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Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: The Sustainable Approach to Keto

Published August 22, 2019 Read Time: 9 minutes
Kate Sullivan

Written By: Kate Sullivan, MS

Kate holds a MS in Business Psychology and is currently a PHD researcher in Well-Being and Performance Psychology.

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<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@type":"BlogPosting", "headline":"Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: The Sustainable Approach to Keto", "datePublished":"August 22, 2019", "description":"Strict keto can be hard which is why we follow a cyclical ketogenic diet. Learn how adding one high-carb day can help you reach your weight loss goals!", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/07/woman-calendar-planner-pencil-thumbnail-0224_1.jpg" }, } ] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Is Cyclical Keto?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Challenges With the Standard Ketogenic Diet</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">When Should I Start Cyclical Keto?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Can You Lose Weight on a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">Is Carb-Cycling Good for Keto?</a></li> <li><a href="#section6">How Long Should I Stay in Ketosis?</a></li> <li><a href="#section7">Putting It All Together</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>By now you’re probably familiar with the ketogenic diet, the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/what-are-superfoods-top-7-for-your-keto-diet" rel="noreferrer">low-carb</a>, high-fat diet plan that’s made some big waves in the last few years. Proponents swear by the keto craze, and with good reason! Not only does the keto diet help you lose weight, but it can also improve your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, boost fat-burning, and even kick your brain into high gear <sup>1</sup>!</p> <p>But as with any diet, keto has its downsides. Staying in this ketosis is great for fat burning but if done for long periods of time it can lead to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-energy-how-the-keto-diet-combats-fatigue" rel="noreferrer">fatigue</a>, difficulty exercising, and other unpleasant side effects. After all, carbohydrates are an important source of fuel. Without carbohydrates, you miss out on the powerful, short-acting energy you need to push yourself hard during a workout.</p> <p>Keeping up <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-to-measure-ketosis-with-a-home-ketone-meter" rel="noreferrer">ketosis</a> also means being a permanent state of lust for all that <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/can-you-have-fruit-on-keto" rel="noreferrer">fruit</a>, pizza, and ice cream you can’t have. </p> <p>The thing is, you can have your keto diet and eat your cake, too! The trick is the cyclical ketogenic diet. Here we’ll show you how to hack the keto diet by adding a high-carb hiatus to your 14-day keto cycle. This one simple change can actually make your keto plan <i>more</i> effective and sustainable in the long run.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/calendar-man-hand-pen-business-0224.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/calendar-man-hand-pen-business-0224.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/calendar-man-hand-pen-business-0224.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/calendar-man-hand-pen-business-LR-0224.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="calendar-man-hand-pen-business"> </picture> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"What Is Cyclical Keto?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"On the standard keto diet, the aim is to stay in ketosis—a state of burning fat rather than glycogen from carbohydrates for energy—indefinitely. In order to enter into ketosis, you have to decrease your glycogen stores by eating fewer carbs. You also need to up your fat consumption to make sure your body has fat to burn.\n\nAs your glycogen stores decrease from eating fewer carbs, your body starts to use fat for energy. Eventually it starts to prefer being in the fat-burning state to get energy. That’s when you’re in ketosis.\n\nTo enter and stay in ketosis, you need to drop your carbohydrate consumption to about five percent of your diet—less than 50 grams per day. Instead you swap in lots of healthy fats like avocados, salmon, and olive oil, making up 60 percent of your diet.\n\nThen there’s protein. No diet demonizes protein—and that’s with good reason! This stuff builds muscle, repairs tissue after a hard workout, and much more. As an added benefit, when you eat protein, you decreases the levels of important hormones and peptides that make you feel hunger. That means a grass-fed steak or a keto-friendly omelet will leave you feeling much more full than when you eat carbohydrates.\n\nAround 25 percent of a keto diet is made up of protein. We recommend grass-fed meat, high-fat dairy, eggs, nuts, and other healthy proteins to get your daily dose in."}}]}</script> <h2 id="section1">What Is Cyclical Keto?