Following my post about the 3 Main Effects of Ketosis, I've been asked to write about the different types of the ketogenic diet. The type of ketogenic diet best suited for you really depends on your goals and lifestyle. Do you want to lose fat, grow muscles or are you dealing with a disease? Let's have a closer look at the types of the ketogenic diets.
1. Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
This is the most common type of the ketogenic diet. The rule is simple: You eat the minimum amount of carbs at all times. This type of the ketogenic diet is similar to the Induction phase of the Atkins diet. It requires round 20-50 grams of net carbs a day whereas Atkins induction is limited to less than 20 grams of net carbs a day. The exact amount depends on individual needs. SKD is the best approach for the vast majority of people.
2. Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) - Traditional Approach
Another type of the ketogenic diet is TKD. According to this approach, you eat carbs right before (30-60 minutes) exercise. It's advisable to choose easily digestible carbs with high Glycemic Index to avoid upset stomach. Avoid foods high in fructose and go for glucose-based foods. Fructose would replenish liver glycogen - instead of muscle glycogen - which you want to avoid on a keto diet.
This means that the carbs consumed before exercise are used effectively and are completely burned without disrupting ketosis for too long. Typically, you eat 25-50 g of net carbs (or less) 30 to 60 minutes before exercise. Post-exercise meals should be high in protein and low in fat. Fat is generally good for you, however, if you eat it after exercise, it may delay nutrient absorption and impair muscle recovery - avoid eating foods high in fat after exercise.
For years, extra carbs have been recommended for those who live an active life and regularly perform high-intensity exercise. However, recent studies show that this approach is outdated.
Boost Your Performance with MCTs
Recent studies show that the need for carbs before workouts may not be necessary. In fact, extra carbs before exercise may impair keto-adaptation and performance. The idea that your body may not necessarily need extra carbs to perform well comes from a great book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance. The authors, Dr Phinney and Dr Volek, argue that athletes perform better when keto-adapted.
As always, what works for you may not work for others. Some people simply do better with some pre-workout carbs - especially if they do high-intensity exercise that requires explosive actions. Try and see how you feel with no carbs - keep in mind it will take about a month before you get keto-adapted. Until then, take it easy with your workouts.
If you are active and still want to avoid carbs like I do, try coconut oil instead. Coconut oil is the best source of MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides), which are easily digestible, less likely to be stored by your body and are used for immediate energy. Research also shows that MCTs are thermogenic and may slightly increase fat burning temporarily.
I used to eat pre-workout carbs and switched to coconut oil snacks instead and I see no difference whether I eat carbs or not. Once you become keto-adapted, your body uses ketones and fat for fuel and doesn't need extra carbs.
3. Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
Let's make this clear: TKD and CKD are not suitable for most people. Being active doesn't mean you will always need to do carb cycling or carb backloading. It depends on your preference and the type of exercise. According to CKD, you alternate days of ketogenic dieting with days of high-carb consumption also known as "carb-loading". Typically, carb-loading lasts for 24-48 hours. CKD usually requires about 50 grams of carbs per day during the first phase, and about 450-600 grams of carbs during the carb-loading phase. Bodybuilders and other athletes use this diet to maximise fat-loss while also building lean mass. Therefore, for the majority of people, this type is not recommended.
According to "The Ketogenic Diet" by Lyle McDonald, there is a common misconception, especially among bodybuilders, that ketosis is indicative of protein breakdown when in fact the exact opposite is true: The body adapts and loses the minimum amount of muscle tissue. When the body is fed fat and protein, it will use dietary fat along with body fat for energy with protein going towards muscle repair.
TKD and CKD are too advanced for most people and are only suitable for very active individuals. You should not be using these approaches just to have a high-carbs cheat meal every now and then. If you want to learn more about TKD, CKD and how to gain muscles on a keto diet check out the KetoGains website.
4. Restricted Ketogenic Diet for Therapeutic Uses
Based on studies, ketosis may be a beneficial condition for managing certain types of cancer. When you restrict carbohydrate intake below 20-50 grams, your body runs out of glycogen stores and starts producing ketone bodies. Healthy cells can use ketones for energy, but some types of cancer cells cannot use ketones. While glucose is the main "food" for some cancer cells, a study from 2010 published in the Journal of Cancer Research suggests that pancreatic tumor cells use fructose specifically to divide and proliferate.
According to Dr Seyfried's report, when the ketogenic diet is combined with calorie restriction, your body will effectively become inhospitable to cancer cells. Dr. Seyfried recommends beginning with a water-only fast for 3-5 days and then continuing with a low-calorie ketogenic diet, aiming for blood sugar levels of 55-65 mg/dL and blood ketone levels of at least 4.0 mM. This means the daily carbs intake will likely have to be below 20 grams of net carbs.
Additionally, emerging research suggests that ketogenic diets may be beneficial for managing neurological diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, depression, migraines, epilepsy), chronic fatigue syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome (POS) and more.
Note: Any dietary experiments with fasting and the ketogenic diet are best done under medical supervision, particularly if you have a medical condition or take any daily medications.
Which Type of the Ketogenic Diet is Right For Me?
In general, the vast majority of people should follow SKD, as it is better for individuals with low-moderate physical activity level or performing low-intensity aerobic exercise (such as walking).
Even if you live an active life and do sports regularly, your body should be able to use fat for fuel once you get keto-adapted. However, if for any reason keto-adaptation doesn't seem to work for you, then you need to consider following TKD (using either carbs or MCTs) to have enough readily available energy during exercise. Finally, CKD should only be considered by professional athletes and bodybuilders.
The KetoDiet approach
If I was to describe KetoDiet in a few words, I'd say weight loss, low-carb and real food.
When my partner and I created KetoDiet, we didn't focus just on the carbs content in our recipes: I don't use any processed foods, unhealthy vegetable oils, gluten or artificial sweeteners. In fact, most of my recipes are Paleo-friendly or include Paleo-friendly alternatives!
As you may already know, not all low-carb foods are healthy: Atkins products are packed with additives and cause insulin spikes, low-carb bread or pasta alternatives often use wheat gluten which I think is a health crime. The best source of information when it comes to negative effects of wheat and gluten is the Wheat Belly Blog and the book Wheat Belly by my favourite author Dr. William Davis. Aspartame is definitely not on my list of healthy sweeteners and oat fiber causes awful digestive issues (trust me, I know what I'm talking about!).
True Paleo is great (eggs, meat, greens, nuts, berries), however if your goal is to lose weight, Paleo is often not enough: Honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or tapioca flour definitely won't move the scales down.
The best approach for us is something between Paleo and Low-carb which is also reflected in my recipes. It's up to you to decide how much Paleo you allow in your low-carb diet: What works for me, may not work for you. I do use raw dairy and have some peanut butter every now and then (Note: Since January 2014, I have completely given up peanut butter). No diet plan fits everyone and it's always up to you to find out what food is best for reaching your goals.
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