One of the biggest struggles for people when they first start the low carb, high fat lifestyle is maintaining a high level of athleticism.
Individuals who lift heavy weights, train at high intensities, or need to perform at their best during competition may feel like their workouts are suffering on the ketogenic diet.
But does this mean people who live an active lifestyle can’t benefit from the ketogenic diet? Not at all!
In fact, the targeted ketogenic diet is the preferred method for people who want to build muscle or increase their overall athletic performance.
What is the Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)?
The targeted ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat eating protocol similar to the standard ketogenic diet. But the difference is, carbohydrates are consumed a few minutes before exercise and/or after exercise.
A TKD gives your body the necessary glucose it needs to lift heavier weights and exercise for longer periods of time.
Even though ketones are more efficient as an energy source for overall brain and body function, some exercises require glucose from carbohydrates to achieve peak performance. This allows your body to benefit from a quick supply of fast-acting carbohydrates.
On the days you aren’t working out, you are encouraged to stick to the standard ketogenic diet (with minimal carbohydrates).
Who Should Incorporate the Targeted Ketogenic Diet?
Following a targeted ketogenic diet isn’t suited for everyone. In fact, if you are a beginner to keto, it’s advised to stick to the standard ketogenic diet to ensure that you are priming your metabolism to run on fats as its main source of energy.
The targeted ketogenic diet is suitable for:
The targeted ketogenic diet is not recommended:
Benefits of the Targeted Ketogenic Diet
Most athletes have found that the targeted ketogenic diet is highly effective when it comes to overall exercise performance.
The targeted ketogenic diet allows you to perform exercises at a high level.
Studies have shown that carbohydrates consumed pre-workout help increase performance short term but no research has been conducted on the effects of it in the long run[*][*].
This is because muscles need glucose to fuel anaerobic training. When you provide your muscles with the glucose it needs through a TKD, they’ll function better to power through exercises.
When the muscles used during anaerobic activity don’t have glucose, your strength and endurance will become hindered during exercises that require extreme exertion for 15 seconds to three minutes.
Endurance athletes and regular exercisers can benefit from the TKD when performing any activities that last an hour or longer. Research has demonstrated that supplementing with carbohydrates before long endurance exercise like competing in a half marathon can improve overall performance[*].
Consuming carbs right before working out helps you build more muscle[*]. While high insulin levels is not the goal on keto, having elevated insulin around your workout can help you build muscle. This is because higher insulin levels before exercise induces an anabolic effect which promote muscle growth.
Bottom line: If you’re an athlete or someone looking to build muscle, the targeted ketogenic diet is a great way to do so. Otherwise, it’s best to stick to a standard ketogenic diet.
Will the Targeted Ketogenic Diet Kick Me Out of Ketosis?
In order to enter a state of ketosis, you must restrict carbohydrates to ensure that your body starts burning fats for energy. With that said, some carbs before or after exercise will not ruin your ketosis efforts.
The goal of TKD is to ensure that you are using the carbs you just ingested to fuel your workout. When done correctly, your body will burn through the glucose storages and you should re-enter ketosis soon after.
Many people will find that they get knocked out of ketosis for a few hours after exercise because of the increased insulin levels.
Fortunately, working out will increase your insulin sensitivity which means less insulin will be needed to take care of the 25-50g of carbs that you consume on a targeted ketogenic diet. Cell membrane proteins known as glucose transporters are also more active as a result of working out.
The combination between these two functions will ensure that the carbs you consume will be used for energy and enter ketosis soon after exercise.
What to Eat on the Targeted Ketogenic Diet
On the days you’re working out, you will consume 15-50g of carbohydrates 30 minutes before your workout.
Many keto experts suggest eating simple, fast-acting easily-digestible carbohydrates such as high-glycemic foods. These foods include candy, white bread, gummy bears, and gatorade.
The most popular carbs to consume are dextrose and glucose dominant sources. To get the purest form, consider supplementing with dextrose tablets or glucose gel packets before your workout.
Make sure you avoid fructose because it will go directly into replenishing liver glycogen. The goal is to replenish muscle, not liver glycogen.
It’s important not to eat any fats around your workout when you consume these quick carbohydrates. Fats will slow down the digestion of carbs which will make the TKD approach less effective.
How Do I Start the Targeted Ketogenic Diet?
If you are relatively experienced with keto, adopting the targeted ketogenic diet can be very simple.
Here is a quick summary of the key points you’ll need to follow to successfully improve your exercise performance with the TKD:
One of the only downfalls to the ketogenic diet is the lack of overall athletic performance. Fortunately, the TKD approach will help you reach all of your exercise goals while still benefiting from a fat-burning state.
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