</h2> <p>On the standard keto diet, the aim is to stay in <i>ketosis</i>—a state of burning fat rather than glycogen from carbohydrates for energy—indefinitely. In order to enter into ketosis, you have to decrease your glycogen stores by eating fewer carbs. You also need to up your fat consumption to make sure your body has fat to burn. </p> <p>As your glycogen stores decrease from eating fewer carbs, your body starts to use fat for energy. Eventually it starts to prefer being in the fat-burning state to get energy. That’s when you’re in ketosis.</p> <p>To enter and stay in ketosis, you need to drop your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-many-carbs-a-day-should-you-eat-to-lose-weight/" rel="noreferrer">carbohydrate</a> consumption to about five percent of your diet—less than 50 grams per day. Instead you swap in lots of healthy fats like avocados, salmon, and olive oil, making up 60 percent of your diet. </p> <p>Then there’s protein. No diet demonizes protein—and that’s with good reason! This stuff builds muscle, repairs tissue after a hard workout, and much more. As an added benefit, when you eat protein, you decreases the levels of important hormones and peptides that make you feel hunger. That means a grass-fed steak or a keto-friendly omelet will leave you feeling much more full than when you eat carbohydrates.</p> <p>Around 25 percent of a keto diet is made up of protein. We recommend grass-fed meat, high-fat dairy, eggs, nuts, and other healthy proteins to get your daily dose in.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>Challenges With the Standard Ketogenic Diet</h2> <p>So far, everything we’ve explained sounds pretty great—and it is! But doing a ketogenic diet long-term comes with its own challenges. </p> <p>We see three main problems with the keto diet:</p> <h3>Energy</h3> <p>Keto depletes your glycogen stores—the energy you get from carbohydrates and sugars. When it comes to exercise, glycogen is like rocket-fuel, because it gives you the short burst of energy you need to do high-intensity exercise. This means that sticking to the keto diet all the time could keep you from bringing your all to your workouts.</p> <h3>Hormonal imbalances</h3> <p>Staying in ketosis long-term can cause stress to the body which increases levels of <i>cortisol</i>—the stress hormone—in the body <sup>2</sup>. High cortisol levels can cause the body to store fat. Increased cortisol also lowers testosterone levels which can reduce your muscle mass, another factor that makes you put on weight.</p> <h3>Satisfaction</h3> <p>Let’s face it: if you’re not satisfied by your diet, you won’t keep it up. Staying low-carb long-term is possible, but it’s challenging even with a lot of willpower. Going keto means sacrificing <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-best-and-worst-keto-snacks" rel="noreferrer">snacks</a> like donuts and even healthy foods like fruits, legumes, and veggies.</p> <p>A cyclical ketogenic diet approach can help you get around these challenges. On a cyclical keto diet, you choose one ‘cheat day’ per two-week cycle to enjoy high-carb foods. Doing this lets you get the benefits of eating carbohydrates—like the energy you need to get in a few more reps or another ten minutes of cardio—while staying in a state of ketosis most of the time.</p> <p>High-carb intake days also increase your testosterone levels while lowering your cortisol. Testosterone helps you build muscle while avoiding the pesky weight gain that the stress hormone can cause. And yes, that counts for everyone! We all have testosterone in our bodies, so both women and men can see these benefits from a testosterone boost.</p> <p>Plus, giving yourself a day or two here and there to eat the carbohydrates you want makes it much easier to stick to the ketogenic diet. </p> <p>Think about it: if you knew you could eat pasta occasionally, how much simpler would it be to keep it locked in the cupboard all the other days?</p> <p>Are you convinced? If so, you might be wondering…</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/doughnuts-box-half-eaten-sweets-0224.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/doughnuts-box-half-eaten-sweets-0224.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/doughnuts-box-half-eaten-sweets-0224.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/doughnuts-box-half-eaten-sweets-LR-0224.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="doughnuts-box-half-eaten-sweets"> </picture> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"When Should I Start Cyclical Keto?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"The first step in considering any diet plan is to talk to your doctor. They’ll be able to tell you whether or not a cyclical ketogenic diet is the right choice for you and how to proceed.\n\nOnce you’ve got the go-ahead, you can start cyclical keto as soon as you’re ready! Head to your local grocery store and stock up on grass-fed meat, nuts and seeds, full-fat dairy, and other keto-friendly ingredients."}}]}</script> <h2 id="section3">When Should I Start Cyclical Keto?</h2> <p>The first step in considering any diet plan is to talk to your doctor. They’ll be able to tell you whether or not a cyclical ketogenic diet is the right choice for you and how to proceed.</p> <p>Once you’ve got the go-ahead, you can <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-101-a-beginners-guide-to-keto" rel="noreferrer">start</a> cyclical keto as soon as you’re ready! Head to your local <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-beginner-grocery-list" rel="noreferrer">grocery</a> store and stock up on grass-fed meat, nuts and seeds, full-fat dairy, and other keto-friendly ingredients.