The ketogenic diet as we all know it is a high-fat, low-carb diet. Normally, a ketogenic diet plan drastically cuts down the intake of carbohydrates to be under 50 grams per day, and this drastic reduction of carbs intake will force your body to turn to fat burning for energy instead of the usual blood sugar (glucose). This process of using fat is called ketosis. Here, your body employs ketones as alternative energy sources (ketones are byproducts of fat breaking produced by the liver).
While the cyclical ketogenic diet is a variation of the standard keto diet, they are both different and some of the major features distinguishing cyclical ketogenic diet from the standard ketogenic diet are:
- Cyclical ketogenic dieting involves sticking to the standard ketogenic diet guidelines for 5–6 days in a week which is then followed by 1–2 days of higher carb consumption, which are often called refeeding days since they replace the empty glucose reserves of the body
- Adhering to a cyclical ketogenic plans switches you out of ketosis on your refeeding days, this gives you the opportunity needed to benefits from carbohydrates, even if it is temporarily
- The cyclical ketogenic diet is popular among those seeking muscle growth and improved exercise performance unlike the standard ketogenic diet that is used to lose weight and relieve type 2 diabetes
- Another major difference is that the cyclical ketogenic diet plan is believed to boost strength and muscle much more than the standard ketogenic diet (scientifically unresearched).
Based on the differences, would you consider the cyclical ketogenic diet to be the perfectly natural bodybuilding diet? If truly it is a perfectly natural bodybuilding diet, it offers the following without any real side effects:
- Allow you to build muscle without accumulating fat when bulking. You will stay lean all year round as long as you stick to the diet plan
- Allow you to lose fat without losing muscle on days of your standard ketogenic diet
- Induce an increase in serum anabolic hormones naturally without the aid supplements.
Is It The Same As Carb Cycling?
You might be wondering if the cyclical ketogenic diet is the same as the famous carb cycling. While the two diet plans share almost the same features, some differences set them apart. Some of these differences are:
- While carb cycling involves cutting carbs on certain days of the week while you up your intake on others. For the cyclical ketogenic diet, the week is divided between 4–6 days of low-carb high-fat intake and 1-3 days of high-carb low-fat intake
- While the method of low-carb intake is similar in both, carb cycling doesn’t reduce overall carb intake drastically enough to reach ketosis as the cyclical ketogenic diet does.
- Carb cycling is known to be used in promoting weight loss, boosting athletic performance, and encouraging muscle growth.
The cyclical ketogenic diet involves modifying the standard keto diet with days of higher carb intake added to bring your body in and out of ketosis regularly.
How Do You Start a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet And Maintain It?
While there is no standard set of rules for a cyclical ketogenic diet unlike the standard ketogenic diet plan, you would want to start it by sticking to a standard ketogenic diet for 5-6 days every week while using a day or two for higher carbs intake. You should know that during your standard ketogenic diet days, it is of utmost importance for you to consume 50 grams or less of carbs per day and your healthy fat intake should be somewhere between 65-90%, while your protein intake is between 10-30% of your total calorie intake. Remember that on your cyclical ketogenic diet days, your carbs intake should be lesser than 5%. In case you are worried about what to eat on a cyclical keto diet, you can include some of these:
- Coconut oil
- Unsweetened coconut
- Full-fat dairy products
- Dark chocolate
- Nut butter
- Fatty meats
- MCT oil and other keto-friendly meals.
The second phase of the cyclical keto diet involves picking a day or 2 per week to refill your glycogen stores. During these refeeding days, you are to consume enough diets to break you out of your state of ketosis. Thus your total calorie intake should comprise 60-70% of carbs, 15-20% of protein and healthy fats should be in the range of 5-10%. Ensure that your carbs intake takes you out of ketosis. While high-carb intake is the goal of the refeeding days, remember to consume meals with healthy and quality carbs as relying on unhealthy sources might put a lie to the aims desired. Food items like white bread and other baked goodies are part of the source of the unhealthy carbs you are to avoid. Examples of some healthy high-carb food items that you can include in your cyclical ketogenic diet menu are:
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
- White chocolate
- Brown rice
- Whole-wheat bread
- Brown-rice pasta
- Beans and other food with healthy carbs.
These carbs are also high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which will fuel your body and keep your blood sugar levels stabilized. While in your refeeding days, you are to avoid foods and beverages that are high in sugar like candy, juice, soda, and cake as they are void of nutrients and lead to blood sugar irregularity, which then causes increased hunger and irritability. Be sure to follow the standard keto diet 5-6 days per week and increase carb consumption 1-2 days per week in your journey of the cyclical ketogenic diet.
