The Cyclical Keto Diet: Benefits & Guidelines

The standard ketogenic diet can be very restrictive with carbohydrates because it has to be. If you’re not limiting carbs, you prevent yourself from getting into ketosis.

For those that want more carbohydrates in their diet while still benefiting from keto, there’s good news.

The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) will allow you to consume a higher level of carbs twice a week built around your exercise schedule.

If your goal is to gain muscle on keto and your performance isn’t where you want them to be, adding in extra carbs during strategic times will be just what you need.

There’s a lot of other health benefits to the cyclical keto diet as well. Read on to find out more about them.

What Is Cyclical Keto?

In the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet, you can eat higher amounts of carbohydrates 1-2 times per week. 

It’s similar to carb cycling and has been called “keto cycling” due to slight differences that are specific to the keto diet.

In a typical ketogenic diet or standard keto, you’re consuming around 70% of your calories from dietary fat, 25% from protein, and 5% from carbohydrates. 

By restricting carbohydrates, it allows you to enter ketosis where you’re in prime weight loss mode.

As a bonus, it can also increase your metabolism and help you shed body fat at the same time. 

By increasing your body’s ability to burn fat as energy, you’re allowing it to access more calories and burn them off much faster.

If you decide to run the cyclical keto diet, on the days you decide to consume higher carbohydrates, you take the normal macros for carbohydrates and fat and swap them.

So instead of consuming 70% of fat for the day, you’re consuming that in carbohydrates (or close to it) and stick to 5-10% of fat.

You should time these higher carb days around when you work out to get the most of the insulin spike. 

So, if you typically consume around 2,000 calories a day, 1,400 calories can come from carbohydrates since you can consume up to 70% of your calories from carbs on the higher carb days. 2,000 * .7 = 1,400.

Next, you take 1,400 and divide it by 4 since there are 4 calories for each gram of carbs, and you get 350. 350 is the number of grams of carbs you can consume on your higher carb days.

You’ll be keeping protein consistent on these higher-carb days as well. This will be important for maintaining muscle tissue, hormone production, and more. 

There’s a good chance you’ll find your energy levels are higher on these higher carb days as well. There’s a reason why the keto diet is usually used for weight loss, but it can also be used for performance gains as well.

What Are The Benefits Of Cyclical Keto?

You’ll mostly find athletes or people who are dedicated to physical fitness on the cyclical ketogenic diet. They’re not the only ones who can benefit from this style of keto, though.

Here are a few ways cyclical keto can enhance your performance in the gym:

Energy Levels

When it comes to high-intensity exercises such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training, cycling or running marathons, CrossFit, and more, our bodies could use the help of glucose as an extra way to increase energy.

When on a typical standard keto diet, glucose is almost non-existent in the body because of the carb restriction, and the cells inside of the liver and muscles can only store ~500 grams of glycogen. About 100 grams is stored in the liver, and 400 grams are stored in the muscles. (1)

On the higher carb days, while on the cyclical ketogenic diet, you’re refilling the glycogen stores within your body. 

This helps the body recover from more exerting workouts as well as gives the body the energy needed for future ones.

The standard ketogenic diet is great for strength improvement, testosterone, and improved overall body composition all by itself. (2

By hopping on the cyclical keto diet, you can utilize the extra energy around workouts if you feel you need it. Not everyone will.

Adherence To The Keto Diet

The ketogenic diet is very restrictive with carbs for a reason, but restrictive diets are sometimes hard to stick to depending on the individual. 

By allowing 1-2 days a week to consume a lot of carbs, they kind of act like keto cheat days where you can eat the foods you like but are not allowed too much of on keto.

Now is the time to go nuts on foods higher in carbs, but try to be smart about it, like consuming fruit, vegetables, and healthier non-starchy carbs instead of processed junk food.

The higher carb days are definitely something to look forward to and can help you stick to keto for life if you so choose.

How Quickly Will You Get Back Into Ketosis?

The higher carb days on the cyclical keto diet are really for resetting your glycogen stores, and wont do much for burning fat. 

Carbohydrates will increase the release of insulin, and this breaks down fat oxidation in the body. (3)

If you’ve been on the ketogenic diet for over a month and are adapted to keto, then you’ll be back into ketosis very quickly, especially if you’re fasting or exercising regularly.

Related: How To Quickly Get Into Ketosis

Getting Started With Cyclical Keto

You can start with the cyclical ketogenic diet right away, but it’s advised to be on the traditional or standard ketogenic diet for at least a month.

By doing this, you’ll get used to the diet and become fat-adapted so you can get back into ketosis quickly after your high-carb days.

Pick the days you’ll consume higher carbs on the days you work out to give you an extra benefit of the insulin spike, especially if you’re trying to gain muscle.

Try to pick healthier carbs, so you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs to power through workouts and not just to satisfy your sweet tooth. 

Although, if you need to satisfy a sweet tooth, don’t feel bad about it. Do what works best for you.

If you need the added energy for your workouts and just look forward to those days where you can consume carbs, then cyclical keto is a good option for you.

The best way to know for sure is to try it, but don’t forget to check with your doctor first! 

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