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When you hear about the targeted ketogenic diet (TKD), what rings in your mind? Is TKD the same as a standard ketogenic diet (SKD)? Can TKD kick you out of ketosis? This piece answers all these questions. So, make sure to read it to the very end. Without further ado, let’s dive deeper.
What is a targeted ketogenic diet (TKD)?
Simplest way to explain what targeted ketogenic diet is that you consume carbs around your workouts.
On standard keto, you just keep carbs low at all times and you don’t worry about carb timing
On a TKD, you consume your daily carbs before, during, or after a workout.
Differentiating TKD and SKD
The most significant difference between the two keto diet arises when it comes to the timing of eating carbs. On SKD, you don’t worry much about carb timing. You just keep carbs low all the time. But when it comes to TKD, you take carbs before, during, or after workouts.
Benefits of a targeted ketogenic diet
A TKD has many benefits, most of which are similar to those of SKD. A targeted ketogenic diet gets you to ketosis just like SKD if you do everything right. This is the reason why you will notice some similarities between the two. Below is a list of benefits targeted ketogenic diet guarantees:
- Weight loss (more effective than calorie-restricted diets)
- Improved appetite control due to decreased circulating ghrelin (your hunger hormone) and lower neuropeptide Y (an appetite-stimulating brain factor)
- Stable energy throughout the day
- Lower insulin levels
- Enhanced fat burning
- Enhanced cognitive performance in both mice and humans[* *]
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Decreased systemic inflammation via HDAC inhibition
- Therapeutic potential for certain cancers
- Glycogen enhancement. This means that your body burns less stored glucose
- Cleaner energy production. That is fewer reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced by your mitochondria.
TKD For exercise performance
One reason why the TKD diet is preferred is because it enhances exercise performance. Eating the small amount of fast-absorbing carbs before, during, or after intense works helps fuel your sessions and top off your glycogen stores.
Now to leverage the benefits of TKD, you need to be:
- Fat adapted: Fat adaptation normal occurs several weeks (4 to 6 weeks) into the keto diet. This period allows you to slip in and out of ketosis more swiftly.
- Glycogen depleted: Now, if you consume carbs when muscle glycogen is not depleted, the glucose from carbs instead of being stored in muscle will stay in your blood. The rising blood sugar will now kick you out of a ketogenic state.
To benefit from TKD, you must burn your glycogen stores; otherwise, you won’t benefit. Often, if you are doing hardcore, glycolytic workouts, you are tapping out your glycogen stores. The regular hardcore, glycolytic workouts include Crossfit, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), long bouts of cardio, and sprinting.
Note when you are fat-adapted, it takes a lot to deplete muscle glycogen. Because of this, the targeted ketogenic diet may only benefit certain keto dieters.
Who is the targeted keto diet for?
Basically, TKD falls somewhere between SKD and the cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD).
Choosing to embark on the SKD, CKD, or TKD largely depends on your activity level and exercise goals.
Choosing the right keto diet
- Standard keto diet
Suitable if you do low-intensity activities such as yoga, walking, and easy biking. Although some people do well with laborious exercise on SKD, it is appropriate when on light exercises. During this time, your body uses fat. Basically, SKD is suitable for weight loss, therapeutic ketosis, plus other keto benefits. Not suitable for athletic performance.
- Cyclical keto diet
CKD is suitable for serious athletes. It involves taking a large number of carbs. That is 400 to 500 grams one or two days per week and then consuming super low-carb for the remaining days.
Bodybuilders, professional athletes, and marathoners are suitable for this keto diet. This is because taking CKD allows them to get back to ketosis relatively quickly after carb loading.
- Targeted keto diet
As we mentioned before, TKD fall between SKD and CKD. And like CKD, it is designed for athletes, but it can work for anyone else who performs hard, glycogen-depleting exercises like long-distance races.
The extra carbs taken around workout help fill glycogen stores, prevent low blood sugar and stave off exercise fatigue.
It is possible to cut weight while on TKD, but only when you take the right carb, at the right times and while doing the right kinds of workouts.
