The Three Types of Ketogenic Diets: Which is Best For You?

If you haven’t had the chance to read our overview article about ketogenic dieting, you might not known what this type of dieting entails. At its most basic, ketogenic dieting is a protocol that is based around protein and fats, keeping carbohydrates to an absolute minimum (for the most part).

By keeping carbohydrates low enough, the body preferentially uses fatty acids and molecules called ketones for energy (rather than glucose/sugar). This shift in substrate metabolism has a variety of benefits, including increase in cognitive function, more energy throughout the day, less risk of blood sugar swings, and possibly reduction in risk from certain types of cancer.

Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well what if we told you that there are types of ketogenic diets that actually let you eat carbs, too? That would be the icing on the cake; and good news for you, it’s true!

There are three different types of ketogenic diets, and all of them are beneficial for your health and well-being.

Ultimately, the type of ketogenic diet you follow will vary based on your goal(s), which is what we will cover in this guide. We will also give an overview of these three ketogenic diet types and how to setup your own keto-friendly nutrition regimen.

Ketogenic Diet Variations

Which ketogenic diet variation you follow will largely revolve around your goals and inherent metabolic tendencies. Regardless which ketogenic diet type you decide to follow continuously, it is best to start with an ‘induction’ period of at least two weeks on a standard ketogenic diet (SKD). This will give your body a chance to adapt to ketosis and its new primary fuel sources (assuming you’ve always eaten a diet rich in carbs) .

After these initial few weeks on a SKD, you can assess how you feel and which ketogenic diet to stick to in the long-term.

Read below for a short overview of each ketogenic diet variation and the factors to consider when choosing which suits you best:

Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)

This diet variation is generally the best for individuals looking for overall health and longevity benefits (from ketosis). If you live a rather sedentary lifestyle with little intense exercise, chances are an SKD will be your best bet.

You will need to avoid direct starch sources and monitor carbohydrate intake pretty strictly on an SKD. Steer clear of foods like wheat, rice, potatoes, cereal, etc. Your diet will be based largely around animal protein, eggs, nuts, and cruciferous vegetables.

Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)

Athletes and highly active individuals rely heavily on both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, which can be enhanced by glucose availability. A TKD is sort of a middle-of-the-road approach to ketogenic dieting as it allows for timely carbohydrate refeeds (particularly before and/or after an intense training session).

As such, a TKD can be a great tool for replenishing glycogen in muscle tissue prior without losing the benefits from ketogenic dieting. For most TKD followers, a once-weekly high-carb meal before or after an intense workout will suffice. Some adjustments will be necessary as you assess how you respond.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)

Cyclical keto dieting is a more progressive form of ketogenic dieting that incorporates periodic carbohydrate refeed days. As such, a CKD as it takes considerable trial and error to really nail the precision of your high-carbohydrate days (and how frequently you should have them).

It is wise to first and foremost give both the SKD and TKD a try before putting yourself on a CKD. If you don’t make much progress on the SKD/TKD, or you don’t perform well, then consider a CKD with one high-carb day per week (some individuals who are very active may need two high-carb days per week).

How to Set Up Your Own Ketogenic Diet

Below are the necessary steps to take to calculate your personal energy needs and macronutrient intake depending on the type of ketogenic diet you follow. The first calculation steps will give you your macronutrient needs assuming you follow an SKD.

Note: If you’re going to follow either a CKD or TKD, then you will have to take a few extra steps to construct your diet plan.

As a starting point for the majority of individuals looking to lose body fat, a 500-calorie deficit per day will suffice. That being said, there is no preset cookie-cutter calorie intake for fat loss, nor is there one for people looking to build lean mass.

Inevitably, you will have to adjust your nutrient intake values higher or lower depending on your rate of fat loss (muscle gain).

Note: that your calorie intake will fluctuate from day to day if you decide to use a CKD or TKD.

Example Diet

The following example shows how to calculate macronutrient needs for someone with 180 lbs of lean body mass following a 2200-calorie SKD:

1. Determine calorie needs with a basal metabolic rate calculator

2. Aim to eat about 1.5g of protein per pound of lean body mass: 270g protein per day for this individual

3. Set carbohydrate intake at 0.1-0.2g/lb of lean body mass: ~20-30g per day (25g is used in the calculations below)

4. Fat intake comes from the leftover calories to reach 2200: 2200-1180=1020 calories/9 calories per g of fat=~115g of fat per day.

Therefore, this individual’s nutrient breakdown for a SKD is: 180g protein/25g carbohydrate/115g fat.

Tip: It is best to divvy out all your macronutrients proportionally over four to six meals each day.

How Many Carbohydrates to Eat on a TKD and CKD

Regardless which ketogenic diet variation you choose to follow, start by calculating your macronutrient needs on a SKD, then modify those needs based on the instructions below.

For Targeted Ketogenic Diet:
● Training days—Follow SKD nutrient breakdown and add in 0.5g of carbohydrate per pound of lean body mass pre-workout or post-workout (on your hardest training day)
● Rest days—Follow SKD nutrient breakdown only
● If you find your recovery and energy still isn’t up to par, add in an extra carb-rich meal before or after your second hardest workout.

For Cyclical Ketogenic Diet:
● Once or Twice a Week—Add 1.5g of carbohydrate per pound of lean body mass to your SKD diet and cut your fat intake in half.
● Spread your carbohydrate intake out across the day when you have high-carb days.

Take-Home Points

● Ketogenic dieting entails very low-carbohydrate intake, along with higher fat and protein intakes.
● There are three types of ketogenic diets that you can use to reach your physique and performance goals.

Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)—This diet variation is generally the best for individuals looking for overall health and longevity benefits (from ketosis). If you live a rather sedentary lifestyle with little intense exercise, the SKD is your best bet.

Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)—A TKD is sort of a middle-of-the-road approach to ketogenic dieting as it allows for timely carbohydrate refeeds (particularly before and/or after an intense training session). This is generally best for moderately active individuals who train hard several times per week.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)—Cyclical keto dieting is a more progressive form of ketogenic dieting that incorporates periodic carbohydrate refeed days. If you’re highly active and train intense five to seven times (or more) per week, then a CKD is likely your best option.

 

Related: What Are Ketones? | Everything You Need to Know

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