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What is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?

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 are encouraged to eat large amounts of carbs such as rice, potatoes, oatmeal, pasta, and whole grains. However, it is equally as important that you keep your fat intake low during your carb days to experience the best results. 

Who Benefits from the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet? 

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:

  • People who exercise frequently
  • Advanced dieters with experience in nutrition
  • Bodybuilders who want to build muscle
  • Athletes looking to improve workout performance

The Purpose of Carbs on Keto

The goal of the cyclical ketogenic diet is to temporarily leave ketosis in order to fill up your body’s muscle glycogen, in order 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 processes that allow you to increase muscle and build more strength.

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, you are 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 will 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 are 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:

  • Carbohydrates should make up 70% of your total calorie intake for the day
  • 15% of total calories should come from protein
  • 15% of total calories come from fats
  • Carbohydrates should consist of whole grains, rice, potatoes, lentils, black beans, and pasta (try to avoid processed carbs as much as possible)

During the other 5-6 ketogenic days:

  • Fats should make up at least 65% of your total calorie intake
  • 15-25% of total calories should come from protein
  • Less than 10% should come from carbohydrates
  • Consume your fats from healthy sources such as avocados, fatty meats, eggs, and coconut oil

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