It is good to note the performance-boosting effect of TKD is individual. This is because people naturally have differences in glycogen storage. Not to mention that people also utilize that glycogen differently. Besides, people have variations in fat adaption and ketone production. [*]
These differences explain why we experience difference performances, for example, during hard workouts.
Targeted keto for strength training
While some folks will tell that you need extra carbs to build muscles, you also better off with SKD for muscle building and strength training. A recent study revealed that resistance-trained young men added more lean mass on a ketogenic diet than on a high-carb western diet. That is proof you can still build muscles even without extra carbs.
What is undisputed is that you need the following to build muscle:
- Sufficient protein
- Weight training
The keto diet also comes in handy at this time. Here is why:
- Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), your primary ketone, actively spares muscle mass.
- BHB also interacts with leucine, the muscle-building amino acid in protein, to promote muscle synthesis.
We can now honestly say TKD and CKD play an insignificant role in muscle building. In fact, there are some data on men who strength train that show tiny benefits of carb refeeding. This is because lifting weights won’t deplete much muscle glycogen compared to the glycogen that will be used when you play soccer for about two hours.
What to eat on a targeted keto diet?
Macronutrient-wise, there is no difference between TKD and SKD. Both are similar, but when it comes to calories, TKD is 60% healthy fats, 30% protein, and 10% carbs.
Healthy fats include:
- Monounsaturated fats from avocados, palm oil, olive oil, and nuts
- Polyunsaturated fats (in moderation) from nuts and fish
- Saturated fats from ghee, MCT oil, butter, ghee, animal fat, and coconut oil.
It is recommendable to avoid pro-inflammatory vegetable oils, high in omega-6 linoleic acid, especially for cooking.
Include complete protein sources like high-quality pastured meat, wild-caught fish, and whey protein. Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids required to fuel growth. They are available in the form of animal or animal-derived protein.
It is recommended to take 15 – 50 grams of fast-absorbing carbs before, during, and after work while following TKD. These simple carbs come from real food (glucose) such as white rice and potatoes and in powder form (dextrose).
When exercising hard, these two sugars are either stored as muscle glycogen or burned during exercise.
Fructose on a TKD
It is advisable to avoid fructose while following a TKD. This is because once consumed, it travels directly to the liver for storage as liver glycogen. This means fructose will not contribute to exercise performance. In fact, there is evidence that a high intake of fructose causes insulin resistance, liver disease, and obesity [* *].
High-quality MCT oil
Adding MTCs to your TKD is a good idea. They help you stay in ketosis. MCTs are quickly absorbed, travel to the liver, and convert to ketone bodies regardless of your carb intake.
How TKD affects ketosis
There are fewer ways you can enter ketosis. You can enter ketosis by fasting, excising, and eating a keto diet. Primary carb restriction is the best way to get into ketosis. Restricting your carbs intake helps keep insulin low hence telling your body to burn fat and make ketones.
Will the TKD kick you out of ketosis?
Yes, TKD will definitely kick you out of ketosis. The extra carbs you take in any amount raises blood sugar and reduce ketone production. So, each time you swallow a packet of dextrose, know you are restricting your body from getting into ketosis. Fortunately, it is possible to get back into ketosis quickly.
Getting back into ketosis
Getting back into ketosis is possible, but it depends on several factors. Namely:
- Fat adaptation: Before starting a TKD, you need to be fat-adapted. Once fast adapted, it is easier for you to slip back into fat-burning mode following a departure from ketosis.
- Type of exercise: Intense exercise such as sprinting use glucose as fuel. So, if you eat carbs before sprints, those sprints will use up your blood glucose, and you can then shift back to burning fat and making ketones.
