Explained: Variations of the Ketogenic Diet and How to Use Them

Are you on the ketogenic diet and burning yourself out during exercise?  Feel completely exhausted and sluggish and slow?  But you love the benefits of ketosis and how you feel the rest of the time?  A variation of the ketogenic diet can help with those low energy levels during workouts.

There are two different variations of the ketogenic diet that can help for workouts.  These variations consist mainly for people who have different degrees of fitness goals, and either require different forms of energy or nutrition around workouts.

Variations of the Keto Diet - TKD and CKD - for Exercise

When speaking about variations of keto, the type that everyone knows about is called the Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD).  The two variations that stem from the SKD are the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) and the Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD).

The CKD and TKD variations were designed for athletes, but for separate and unique purposes.

Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)

A standard ketogenic diet is a form of eating to induce ketosis, a metabolic state in the body with tons of benefits.  We have already discussed what you should be eating for the Standard Ketogenic Diet in a previous post.  If you don't understand the basics, please read that first.

Both the targeted and cyclical ketogenic diets are based off the standard ketogenic diet.  You will need to know how it works before starting the others forms of keto diet, either the TKD or CKD.

It is also recommended to have been practicing the SKD for 3-4 weeks prior to introducing a TKD or CKD.

Variation #1: Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)

Who is CKD for?

A cyclical ketogenic diet variation is for those people on a standard ketogenic diet doing heavy resistance training throughout the week, typically training bodybuilders.  The athletes using a CKD will burn and replenish their muscle glycogen throughout a weekly cycle.

When to use CKD?

Bodybuilders and heavy strength trainers use a CKD when they find themselves low on energy at the end of a workout week.  These athletes have slowly depleted their muscle glycogen used during workouts over the weeklong period.

If this athlete does not introduce a CKD while trying to maintain a ketogenic diet, they will suffer from energy shortages during workouts.  They will not attain their highest performance levels until they re-introduce carbs.

Why use CKD?

If an athlete is trying to maintain a ketogenic diet for health or fat-loss reasons, while still trying to do heavy resistance training throughout the week, they should try a cyclical ketogenic diet.

Basically, a cyclical ketogenic diet will allow the body the benefits of ketosis for the majority of the week, but allow the body to re-fuel muscles with carbohydrates for 1-2 days to attain high workout performance.

Who Should NOT Use the CKD

People who are not doing intense workouts throughout the week to burn down the muscle glycogen stores should not use a CKD.

If you are looking to cheat with a high carb meal once a week while on the standard ketogenic diet, but not be doing the intense workouts to burn the carbs, don't use a CKD.  You will take yourself out of ketosis and spend the majority of the week trying to re-enter ketosis.

It will not only be frustrating, but may keep you feeling sluggish with constant side effects of the keto flu.

Variation #2: Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)

A targeted ketogenic diet variation is for those people doing exercise that requires high intensity intervals or heavy resistance training.  This includes athletes competing in sports that require sprinting at their highest intensity.

When to use TKD?

Use a targeted ketogenic diet specifically around exercises of high intensity or resistance training.  During all other times the person will remain on the standard ketogenic diet.  About 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to exercise, the athlete will introduce a limited amount of carbs in the form of dextrose to the body.

Why use TKD?

Supplying carbs, specifically dextrose, will supply fast-twitch muscle fibers with the energy form they require to work.  These fast-twitch muscle fibers are what your body uses at the highest intensity levels, and they cannot use ketones or fat bodies for energy.  If they don't have available dextrose (or more scientifically, muscle glycogen) they cannot perform.

If you'd like more information on how to use the targeted ketogenic diet variation, check out our in-depth article.

Who Should NOT use the TKD?

Those not performing high intensity exercise will not need to use the targeted ketogenic diet.  Introducing carbs when you're not burning them will either bring you out of ketosis, or put you right on the edge of ketosis.

If you do not need them to perform, you will feel better keeping yourself on a standard ketogenic diet and using ketones as your main energy source.

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