Returning to ketosis easily: after the high-carb and your refeeding days, you should consider going through intermittent fasting in your bid to return to a ketosis state. Fasting 16 hours of the day is the most common intermittent fasting method recently and you should also indulge in high-intensity workouts on the days following your refeeding to optimize your muscle growth while achieving your ketosis state.
It is important to follow a standard ketogenic diet for more days than the refeeding which should be for just a maximum of 2 days in a cyclical ketogenic diet.
Benefits Of Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
While enough researches have not been made on a cyclical ketogenic diet, it has been touted to have these benefits:
- May Aid Muscle Gain: Though some evidence states that the standard keto diet is effective at building lean body mass in resistance-trained athletes, some still argue that the cyclical version is way better for muscle growth. Muscle building hormones like insulin are usually suppressed when you follow a low-carb diet like the standard ketogenic diet. It is known that insulin regulates muscle growth by allowing amino acids and glucose into the muscle cells thereby increasing protein synthesis and decreasing protein breakdown in the muscle tissue. The use of a cyclical ketogenic diet will strategically raise the insulin levels on some days and would allow you to use the anabolic effects of insulin in promoting your muscle growth. You should also remember that this is yet to be proven scientifically.
- May Boost Performance In Athletes: if you are an athlete following a low-carb diet, periodical refeeding of carbohydrates will benefit you a lot more. A study on some race-walkers made it known that periodic high-carb intake gave them an extra boost in their performances compared to their counterparts placed on a standard low-carb diet. This made the researchers conclude that a low-carb diet with periodical high-carb feeding offers an improvement in athletes’ performance (although this is yet to be tested on a cyclical ketogenic diet specifically).
- Decrease In Keto-related Side Effects: an unpleasant side effect associated with the ketogenic diet is the keto flu. The symptoms of the keto flu are fatigue, headache, constipation, weakness, nausea, irritability, and difficulty in sleeping. These symptoms emerge as a result of your body struggling to adapt to the use of ketones as its primary fuel source. Cycling high carbohydrates intake once or twice a week will greatly decrease the rate at which you suffer these side effects.
- Adds More Fiber To Your Diet: a common complaint by those just transitioning to a ketogenic diet is usually constipation, this is due to the struggle involved in getting enough fiber in a high-fat and extremely low-carb meal. While it’s quite possible to obtain enough fiber from a strict ketogenic schedule, transitioning to a cyclical ketogenic diet makes fiber obtaining easier. During the refeeding periods, you are allowed to eat high-carb meals that are rich in fibers (sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats, beans, and the likes).
- Makes The Keto Diet Easier To Stick To standard ketogenic diet is a diet plan that is linked with numerous health benefits like weight loss, reduced risk of heart disease, blood sugar control, and more, sticking to it might be difficult in the long run. Due to the drastic reduction of your carbs intake in reaching ketosis, a lot of healthy but high-carb foods are crossed off your consumption list. Undertaking the cyclical ketogenic diet will enable you to eat carb-rich meals on refeeding days, these refeeding periods will make the ketogenic diet plan more sustainable in the long haul.
Due to the little research carried out on the cyclical ketogenic diet, its long-term benefits are yet unknown and all these are potential benefits it could offer.
Side Effects Of Cyclical Ketogenic Diet Plan
Just like the benefit of the cyclical ketogenic diet is unknown due to a lack of sufficient research on it, its side effect can only be “guessed” as it is also unknown. Keep in mind that it is impossible to state its downsides categorically as, without proof, it is just a theory.
A downside of the cyclical ketogenic diet is the consumption of excess calories on refeeding day, this usually undermines the weight loss goal of the individual practicing cyclical ketogenic diet. You should also note that if you are transitioning from a standard keto diet to a cyclical counterpart, you may gain weight temporarily. This is due to the excess water being retained when you consume high carbs foods. Each gram of carbs is stored with a minimum of 3 grams of water in the muscle. If your sole aim of transitioning to the cyclical ketogenic diet is to develop muscles, not that while the standard ketogenic diet has been proven to do just that, the cyclical ketogenic diet is yet to be studied to that effect.
A cyclical ketogenic diet involves adhering to a standard keto diet 5–6 days per week, followed by 1–2 days of higher carb intake. While this method is said to reduce keto flu symptoms, boost athletic performance and promote muscle growth, all these are based on the researches carried out on the ketogenic diet as researches on the cyclical ketogenic diet is still ongoing. It is important to feed on nutritious food regardless of your ketogenic diet type.