Transitioning Out Of Keto? How To Not Lose All The Progress You Made And What To Expect

Transitioning Out Of Keto? How To Not Lose All The Progress You Made And What To Expect

The keto diet is a proven tool for reducing body fat,(1,2restoring metabolic function,(3) and lowering chronic disease risk.(4)  But what happens when you are ready to transition out of keto and start incorporating carbs back into your life? 

Transitioning away from a successful keto diet can be scary, especially if you have struggled with carbs in the past. Transition out too quickly and it can be a bittersweet experience that leads to rebound fat gain and metabolic problems. Studies show that keeping weight off after dieting is a major challenge: Less than 10 percent of people who lose body fat during a nutrition intervention are able to maintain their weight loss over the long run.(5,6)

To set yourself apart, you need to create a roadmap for life after keto. Research indicates that keto dieters are most successful at keeping the weight off when they have a plan for reintroducing carbs.(7) This article will tell you what to expect as you increase your carbs and provide tips for designing a plan that will allow you to maintain the benefits you achieved while on keto. 

What To Expect As You Increase Carbs

When you start eating more carbs, your scale weight may increase right away. You may have had a cheat meal or a carb-up during your keto journey and experienced a surprising jump in body weight. You probably asked yourself, how can I be gaining weight so quickly? The hint is in the name: carboHYDRATES. Carbs attract water! The more you add them to your diet, the more water your body is able to retain. 

This is due to the fact that the glucose from the carbs you eat are stored in the muscle and liver as glycogen. Every gram of glycogen brings with it 3 grams of water, leading to a jump in body weight.(8) This increase is not body fat and you don’t need to be concerned about it. It simply means your hydration level is higher. 

You may also find that your cravings and appetite spike when reintroducing carbs. Ketones are believed to suppress appetite and reduce the desire to eat,(9) which makes losing body fat easier and often renders intentional calorie restriction unnecessary.(10) When you transition out of keto and lose the appetite-suppressing benefits, hunger may increase dramatically, especially if your carbohydrate tolerance is low and you experience irregular blood glucose levels. 

Another possible result of increasing your carbohydrate intake is gastrointestinal issues. Although keto diets can supply plenty of fiber from low-carb vegetables, it is not uncommon for low-carb dieters to have a low fiber intake.(11) If you reintroduce carbs too quickly, the influx of fiber can lead to bloating or GI discomfort. 

Several strategies can help avoid all of these effects:

1. Reintroduce carbs gradually to avoid spiking insulin or upsetting your digestion. Although you may be tempted to jump right back into high-carb eating, it is worth taking your time to add carbs using a stairstep approach where you increase carbs by 10 to 20 percent a week. That way you can monitor body composition, assess energy levels, and troubleshoot any issues. 

2. Choose fiber-rich, complex carbs over processed options to minimize elevations in blood glucose and appetite. Complex carbs are slowly digested and they naturally contain fiber that may blunt hunger and help regulate blood glucose, whereas fast-digesting, processed carbs have the opposite effect, stimulating food intake and spiking blood glucose and insulin.(12)

Carbs to include are those from vegetables, fruit, nuts, dairy, beans, and possibly grains. Basically, you should maintain the high-fiber, low-carb foods you ate on keto, but now you have more flexibility with incorporating healthy higher carb options that were restricted. 

3. Prioritize high-quality protein to help minimize hunger.(13) The amino acids in protein lead to the release of gut hormones that blunt hunger and promote meal satisfaction.(14) Protein also has a high thermic effect, leading the body to burn more calories as the amino acids are digested and metabolized by the body. 

Animal proteins (poultry, red meat, dairy, and eggs) tend to be the highest quality, providing the greatest array of amino acids. Plant-based proteins (nuts, seeds, and legumes) can also be useful, though these foods also contain carbs that may need to be accounted for.

How To Transition Out Of Keto

Now that you have a strategy for avoiding common post-keto pitfalls it is time to get into the details of your transition by looking at four factors that impact your nutrition. 

