no longer track macros religiously.
By being in ketosis most of the time, you’ll naturally be less hungry. Plus, you won’t be giving in to hyperpalatable foods, which are usually very high in carbs, and engineered in a way that makes you crave more of them and ignore your satiety signals.
Nevertheless, you still need to make sure that you’re not eating too much. Losing lots of fat usually increases hunger, even if you’re doing keto, so you might still find yourself very hungry at times.
If you decide to do lazy keto, it’s important to keep an eye on your weight in order to be able to detect any possible weight gain early on.
#3. Go Low-Carb, Paleo Or Primal
All of those diets can be great for maintenance, since they’ll have you eat whole, nutritious foods while avoiding high-carb ingredients, such as flour, rice, corn, potatoes, and the like.
That’s why it’s a good idea to do it small increments, for example by adding 5-10 g to your macros each week, together with gradually increasing calories.
Although most people who do paleo or primal do not typically count macros and calories, it’s still a good idea to do that in the beginning, in order to make sure that you aren’t overeating, and that you have a good grasp of portion sizes of ingredients that you weren’t eating on keto.
If you switch to low-carb, primal or paleo, you’ll likely increase your carbs, compared to keto, but will still keep them lower than what most people eat nowadays, and much, much lower in comparison to the standard American diet.
Regarding the exact amount of carbs which is optimal for you, you’d need to experiment with that to figure it out. Some people feel best at about 50 g net carbs per day, while others thrive on 70-100 g daily.
The exact value would depend on your personal preferences, activity levels, and also your sweet spot for weight maintenance. You can read more here!
#4. Choose A Macro-based Approach
Counting macros is very similar to counting calories. It is a somewhat more advanced strategy, since adequate protein consumption is a cornerstone in macro counting, whereas if you only count calories, you might end up not eating enough protein.
If you choose a macro-based approach, you should keep an eye on total calories and on protein, keeping those constant, and then experiment with different carbs-to-fat ratios, to see what makes you feel best.
It’s not advisable to switch from keto macros to 150+ g carbs daily over a short period of time, though, as you might experience episodes of ravenous hunger and other side effects. Instead, keep your carbs low in the beginning and increase them slowly by gradually lowering fats at the same time.
Eating whole, natural food most of the time is advisable, even if this approach is more liberal in general, allowing you to sometimes fit treats in your daily macros.
For the sake of your health and in order to feel full and satisfied with the food you’re eating, aim for eating lots of veggies, meat, eggs, seafood, some fruits, and occasionally other sources of carbs. Treats should be just that – treats.
Of course, these 4 strategies aren’t your only options. There are plenty of different ways of eating that you can choose from.
These are just our recommendations for transitioning from a weight loss phase to maintenance and are excellent options for making sure your fat loss is not temporary. In addition to those, there are a few healthy habits to adopt, in order to be successful.
Whichever strategy you choose, the most important thing is to have some sort of plan for after you lose the weight. Which brings us to the next topic:
Have A Plan For When You Reach Your Goal Weight
The reason why most dieters struggle with maintaining their weight loss over long periods of time is the (false) idea that a diet is something temporary that you only do until you get to a certain point that you’re happy with. Which, more often than not, leads to regaining weight, and to yo-yo dieting.
To break that cycle, which is unpleasant, to say the least, you need to have a plan for when you reach your goal weight.
Don’t Just “Stop Dieting” And Give In To Hunger. Instead, Choose A Sensible And Sustainable Weight Maintenance Strategy Before You Stop Dieting
Above you could see 4 excellent options for maintaining your weight after keto. They aren’t the only options out there. You could experiment with other styles of eating, too.
The most important thing is to have a plan and stick to it, once you reach your goal weight.
Rewarding yourself with food after you lose the weight might make you prone to episodes of binge eating, and rapidly regaining what you’ve just lost. Instead, choose a sensible plan and continue tracking for a while. Some people decide to track for life.
Figure Out What Your Maintenance Calories Are
The best way to find out what your maintenance calories are is to experiment and observe changes in your body.
If you were previously losing weight at a good rate at 1600 kcal, it’s likely that you’ll be able to maintain on approximately 1800-2200 kcal, if your activity level stays the same.
The best way to figure out your maintenance calories, however, might be to increase calories progressively over time.
Increase Calories Slowly
Although you might be tempted to instantly switch to eating like you were eating before you went on a diet, that’s generally a bad idea. Rest assured, you haven’t damaged your metabolism while dieting.
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to slowly increase calories to maintenance, as your body does adapt to lower calories over time, making you burn less energy – typically by making you feel tired and less likely to be active.
You can increase calories incrementally, by adding 100 calories every 1-3 weeks and observing how your body reacts, in order to figure out what your maintenance calories are. Keep in mind that weight fluctuations might sometimes mask weight regain, so you need to be particularly mindful of any cheat days and the like.
If You Increase Your Carbs, You Need To Decrease Fats
Fats on keto are particularly important, because they complete your caloric needs when limiting carbs, and make the diet sustainable in the long run.
Nevertheless, if you bring carbs back, your fats need to go down, otherwise, you’ll simply be eating too much. Every ten grams of carbs are equivalent to 40 calories, which is 4.45 g fat. Keep that in mind when increasing carbs, and re-evaluate your keto habits of being overly generous with fat.
If you decide to reintroduce carbs, increase them slowly as well. Which leads us to the next question:
What Should You Expect If You Reintroduce Carbs?
If you add carbs back to your diet, it’s preferable to do it slowly, in increments of 5 or 10 g, and not just switch from keto to a high-carb diet overnight. Here are some of the things you could expect:
- Regaining A Few Pounds Of Water Weight
If you bring back carbs, your muscles and liver will fill with glycogen again, and this will make you regain a few pounds of water weight in a short amount of time.
