The ketogenic diet is a highly popular way to lose weight and stay fit. The standard keto diet follows the principle of a low-carb and high-fat diet, completely busting the myth that “fats are bad for you”. However, there are multiple versions of keto itself and each has their own set of benefits. One such variation is the cyclical keto diet.
The keto diet is great, but sometimes hard to follow. It’s not easy to go from an unhealthy diet full of carbs to one that has no carbs. Moreover, the diet is not feasible for those who don’t eat home-cooked meals because not a lot of places are keto-friendly. The nail in the coffin is the “keto flu”, one of the many side-effects associated with Keto. The standard diet does have its benefits, but it’s not for everyone. In comes the cyclical keto diet.
The cyclical keto diet uses the concept of carb cycling and applies it to keto. Keep in mind that what carb cycling does is not the same as the cyclic keto diet, but they have their similarities. The diet is divided into regular keto days and “refeeding days“. For 5-6 days of the week, you follow the standard keto diet. For the remaining days, you “refeed” yourself, going out of ketosis and eating high-carb meals just during the refeeding days.
What this does is get your body go in and out of ketosis every week. It helps you get your essential vitamins, fiber and other minerals in through carb sources, as well as make keto easier for you in general. The diet is also associated with muscle growth and better athletic performance. Read more about what the cyclical keto diet is about and its benefits here.
How to follow the diet
There’s no exact way to follow a cyclical keto diet. However, there are some general rules one needs to follow in order to successfully adopt the diet. As mentioned earlier, the whole idea around the cyclical keto diet is to follow a strict Keto routine for 5-6 days and have 1-2 refeeding days.
The 5-6 Keto days
During these days, you have to strictly follow the regular keto diet. This diet involves staying at a carbohydrate consumption of fewer than 50 grams daily. Alongside a low-carb consumption, you also need a high-fat consumption and a moderate protein intake as well. Since you won’t be eating many carbs, your body will rely on fats for energy since they’re used in making ketones during ketosis. That’s why fats are essential for this to work. Some healthy fat options to consider:
- Olive Oil
- Full-fat dairy products
- Different types of cheese
- Fatty meats such as bacon
- Coconut Oil
- Low-carb nuts
There are plenty of options to choose from, you just have to be creative with your meals. Keep in mind, just because high-fat foods are allowed doesn’t mean you go overboard. You have to carefully follow your macro breakdown and calories still matter. If you go beyond your caloric requirement, then no type of diet, keto or not can help.
As far as protein goes, it will take up 15-20% of your diet. Some good protein sources:
- Cottage Cheese
- Egg whites
- Lean or fatty meats
Some of these protein choices are high-fat too, so you can decide which to include to cover your macros. Following a standard keto diet encompassing all of the above is very important for cyclical keto. Always check your macros and your daily calories, especially the carbohydrate count, otherwise, it might get harder for your body to go into ketosis.
After every 5-6 days of regular keto, the cyclical keto diet introduces the “refeeding” days. The goal of the refeeding days is to provide your body the nutrients it needs that are more commonly found in high-carb foods. Since standard keto is all about fat, it gets harder to get these nutrients. During these 1-2 days, your goal is to have a high-carb diet which brings your body out of ketosis.
Your macros for refeeding days change significantly. They should look something like this:
- 15-20% protein
- 60-70% carbs
- Only 5-10% fats
Try to consume healthy carbs i.e. complex carbs and not simple carbs. Complex carb sources are high in fiber and other nutrients as well, they’ll also prevent you from overeating during refeeding days. Good complex carb sources include:
- Brown Rice
- Whole-wheat Pasta
- Whole-Wheat foods in general
- Whole-grain oats
- Bran Bread
- Sweet Potatoes
Moreover, you should definitely not skip your vegetables as they pack a ton of nutrients. Do not go for unhealthy carbohydrate sources such as white bread, sugary drinks, sugary foods or baked goods.
What to do after a refeeding day
Since your body is no longer in ketosis after a refeeding day, you’ll need to take a few steps to start the routine all over again. Returning to ketosis fast will be hard because your body will still be processing a lot of carbs still after the refeeding day. In order to combat this, you can follow an intermittent fasting routine after refeeding days to go back into ketosis.
Intermittent fasting revolves around the idea of fasting for an extended period of time, only allowing yourself to have water. Then, after the fast, you’re allowed to eat food in a certain timeframe. The most common and popular form of intermittent fasting is the 16/8 fast. In this routine, one does not eat for 16 hours of the day and then eats in the remaining 8.
Intermittent fasting will burn through your carbohydrates fast and you’ll soon be heading back into ketosis. Be sure to follow a strict keto diet using the foods described above to quickly go back into ketosis. It’s also advised to perform a high-intensity workout to quickly burn through the carbs you ingested during refeeding days. The high-intensity workout gives a two-fold benefit; you’re able to get into ketosis faster and optimize muscle growth.
There is no set way to implement a cyclical keto diet. That’s another great thing about it, you can customize it to your desires. All you need to do is follow a certain set of generalized rules and you’re good to go. Good luck!