Cyclical and targeted ketogenic diets benefit active people who follow the keto way of eating. Learn how the diets work and adapt them for your lifestyle.
Please Note: the effects of the keto diet are different for everyone. You should consult with a doctor or health professional before starting any diet plan. This information about the keto diet is presented for educational purposes only and may not pertain to your health condition.
What Is the Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)?
The standard ketogenic diet focuses on reducing carbs and increasing healthy fats in your meals. For fitness-goers and bodybuilders, carb reduction introduces a problem because they require carbohydrates for endurance and muscle synthesis. This is when targeted keto is useful.
A targeted ketogenic diet simply means making modifications to the keto diet so you can get carbs only when necessary, syncing intake of the macro with your workouts to achieve the best results. With a TKD, you’ll eat carbs just before and after your workout. You get the energy boosts to build muscle while still reaping the benefits of keto.
What Is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)?
A cyclical keto diet involves rotating a traditional keto diet plan with a higher-carb diet at select times. Consume regular keto meals about five to six days a week, and then add a cycle of high-carb dieting for the remaining days in the week. Some people call their high-carb days “re-feeding day” because they rebuild the glucose your body has burned during the week.
Should You Choose a Targeted or Cyclical Keto Diet? Or Neither?
Both targeted and cyclical keto diets are beloved by fitness enthusiasts who follow the ketogenic way of eating. But which one is best?
The answer depends on your personal fitness goals. The regular keto diet works well for people who aren’t active. But if you’re looking to boost your performance, CKD or TKD is a good choice—but their results differ.
The cyclical diet is ideal for powerlifting and advanced high-intensity workouts because it helps build muscle. Online publication Better Humans interviewed a keto-enthusiast bodybuilder and that person alluded to using CKD—first starting weekly, then bi-weekly, then monthly—as part of their bodybuilding regimen. When you start a keto diet, your body continues using carbs for fuel. It wants either blood glucose (sugar) or muscle glycogen (stored sugars) for energy. CKD helps your body use carbohydrates at the right time, for energy during workouts and for muscle function, without having to tap into protein. Vegetables provide the perfect balance: they contain healthy fats and low quantities of carbohydrates, and normally you can eat plenty without worrying about breaking ketosis (depending on the food). The general rule for protein is to consume 1 gram per 1 pound of body weight every day for muscle synthesis. Make sure it aligns with your daily ketogenic limit (found using an online macro calculator). If you’re lifting and feeling weak, try lowering your reps until your body is keto-adapted.
The targeted keto diet is ideal for giving you the energy to complete your daily workouts. It mixes traditional and cyclical keto without needing high amounts of carbohydrates or much fat avoidance. If CKD carb-loading isn’t possible, or you don’t need to perform intense endurance exercises, TKD is the better choice.
Should you follow the keto diet if you’re a high-intense competitor? A study published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports analyzed the athletic performances of five people following the keto diet. All the individuals in the study reported low energy levels initially but the levels returned after the activation of ketosis. However, they suffered “an inability to easily undertake high intense bouts.” If you’re training to achieve a specific endurance KPI (key performance indicator), the ketogenic way of eating might not be the best fit or you’ll need to make additional modifications to your keto diet (more vitamins, specific foods, etc.).
How to Start a Targeted or Cyclical Keto Diet
Calculate the Required Macros
Calculate how many calories you need in a day so you can adjust your caloric consumption. You can use an online calorie calculator to get this number.
- If fat loss is your goal…consume 500 fewer calories than you need.
- If muscle gain is your goal…consume 500 more calories above your requirements.
This isn’t an exact number, but it will help you establish a baseline.
Stock Keto-Friendly Foods
Stocked up on the keto-friendly foods you need. Or shop and dine at keto-friendly restaurants and stores. Keto can involve eggs, full-fat dairy products, animal protein, nuts, and oils. You’ll also need healthy, whole-grain carbs since you’re not doing the standard keto diet. Since you’re adding carbs occasionally, you can also add more fruits to your diet.
Plan Your Carb Intake
It’s best to start with a targeted keto diet. Aim to consume carbs about 30 minutes to 1 hour before your workout. You can also add carbs after your workout if needed. Avoid eating fats at those times since they’ll slow your ability to digest carbs.
If TKD isn’t successful, try transitioning to a cyclical diet. Start with one “re-feeding day” per week. If that time interval doesn’t work, make changes as necessary. During your “re-feed days,” avoid consuming much fat and keep your protein intake the same. Stick to non-baked goods and white bread for your carb sources. According to Healthline.com:
- Carbs should comprise 60–70% of your total calories (preferred food examples: sweet potatoes, butternut squash, brown rice, oats, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, beans, and lentils).
- Protein should account for 15–20% of your total calories.
- Fats should deliver just 5–10% of your total calories.
No keto diet is one-size-fits-all. Experiment and make adjustments as you figure out what works best for your body. As you change your workout days or intensities, you might need to make changes to your diet.
Dehydration happens fast on the keto diet. Active individuals are even more prone to dehydration. Remember to drink plenty of water and electrolytes to stay hydrated enough for safe, optimum performance.
Ready to Try a Cyclical or Targeted Ketogenic Diet?
With an active lifestyle, you might find it hard to maintain your regular performance on the standard keto diet. The cyclical or targeted ketogenic diet should get you the desired results you while boosting your physical capabilities.
Having trouble sticking with your keto diet? You’re not alone—check out keto diet maintenance tips here to get you through the challenging moments.