The 3 Types of a Keto Diet Explained - Which is Right for You?
In the previous article ‘What is keto? A Detailed Keto Guide for beginners!‘ you could read everything about the fundamental aspects of a ketogenic diet. As we have already briefly mentioned, there is not one way to do keto. To be more precisely, there are 3 main types of a keto diet. Which one is right for you, depends on the main goal you want to achieve. For example, your approach should be different when you are looking for a great way to lose weight, than when your goal is to increase your endurance or gym performances. So which one is right for you? Let’s help you decide!
What are the 3 different types of a keto diet?
First, it is important to give you more in-depth information on the 3 most common approaches of a keto diet. If you think this is going to be too confusing, don’t worry. We will keep it short and simple! So, the 3 most common types of a Ketogenic Diet are:
The Standard Keto Diet (SKD) also known as The Classic Keto Diet
The Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD)
The Targeted Keto Diet (TKD) (1)
We hear you ask: ‘uh okay, but what is the difference? I thought a Keto Diet was just a very low-carb high-fat diet in general?’ Yeah well, you are kind of right, since the fundamental principle is actually the same: eating wholesome low-carb high-fat foods with its main goal of reaching ketosis. However, there are some slight variations, depending on your activity level and health goals. We will break it down for you.
The Standard Keto Diet – in general, the best way to start your keto journey
The Standard Seto Diet is the most common way of doing keto. You consume the standard keto macros, which are: 70-80% fat from high-quality products, 10-25% protein, and only 5-10% carbs. This is also the approach which is recognized as an established treatment to control seizures in patients with epilepsy (2). When you follow a Standard Keto Diet, your carb-intake should be low all the time. We are talking about a daily amount of 20-30 grams of carbs here. This is mostly the maximum amount that you can eat to stay in ketosis. It can also be the case that you are more or less sensitive to sugars and carbohydrates. This tolerance level is something that you need to experience yourself by testing your blood sugar levels and ketone levels regularly and observing whether you experience symptoms of being in ketosis (3).
On a Standard Keto Diet, your primary food products should be: low-carb vegetables, nuts (best: macadamia, pecans, and brazil nuts), seeds (pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, and flax seeds), grass fed meat, fish, organic eggs, grass fed butter & oils plus some full-fat dairy. If your main goal is weight loss, it is important to strive for a daily caloric deficit. In other words: eat less calories, than you burn! This is the golden rule of every type of diet.
The Standard Keto Diet is perfect for …
People who just start their keto journey with the main goal of losing weight and having increased energy levels, and who perform low to moderate intensity activities for about 3 times a week. These activities include: walking, jogging, cycling, light fitness. This is also the best type of a keto diet for endurance athletes such as marathon runners who are in need of a steady energy supply. Following a strict keto diet makes it easier to become fully fat-adapted, and to really rely on fat for energy during long runs! (4)
The Cyclical Keto Diet – best for building muscle, and increased strength
Next up is the Cyclical Keto Diet. This is a combination of a prolonged duration of the Standard Keto Diet, followed by consuming lots of carbs during one day or one meal once in a while. ‘Wait, what? Why would you eat carbs on a low-carb diet? I thought this article was not going to be confusing…’ We totally understand your confusion. But of course, there is a logical explanation behind this! If you are a bodybuilder or if your goal is increased strength or building muscle, you definitely want to continue reading.
When you focus on strength training and powerlifting, you are in need of quick energy. This type of energy mostly comes from glucose, and stored glycogen. This is exactly what is depleted if you follow a Standard Keto Diet. Therefore, by eating many carbs (also known as a carb refeed) once in a while, the amount of glycogen in the muscles restores. This carb refeed will definitely kick you out of Ketosis, and it will take a few days to get back into it. The shortest suggested cycle for this is six days on a Standard Keto Diet, followed by one day of a carb refeed. A carb refeed means, literally switching your carb & fat ratios for 1 day. So on this day, you will eat 70-80% carbs, and just 5% of fat. It is very important to not overdo it with the calories, otherwise you will gain weight in the form of fat, instead of in muscles. In addition, it is extremely to keep your fat-intake low, since otherwise your body cannot access the glycogen stores efficiently.
The Cyclical Keto Diet is perfect for …
Athletic individuals who want to see some lean muscle gains, and who’s goal is to burn body fat to the max. If you notice drops in your lifts, this is a pretty good sign you can experiment with this type of Keto Diet. However, only experience with this type of keto when you are already fat-adapted and your body can efficiently rely on fat for fuel. Otherwise, it will take you way too long to get back into ketosis after your ‘cheat days’.