That’s natural! You’re definitely not regaining fat at a rate of 5 lbs a day. Your muscles might also feel and look fuller because of the water they’re now retaining.
- Some Bloating & Stomach Discomfort
Changing your staple foods might always provoke some discomfort, and reintroducing foods that you haven’t had in a while might make you feel bloated and heavy.
This effect should be temporary, though, until you adapt to the differences in the fiber and fat content of the foods you’re eating. By reintroducing foods, you might discover that you’re sensitive to some of them and feel better without them in your diet.
- Increased Hunger
The keto diet naturally decreases hunger, so if you go back to eating carbs, it’s normal to experience an increase in appetite. That’s why it’s particularly important to keep your calories in check, especially in the beginning, as you might be prone to overeating.
- Needing More Sleep
Some people report needing less sleep on keto than on a high carb diet. If that was the case with you, you might now go back to needing slightly more sleep to feel well-rested.
- Increased or Decreased Energy
You might feel more tired at first, or experience a boost in energy when you bring carbs back.
Your energy levels should stabilize in a few weeks’ time, but it’s important to not go back to eating meals that are super heavy in carbs if you were prone to carb crashes.
- Possible Blood Sugar Fluctuations
If your blood sugar levels weren’t very stable before doing keto, they might fluctuate now as well. The key to managing them successfully is to stick to lower carb foods and to limit or completely avoid processed carbs.
It’s All About The Healthy Habits
The best way to lose weight AND keep it off is to adopt some healthy habits while losing weight and to keep them for life. Don’t look at keto as a quick fix and a temporary solution – because it isn’t.
Instead, use your weight loss journey as a motivation to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Here are a few ideas that might be particularly helpful in keeping the weight off:
#1. Keep track of your weight
Weigh yourself regularly, daily or at least weekly, in order to be able to spot any upward trends. Alternatively, or in addition to weighing, you could measure yourself or take photos.
Weigh yourself at the same time of the day and under similar conditions. Keep in mind that some fluctuations are normal and shouldn’t freak out over these. Instead, look at general trends and weekly averages.
#2. Keep track of what you’re eating and learn portion control
By now you probably have a much better understanding of the nutritional value of different foods, especially of the low-carb ones.
If, however, you plan on reintroducing carbs, do you actually know how much a 100-calorie serving of grapes is? Or of rice? Whenever you’re introducing a new food to your diet, weigh it and make sure you know the adequate portion size of each food, and how much energy it contains.
Continuing to track your food intake after you’re done with dieting will help you stay on track.
#3. Plan your meals and cook most of the food you eat
When you eat out, it’s very difficult to know exactly what you’re having, even at food chains that generally publish nutritional information on their websites.
This doesn’t mean that you should not eat out with friends and family from time to time – just don’t overdo it, and limit fast food consumption to a minimum.
Prepare your lunches instead of eating at the cafeteria at your workplace every day.
#4. Stay active
Staying active has plenty of other health benefits – it’s not only about helping you maintain your weight. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety, hormonal imbalances, heart disease, and losing muscle and bone mass (2).
If you have a desk job, think about different ways to be more active in your day to day life. Find hobbies that keep you active or a sport you enjoy, walk more and go outside whenever possible, do some sort of resistance training, and just aim to sit less overall.
#5. Eat whole, unprocessed food most of the time
Natural food will feel more satisfying and filling than processed food, and most of the time contains fewer calories while being much more nutrient-rich. Opt for whole food most of the time, just as you did while you were doing keto.
There’s no need to demonize certain foods, either, since this can provoke cravings. Instead, observe how they affect you and strive to choose foods that make you feel better overall.
#6. Get enough sleep
A chronic lack of sleep raises your cortisol levels, which negatively affects your metabolism.
Additionally, being sleep deprived makes you more likely to reach for food that is higher in calories (and in carbs), and feel hungrier.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep on a regular basis in order to maintain your weight – and your health.
#7. Keep snacking to a minimum and say no to emotional eating
An occasional snack when you’re genuinely hungry is ok since it will probably help you not overeat at your next meal.
However, snacking out of stress or boredom is a big no-no. Don’t use food as a reward or entertainment, but instead have a few bigger meals that you eat slowly, instead of gulping them down and reaching for snacks later.
#8. Don’t punish yourself for eating
Maintaining your weight by doing extreme amounts of exercise or long fasts after eating what you consider “too much” is not a psychologically healthy way to function in the long run, and might end up doing more harm than good.
It’s much healthier if you make peace with food and acknowledge the fact that on some days you might be hungrier than others.
Women are especially prone to this around their monthly cycles, as hunger signals (and energy needs) tend to go up at that time of the month. Instead of punishing yourself for eating more than what you intended, find ways to not overindulge on a regular basis.
Whether you should stay keto or not, this is more a matter of personal preference, and there isn’t a right or wrong answer to that question.
If you feel best on keto, and especially if it helps you manage certain health conditions better (such as insulin resistance, PCOS or type 2 diabetes), no reason not to continue eating like this once you achieve your goal weight, simply by increasing calories to maintenance levels.
If you decide to reintroduce carbs, you might experience a number of side effects in the beginning, such as some stomach discomfort, needing more sleep, gaining water weight, and unstable energy levels. This will get better – just be patient and let your body adapt.
Whichever strategy you decide makes sense for you, the most important part is to have a plan, and not just “stop dieting” and give in to hunger, or reward yourself with overeating for days and weeks at a time.
Losing fat is only half of the work. Maintaining your weight is equally important and challenging. Adopting healthy habits and being mindful of what you eat and how active you are, will guarantee that you have much better chances of keeping the weight off.
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