If you are on a low-carb keto diet, and you’re struggling to eat so few carbs a day, you might want to look into keto cycling, which is a less restrictive and more sustainable way to get the benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle but with having more freedom. A keto cycle might involve doing full on normal keto for a few days and then adding in more carbs for one day.
Continue reading to learn about this way of eating, keto cycling different benefits, how to do it properly, and more.
How Does Keto Cycling Work?
Keto cycling, also called a cyclical keto diet, involves following a ketogenic diet for a few days in a row, then going off of it and taking a break and eating more carbs one day. Then you’d return to it. So, you’re keto cycling throughout the week. There are some ways to do keto cycling with higher carb days.
You can follow a strict low-carb keto diet for six days a week followed by one “cheat day” or “higher-carb day” or you can do it more often in the week, so take more than one of these days after doing a few days of steady keto. You can choose.
Keto carb cycling might be beneficial for those looking forward to either cheat day or some variety in their eating routine by having higher carb days for up to 2 days. These days could be high-activity or workout days for example, or on a weekend where they might want to indulge in a brunch or cocktails with friends.
Keto Cycling vs Carb Cycling
What is the difference? A cyclical ketogenic diet or keto cycling is when a person cuts back on carbs for a few days at a time after having a higher carb day but does not restrict the intake so drastically that the body goes right back into burning fat for ketosis.
Carb cycling is more about high protein, moderate fat intake, so you are not really in ketosis in the same way that you would be on keto cycling, where you’d eat moderate protein and high fat.1.
Plus on keto cycling, your carb intake is lower than it would be on carb cycling, too. So, there’s less flexibility in macro ability and requirements. Yet for both you might cycle on days where you are working out or have more activity, generally, as you’d need the added fuel.
During keto cycling, the body goes in and out of ketosis based on if you are using fat or carbohydrates as the fat burning mechanism and source.
A keto carb cycling meal plan might include lots of greens and veggies with protein and good fats, but then swapping in a grain, like quinoa, for cauliflower rice, for that day you are cycling and eating more carbs. Here’s how to carb cycle on keto.
Keto Cycling May Offer These Benefits
As for benefits, you might do keto cycling because you can then train harder on the days you are eating more carbs. This is good for athletes on a standard keto diet to increase their athletic performance, those who are more active, or those who are looking to gain more muscle rather than just lose fat from ketosis.
It’s also good for those who are following strict keto and a “cheat day” to break it up and have some diversity in their meals. That freedom of a cycling day can make you more willing to stick with traditional keto for the rest of the week, without feeling deprived. In a nutshell, a cyclical ketogenic diet makes the keto diet easier to follow long-term.
On the other hand, it could make it hard to go back to a standard low-carb keto diet if you enjoy the cheat day too much. This you will need to test out and see how it affects your behavior. People who believe in this practice claim that it can help prevent keto flu symptoms which affect your energy levels and performance.
Since you are off on the off days, you are not in ketosis and you are burning carbs for fuel instead of fat. So, you might not see as much progress and weight loss as you would like to see on a regular basis.
And it could take longer or sooner to get back into ketosis depending on how often you cycle or how restrictive you are after taking the day off to get back into it.
How to Do Keto Cycling Correctly?
The best way to do it is to eat healthy foods for those carb sources. So, instead of eating white bread and cookies, go for whole grains, like quinoa or buckwheat or brown rice instead. Or you might enjoy sweet potatoes as a yummy side, which offers some fiber and antioxidants for the higher carb source.
Same goes with fruit. Maybe you might have more high carb fruit, like an apple or mango, instead of the usual small serving of berries, in a smoothie or in your yogurt.
Still eat good protein and fats and make sure your carb sources are clean. Avoid frying things and eating carbs without nutritional qualities.
Another piece of advice:
Stick to a strict carb-restricted keto diet for at least 4 weeks before you enter keto cycling. It’s important for your body to develop its fat-burning potential. Also, do not cycle just because you feel awful on your first week of a low-carb diet. Cycling is something that you earn after you’ve reached fat-adaptation.
Is Keto Cycling Recommended?
Not really! There is not enough research to show benefits of it, but also not enough for drawbacks. It depends on the person and how it affects their progress. If you find it helps you stay keto for the majority of your week and you enjoy it, then you can keep it up. And lose weight!
Yet, if it is interfering with your progress, then it is not for you. And you may not get the best results possible as you would with a standard ketogenic diet and not cycling.
I highly recommend keto cycling according to your metabolic flexibility. Cyclical keto is not for you if you experience keto flu often that lasts for a long time after you cycle back to a standard keto diet. As previously mentioned, make sure that you’re fat-adapted before trying this technique.
At the end of the day, only you can tell which strategy helps you achieve sustainable weight loss and a healthy relationship with food.
Following strict keto? Need a break from carb restriction? See how you feel. Give it a chance if you find that a standard ketogenic diet is too hard to stick with. If it still works and you like it, then it’s totally cool to do keto cycling as your method.