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Types of Ketogenic Diet – Finding the Right Fit

While the Keto diet most commonly referred to is the standard Keto diet, there are a few other versions of the Keto diet that cater to different groups of people. These are the Cyclical ketogenic diet, Targeted ketogenic diet and High-protein ketogenic diet.

The standard Keto diet restricts carbohydrate intake to about 20g of net carbs a day. However, there is an exception for one group of people, these are athletes. This also includes basically all those who carry out rigorous activities throughout the week. For performance of intense activities, a standard Keto diet will not be sufficient to fuel the body. Therefore, the cyclical ketogenic diet or the targeted ketogenic diet have been introduced.


Cyclical Ketogenic Diet

The cyclical ketogenic diet involves switching between strict high-fat, low-carb days with higher carb days. For example, 5 to 6 days of strict low-carbs followed by 1 to 2 full days of high-carb consumption. It is basically like going on a cycle, hence its name. The higher carb days are referred to as “refeeding days” because the purpose is to replenish the body’s depleted glucose levels. This is so that your body can use it as fuel during intense exercises and lower your glycogen tank.

As the tank empties, your muscle cells will have lower insulin levels which allows your body to burn fat for fuel effectively. This is because when you have lower insulin levels, glucose will not be used by the body and fat is used for fuel instead.

Carbs are also used as a tool to maximize muscle growth and enhance exercise performance. This is a more advanced method of Keto diet and it is primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.

For a beginner to the cyclical keto diet, it is recommended to take low carbohydrate keto meals each day for 5 days, higher carbohydrate meals for 1 day and 1 day of intermittent fasting from protein and carbs. If you do not respond well to the intermittent fasting, try 2 days of higher carbohydrate meals instead of 1.

It is not recommended for low to moderate intensity trainers or exercise beginners to follow the cyclical keto diet. This is because there is a high chance that they will not be able to fully deplete their glucose levels if the level of activity intensity is not enough. The excess glucose in the body will end up hindering them from entering into the state of ketosis. This is because ketosis only occurs when the body has insufficient glucose to produce energy. Hence, this defeats the purpose of the keto diet.

If you are one who practices high intensity workouts in the week, however, you are likely to deplete the glucose from your glycogen stores. Hence, taking on the cyclical keto diet will give you enough fuel for your body and you will be able to get back into ketosis each week.

How long it will take you to re-enter ketosis depends on a few factors. One factor is the adaptability of your body. Being on a keto diet for a longer time will result in your body being more adaptable to enter ketosis after a carb re-feed. Your body will also be able to adapt more efficiently the more consistent you are with the cyclical keto diet. If you do not follow it properly and have cheat days, your body may not be able to adapt well. How long to re-enter ketosis will also depend on how much exercise you are getting. Someone who trains more will be able to enter into ketosis easier simply because the person is exercising for a longer time at a higher intensity. This will deplete their glycogen stores faster, allowing the body to enter ketosis state. 

The cyclical keto diet has been known for various benefits as well. It is said that you get to take advantage of the benefits of being in ketosis, and you also get to prevent certain side effects of the keto diet because your body will not think that it is in a starvation state. You also get to enjoy the best of both world because you are able to increase athletic performance by consuming carbs on the 1-2 days, and you still get to enjoy the other benefits of ketosis for the rest of the week.

Some people also enjoy the cyclical keto diet because it still allows you to fulfil your carb wishes compared to the standard keto diet. However, this does not mean just binge eating your favourite carbs for those 1-2 days and stopping there. You will have to remember that the intensity of your exercise has to be enough to use off all that glucose so that you can still enter ketosis, which is why exercise beginners are not recommended to try it out.

The cyclical keto diet has also been found to increase growth hormone when the insulin level is low. This is good news for athletes and bodybuilders because growth hormone is crucial for building muscle. The setback is that there might be a potential of gaining some body fat with the extra muscle mass that you gain. However, with the intensity of the exercises, fat can be converted into muscle as well. Growth hormone not only increases muscle mass but strengthens bones and even reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. On a cyclical keto diet, although insulin levels are elevated during the carb load phase, insulin levels are lowered for the remainder of the week.