The Targeted Keto Diet – a less ‘extreme’ way to increase your physical strength, and performances
Finally, we have the Targeted Keto diet (TKD). This is actually a ‘less extreme’ way to provide your muscles with some extra energy during your workouts. This type of keto diet, compared to The Cyclical Keto Diet, is a simpler way to maintain high-intensity exercise performance and replenish glycogen storage in your muscles, without resulting in being out of ketosis for a couple of days.
How does this work? You plan your carb-intake before an intense workout and eat the remaining of the Keto Macros throughout the rest of the day. Mostly, this carb-intake lies between 10-20 grams. For example, you would consume some fast digesting carbs like a scoop of Dextrose 30-60 minutes before your workout. The only thing is that you have to be extra aware of the carbs you consume during the rest of the day, since you don’t want to kick yourself out of ketosis. In most cases, people who focus on strength training can eat a bit more carbohydrates on a daily basis and still being in ketosis.
Unlike The Cyclical Keto Diet – where the primary goal is to completely replete stored glucose (glycogen) during carb refeeds, and deplete them between carb refeeds, the primary goal of a Targeted Keto Diet is to maintain blood sugar levels & stored muscle glycogen at a moderate level for training. Although this difference, both approaches increase your energy levels, and strength.
The Targeted Keto Diet is perfect for …
When you don’t want to be out of Ketosis for a longer time, and you train at a higher intensity level at the gym and want to hulk-smash those deadlifts.
So: which keto diet is right for me?
That’s a difficult question to answer when not knowing the actual person who is reading this article ;) We can give you some suggestions though! If you are completely new to keto, we suggest to start with a Standard Keto Diet for a couple of months, and see how this goes. If your main goal is weight loss and increased energy levels and you are not so into high-intensity workouts, you will probably see some very good results with this type! In fact, most people need nothing more than the Standard Keto Diet.
If you, however, reach a weight-loss plateau (you’re not losing weight anymore), you could experiment with The Cyclical Keto Diet combined with intermittent fasting. Oh no, another term… Keep breathing, we will discuss this topic in detail in on of our next articles!
However, if your main goal is to improve physical strength, and you have followed a Standard Keto Diet for several months (meaning you are fat-adapted and rely on fat for energy), you can experiment with The Targeted Keto Diet. However, we only recommend this, if you don’t experience enough energy and progress during your workouts. Otherwise, it is best to stick to your Standard Keto Diet and enjoy the health benefits of being in constant ketosis. If you implement The Targeted Keto Diet for a couple of months, and notice some significant improvements during your workouts, you can start your cyclical journey!
In the end, it is just a matter of personal preference what works best for you.
If you don’t exercise at high-intensity levels on a regular basis, and have not reached a weight-loss plateau, you should stick to the Standard Keto Diet. Enjoy your keto journey, and experiment with what type of Keto Diet works best for you! The most important aspect is to meet your individual nutritional needs. If you need help with this, and have no idea how to start, reach out, and we will start your keto journey together.
Be aware of the fact that there are no strict guidelines when it comes to these 3 types of Keto Diet. It is important to experiment, since no individual is the same. But being familiair with these 3 types, hopefully gives you more freedom to decide what’s best for you. Besides, if you don’t notice any progress anymore or if you have reached a plateau, it is nice to know that there are ways to work on this! It is also important to keep progress of your workout schedule / program, since it might be necessary to try something new. Realize that there are many more aspects than only your diet defining whether you see progress in reaching your goals or not.
Keep in mind that the ketogenic diet is not an one-size-fits-all answer to all of our individual health circumstances, needs, and goals. Information and other content provided on Myndfuel, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for a substitute for your current medical treatment. Always talk to your doctor or healthcare professional before starting to implement a significant diet change. On Myndfuel you can get advice from a Certified Dietitian who creates a personalised program for you, meeting your individual needs and wishes.
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Which Keto Diet do you follow? Let us know in the comments!
1: Healthline. The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner's Guide to Keto
2: Wheless JW. History of the Ketogenic Diet. Epilepsia, 2008.
3: Moore J and Westman EC. Keto Clarity. Victory Belt Publishing, 2014.
4: Volek JS and Phinney S. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance. Beyond Obesity LLC, 2012.