For anyone new to the keto diet, thinking about how to maintain weight loss after losing the weight may sound far off, but planning for the future is just as important as taking part of the diet itself. It’s true that when people go on a very low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, they lose weight from mainly eating fat. The good news is that researchers say it doesn’t negatively affect metabolism. There’s also more arguments on how the keto diet can help with weight loss both near-term and far-term in the Body Reboot book. But what happens when you do lose all the weight you’d like to lose, but you’d still want to stay on keto? As opposed to sliding back into old habits, there are alternatives that you can try. The best decision would be to stay on the keto diet because it is a positive lifestyle change that has more positive effects than just weight loss. Also, if you stay on keto, there are still many ways to give yourself a little bit more “freedom” in the food department. Below are some examples, but as always, listen to your body and make healthy decisions.
Stay on Keto, But Eat a Little Bit More
Keto is definitely a lifestyle change, and after you’ve lost weight and reached your goal weight, there’s no reason to deviate from the diet. It’s up to you, according to Paleo Leap to discover how much you should be eating (within reason, of course) on a daily basis to maintain your weight loss while still staying on the keto diet.
Keto is perfectly safe for the long-term and there’s no real need to come out of ketosis if you don’t want to. If you feel great on keto and never want to quit – don’t!
Weight loss, keto or otherwise, is all about a calorie deficit. If you want to stay keto but don’t want to lose any more weight, the solution is just to eat a little bit more fat and protein than you had been eating, without raising carbs enough to get out of ketosis. There’s no magical property of ketosis that will cause you to lose weight while you’re taking in as many calories as you use; the trick is just to find that perfect amount of food for your height/weight/activity level. It’s different for everyone and not something that a generic online calculator can predict: we all have to learn it for ourselves based on experience.
The big benefit of this approach is that there’s no risk of extra carbs causing new/more cravings. A lot of people find that if they start eating more carbs, all the blood sugar highs and lows come right back and the sugar cravings suddenly reappear – then it’s a constant willpower battle again, just what you were trying to avoid with keto. You can completely prevent this entire problem by just staying on keto to begin with.
Shift to a More Moderate Carb Intake
Similar to increasing your food intake after reaching your keto goals, you can also increase your carb intake if you’d like. Instead of eating only around 20 carbs a day you may want to increase your carb intake to 100 carbs. Of course, as Mark’s Daily Apple mentions, this will also depend on your activity level and how your body reacts. If you find you’re eating too many carbs and the weight is coming back on, then you may need to decrease your carb limit.
You can stay keto indefinitely. This could be necessary for certain people with certain conditions that really respond to keto, like epilepsy or neurodegenerative diseases. Or if keto just works for you, it might be the easiest, most sustainable way forward. Studies as long as five years show no negative side effects of long-term ketogenic dieting, so, provided you do it right (no salami and cream cheese keto diets), I see no reason not to continue.
If you’re done losing weight and happy with your body comp, you can shift toward a more moderate carb intake. Maybe 100-150 grams a day, depending on activity levels. Just be sure to reduce your fat intake commensurately. The weight loss will have cleared out most of the insulin resistance that naturally results from carrying extra body fat and improve your ability to handle a few more carbs.
If you have weight to lose, and keto was working, I’d just stick with it. Stay the course until you’re where you like.
It’s Okay to Veer Off the Plan and Still Stay in Ketosis
The good news for those who would like to stay on the keto diet is that Mind Body Green says you can still veer off the plan and have the occasional “cheat” treat without your body leaving ketosis. People who have been on the keto diet for some time generally are keto-adapted, which means if you incorporate a snack or two it won’t throw your entire diet off. Just don’t get carried away because the keto diet is supposed to help you create better eating habits.
Being fat- and keto-adapted means that you can veer off the plan now and then and not tailspin into a monthlong sugar binge. When you have this esteemed metabolic flexibility, you can wake up the day after eating cake by the ocean, or even a bunch more stuff on a weeklong cruise, and get right back into the groove—whether through fasting, a string of keto-aligned meals, or even strategic use of ketone supplements. Adopting this lifestyle means freedom from sugar cravings, fatigue, and overstimulation of the fight-or-flight response from excess carbohydrates. What could be better than that?
Tami Marino, who has been on the keto diet for four years, offers advice on Diet Doctor on what to do after you’ve achieved your goals. She recommends staying on the keto diet and keeping a “no excuses” attitude when it comes to sticking to a healthy keto-friendly diet plan.
Here are Tami’s tips for maintaining a “no excuses” attitude:
Don’t feel that your food has to be grass-fed or organic if you can’t afford it. “Yes, those are healthy and ideal, but you really just need to eat the right foods,” says Tami. “Don’t use the excuse that it’s too expensive to eat low carb, because it’s not.”
Jot down what you’re going to do and follow through. “This can really help keep you motivated more than anything, no matter what is going on,” she says.
Take it day by day and meal by meal. “Stuff happens with all of us” Tami admits. “One meal isn’t going to ruin you, so don’t make it a bigger deal than it is and go off plan altogether. Start right back at the next meal.”
No judging or comparing yourself to others. “Remember that the other person you’re looking at may have never struggled with weight or eating issues. It’s not a fair comparison,” Tami points out. “Do the best that you can do, and be proud of your own progress.”
Studies Say it’s Possible to Maintain Keto Weight Loss
According to Everyday Health, which discusses a study by Nutrition and Metabolism, it is possible to keep the weight off on keto by maintaining the metabolic rate.
Can you really lose weight quickly and keep it off? Experts have long believed it’s impossible, but a recent study out of Spain suggests that a version of the ketogenic diet may do just that.
In a small study, published in February 2018 in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism, 12 obese people followed an adjusted version of the popular ketogenic diet that was very low in calories for about two to three months, and lost about 45 pounds each — and kept the weight off even after increasing their calorie intake one to two months later.
The likely reason they were able to keep the weight off, researchers say, is their resting metabolic rate (RMR) was maintained, and they retained their lean muscle mass. RMR is a measure of metabolism (meaning how your body uses energy), while immobile, and it plays an important role in sustaining weight loss, according to other research, published in August 2016 in the journal Obesity.
“[This study] does support other existing research findings that you can indeed lose weight on a ketogenic-inducing diet, and higher levels of protein intake, while following a calorie-restricted diet does help preserve the loss of lean muscle mass,” says Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, assistant professor in the department of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
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