Targeted Ketogenic Diet

The Targeted ketogenic diet is somewhat a compromise between the standard ketogenic diet and the cyclical ketogenic diet. It is similar to a regular keto diet but with an exception of eating carbs around workout times which means that you will be taking carbs on the days that you exercise. Hence, this diet is meant for people who practice intense exercise regularly. While this diet can help to withstand performance during rigorous exercises, it is not as well as the cyclical keto diet. Hence, targeted keto diet is appropriate for beginner or intermediate strength trainers or for people who are unable to follow a cyclical keto diet due to health purposes.

Targeted keto diet functions like how cyclical keto diet does. The reason for taking carbs is so that the muscles can burn glucose as fuel to perform high intensities of exercises over sustained periods of time. When muscles lack glucose, they will also lack endurance and strength needed. In this diet, carbohydrates will only be taken before workout times, which means that during other times, you will be back to eating a low-carb, high-fat and moderate protein diet, going through the process of ketosis. One suggestion from the author of The Complete Keto is that you should be in a standard keto diet for at least 60 days first before transitioning into targeted keto diet. This is so that your body will have already adapted to the process of ketosis.  

Many targeted keto dieters find that 25-40g of net carbs taken 30 minutes before exercise gives them the best performance. Suggestions of carbs to take include simple and easily digestible carbs like liquids, candy bars and sweet tarts. You want to go for food with dextrose and glucose content and avoid fructose. This is because fructose typically goes directly to the liver to replenish liver glycogen instead of going to the muscle cells, which is what we want. Some people take glucose supplements to make sure their carb source is totally free of fructose to make the most out of it. You may also consume protein with your carbs to enhance muscle growth. But make sure the food you take are non-fat.

Because there is an influx of carbohydrates before your exercise, your ketone levels are bound to decrease. Hence, some people will stop experiencing ketosis for a few hours after exercise. How much your ketone level decreases can vary with different factors like your type of workout, workout duration, your body’s adaptability and others. It is generally hard to keep track and unnecessary to rigidly track your ketone levels. As long as you stick to your keto diet plan after your exercise, you should be in ketosis after a couple of hours. If you want to boost your ketone levels, you can always look into MCT oil supplements. MCTs have the ability to enhance ketone production and is known for helping athletic performance.


High-protein Ketogenic Diet

The High-protein ketogenic diet is like the standard Keto diet with just a higher level of protein intake. Though the other types of Keto diets are more commonly publicized, high-protein keto diet is specifically meant for those who want extra protein to protect muscle mass. Thus, it is used by bodybuilders or even older people who need the prevention of muscle breakdown.

To follow this diet, the advisable ratio to take is 5% of calories from net carbs, 35% of calories from protein and 60% of calories from fat. This plan entails approximately 120g of protein a day. The net carbs ratio is the same to a standard keto diet. However, the standard keto diet only has a protein ratio of 15% but a fat ratio of 80%.

Some people find the high-protein keto diet easier to follow because they are allowed to eat more protein and less fat than the standard keto diet. However, a problem may arise which is that ketosis may be hindered. This is because protein in excess can be converted in the body into glucose for fuel. This is the process of gluconeogenesis. Thus, the body will not reach ketosis which is the state whereby the body has insufficient glucose and hence burns fats for energy instead.

Although this is not a guarantee that you will not experience ketosis, it is certain that the ketone levels in the blood will be reduced, which could contribute to the failure of achieving ketosis.

People experiencing kidney issues should probably not take up this version of Keto diet because of the increased protein content. According to the National Kidney Foundation, people with kidney disease can face a build-up of waste in the blood if they have too much protein.

About The Author

Losing weight has always been a hard thing for me. I would stick to a strict diet, eating as little as I possibly could to only lose a few pounds. Sadly, after a sweet buffet dinner, I would gain all the “lost” weight back. Keto Diet allows me to consistently lose and maintain my weight while enjoying the most fattening food I can possibly imagine. Let me show you how.