Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: An In-depth Look

Ketogenic Diet > Keto Diet Information

Instead of ingesting small amounts of carbohydrates around your workouts, the cyclical ketogenic diet devotes one to two FULL days of high carbohydrate consumption in order to fully refill muscle glycogen stores. This means that CKDs are not for beginners that are not able to perform the necessary amount or intensity of training. You must completely deplete glycogen stores each week in order to have a successful CKD.

CKD is used for maximum muscle growth, but the downside is that you might gain some body fat. It’s easy to overeat, gain fat, and has extreme depletion workouts – so if you’re a beginner it is certainly NOT recommended. If you’re a beginner or intermediate trainer, then a Targeted Ketogenic Diet is recommended.

The standard format for a cyclical ketogenic diet is 5-6 days of ketogenic dieting and 1-2 days of high carb eating.

Performance Increase with CKD

Others have also experimented with 2 week cycles, where 10-12 days are of ketogenic nature and 3-4 days are carb loading. The 2 week split has also had good results, but it doesn’t fit around everyone’s schedules as neatly.

The primary goal here is to temporarily switch out of ketosis to refill muscle glycogen, in order to sustain training performance in the next cycle.

If you are on a ketogenic diet for health reasons (hyperinsulinemia or hypertension), you may find the CKD unworkable as the hormonal response can trigger health symptoms that are being treated by a low carbohydrate diet.

Since the goal of a CKD is to completely deplete muscle glycogen – a proper workout schedule is needed for optimal results. A good workout example would be:

  • Monday/Tuesday – Full body split. Monday could be legs and abs, and Tuesday could be chest, back, and arms.
  • Friday – Full body, high rep depletion workout.

The amount of training to completely deplete your glycogen is dependent on the amount of carbs you had in your carb up phase. If low rep, heavy weights are being used, then 2-3 sets should be necessary. Conversely, if high rep, moderate weights are being used, you would need to do 5-6 sets.

How do I do the CKD?

The low-carb portion of the cyclical ketogenic diet is identical to that of a Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD). The nutrition is as follows:

  • Calories for gaining mass: 18 calories per pound of body weight.
  • Calories to lose weight: 12 calories per pound of body weight.
  • Calories to maintain weight: 15-16 calories per pound of body weight.
  • Carbohydrates: 30g or less per day. The fewer consumed, the faster you enter ketosis – this is more critical, as you only have 5-6 days of low carb.
  • Protein: During the first 3 weeks eat 0.9g per pound LEAN mass or 150g, whichever greater. Afterwards, set for your goals (1.0-1.2).
  • Fats: Remainder of caloric needs.

Beginning the Carb-load

Carbohydrate Sources
To gear yourself toward an anabolic state, you will want to begin your carb loading 5 hours prior to your final workout. At this time, 25-50g can be consumed, along with protein and fats to begin higher production of liver enzymes.

1-2 hours before the final workout, a combination of glucose and fructose is recommended to refill the liver glycogen. 25-50g is a good place to start, and you can add more as needed.

The Carb-load

Most commonly, people just consume whatever they want during their carb-loads. Although quite haphazard, it still provides results. For those of us who want a more scientific approach, I will go through the guidelines for proper nutrient intake while doing a carb load.

Nutrient Intake

Your own experimentation is the best thing to recommend here, but I will provide you with some guidelines to help:

  • First 24 hours: Carbohydrates will make up 70% of your total caloric intake – 4.5g per pound of lean mass. 15% protein, and 15% fats split evenly. Higher GI foods should be consumed.
  • Second 24 hours: 60% carbs, 25% protein, 15% fats. 2.25g of carbs per pound of lean mass is recommended. Lower GI foods should be consumed.

Re-entering Ketosis After Carb Up

Emptying the store of glycogen in the liver will ensure your merry way to ketosis. The easiest and most foolproof method to do this? Simply follow these steps.

  • Day 1: Do not eat after 6pm.
  • Day 2: Wake up and perform HIIT or intense weight training on an empty stomach. Begin strict ketogenic diet with 0-2% carb intake.
  • Day 3: Wake up and perform MISS (medium intensity steady state) or medium intensity weight training on an empty stomach. Return to normal ketogenic diet with 3-5% carb intake.

The longer you have been on a ketogenic diet, the more your body is adapted for this. If you’ve been on it for a year, you will find it much easier to enter ketosis than say someone that has done it for a month.

The more you train, the easier it is to enter ketosis – depleting glycogen stores will happen quicker. Resistance and conditioning will provide better results than aerobic training. Also, the better the carb choices (lower GI), the easier it is to re-enter ketosis.

The more consistent you are with your cyclical ketogenic diet (proper carb ups, not cheating, etc.), the easier it will be to come back – and your body will start to adapt.

How Much is High Intensity?

Typically anaerobic exercises with repeated intervals that use bursts of strength will be considered high intensity.

High Intensity:

  • Low reps with weights done above 80% of your one rep maximum.
  • Sprinting or wrestling.
  • Circuit training (CrossFit courses).

Low Intensity:

  • High reps with weights below 80% of your one rep maximum.
  • Jogging or marathon running.
  • Yoga

The cyclical ketogenic diet should NOT be used to improve your endurance limit; rather it should help you overcome strength barriers. Carb loading to get 2 more reps of your 15+ rep set is not a good time to use this, it should be used to get 2 more reps out of your 6-rep max set.

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