One of the core principles of the ketogenic diet is to remove carbohydrates as much as possible.
For this reason, many athletes and bodybuilders avoid the low carb, high fat lifestyle because they’re worried it will hinder their performance.
Luckily, there are several variations of the ketogenic diet, making it suitable for just about anyone. In fact, the cyclical ketogenic diet is a type of keto diet that allows some carb consumption while still reaping the benefits of ketosis.
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’ll talk more about what the cyclical ketogenic diet is and how to follow it.
What is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?
The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) is a variation of the ketogenic diet that involves eating clean carbohydrates one or two days out of the week.
The other five or six days will follow a standard ketogenic diet consisting of very low carbohydrates, moderate protein, and high fats.
During the one or two days of carbohydrates - also known as carb loading - you’re encouraged to eat large amounts of carbs such as rice, potatoes, oatmeal, pasta, and whole grains. But, it’s equally as important that you keep your fat intake low during your carb days to experience the best results.
Who Can Benefit from the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?
If your main reason for following a ketogenic diet is for health reasons such as hyperinsulinemia, epilepsy, or metabolic disease such as type II diabetes, the cyclical ketogenic diet is not recommended for you.
In addition, if you’re a complete beginner to dieting or keto in general, CKD should be avoided.
The cyclical ketogenic diet is known as an advanced eating protocol designed for people who are experienced with nutrition and live an active lifestyle.
CKD is a great keto dieting protocol for:
The Purpose of Carbs on Keto
The entire goal of the cyclical ketogenic diet is to temporarily leave ketosis in order to fill up your body’s muscle glycogen to enhance your workouts or athletic performance for the remainder of the week.
During high-intensity exercise, your body relies heavily on glucose (from carbohydrates) rather than ketones (from fat).
When you incorporate one or two carb days, your body benefits from several different functions that allow you to increase muscle and build more strength. Here’s how:
Anabolic Hormones are Increased
Testosterone, IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), and growth hormone are all responsible for improving your strength, physique and physical performance.
When you follow a CKD, your giving your body the necessary macronutrients it needs to optimize these hormones.
Insulin Is Necessary for Bodybuilders and Athletes
This occurs because insulin is increased when you eat carbohydrates. When insulin is spiked during your carb days, it will replenish your glucose stores.
Your muscles are basically like tanks for glycogen. More muscle glycogen means you’ll have better performance in the gym and the one to two carb days will help you keep these stores full for the remainder of the week.
Standard Ketogenic Diet Days Increases Testosterone and Growth Hormone
When insulin is high, growth hormone is blunted. But because you’re only increasing insulin during your carb days, your body will benefit from additional growth hormone increases when you consume a low carb, high fat macronutrient intake on the non-carb days.
Additionally, your non-carb days will be accompanied with high fat intake. Studies have shown that high fat intake increases overall testosterone levels[*].
How to Start the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
Now that you understand how beneficial CKD can be for athletes and bodybuilders, let’s give you a quick blueprint to getting started.
The goal is to re-enter ketosis as soon as possible after your carb days. This means your workouts after those carb-ups should be heavy, compound lifts that can help you deplete glucose and re-enter ketosis fast.
During your 1-2 carb days:
During the other 5-6 ketogenic days:
Use The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet to Reach Your Muscle Building or Athletic Goals
The CKD isn’t for everyone. As we’ve mentioned in this article, it’s only recommended for experienced dieters who want to build muscle, increase strength, and improve their overall athletic performance.
If you are a beginner to keto, overweight, or following the low carb, high fat lifestyle for medical purposes, the cyclical ketogenic diet should be avoided. Following a standard ketogenic protocol will be much more effective.
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