What in the world is keto cycling — and should you try it?
“KETO cycling” is a less restrictive form of the popular keto diet. Furthermore, it is supposed to be better for losing weight in the long run. But here is what you should know.
Keto cycling, aka Cyclical Ketogenic Diet, or CKD for short, is actually a less-restrictive form of keto (yes, more carbs). This is for people who are looking for an alternative to the extreme diet. Also for those looking for a way to ease them into full ketosis.
What is keto cycling?
When you first venture into the carb-less world, you come down with what is known as the “keto flu”. The period where your body shifts from burning carbs and sugar for energy, to burning fat. Just like any other flu, you’ll also experience unpleasant symptoms ranging from stomach pains and headaches to insomnia and dizziness.
After your body has adapted to burning fat, the symptoms should subside. However, if they continue, it’s a sign you’ve gone overboard with your carb restriction. Which is where keto-cycling can come into play.
While there is no true definition of what keto cycling is, the general gist of it revolves around the idea of having five to six days of strict ketogenic dieting and then dedicating one day per week as a cheat day or a day of higher carbs.
So where you’d eat a low-carb, high-fat diet all week. Keto cycling allows you to consume more carbs than usual one day a week. The goal here is to temporarily switch out of ketosis to refill muscle glycogen.
Big Question! SHOULD YOU TRY KETO CYCLING?
According to dietitians, everyone should be wary about making health decisions based on theories. Especially since “there aren’t great quality research studies into keto-cycling at present”. “Being on a lower carb diet may be useful for some individuals, but it is not right for everyone. Something to keep in mind is if you are truly following a keto diet, as soon as you eat your carbs, this will take you out of ketosis.”
On the upside, however, cycling in and out of ketosis may be beneficial for not only balancing hormones but also helping ease the mind. Giving yourself more flexibility in your diet by taking days out from keto may be helpful to provide a mental break from restriction.
A day of normal to high carb eating is a good chance to get a healthy dose of whole grains in, which will, in turn, keep your gut healthy and happy. It can be a good chance to get some extra fibre and whole grains in your diet. Which is more beneficial for your gut health (and overall health) long-term; high-fat diets have been shown to change the types of bacteria in the gut.
Research studies on Keto cycling
Two 2017 research studies on keto cycling point to the idea that athletes and those who do high-intensity exercise regularly may benefit more from a cyclical ketogenic diet, as they’ll be able to combine the benefits of burning ketones with having enough sugar available to improve performance, strength and muscle gain.
But don’t get too big-headed here and go crazy on the pizza and hot chips. Just like any healthy diet, you still need to be mindful of your eating habits.
Opting for low-GI carbohydrates such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, fruit, quinoa, and lentils and legumes, will provide your body with good amounts of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO RE-ENTER KETOSIS?
The longer you have been on the ketogenic diet, the quicker your body will bounce back into ketosis. Additionally, eating low-GI complex carbs on your refeeding days will make the transition back much easier.
Jumping back into ketosis can be achieved by following these three steps:
- Last day of carbohydrate refeeding: Do not eat after 6 pm.
- Day 1 on the standard ketogenic diet: Wake up and perform HIIT or intense weight training on an empty stomach. After the workout, begin a strict ketogenic diet with 0-2 percent carb intake.
- Day 2 on the standard ketogenic diet: Wake up and perform MISS (medium intensity steady state) or medium intensity weight training on an empty stomach. Return to a normal ketogenic diet with 3-5 percent carb intake.
Although people are in it for the weight loss, science shows keto has a ton of other benefits, like lowering inflammation, helping your brain work more efficiently, and keeping hunger crashes and cravings at bay.