I’ve written about the standard ketogenic diet (SKD) before and a modified version, the targeted ketogenic diet (TKD). The cyclical ketogenic diet, like the TKD is another variant of the keto diet, with an emphasis on athletic performance.
Cyclical keto (CKD) is similar to the TKD in that carbs are used to enhance performance and maximize hypertrophy. The CKD however, uses “carb ups” or “carb loading” as opposed to targeted ingestion of carbs around workouts. A “carb up” or “carb load” is a dramatic increase in the amount of carbs you’re eating 1 to 2 days per week. The amount of carbs depends on the person and your non-carb up amount of carbs. Generally, 50 to 70 percent of your daily calories will be carbs on your carb up/load days. As with most things, a strict schedule or plan is essential for best results. This is especially true when optimizing nutrition for performance. The CKD is difficult to implement without a somewhat strict workout schedule.
To implement a CKD, you would begin to carb load about 5 hours before your last workout of the week. Anywhere from 20-50 grams of carbs can be eaten in this window. An hour or two before the workout consume another 25-50 grams of carbs ideally from glucose and fructose, as fructose will replenish liver glycogen. If you are very active and perform very high intensity exercise, you may benefit from 2 carb up days. If this is the case, during the first day calories should be about 70 percent from carbs (15 protein and 15 fat), preferably high glycemic index. The second day reduce to about 50 to 60 percent of the days calories from carbs (25 protein and 15 fat) and switch to low glycemic index sources.
The time it takes to get back into ketosis (a fat burning state) will vary by person, body composition, and how long you’ve been on a keto diet. There are some tricks to speed up the process though. The first day after a carb up, get back to a SKD, with fewer carbs than normal (0 to 2 percent). Also, implement a time-restricted eating schedule; basically don’t eat after sundown. The second day it’s best to do fasted HIIT or even a fasted high intensity weight training session, first thing in the morning. On the third day upon waking, while fasted, do some medium intensity cardio or weight training. Not too light, but less intensity than the previous day. Carbs should stay be the 3-5 percent range. After these few days, fat burning should be re-established and liver glycogen should be depleted.
Keep in mind, the CKD is not for the average person. Or even an active person. If you’re active, even daily you can make great improvements with your fitness, strength, and even muscle growth with a SKD or a TKD. The CKD is for optimizing muscle growth and performing daily, very high intensity workouts. Like any method that allows for muscle gain, fat gain though slight, will occur.