- Insulin sensitivity: More blood sugar inhibits ketosis. Hence you get into ketosis when your blood sugar drops. This is also determined by the ability of your insulin to push glucose into your muscle tissue rapidly. Lots of things enhance insulin sensitivity. Meditation, resistance training, sprinting, low-carb diets, turmeric, and adequate sleep are known to enhance sensitivity. [* * *]
Not setting up a well-calibrated TKD will result in simple sugars and starches kicking you out of ketosis. For SKD, consider taking low-glycemic carbs like artichokes, squash, and berries. Low glycemic refers to the food’s impact on your blood sugar, and the lower, the better.
Low glycemic foods are low glycemic because they are high in fiber. Note that the more fiber a carb contains, the less your blood glucose and insulin increases, hence you stay on ketosis. Eating fiber is also beneficial because:
- Reduces stroke and cardiovascular disease risk [* *]
- Helps prevent diabetes [*]
- Supports the immune system
- Keeps the bowels moving, binding to toxins along the way
- Helps your gut bacteria produce anti-inflammatory, anti-colon-cancer short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)[*]
However, on TKD, your goals are different. You need more carbs for your workout. In other words, you need high-glycemic food. The best option is to take dextrose powder. Alternatively, try simple starch like white potatoes if you don’t like dextrose and remember to stay away from fructose.
Should you try TKD?
When getting started on SKD, it is advisable to give your body around 4 – 6 weeks to adapt to fat as fuel. During this period, you are likely to experience keto flu, impaired exercise performance, and poor sleep. But don’t worry because it is common to experience such symptoms.
What is not advisable is trying a TKD, CKD, or even carb up during the adaption period. The best option is to take electrolytes, eat non-starchy vegetables, and do some low-impact exercise. It is also a good idea to cut back on intense, glycolytic exercises during the initial keto foray.
After the adaptation period, you can get back to going hard once in a while. But if you are suffering, consider experimenting with TKD. The extra carb can help:
- Provide glucose to fuel intense workouts
- Replenish muscle glycogen
How to start a TKD
- Do SKD first
Standard keto diet gives you enough time (4 – 6 weeks) to be fat adapted. You need to be fat-adapted to slip easily into ketosis. You can learn more here on starting a keto diet.
- Determine your unique carb count
Knowing your carb intake is very crucial. You don’t need to follow what others are doing; that is why you need to determine your carb intake. Luckily it is easy to determine your carb count using ketone test strips.
If your ketones are consistently over 0.5 mmol/L, you can get away with more carbs. The recommended way is starting low, under 30 grams net carb. Afterward, adjust your intake depending on your ketone levels.
- Minimize carbs
The primary goal of TKD is a few carbs for performance enhancement. You can start low, less than 30 grams before workouts. In case you need more carbs, split them up pre-workout and post-workout to limit your blood sugar spike. For the best results and to minimize non-keto time, try to stay under 50 grams carbs total.
- Eat carbs before or during exercise
- The extra glucose helps fuel glycolytic exercises hence improving performance
- Intense exercise burns the excess glucose, so you return to a ketogenic state more swiftly
After workouts, instead of more carbs, consider taking more fats and proteins to fuel muscle protein synthesis.
- Eat fast-absorbing carbs
You need carbs right away for your workout. Taking fast high-glycemic absorbing carbs is, therefore, a big plus. You can take dextrose, white rice or white potatoes. And remember to avoid fructose.
- Keep calories constant
If your goal is to shed weight, then it is ok to keep your energy intake constant on a TKD. This means if you are including carb calories before your workout, you need to subtract calories from somewhere else.
- Supplement wisely
Ketosis hurts your electrolytes. It depletes them. Lack of electrolyte in our body may result in several undesirable side effects. Fortunately, taking a full-spectrum electrolyte supplement can help. You can also try supplements such as:
- MCT Oil enhances ketone production and fat burning, even in the presence of carbs
- L-Citrulline boosts nitrous oxide production, allowing more oxygen to flow to your muscles
- Creatine helps preserve muscle glycogen
Note that you can try them one at a time, or take them together.
Targeted ketogenic diet commitment
TKD does not have to be a lifetime commitment. You can try it for two weeks or a month and see how you feel. If you feel ok, that is great, and you can keep it up. If not, remember that TKD is not for everyone.