PERFORMANCE

To follow a ketogenic diet properly, you must restrict daily carbohydrates to around 20-30g of net carbs. This simple rule should be followed by everyone who is on a ketogenic diet, but there is one exception: Athletes.

By “athletes” I mean anyone who is doing high-intensity type training multiple times a week. During high-intensity exercise, the body relies on glucose for fuel rather than fat.

To provide our muscles with the sugar they need to perform high-intensity training, we must supplement with carbs by implementing the cyclical ketogenic diet or the targeted ketogenic diet.

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

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 cyclical ketogenic diet unworkable as the hormonal response can trigger health symptoms that are being treated by a low carbohydrate diet.

Since the goal of a cyclical ketogenic diet is to completely deplete muscle glycogen – a proper workout schedule is needed for optimal results. A good workout plan 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.

To prepare 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.

CARB LOAD

Most commonly, people just consume whatever they want during their carb-loads. 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. 15% protein, and 15% fats split evenly. Higher GI foods can be consumed, but it is best to stick with whole food carbohydrate sources rather than processed foods.
  • Second 24 hours: 60% carbs, 25% protein, 15% fats. 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 is by simply following these steps.

  • Day 1: Do not eat after 6pm.
  • Day 2: Wake up and perform High Intensity Interval Training or Intense Weight Training on an empty stomach. Begin strict ketogenic diet with 0-2% carb intake. The combination of high-intensity exercise and a strict ketogenic diet will help deplete glycogen stores so that you can get into ketosis more rapidly.
  • Day 3: Wake up and perform Medium Intensity Weight Training on an empty stomach. Return to normal ketogenic diet with 3-5% carb intake.
  • Optional: consume MCTs for an extra ketone boost.

HOW LONG UNTIL I AM BACK IN KETOSIS?

Everyone will get back into ketosis at different rates after their last high-carb meal. How long it takes you to get back into ketosis depends on many factors, including:

  • How keto-adapted you are. 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 after a carb re-feed than say someone that has done it for a month.
  • How much exercise experience you have. The more you train, the easier it will be to enter ketosis. This is mainly due to the fact that trained individuals can work out for longer periods of time at higher intensities than untrained individuals. Because of this, people with more exercise experience can deplete their glycogen stores and start burning ketones more quickly.
  • How much high intensity exercise you do. High-intensity resistance training and conditioning will provide better results than aerobic training. Aerobic training will not deplete your glycogen stores nearly as much as a high-intensity workout.
  • What you eat during your carb re-feeds. The better your carb choices (for example, eating mostly lower GI carbs like legumes, fruit, root vegetables, and unrefined grains), the easier it will be to re-enter ketosis.
  • How consistent you are with the diet. The more consistent you are with your cyclical ketogenic diet (proper carb ups, not cheating, etc.), the easier it will be to come back to ketosis – and your body will adapt more efficiently after each refeed cycle.

Although there are some genetic and lifestyle factors that affect ketosis that may not be under your control, this list consists of every variable you can adjust to get back into ketosis more quickly after your refeeds.

Typically anaerobic exercises with repeated intervals that use bursts of strength will be considered high intensity. This type of exercise training increases energy demands of the body to the point where the cells have to start burning glucose for fuel.

How do you know when this happens? When you start huffing and puffing out of your mouth during exercise. This is an indication that your body is starting to burn more sugar than fat, which is what you want to happen so that you can deplete your glycogen stores and get into ketosis.

Here are some examples of high-intensity training vs. low-intensity exercise:

High Intensity:

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

Low Intensity:

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

It is also important to realize that 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.