Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: The Best Type of Keto Diet For Strength & Power Athletes?

“Keto” seems to be the new buzzword in the health and fitness industry. Sure, you may have heard the term ketogenic diet, but did you know that there’s more than one type of keto diet? And more importantly, which one is the most beneficial for strength athletes?

Note: The content on BarBend — like this op-ed — is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be interpreted as medical advice. It’s always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional before undertaking significant changes to your diet and/or exercise regimen. 

What Is the Ketogenic Diet?

The keto diet is one of the most popular low-carb diets out there today. With it’s high-fat, low-carb, and moderate protein intake guidelines, it alters the course of your metabolism to begin to rely on your fat stores as your body’s main energy source for fuel.

But Wait, How Does This Work?

With a high-fat, low-carb intake, your liver begins to produce ketones that your body will use for fuel instead of carbohydrates (creating a state of ketosis). When you consume a high amount of carbs, your body produces glucose and insulin. Glucose is your body’s preferred source of energy, but once deprived of it, your body resorts to its second favorite fuel source: fat. Depending on the individual, it could be up to a few weeks before your body enters a state of ketosis.

What are the Different Ketogenic Diet Types?

Now, the keto diet may not be for everyone. You may argue that you absolutely need your carbs. But before you write the keto diet completely off, let’s take a look at some of the different types of keto diets that exist today. Among the different keto diets there’s the Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD), this is the main keto diet that the majority of the population will use. However, there are two other types of keto diets that may be more suitable for athletes and individuals with active lifestyles: the Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) and the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD). 

Targeted Ketogenic Diet 

The TKD is meant for a more athletic individual. TKD is pretty straight forward – focusing your carb intake around your workout or activity (about 30 minutes to an hour pre and post exercise) for the day. On the keto diet, only 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day are recommended to maintain ketosis. However, this still may not be enough for athletes that train at a high intensity, and this is where the cyclical keto diet comes in.

Having a hard time deciding if you should stick with TKD or move on to the CKD? Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the TKD.

Advantages of the TKD

  • Will help you remain in ketosis (or not be out of it for very long).
  • An appropriate option for individuals not able to use the cyclical keto diet due to health reasons.
  • Allows a bit more carbs than the STD – allowing around 25-50 grams pre-workout and 25-50 grams of carbs post-workout.

Disadvantages of the TKD

  • Still may not be enough carb intake for those performing high intensity exercise.
  • Can only ingest carbs directly around the time period of your workouts.
  • May kick you out of ketosis if you have too many carbs.

Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD)

The CKD is much different than your standard keto diet. While you’ll have five days following the SKD, the other two days will be your carb loading days.

Yep, that’s right.

You’ll have 24-48 hours jam-packed with high-carb to ensure you are completely refilling your muscle glycogen stores. However, this is only effective if you are one hundred percent depleting your glycogen stores each week. This is why the CKD is only recommended for individuals that have been experimenting with the keto diet for at least a month and know how to listen to their body, but also for those that are training at a high enough intensity that they are completely depleting their glycogen stores every week.

The average individual doesn’t have this level of activity and therefore doesn’t need to concern themselves with the CKD. But strength and power athletes, on the other hand, may need these two days of carb-loading to be refilled for the amount of physical work they have ahead.

The goal of these carb loading days is to temporarily switch out of ketosis to refill muscle glycogen, in order to maintain strong training performance in the next cycle.

Let’s take you through an example of a week on the CKD:

  • Monday: 25-50 grams of carbs
  • Tuesday: 25-50 grams of carbs
  • Wednesday: 25-50 grams of carbs
  • Thursday: 25-50 grams of carbs
  • Friday: 25-50 grams of carbs. After an evening workout at 5 PM start the carb loading. Your carb intake should be high and your fat intake should be low).
  • Saturday: Continue to carb load throughout the day. This could involve anywhere from 450-600 grams of carbs over the course of these 48 hours.
  • Sunday: Continue carb loading with low fats until the evening. Start the process over again the following week.

Are you interested in trying the ketogenic diet, but worried about your training performance suffering from the lack of carbs? The cyclical keto diet may be a great option for your health needs while still making sure your glycogen is at the optimal level for strength and power gains.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Feature image from @stephrlo Instagram page.