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/belly-weight-loss-slim-tape-measure-woman-0224.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/belly-weight-loss-slim-tape-measure-woman-0224.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/belly-weight-loss-slim-tape-measure-woman-0224.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/belly-weight-loss-slim-tape-measure-woman-LR-0224.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="belly-weight-loss-slim-tape-measure"> </picture> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"Can You Lose Weight on a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"The answer is absolutely! Studies have repeatedly found that those who follow a low-carb, high-fat diet lose significantly more weight than those on a standard American or low-fat diet."}}]}</script> <h2 id="section4">Can You Lose Weight on a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?</h2> <p>The answer is absolutely! Studies have repeatedly found that those who follow a low-carb, high-fat diet lose significantly more weight than those on a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-ugly-truth-behind-the-standard-american-diet/" rel="noreferrer">standard American</a> or low-fat diet <sup>3</sup>. </p> <p>Of course, there are two major things you need to do to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/will-i-lose-weight-on-keto/" rel="noreferrer">lose weight</a>. First, find an exercise routine that works for you. Diet is a great place to start in your weight loss journey, but if you want to see real lasting results, you have to get your sweat on! We like to keep it simple with bodyweight exercises you can do at home.</p> <p>Second, you’ve got to stick to the plan! Staying in ketosis is much trickier than you might think—just a few bananas could be enough to boot you out. </p> <p>When you find tasty keto-friendly <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/keto/sweet-treats-cookbook/" rel="noreferrer">recipes</a> that satisfy your cravings and leave you feeling full, you’ll find it’s easy to stick to a ketogenic diet. Sustainability is key, especially when you consider the fact that as many as 80 percent of dieters who lose weight will ultimately gain it back <sup>4</sup>.</p> <p>What you do on your cheat day is up to you. In fact, as long as you stick to the keto guidelines, you can eat as ‘<a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/5-reasons-to-pass-on-dirty-keto" rel="noreferrer">dirty</a>’ as you want during your keto cycle, too. </p> <p>But if you want to maximize the benefits from your high-carb day—and your keto diet as a whole—you should think about <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/do-micronutrients-matter-as-much-as-macronutrients/" rel="noreferrer">micronutrients</a>. Many of the fruits and vegetables you eat sparingly on a keto diet are power-packed sources of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-fiber-foods-5-fiber-rich-foods-to-add" rel="noreferrer">fiber</a>, vitamins, and nutrients. </p> <p>So before you spend the day eating fast food, think about how you could incorporate healthy, nutrient-dense foods like sweet potatoes, beets, and rice into your high-carb days. Your stomach will thank you as well—eating carbs when your body isn’t used to them can sometimes cause indigestion and inflammation <sup>5</sup>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fitness-vegetables-weights-tape-measure-weight-loss-0224.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fitness-vegetables-weights-tape-measure-weight-loss-0224.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fitness-vegetables-weights-tape-measure-weight-loss-0224.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fitness-vegetables-weights-tape-measure-weight-loss-LR-0224.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="fitness-vegetables-weights-tape-measure-weight-loss"> </picture> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"Is Carb-Cycling Good for Keto?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"Carb-cycling is another approach to keeping a mostly high-fat, low-carb diet.\n\nCarb-cyclers typically choose two or three days per week to eat a high- or moderate-carb diet while opting for low-carb days the rest of the week. This method is especially popular among athletes since it allows you to hang on to those glycogen stores for you to use during your workout.\n\nBut carb-cycling and keto are two different cans of worms. The aim of carb-cycling is not to get into and stay in a state of ketosis. Rather, carb-cyclers target their carb days to maximize glycogen for workouts while still reaping some of the benefits of burning fat for energy.\n\nOn cyclical keto, the objective is to get into and stay in ketosis most of the time in order to burn fat and lose weight.\n\nAn added benefit of cyclical keto? It’s much easier to keep up. Carb-cycling requires a detailed knowledge of your own body, how carbohydrates work, and how to pinpoint your diet to improve your athletic performance. With keto, the rules stay the same for every two-week cycle.\n\nStill, you do need to stick to those few simple rules, especially when it comes to staying in ketosis."}}]}</script> <h2 id="section5">Is Carb-Cycling Good for Keto?