How to Smoothly Transition off the Keto Diet
By Robert Silverman, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, MS, CCN, CNS, CSCS, CIISN, CKTP, CES, HKC, FAKTR
Many people come off the ketogenic diet when their health goals—weight loss, performance, or otherwise—have been achieved or when their healthcare practitioner has recommended a dietary change.
How to transition off keto safely—and what to expect
While it is difficult to predict what physical effects an individual will experience when transitioning off keto, here are some common effects to look out for—and how you can best support your body and immune system during this time.
- Blood sugar fluctuations. While some people may experience minimal effects, others may find that their blood sugar spikes then crashes after reintroducing carbs to their diet. To support your body in this dietary transition, reintroduce carbs gradually. Rather than going straight for pasta or bagels, reach for plant-based carbs such as whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits, and nonstarchy vegetables. As a rule of thumb, general recommendations still advise limiting daily carb intake as part of a healthy diet. Varying blood sugar levels can cause jitteriness, mood changes, hyperactivity, and fatigue, so be sure to consult with your practitioner if you experience any of these symptoms.
- Weight fluctuations. A variety of factors can dictate whether you will experience weight gain or loss when transitioning off keto, including how long you’ve been on keto, how your body metabolizes carbs, what the rest of your diet looks like, and how often and what type of exercise you do. To proactively combat weight fluctuations, I recommend a gradual transition from the keto diet either to a paleo diet then to a Mediterranean diet, or straight to a Mediterranean diet. These diets are high in fat and moderate in carbs and make for an easier transition off keto. Another option is to introduce—or continue—intermittent fasting. Many people who adopt the keto diet have also incorporated intermittent fasting to maximize the benefits the combined approaches provide.
- Bloating. Two of the most common issues that people experience when transitioning off keto are bloating and intestinal issues due to the reintroduction of fiber. To help with the discomfort of bloating, I recommend incorporating probiotics into your new diet. Probiotics work in a wide variety of ways to support your overall health. They crowd out “unfriendly” bacteria and help with digestion, and healthy gut bacteria produce a range of vitamins, including vitamin K and several B vitamins. Probiotics can aid those transitioning off keto by supporting intestinal health and can help give your immune system support as well. Whether you consume probiotics by food or supplements, strain specificity and diversity are the key elements to maximizing their benefits.
- Hunger. The combination of high fat and moderate protein are key to a ketogenic diet’s being both filling and satisfying. When you transition off keto, you will likely feel hungrier after meals as they start to include less fat and more carbs. To combat this and smooth your transition, you can implement one of the above transitional diets (paleo or Mediterranean) or focus on pairing carbs with both protein and fat. Doing so can help slow digestion and boost satiety, while also limiting blood sugar spikes and crashes. I also recommend avoiding “GPS”—gluten, processed foods, and sugar—to help stave off hunger while you’re transitioning off keto.
Whether you have reached a weight loss or performance goal or you’ve been otherwise instructed to adjust your lifestyle, use these tips as a guide to continue making health-conscious choices as you transition off keto. As always, consult with your healthcare practitioner before making any dietary changes or if any symptoms occur.
Dr. Silverman is a paid consultant and guest writer for Metagenics.