CKD: The Cyclical Keto Diet And Your Low Carb Lifestyle
You’ve probably heard about the ketogenic diet: a low-carb, high-fat diet that has been proven to help with weight loss and improve overall health. Maybe you’ve even tried the keto diet and been successful with it. But now you want to take it to the next level and increase your muscle mass. Is the ‘Steak and Cake’ Cyclical Keto Diet for you? Read on and find out.
The Basics of The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
The goal of a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet is to maximize muscle gain. During the low-carb portion of the diet, it is virtually identical to the Standard Ketogenic Diet. The difference lies in the carb-loading, aka ‘refeeding,’ which takes place on a weekly or biweekly basis.
The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) follows the formula of 70% fat, 25% protein, 5% carbs. It is important to first establish and be successful with the SKD before trying variations. The SKD is perfect for people who are looking to lose weight and/or manage other health issues such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes. With the SKD, you keep your carbs as low as possible at all times, usually below 50g/day. This diet works fine for those who engage in low- to moderate-intensity exercise such as walking, yoga, and biking.
The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) is for athletes who engage in more intensive exercise such as weight-lifting or sprints. With the TKD, you add in small amounts of carbs before and after your workouts to give you extra energy during high-intensity exercise.
The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) is for athletes with a very strenuous exercise regime and/or those who are serious about building muscle mass. Jumping into the CKD is not recommended. Developing and sticking with a solid routine on the Standard Keto Diet is key to having success on the CKD.
Goal of the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
The goal of the CKD is to temporarily leave ketosis in order to refill muscle glycogen. This, in turn, will allow you to optimize performance during the following training cycle. You work out on your low-carb days and then carb-load on the weekend. During the carb-loading phase, most people take a break from intensive exercise.
The CKD follows a formula of 5-6 days of low-carb and 1-2 days of high-carb (refeeding) so that you can replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles. It is also possible to have good results on a 2-week cycle with 10-12 days of Standard Keto and then 3-4 days of carb-loading, but this can be a little harder to schedule. Besides being a better fit with most people’s social calendar, many find it easier to stick to a low-carb diet if they know they’ll get to let loose a little on the weekend.
While the CKD is ideal for muscle building, it is not for beginners. It only works if your glycogen stores are completely exhausted each week, so you must perform the necessary amount and/or intensity of training. It’s also important to remember that the carb-loading days are not ‘cheat’ days. It can be very easy to go off the deep end and gain fat while carb-loading, so the amount and quality of carbs still need to be selected carefully.
Benefits of the Cyclical Keto Diet
If you are serious about gaining muscle mass, the CKD is the hands-down winner. Adding carbs into your diet will encourage more muscle growth than protein alone. By having a large amount of glycogen available, you increase your aerobic capacity and will be able to sustain a more intense workout. Intensity is a key factor for maximizing hypertrophy.
While the Standard Keto Diet is usually fine for most types of exercise, if you are a sprinter or weight-lifter, you might find your energy flagging in the middle of your exercise regimen. Carb-loading will allow you to maintain a consistent, high level of energy throughout your workout.
Finally, it can be challenging to stick to a low-carb diet all the time. Having a day or two to enjoy something sweet makes it easier to stick to a low-carb diet during the rest of the week.
Downsides to the CKD
Most people aren’t high-intensity athletes, so the CKD isn’t for everyone. Also, for many, a taste of sugar can be like unleashing the beast. It’s easy to overdo the carbs. Even if you do have a lot of self-control, calculating your macros can still prove challenging. There’s also a decent chance you’ll gain fat along with muscle when you carb-load. Finally, if you don’t get it right, you can mess up your keto diet and never regain ketosis during the week.
In Conclusion: Is CKD Right for Me?
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet. The best course of action is to start with the SKD, try the TKD, and then, if you’re serious about bulking up, you can go for the CKD. The Cyclical Keto Diet requires some self-control and planning, but if you’re committed, it can take your body to a whole new level.