</h2> <p>Carb-cycling is another approach to keeping a mostly high-fat, low-carb diet. </p> <p>Carb-cyclers typically choose two or three days per week to eat a high- or moderate-carb diet while opting for low-carb days the rest of the week. This method is especially popular among athletes since it allows you to hang on to those glycogen stores for you to use during your workout <sup>6</sup>.</p> <p>But carb-cycling and keto are two different cans of worms. The aim of carb-cycling is not to get into and stay in a state of ketosis. Rather, carb-cyclers <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/when-is-the-best-time-to-eat-carbs-on-keto" rel="noreferrer">target</a> their carb days to maximize glycogen for workouts while still reaping some of the benefits of burning fat for energy.</p> <p>On cyclical keto, the objective is to get into and stay in ketosis most of the time in order to burn fat and lose weight. </p> <p>An added benefit of cyclical keto? It’s much easier to keep up. Carb-cycling requires a detailed knowledge of your own body, how carbohydrates work, and how to pinpoint your diet to improve your athletic performance. With keto, the rules stay the same for every two-week cycle.</p> <p>Still, you do need to stick to those few simple rules, especially when it comes to staying in ketosis.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section6"> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"Are avocados “heart healthy”?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"On a standard ketogenic diet, the objective is to stay in ketosis permanently. But as we demonstrated before, keeping up a state of ketosis long-term can impact your energy levels and your hormones."}}]}</script> <h2>How Long Should I Stay in Ketosis?</h2> <p>On a standard ketogenic diet, the objective is to stay in ketosis permanently. But as we demonstrated before, keeping up a state of ketosis long-term can impact your energy levels and your hormones.</p> <p>Getting into <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-into-ketosis" rel="noreferrer">ketosis</a> in the first place takes anywhere from a few days to several weeks. After six to eight weeks of keto, you become <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/what-does-it-mean-to-be-fat-adapted/" rel="noreferrer"><i>fat-adapted</i></a>, meaning you’ve trained your body to choose fat as its energy source rather than glucose. From this point, you could stay in ketosis permanently.</p> <p>Still, there is another option. As we shared earlier, cyclical keto allows you a one-day break from the keto grind every two weeks. That day will take you out of ketosis, but as long as you’re fat-adapted, your body will flip back within 24 to 48 hours. Plus, your body can use all the energy you get from those tasty cheat day foods you ate.</p> <p>That’s why we recommend coming out of ketosis once every two weeks with a cheat day. Not only will you see better results, but you’ll also make the diet much easier to keep up over the long haul. After all, there’s always another cheat day just around the corner!</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/breakfast-table-group-friends-together-0224.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/breakfast-table-group-friends-together-0224.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/breakfast-table-group-friends-together-0224.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/breakfast-table-group-friends-together-LR-0224.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="breakfast-table-group-friends-together"> </picture> <h2 id="section7">Putting It All Together</h2> <p>A low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet plan is a great tool for losing weight and improving your health. But staying in <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-camping-101" rel="noreferrer">ketosis</a> over the long term can be difficult to stick to. It can also impact your energy and throw off important hormones that may actually cause you to <i>gain</i> weight rather than lose it.</p> <p>With the cyclical keto plan, you incorporate one cheat day every two weeks in order to get some glucose in your system and ward off those daydreams about carbohydrates like milkshakes and french fries. Cyclical keto lets you hold on to the precious energy you get from carbohydrates, so you can use it like rocket fuel for your workouts—all while getting the health benefits and weight loss power of the ketogenic diet.</p> <h3>Resources</h3> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-benefits-of-low-carb-ketogenic-diets#section11" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10 Health Benefits of Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.precisionnutrition.com/low-carb-diets" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Carb controversy: Why low-carb diets have got it all wrong</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/23-studies-on-low-carb-and-low-fat-diets" rel="nofollow noreferrer">23 Studies on Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20161014/how-your-appetite-can-sabotage-weight-loss" rel="nofollow noreferrer">How Your Appetite Can Sabotage Weight Loss</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://perfectketo.com/cheating-on-keto/#5" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Cheating on Keto: Here’s What Happens & How to Get Back In</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/diet-tips/what-is-carb-cycling" rel="nofollow noreferrer">What Is Carb Cycling (And Should You Try It)?</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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