Interest in the Keto Diet continues to surge in North America. Whether you are looking to lose weight, gain energy or increase your workout performance, it’s essential to know that there are actually three different types of Keto diet with subtle but important differences.
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
If you are new to the keto diet the standard ketogenic diet (SKD) is the best place to start. This diet is low on carbs, moderate in protein and high in fats. On the standard ketogenic diet you will be limited to 20-30 grams of net carbs a day. Keeping your carb intake this low will starve your body of sugar which is its main energy source. It usually gets this sugar from converting carbohydrates into glucose. This will cause your body to look for an alternative energy source. Your body’s secondary energy source is fat. Fat can be converted into a clean energy source by producing molecules called ketones. When your body is burning fat for energy it is in a state called ketosis.
The primary benefit of ketosis is when you use ketones as an energy source you are essentially burning fat for energy which will eventually result in your body burning its own stored fat reserves. This provides rapid weight loss without the feelings of starvation or low energy levels that are so common in traditional dieting. Your primary sources of food on the standard ketogenic diet will be low carb vegetables, nuts, seeds, meats and high-fat dairy products.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
The targeted ketogenic diet is designed for athletes, powerlifters, Crossfitters, and people trying to gain mass. This diet gives your body the energy it needs to lift heavier and longer and train at an intense level promoting muscle growth while still minimizing fat gain.
It is like the standard keto diet with the exception of eating carbs before and after weight training workouts or high intensity sprinting workouts. This is because your muscles need glucose to fuel most types of high-intensity training. Without the glucose, your muscles would lack strength and endurance.
Since the diet does require you to eat more carbs before workouts there is a danger of throwing yourself out of ketosis or your body never getting into ketosis in the first place. To minimize this it is important to strictly follow a standard ketogenic diet for 30 to 60 days. This will ensure that your body is keto adapted. If you are ready to try this diet and still want the benefits of weight loss you may need to lower your fat intake on a workout day in order to compensate for the extra calories from the carbs.
The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
The goal of this diet is for bodybuilders and athletes to use carbohydrates to enhance muscle growth and increase exercise performance while still enjoying the benefits of a ketogenic diet. The previous two versions of the diet focused on restricting your carbs to around 20-30g of net carbs per day. However, athletes who do high-intensity training several times a week need to provide their muscles with glucose for their muscles to perform at a high level. To achieve that the cyclical keto diet requires athletes to devote one or two full days a week to consume foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in fat.
The reason is that carbohydrates are a highly effective energy source to build muscle, since when we eat carbs our bodies produce insulin, which is responsible for taking glucose from our blood and storing it in the muscles as an energy source called glycogen. Muscle glycogen increases our strength dramatically resulting in better lifts in the gym.
Insulin has a second benefit in that it is highly anabolic, which means it directly helps the body to build muscle. The way this works is our muscle cells are lined with insulin receptors. The insulin docks onto the receptors in the muscle cells causing biochemical reactions in the muscle which causes the building of muscle out of the amino acids that are entering the muscle cells. Insulin also supports muscle growth by causing the blood vessels to dilate causing an increased flow of blood to the muscles bringing more nutrients to the muscles.
This might seem counterintuitive as ketogenic diets are specifically designed to minimize insulin production since insulin is the hormone that causes our bodies to store fat. The cyclical ketogenic diet is different since the high-intensity training depletes the body’s glycogen (sugar) stores to the point where the body has to look to fat for energy, putting the body back into a state of ketosis. This way an athlete can get all the benefits of insulin without the weight gain. This means for the cyclical keto diet to be effective it is crucial to be doing high-intensity workouts several times a week.
Deciding which version of the keto diet to take on is simple for most people. If your goals are to lose weight and feel healthy simply try the standard keto diet. For the more advanced athletes might be a better fit. It simply comes down to what your health goals are.
What are your health goals? Have you tried the other variations on the keto diet? What were your experiences? Let us know in the comments. We would love to hear from you.