What is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?

A ketogenic diet is a style of weight loss plan where the body is forced to enter a state called ketosis. The human body is designed to work with either carbohydrate, stored in the muscles as glycogen, or fat as its primary fuel source. If glycogen is present, the body will use that up first before beginning to burn fat. Ketosis is the state where the body uses fat as its primary energy source, which leads to healthy but rapid weight loss. To make your body enter ketosis, you need to follow a diet that is very low in carbohydrate, so your body has to switch to using fat for energy. The Atkins diet, and other well known low carb eating plans, are examples of ketogenic dieting.

The Downsides to Ketogenic Dieting

Some of the main complaints people have about ketogenic diets are that while they are undeniably effective, the lack of carb powered energy can make it hard for them to work out at their normal level, and that the absence of carbs can make the diet very hard to stick to long term – people simply enjoy eating carbs. If you find a ketogenic diet difficult for either of these reasons, a cyclical ketogenic diet could be the answer.

What is a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?

A cyclical ketogenic diet is where you follow a standard ketogenic diet from Monday to Friday, incorporating three workouts into your week, and then on weekends you load up on carbs and don’t exercise. This works because carb loading allows you to store up some carbohydrate energy for the week ahead, helping you keep a reasonable level of strength up for your workouts (you won’t break any personal records, but you’ll feel good) and preventing your body from going into “starvation mode” (where weight loss slows down) as a result of the low calorie intake on your ketogenic diet days. This also means you get a nice two day vacation from cutting out carbs every week, which can be great for your willpower.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet Plan: How to Follow a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet

To follow a cyclical ketogenic diet, you would be advised to do a 10-14 day “induction phase” where you follow a low carb diet to induce ketosis, and then progress onto the cyclical diet where you eat the same low carb, high fat diet for five days a week, and a high carb, low fat diet for two, repeating this cycle every week and doing your exercise on the low carb days.

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4 Responses to What is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?

  1. Sanet September 10, 2012 at 4:22 am #

    I understood that if you eat carbs, it will throw you out of ketosis and it will take 3 days to get back into ketosis.

    So, if you eat carbs on weekend, you may only get back into ketosis by Thursday the following week. leaving only 2 days in ketosis.

    Or did I misunderstand how ketosis works?

    • Robert November 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

      Mostly true, Sanet. This article does not do a good job of explaining how one’s metabolic rate affects the onset of ketosis.

      If one does not workout (is mostly sedentary) then the body will burn through its glycogen stores much slower. Hence why on/about Thursday one is only just slipping back into ketosis! It doesn’t seem like a great plan. However, it can be a good plan if one doesn’t like working out. Even those two days of ketosis is fat lost.

      It is best to combine a light workout with this diet. The workouts will help train the body to use fat energy more economically and also help clear glycogen faster, thereby transitioning one into ketosis faster.

  2. Steve August 21, 2015 at 12:48 am #

    Three days, and that’s exercising for all three days while eating keto!

    Tip-toeing the line between keto and a carb walker is damaging on the brain because it will be in a constant state of adaptation. Having cheat weekend every two weeks should be much better in general. It all boils down to less carbs, and less adaptive states, for anyone attempting to be as close to perfect health as possible.

    I’ve gone straight keto for six months and now I can’t stop thinking about donuts!

  3. Ben July 27, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    are there any serious athletes onsite doing this-especially over 50?

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