In most cases, the term ”keto diet” refers to the so-called standard ketogenic diet (SKD), which is just one of the available ways of going keto. However, depending on your lifestyle and goals, it might not be the best option for you.
So what are the main types of ketogenic diet and how do you pick the one that would be optimal in your specific case?
Let’s dig into the matter.
The 3 main types of ketogenic diet
Just to be clear, this is an overview of the keto diets used for fitness and general health purposes. Full-blown therapeutic keto diets (used to treat such conditions as epilepsy) are a whole different story and require qualified medical supervision.
That said, the main types of keto diet are:
Below you’ll find a brief overview of their crucial points, pros and cons, as well as a short description of who would benefit from each of the keto diet types.
1. Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
The SKD is the most popular way of going keto. It perfectly fits most people’s goals and does not include any specific recommendations besides the universal keto principles.
Net carbs limit per day : 20 to 50 grams, 25 on average. Slow carbs are preferable.
Who is the standard ketogenic diet for?
SKD is pretty much for everyone, as long as they are not engaged in heavy training, professional sport, or preparing for bodybuilding tournaments. In other words, all kinds of low to moderate physical exercises are approved during the SKD (such as running, cycling, swimming, light to moderate weightlifting) but going for anything more intense would not be the best choice.
This is mainly because the SKD includes a protein amount close to the recommended for the preservation of muscle (about 0.55 to 0.77 g per lb of lean mass or 1.2 to 1.7 g per kg), but building new muscle requires much more than that. In other words, the SKD is not suitable for people engaged in heavy training or highly competitive physical activities that require optimal performance.
Primary target goals
Pros: easy to follow; great for beginners; fits most types of lifestyle
Cons: is not appropriate for professional athletes or people who want to build muscle
2. Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
The TKD is basically the same as the SKD but with one fancy twist: instead of spreading your carb intake throughout the day, you take all of the allowed carbs 30 to 60 minutes before engaging in vigorous exercise.
The same as during SKD:
Net carbs limit per day : The same as during SKD (20 to 50 grams), but taken in one seating 30-60 minutes before exercise. Fast-acting carbs are preferable on training days, slow carbs on all other days.
Who is the targeted ketogenic diet for?
TKD is for the people who are engaged in high-intensity workout programs but feel like SKD is not providing them with enough energy to show optimal performance during their training. To fix this, the TKD recommends following the SKD principles at all times but take 20-50 grams of fast carbs 30 to 60 minutes before exercising (and no more carbs allowed for that day).
The goal here is to help the body replenish its fast-acting glycogen stores (in the muscles) to immediately use them up through vigorous training. As a result, you’ll have a lot of energy at your disposal without getting out of the keto-zone for long.
TKD is great for people who occasionally partake in strenuous workouts or brief competitions but don’t have any serious anabolic or athletic goals. Strength and endurance? You got it. Muscle building? Not so much, as the protein intake is the same as during SKD.
All from SKD plus enhanced energy levels for intensive workouts or physical activities.
Pros: same as for SKD + more short-term energy for occasional intensive workouts
Cons: is not appropriate for effective muscle building; people with weak willpower might have a hard time limiting their carb intake to one single bout of fast-acting carbs in one seating
3. Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
CKD is sometimes called ”intermittent keto.” It consists of following a normal SKD regime for 5-6 days, then doing 1-2 ”carb-loading” days, then going back to SKD and repeating the cycle. The main goal of CKD is to fully restore your body’s glycogen stores to ensure optimal physical performance between the carb loading days.
On SKD days: 70-75% fats, 20-25% protein, 5% carbs
On carb-loading days: 15% fats, 25% protein, 60% carbs
Net carbs limit per day
On SKD days - 20 to 50 grams total. Slow carbs preferable.
On carb loading days - 25 grams per pound of body weight (about 55 grams per kg), all carbs are acceptable but slow ones are still preferable.
Who is the cyclical ketogenic diet for?
The difference between CKD and TKD is that the latter provides an energy boost for one single workout while CKD aims to ”get you in shape” for a series of strenuous exercise sessions. As such, CKD is a better choice for heavy-lifters and professional athletes determined to push themselves beyond their limits, greatly increase performance, and even build some muscle mass.
Although the recommended protein intake on the CKD is the same as during other types of the keto diet, a lot of people state that their muscle-building efforts were much more effective on CKD.
All from SKD plus enough energy for extensive and high-intensity training for serious or long-term athletic and anabolic goals.
Pros: same as for SKD + enough energy for extensive training; might facilitate the building of muscle.
Cons: is not appropriate for beginners, as it requires a good amount of previous keto experience and solid knowledge of the human physiology to be performed right.
So, which type of ketogenic diet is the right one for you?
The rule of thumb is to always start with the basics. namely the standard ketogenic diet (SKD). For the vast majority of people, this will be the perfect way of going keto.
Five weeks into it, if you feel it’s not giving you enough energy to exercise intensively, try out the targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) variation - in most cases, that should do the trick.
The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) is suitable only for professional athletes and bodybuilders and requires solid previous experience in going keto.
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