1. Calories

Although it is not necessary to go overboard with calorie counting, identifying your calorie needs is worthwhile and can help you meet your body composition goals. Due to the appetite-suppressing effects of ketones, many individuals can create an energy deficit without counting calories. When you transition out of ketosis and start adding carbs back in, it becomes more likely that you will overshoot calorie needs. To avoid this, you need to clarify your body composition goals. 

If you have reached your goal weight and are entering a weight maintenance phase, your calories should stay roughly the same or be slightly increased from your keto diet. For example, if you were losing body fat on keto, you were in a calorie deficit, so a slightly higher calorie intake will be appropriate to sustain body composition. In contrast, if you are an athlete or fitness-minded individual who is eating at maintenance calories, you simply need to sustain calories when you start adding carbs back in. 

2. Macronutrients

On keto, your macronutrients are probably in the range of 70 to 80 percent fat, 15 to 25 percent protein, and 5 to 10 percent carbs. Transitioning off of keto requires a gradual increase in carbs with a simultaneous decrease in fat. Although it might be attractive to jump right back into high-carb eating, a slow, deliberate increase in carbs is worth the trouble to minimize the insulin response. One of the benefits of keto is that it shifts your metabolism from glycolysis to ketogenesis, resulting in a decrease in circulating levels of the hormone insulin. Increasing carbs too quickly after a keto diet will trigger a large increase in insulin, making it more likely that fat storage will occur. 

The first step to increasing your carbohydrates is to identify your goal macros. Studies have shown positive long-term effects from transitioning to a Mediterranean-style diet that increases carbs into the 30 to 40 percent range, decreases fat to 30 to 40 percent, and increases protein to 20 to 30 percent of calories.(15) Once you have your goal macros set, you can start increasing carbs by 10 to 20 percent a week while taking fat away. Fat provides roughly double the calories of carbs (fat has 9 calories per gram and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram), making it easy to calculate. For every gram of fat that you remove, you can add two grams of carbs.

The speed and amount with which you reintroduce carbs should depend on several factors, including carbohydrate tolerance, goals, and physical activity levels. Here is an example of a transition plan from a keto diet that supplies roughly 1600 calories a day, 40 grams of carbs, 80 grams of protein, and 124 grams of fat. The goal is to reach 43 percent fat, 25 percent protein, and 32 percent carbs. This can be achieved with a 20 percent increase in carbs each week, with the seventh week increasing carbs by only 10 percent to reach the goal. This example also increases protein by 5 grams every two weeks in order to reach 100 grams of protein and reap the body composition and appetite-dampening effects of the extra amino acids. 

 Carbohydrate GramsProtein GramsFat Grams 
Pre Transition 40 80124
Week 1 4885120
Week 25885115
Week 37090109
Week 48490102
Week 5 1009594
Week 61209584
Week 7 13210078

As you reintroduce carbs, pay attention to body fat. If you find you are gaining fat, make sure that you are hitting your macro and calorie goals by doing a food journal and weighing portions. If your fat gain doesn’t stop, drop back to the previous week’s macros until you find that your body fat stabilizes. Ideally, you should measure body fat with calipers or a reliable bioimpedance assessment because your scale weight may increase due to greater total body water as your body stores more glycogen. 

3. Nutrient Timing

When reintroducing carbs, it is important to take advantage of times when the body is most insulin sensitive. For people who exercise, this will be around workouts and the carbs will be used to restore muscle glycogen. For individuals who are sedentary, insulin sensitivity is higher in the morning, making breakfast a good time for adding in carbs. 

4. Micronutrients

Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are essential for health and well-being will generally stay the same as you transition away from a keto diet, but you may be able to reduce your electrolyte intake as water stores increase. The best approach is to salt your food to taste, but you probably won’t need to worry about actively cutting out salt. 


Changing your eating patterns is never easy, especially when you have become accustomed to so many restrictions. The good news is that if you have had success with keto, the hardest part is over! You got keto adapted, persevered through the tough days, and transformed your body and metabolism. Transitioning out of keto can be challenging, but as long as you take a balanced, thought-out approach, you can avoid the pitfalls while enjoying a greater variety of carbs in your diet. 

Are you ready to transition out of keto? What concerns do you have about reintroducing carbs? Leave your questions in the comments section.

Reference List: 

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