The Keto Diet: A Low-Carb Approach To Fat Loss
by: Shannon Clark
Along with the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet, individuals who are interested in low carbohydrate approaches to dieting will likely want to look into the Keto Diet. Popular among many who are trying to maintain blood sugar levels and lose body fat, the main premise of this diet is, ‘eat fat to lose fat’.
So How Does It Work?
The idea of the ketone diet is to get your body into a process called Ketosis where you stop burning carbohydrates as fuel and instead turn to the burning of what are known as ketones. This will occur when you bring your carbohydrate levels to around 50 grams per day or lower.
Many keto activists advise that number to be 30 grams of carbohydrates but most individuals can still maintain ketosis while consuming the 50 grams and this allows for a little more leeway in the diet since you can increase the consumption of vegetables and a variety of flavoring’s that contain a few grams of carbohydrates.
TKD Or CKD
Usually people who are involved with exercise will follow either a TKD (targeted keto diet) or a CKD (cyclical keto diet).
A TKD is one where you will eat carbohydrates right before and right after your workouts. This is the best bet for those who are involved in more intense activities and require some carbohydrates to fuel them and who are not as interested in doing carb loads and depletion workouts.
A CKD on the other hand is a diet where you will eat a minimum amount of carbohydrates per day (that 30-50 gram number) and then on the weekend (or at a time that is appropriate for you) do a large ‘carb-up’ phase where you will eat a large amount of carbohydrates in an effort to refill your muscle glycogen stores so you can continue to workout the coming week.
Normally right before the carb-up phase you will do a depletion workout where you try and get your muscles to completely eliminate their glycogen supply. Then when you do the ‘carb-up’ phase, you cut almost all the fat out of the diet so you are now just consuming protein and carbohydrates.
Setting Up The Diet:
To set the diet up, first you take your lean body weight and multiply it by one. This will be the total number of grams of protein you are required to eat per day. After you get this number, multiple it by 4 (how many calories are in one gram of protein) to get your total calories coming from protein.
Now the rest of your daily requirement will come from fat calories. You don’t really need to calculate carbohydrate grams specifically because by default you will likely reach your 30-50 grams per day simply by including green vegetables and the incidental carbs that come from your fat and protein sources.
To figure out how many fat grams specifically you want, you would take the total number of calories it takes to maintain your body weight (normally around 14-16 calories per pound of body weight). Subtract your protein calories from that number and then divide by 9 (number of calories per gram of fat). This should give you how many total fat grams you need to eat per day.
Divide these numbers by however many meals you wish to eat per day to get the basic layout for your diet. Be sure to consume plenty of green leafy vegetables for antioxidant and vitamin protection and you are good to go.
Weekend Carb Load:
Now this brings us to the weekend carb load period and usually the ‘fun’ part for most individuals. You are now able to eat large quantities of carbohydrate containing foods, cereal, bagels, rice chips, candy, pasta and so on are all good options here.
Since you won’t be eating very much fat at all, there is less likely of a chance that these carbohydrates will get turned into body fat as they will be going towards filling up your muscle glycogen stores once again.
Most people will choose to begin their carb-up on Friday night and end it before bed on Saturday. This is usually most convenient as it’s when you are off of work and can relax and enjoy the process. If you aren’t overly concerned with fat loss and are just using this diet as a way to maintain blood sugar levels, you can likely eat whatever carbohydrate foods you like during this period. If you are worried about fat gain though, then you need the math.
Try and aim to keep your protein the same at one gram per pound of body weight and then take in 10-12 grams of carbohydrates for every kilogram of body weight. Start taking these carbohydrates (usually the first bit in liquid form) right after your last workout on Friday night. This is when your body is primed and ready to uptake the carbohydrates and it will be most beneficial for you.
Note that you can have some fat here, since it will be hard to consume many of the foods you really want to eat without being allowed any (pizza for instance) but do your best to keep your fat grams around your body weight in kilograms (so if you weigh 80 kg’s, eat no more than 80 grams of fat).
On a second note, some individuals find they like to eat a little fruit along with protein before their final workout on Friday night as this will help restore their liver glycogen levels and give them the energy they need to push through that workout. Plus, by refilling the liver glycogen you will help put your body into a slightly more anabolic state so you don’t see as much energy breakdown.
Pros & Cons:
Overall this seems to be a very good diet for most people as far as fat loss is concerned. Some do deal with negative side effects while in ketosis but most people will find that although it’s really hard the first two weeks, after that period their body begins to adapt and it gets much easier. Furthermore, one of the biggest benefits of being in ketosis is appetite blunting therefore it can actually be an ideal program for someone on a diet.
