Taking It To The Next Level: The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)

What is a Ketogenic Diet?

First things first: ketosis means that your body is burning fat. With most diets, your body burns sugar. This isn’t bad in and of itself, but if you’re trying to lose weight and you’re only burning sugar, those stubborn pounds ain’t going nowhere.

How Does the Keto Diet Work?

When you cut (way) down on your carb consumption, your glucose level drops. But since you still needs energy, your liver starts to produce ketones from the body’s alternative fuel source, fat. When you hit ketosis, your body turns into a fat-burning machine.

Sign me up!

It’s not as simple as snapping your fingers, but it isn’t super hard either. To get into a ketogenic state, you keep carbs to a minimum while increasing your fats (the healthy kind), and eat a moderate amount of protein. Fat, protein, and carbs, a.k.a. macronutrients, have to be eaten in a specific ratio in order to maintain ketosis. The magic formula is 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbs. It’s a math-lovers dream diet!

keto diet low carb math

But I work out. I need carbs so I don’t pass out.

Say you lift weights or do other high-intensity exercise, like sprints. That’s great! Sounds like you’re well on your way to a healthy lifestyle. Here’s more great news: there’s a ketogenic diet that can help you get even stronger.

Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)

In the Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD), you might eat a total of 20-50 grams of net carbs per day. This diet is good for people who are looking to lose weight, get their blood sugar under control, and do low- to medium-intensity exercise, such as walking, yoga, or Pilates.

yoga standard keto diet exercise

By contrast, TKD is intended for people who do high-intensity exercise, such as weightlifting or sprints. In TKD, you eat 15-50 grams of net carbs before your workout, and then take a second hit of carbs after you’re done exercising. The carbs provide your muscles with enough glycogen to perform during exercise, and then recover and store glycogen for your next session. Since the carbs get used during the session, you stay in ketosis.

Bonus: you don’t need to make any other changes to your diet. For the rest of the day, you can continue with the standard keto ratios. And on days you don’t work out, there’s no need to add the extra carbs.

Targeted Ketogenic Diet vs. Cyclical Ketogenic Diet

You may also have heard of the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet. No, you don’t eat your carbs while riding a bicycle (although there’s no rule against it). In CKD, you eat low-carb keto for several days, then switch to eating higher carbs for a day or two. Many people do low-carb during the week then carb-load on the weekend. The objective of CKD is to totally deplete glycogen stores between carb-loads.

How to Start a Keto Diet

To set up your TKD diet, first you need to calculate your lean body mass. You can find a calculator here. This will give you an idea of how much protein you should be eating per day. Allow 1 gram per pound of lean body mass. Because protein contains 4 calories per gram, simply multiply by 4.

Next, you need to figure how many calories to consume each day. The average is around 14-16 calories per pound of body weight.

Subtract your protein calories from your total calories, then divide what’s left by 9 (because that’s how many calories there are in a gram of fat).  The equation looks something like this:

(total calories − protein calories) ÷ the number of calories in fat = fat grams

(Told you mathophiles would love this diet.)

There is no special need to calculate your carbs. You’ll easily hit 30-50 grams just by eating leafy greens, but you may tweak this amount depending on your goals. If you’re trying to lose fat, you’ll cut it down, but if you’re looking to build muscle, the amount may be higher.

Let’s walk through the process using a fictional person as an example. We’ll call him FP. FP is 28 years old, 5’ 9”, and weighs 175 pounds. By plugging his numbers into the Lean Body Mass calculator, we see his LBM is around 130 lbs. This means he should consume approximately 2,000 calories per day. His protein will be about 130 grams (500-ish calories), with his fat coming in at around 170 grams (1500 ÷ 9). And then he’ll have his 30-50 grams of net carbs.

kale leafy greens carbs of keto

What Counts as a ‘Good’ Carb for Keto?

For a keto diet, anything that is leafy, green, and grows above ground is good. But if kale and spinach aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other fine vegetables out there, like broccoli, asparagus, and squash. You can find an list including each vegetable’s net carb count here. There are a couple of good ‘fruits’ too, but you may not think of them as such: avocados and olives.

As far as the extra carbs for your pre- and post-workout TKD, you have options. Out on the Wild Wild Web, you’ll find recommendations of everything from dextrose tablets and coconut oil to Pixie Stix. It’s your body and you’re welcome to experiment with it, but I go for quality foods and pick natural carbs. (By the way, don’t believe the hype about dextrose being ‘better’ than fructose. On a molecular level, they’re exactly the same thing. Manufacturers know fructose has a bad rap and label it accordingly.)

What’s the point of doing this TKD?

It depends on your goals. Some people just want to lose weight, get their insulin under control, and improve their overall health. For them, an SKD might be enough. But if you’re serious about getting in shape, TKD can take your health and physique to a whole new level. Used correctly, TKD will allow you to do more reps with heavier weights. Your lean muscle mass will get a major boost as your strength and endurance go up.


You might like to try TKD for another reason, too. A low-carb diet can sometimes be hard to stick to, but by doing TKD, you get to ‘sneak’ a few extra carbs in.

Sounds too good to be true.

Fine-tuning your diet takes practice. Eat too many carbs and you’ll throw off your macronutrients, not to mention kick yourself out of ketosis.

Finding the right type and amount of pre-workout carbs is a trial-and-error process. Maybe you discover adding a cup of coffee gives you an energy boost. Or you might decide a piece of fruit is enough, while your best friend will swear by high-tech supplements like MCT oil and dextrose powder.

mct oil bulletproof coffee keto

Then you’ll have the same questions to answer about the post-workout carbs. Some swear by them, while others say they’re overkill and are the fastest route exiting the keto-zone.

These are all things you’ll need to experiment with, and it takes time and patience to get it right. Every body is unique and you won’t know until you try.

One last note of caution: as fun as ‘cheating’ might be, a drop of sugar can act like a gateway drug. Some people get a taste and they just can’t stop. You have to be committed, precise, and willing and able to plan ahead.

Is TKD right for me?

It’d be nice if there were a magic 8 ball that would reveal which diet is right for you. But there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all regimen. You might get shredded on TKD, or you might start to hate the sight of shredded cheese. But if you’ve tried it all and nothing is giving you the results you want, TKD might just be the solution to blast that stubborn layer of flab and bust out the guns, just in time for summer.

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