Although it sounds like a new trend, the ketogenic diet has existed since the 1920s. Back then, physicians prescribed it as a treatment for epilepsy. Today, one of the main reasons people love a cyclical or targeted ketogenic diet is to boost athletic performance.

While lots of people benefit from a keto diet, athletes and martial artists can gain even more by building muscle on keto. Wondering how it works, and how to make a cyclical or targeted keto diet work for you? We’ve got the answers right here— keep reading to learn more!

What Is the Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)?

With a standard ketogenic diet, you’re focusing on reducing your carbs and increasing your healthy fat intake. However, for athletes, the carb reduction of a typical keto diet might be too much. That’s where targeted keto comes in.

A targeted ketogenic diet simply means making modifications to the keto diet so you can get what you need. The targeted keto diet includes adding carbs as needed, syncing your carb intakes with your workouts to get the best results.

With a TKD, you’ll eat carbs only just before and after working out. You get the energy boosts to build muscle while still reaping the benefits of keto.

What Is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)?

A cyclical keto diet involves rotating a traditional keto diet plan with a higher-carb diet at select times.

With cyclical keto, you’ll eat a regular keto diet about five to six days a week, and add a cycle of high-carb dieting for the other day or two. Some people call their high-carb days “re-feeding” day because they build the glucose your body has burned over the week.

Should You Choose a Targeted or Cyclical Keto Diet?

Both targeted and cyclical keto diets are beloved by athletes. But which one is best?

The answer depends on your personal fitness goals. The regular keto diet works well for people who aren’t athletes. But if you’re looking to boost your performance, either CKD or TKD is a good choice—but they provide somewhat different results.

The cyclical diet is ideal for building muscle. Bodybuilders like it because it helps them build muscle without too much fat loss.

However, a targeted keto diet is ideal for keeping your exercise performance over the long term. With a cyclical diet, your body goes out of ketosis for significant amounts of time. The targeted diet mixes traditional and cyclical keto to help you get high-intensity workouts in.

The targeted keto option also works well if you don’t want to do the carb-loading required by a CKD, or if you can’t do it. Also, CKD requires high levels of exercise to work well. If you aren’t training with quite so much intensity, TKD is the better choice.

The cyclical diet is ideal for people doing lots of advanced, high-intensity workouts. However, both diets can work well for many athletes, and it’s a good idea to give both a try before deciding which one is best for you.

How to Start a Targeted or Cyclical Keto Diet

No matter which diet you choose, the steps to get started are basically the same. Let’s take a look at how to embark on a keto diet that’s appropriate for athletes.

1. Run the Numbers

First, you need to figure out how many calories you need in a day, so you can adjust your caloric consumption. You can use an online calorie calculator to get this number. Some calculators will also help you figure out the breakdown of protein and fat to aim for.

If your goal is fat loss, you should aim to consume 500 calories less than what you need, while if you want to gain muscle, aim for 500 calories above your requirements. Of course, this isn’t an exact number, but it will give you an idea of where to start.

2. Stock Up on Foods

Next, you’ll want to make sure you’re all stocked up on the foods you need for your diet. Keto can involve lots of eggs, full-fat dairy products, animal protein, nuts, and oils.

However, you’ll also need healthy, whole-grain carbs since you’re not doing the standard keto diet. Since you’re adding carbs at times, you can also add more fruits to your diet.

3. Plan Your Carb Intake

Now it’s time to plan your carb intake so you can maximize your workouts. For most people, it’s best to start with a targeted keto diet. If that’s unsuccessful, transition to the cyclical option.

For targeted keto, aim to eat your carbs about 30 minutes to 1 hour before your workout. You can also add carbs after your workout if needed. Avoid eating fats at those times, since they’ll slow your ability to digest carbs.

If you decide to transition to a cyclical diet, start with one re-feeding day per week. If that time interval doesn’t work for you, make changes as needed. During your re-feed days, avoid consuming much fat and keep your protein intake the same.

No keto diet is one-size-fits-all. Experiment and make adjustments as you figure out what works best for your body. As you change your workout days or intensities, you may also need to make changes to your diet.

4. Stay Hydrated

People quickly get dehydrated once they start the keto diet, and athletes are even more prone to dehydration. Remember to drink plenty of water and electrolytes to stay hydrated enough for safe, optimum performance.

Ready to Try a Cyclical or Targeted Ketogenic Diet?

As an athlete, you might find it hard to keep up your regular performance on the standard keto diet. The cyclical or targeted ketogenic diet will get you the results you want while boosting your athletic ability.

Having trouble sticking with your keto diet? You’re not alone—check out keto diet tips here to get you through the hard parts.