Over the years, I’ve gotten loads of questions about veganism or plant-based eating and keto, and I thought I’d start writing responses down here instead of typing out the same long answer each time. :)
One question that pops up a lot is “are you always in ketosis?” People tend to ask this for one of two reasons – either they are concerned with the safety aspect of things, or they just want to know if I ever eat “real” dessert.
I’m not going to address the safety bit here because it’s not something I’m qualified to do. If you are at all concerned with ketosis being safe for you for whatever reason, this is something to bring up with your doctor. Your doctor knows you best and is aware of your family history as well as any health issues you may be dealing with. Additionally, they have a medical degree, which I do not. :)
What I can speak to, is the more mental and social sides of a ketogenic diet. I know it’s not easy to be the only one in your household or group of friends eating low carb or keto. This becomes even more difficult if a lot of your social interactions revolve around food or happy hour (for more on maximizing happy hour on keto, check out this podcast!).
Am I always in ketosis?
As you’ve probably figured out…. nope. I am not always in ketosis. This happens for pretty much one of three reaons – accidental carb consumption, planned “cheat” meals/treats, and planned breaks. I’ll quickly go over each reason and what that looks like.
It’s also worth nothing that most of the time when I am in ketosis, it’s just on the “light” side. Because I do keto for health reasons and not weight loss, I don’t feel the need to be in a deep ketogenic state all the time.
Accidental Carb Consumption
This happens to me less frequently now, but every once in a while I will accidentally eat something with way more carbs than I realize. Sometimes it’s because the manufacturer has a label error (like those Trader Joe’s parsnip chips that actually ended up having more than twice the amount of carbs that were originally listed….), and sometimes it’s because I accidentally buy the premade pumpkin pie filling instead of the plain pumpkin puree because the labels look almost exactly the same and I’m not very observant.
Finally, there are some artificial sweeteners and random ingredients that claim to be low-carb or carb-free, but tend to kick me out. These are different for everyone, so your mileage may vary here.
Planned “Cheat” Meals/Treats
I don’t love using the word “cheat” to describe having a non-keto or high carb meal, but it does function well, so here we are. There are certain times where I specifically decide that I am going to eat something with a lot of carbs. There’s typically one “event” a month where I’ll have a treat that isn’t keto-friendly. For instance, my local VegFest has so many amazing gluten-free and vegan treats that I always plan on getting at least one fun thing there. Sometimes, the “event” is just getting a vegan frozen pizza with a friend and watching a movie.
Typically, eating too many carbs makes me feel kind of crappy later that day, and for the next day, but it can be worth it for events like your friend’s wedding, a family holiday party, and even a movie night with your bestie.
Somtimes these non-keto treats aren’t even a baked good, but are as simple as an apple. I live in New England, and a big part of fall is apple picking. If I go apple picking, you can bet that I am going to eat an apple. :)
Planned Keto “Breaks”
This is something I don’t see people talk about that often in the low carb and keto world, but here we go: sometimes I like to give myself a bit of a break from keto. Usually this is for around two weeks and tends to be around times when I’m either super busy or otherwise overwhelmed.
For instance, last year I had some jaw issues and ended up not being able to eat solid foods for around a month between Thanksgiving week and mid December. It was pretty painful, and between work and not being able to sleep a full night, the idea of also tracking food and trying to make a bunch of keto-friendly soups and the like was just a bit overwhelming. So, I ate canned lentil and vegetable soup and mashed parsnips pretty much exclusively for that time.
Other breaks have also included vacations where I have zero control over the available foods. I know some people want to stay in ketosis while vacationing, but there are some times when I just want to be able to enjoy a fun meal at a restaurant without worrying.
During these breaks, I still actually stick to low-carb foods in general, I just don’t track or worry about little extras. For instance, if a salad comes with cranberries, I’ll enjoy (some of) the cranberries. I have tracked a few of these days just to see what I tend to eat, carb-wise. And it mostly tops out around 100g. So, not keto, but not high-carb either.
What About Carb-Cycling?
Another reason you may choose to purposefully not eat keto foods while on a ketogenic diet, is carb cycling. I don’t actually do this, but I know people who have had a lot of success with it. The basic idea of a cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) is that you go for X amount of days (often 5-6) in ketosis, eating very low carb foods, and then X amount of days (often 1-2) where you include more carbohydrates.
Often those who fair best on a CKD seem to be athletes, some women and some individuals with various hormonal issues. Leanne from Healthful Pursuit calls these higher-carb days/meals “carb ups,” and is very knowledgeable on the subject. She has a great video about carb ups here.
In a nutshell…
The TL;DR for this question is that no, I am not always in ketosis. Sometimes it’s accidental, sometimes it’s planned. The duration is typically just a half day (usually my “cheat meal” is in the afternoon or evening), but sometimes I take breaks of up to 3 weeks for varying reasons.