The only draw back you will see is for those who do have high activities or are involved in lots of sprinting type exercise. Although a few will find they feel fine, even have more energy on a high fat/moderate protein diet, most of the time carbohydrates are the best source of fuel for these activities. That isn’t that big of a problem though, it just means that that person should instead look into doing a TKD instead of a CKD.
In part two of this article, we’ll go over how you should set up a TKD for those who want to keep their carbohydrate intake slightly higher on a daily basis so as to allow for more intense training levels.
For muscle gain though, it is slightly harder to put on muscle since usually a large amount of insulin is needed to put the body in an anabolic state, so it would be more along the lines of 2 out of 5 (TKD though could bump that higher).
In part one of this article we looked at what the cyclical keto diet was and how it would apply to those individuals who exercised regularly. A traditional keto diet is based solely around the consumption of protein and fat while keeping carbohydrate intake to a bare minimum.
In a CKD though (cyclic keto diet), you implement periods of higher carb eating called refeeds, usually once per week, in an effort to supply your body with the muscle glycogen it needs in order to keep performing the higher intensity work you are asking from it. This requires a carefully planned out depletion workout beforehand however and strict adherence to doing very low carb eating for the entire rest of the week.
Others may want to use some of the principles of the keto diet in their own lives but do not want to completely cut out carbohydrates every day. This is where the targeted keto diet or TKD comes in.
The Targeted Keto Diet
The principle behind this diet is very similar to that of a CKD only you are going to consume carbohydrates right before and after your weight training workouts. This will give your body the energy it needs to lift with a higher volume and at a higher intensity level.
Athletes who are involved in high intensity sprinting exercises will also likely want to use a TKD approach as this type of exercise does require carbohydrates in the system beforehand if you hope to produce optimal results.
Sprinting on a low carbohydrate diet is generally not something most people should be doing, particularly if they are taking in a low number of calories on top of everything (people who are maintaining or trying to gain weight on a CKD may try sprinting, but it still isn’t going to be as easy to do in comparison to someone who is consuming a standard, more moderate carbohydrate intake).
Setting Up A TKD
To set up a TKD diet, follow the same procedure in terms of protein intake as a CKD, allowing for one gram of protein per pound of body weight. Then determine the number of calories of carbohydrates you wish to consume before and after your workouts.
Generally an intake of 0.33 grams of carbs per pound of body weight is recommended (so 40-80 grams for most people) for each meal however you may want to increase or decrease this depending on your particular goals (those who are trying to lose body fat may decrease while those who are trying to gain muscle may want to increase).
After you have figured out the contribution of your carbohydrate calories to the diet, add this to the contribution of your protein calories (remember both carbohydrates and fat supply four calories per gram) and then subtract this from your daily total calorie allotment. The final number you get there will determine how many calories should come from fat so divide by 9 in order to get total number of grams.
This will allow you to eat some carbohydrates on a daily basis so as to keep your body out of ketosis and supply more energy for your workouts. It is really up to you whether or not you want to eat the extra carbohydrates on days you don’t workout, some people will choose to keep some carbohydrates in on those days but decrease them slightly while others might choose to completely remove them.
Furthermore, if you are only doing a moderate intensity paced cardio sessions, it isn’t likely that you need the carbohydrates in your diet either so you can remove them from those days if you wish as well.
On the refeed side of things, in a CKD the main purpose of the refeed period is as already stated, to restore muscle glycogen levels. When individuals on a CKD do their refeeds, they are also by default eating many more calories on these days as well.
On a diet that does bring calories quite low, it is a good idea to do some type of refeed period of higher calorie eating in an effort to make sure your metabolism does not slow down too much and to give your body a break from the rigors of dieting.
Therefore, even on a TKD, if you are still dieting pretty hard (meaning with the additional carbs you are still quite low calorie), adding in a couple of days of higher calorie eating is a good plan. You can add a great deal more carbohydrates if you wish, or take a more balanced approach adding a combination of more protein and fat in.
Since you are eating carbohydrates during the week you may not be quite as glycogen depleted as someone on a CKD therefore wouldn’t need to ‘carb load’ in a sense as they do on a CKD. Definitely though, it would be a good idea to make sure a fair amount of this refeed does come from carbohydrates as if you are exercising heavy you are still likely to be low on glycogen levels.
So if you want to maintain a more rigorous exercise program, consider giving a TKD a try. It works along some similar principles as a CKD, but also has some important alterations.
This diet would also be ideal for those who are looking to gain mass but want to maintain their blood sugar levels as the carbohydrates are placed into the diet at times when it is most likely that they will not get turned into body fat. The additional carbohydrates also make this diet a little more anabolic due to increased insulin levels which is another important thing you want whenever you are trying to gain muscle mass.