One of the options to go low carb and still train at your maximum is with the cyclical ketogenic diet.

How Cyclical Ketogenic Diet Works

A cyclical ketogenic diet (KCD) means you’re refeeding your body – through a cycle that lasts a week with a certain amount of complex carbohydrates, limited amounts of fat, and protein.

Couple in a spinning class wearing sportswear.

The Cyclic Ketogenic Diet is designed for professional athletes, sprinters, bodybuilders and really anyone who is engaging in high intensity workouts or power lifting. It is a strict regimen with carefully measured carb intake.

Plan Details

  • 5 days ketogenic, then 2 days carb load with high to medium GI (glycemic index) foods.
  • On the 2 days when you do a carb-load, you increase your carb intake by 50 – 60%. This high amount is typically above a person’s usual dietary intake, but the reason behind this increase is to immediately refill the glycogen levels in the liver and revamp muscle energy, but leave nothing behind to be stored as fat.

This means you increase your carb intake significantly during the cyclical “refeed,” also known as carb-load.

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Another option is a bi-weekly cycle where a ketogenic diet is followed for 10 – 12 days, followed by 3 to 4 days of carb loading.

Both can yield good results, but it mainly depends on your own training schedule, goals, preference, and results.

The Goals of CKD

  1. The first goal of this type of diet is to provide you with a break of sorts from going with barely little or no carbohydrates at all as in a standard ketogenic diet, to eating a high carb load in line with your workout needs.
  2. The second goal is to modulate your hormone levels and thyroid gland, which becomes suppressed during dieting.
  3. The third goal is to replenish your body’s dwindling supply of glycogen right when your body needs it the most so it’s used as energy, rather than being stored as fat.
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Who Benefits from CKD: Who Is It For?

The only way not to gain weight on a CKD plan is to use your refueled glycogen levels for high-intensity training, as a way of increasing your endurance and maintaining muscle mass.

This allows those engaging in athletics, weight lifting,or strength training to maximize fat-loss while building lean mass.

This sort of training would be extremely hard, if not impossible by only eating low carb.

For this reason, the time between carb-loads is very important, as well as the kinds of foods you eat during the carb-load is critical for the success of this diet and the continued health of your body.

It mainly depends on how intense your training is, as well as your overall fitness goals.

Implementing Cyclical Ketogenic Diet

Shirtless bodybuilder drinking protein drink sitting on bench

  1. For starters, you will need to start a carb-load once a week. Adjusting the intervals between carb-loads is the trick and it will take some time to get it just right, as individual results will vary.
  2. The key is to implement carb loads, but not allow the body to slip out of ketosis.
  3. Measure how much your carb intake is during a load then gauge ketone levels in the urine in the following couple of days. Remember to give your body time to adjust to this new diet and metabolic state.
  4. Limit your fat intake while you’re loading up on carbs but keep the amount of protein intake the same, or maybe even increase it slightly in line with the intensity of your training.

Example of the Formula

A simple way to make sure you’re getting the right amount of nutrients during the low-carb part of this diet is as follows:

This calculation is based on a person whose lean body mass is 150 lbs. and who follows a 2000-calorie/day diet.

To compute your lean body mass you can use this calculator or any of the many others available online.

  • Protein intake should be at 1 gm/lb. of lean body mass = 150 gm of protein daily
  • Carb intake should be 0.1 – 0.2 gm/lb. of lean body mass = 15 – 30 gm daily
  • Proteins and carbs have 4 calories/gram which means the total amount of calories so far is (150 + 30 {or less}) x 4 = 720 calories
  • Fat intake will be measured according to how many calories are leftover to reach the 2000 calories/day goal (2000 – 720 = 1280), and since 1 gm of fat has 9 calories, 1280/9 = 142 gm/day is the amount of total fat intake for one day
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Therefore, your daily nutrient intake would be as follows:

  • 150 grams of protein
  • 30 grams of carbohydrate
  • 142 grams of fat

Starting Your Carb-Load

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  1. Begin roughly 5 hours before your final workout of the week, and eat about 25 – 50 grams of carbohydrates in addition to some protein and fats. This will help commence the production of liver enzymes.
  2. Then 1 – 2 hours before the workout, eat anywhere from 25 – 50 grams of both glucose (brown rice, yogurt, oats and milk) and fructose (fruit) to replenish the liver glycogen levels.Low Fructose: Lime, apricot, lemon and rhubarb have .5 grams per gram

    Moderate Fructose: 1 cup of diced cranberries, ½ a small peach, 1/4 cup of cantaloupe, and 1/4 cup of strawberries have between 0.51 gram and 1 gram.

    High Fructose: 1/2 cup of pineapple, 1/2 a grapefruit, and 1/2 cup of raspberries have 1 to 2 grams of fructose.

    Very High Fructose: 1/2 cup of blueberries, 5 cherries, and 1 kiwi have 2 or more grams of fructose.

  3. The next 48 hours will mainly be based on your own personal preferences and body needs, but a basic guideline of the carb-load is as follows:

    1st day:
    70% of your total caloric intake should be nothing but carbs (4.5 grams/lb. of lean mass), mainly those with a high GI such as white bread and rice, bagels, potatoes; protein and fats should be evenly split, with each taking only 15% of your total caloric intake

    2nd day:

    60% carbohydrates (2.25 grams/lb. of lean mass), preferably those with a bit lower GI (raisins, bananas, pita bread, basmati rice all have a medium GI of 56 – 69; beans in all its forms, seeds, walnuts, cashews, certain fruits have a low GI of 55 or less); increase the amount of proteins to 25%; fat remains at 15%

Returning to Ketosis

Remember that the longer you’ve been following this diet, the easier it will be for your body to enter ketosis and readjust.

Make sure you pick your carbs wisely because those with a lower GI will make it easier for you in the long run. Additionally, the more you train, the easier it is to enter ketosis because depleting glycogen supply will be quicker.

Consistency is key!

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The foolproof method of emptying your liver’s glycogen supply in order to re-enter ketosis is by following these simple steps during your first three days after a carb-load:

  • → Day 1: Refrain from eating after 6pm
  • → Day 2: Wake up and do a HIIT workout or an intense weight-training workout before you have breakfast. Start your ketogenic diet with only 0 – 2% carb intake
  • → Day 3: Wake up and do a medium intensity workout or a medium intensity weight training workout before breakfast; begin a normal ketogenic diet of about 3 – 5% carb intake
  • → Days 4 & 5: Same as day 3

Conclusion

The cyclic ketogenic diet supports intense workouts, bodybuilders and athletes by providing them with the carbs they need to perform, and is a strict regimen with carefully measured carb intake, well planned out depletion workouts along with strict adherence to very low carb eating for the rest of the week.

It features periods of higher carb eating called refeeds, typically one time per week in order to supply the body with the muscle glycogen needed to perform well during high intensity workouts.

If this sounds like something that would benefit you, consult a fitness or nutrition expert to make sure you’re on the right track in order to successfully reap in the rewards of your hard work.

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