What is a cyclical keto diet?

The Cyclic Keto Diet is a variation of the regular keto diet designed for athletes looking to gain lean muscle mass or burn fat in the lower abdomen. The essence of this diet is to alternate carbohydrate-free days with carbohydrate-free days. Monday through Thursday night are ketone days, Thursday night, Friday and Saturday night are high-calorie loading days, and Sunday is a transition day.

The role is played by the fact that the classic keto diet is completely not designed for constant adherence and can be dangerous for people with chronic diseases. In addition, it is absolutely incompatible with any type of strength training, since the main fuel for muscles – carbohydrates in the form of glycogen – is absent in the body.

The cyclical keto diet, while retaining all the benefits of the regular ketone diet, adds another – by burning fat, it allows the body to build muscle tissue at the same time. As a result, the achieved effect is many times greater – the muscles increase in size, while becoming more prominent.

Why does keto work?

Approximately 3-4 days after a reduction in caloric intake or a sharp restriction of carbohydrates in the diet, the body turns on emergency defense mechanisms, slowing down metabolism and starting to destroy muscle tissue as excess, while preserving fat reserves. Despite the fact that such a keto regimen has a positive effect on weight loss, catabolic processes make physical training meaningless.

The easiest way to “trick” the body is to return food intake to normal levels after the above 3-4 days of diet. In most cases, a period of 60-70 hours is sufficient to bring the metabolism back to normal. It is also important that the cyclical keto diet implies active strength training on days when the consumption of carbohydrates is increased – this is what allows you to maintain an accelerated metabolism.

Cyclic keto diet for athletes

The metabolism of professional athletes is different in that their fat cells have low insulin sensitivity. Calories from food are used to build muscle, not adipose tissue. However, while on a keto diet, the body uses the energy of fat, not muscle. Ordinary people have an increased sensitivity of adipose tissue to insulin – calories go to fat, not muscle.

Experts believe that the sensitivity of body tissues to insulin and the percentage of protein absorbed by the muscles are approximately 80% dependent on genetic factors (primarily, on the body type of a person). The remaining 20% ​​is dependent on diet and physical activity. At the same time, the cyclical keto diet, unlike most other diets, improves metabolism.

A diet high in carbohydrates and animal fats increases the insulin sensitivity of adipose tissue, while a diet high in complex carbohydrates and healthy fats decreases it. Just like strength training with the emptying of energy stores (that is, pumping training).

Cyclic Diet Stages

Although calories drop sharply in the early days of a cyclical keto diet, their weekly intake remains within the normal range, leveled off by the loading days. However, it is the early days of the diet that are the most challenging, requiring a combination of low nutrition and vigorous training.

Stage 1 of the cycle: strict keto diet

The first three and a half days of the cyclic diet, the calorie intake is reduced by 30-40% of the normal level, the amount of fat is maintained at a minimum level of 30-40 grams, most of the calories are provided by protein nutrition.

The training strategy during this period is aimed at maximum fat burning – the body does not yet understand what it is on a diet, and therefore works at full capacity. The most effective are the combination of cardio and active physical training with light weights.

Eating low-carb days

The calorie intake from Monday to Thursday is reduced by 15-20% of normal, and can be 1700-1400 kcal. per day. On Thursday, most of these calories should be consumed 2 hours before strength training to energize the muscles.

In the total calorie intake, carbohydrates should occupy no more than 20% (usually about 65-70 grams), the level of protein intake should be 2-3 grams. per kilogram of body weight. The remaining calories should be fat. However, it is important to consume 5-6 grams of omega-3 per day.

Power training

Training on Monday and Wednesday should be at a fast pace, 15-20 repetitions of each exercise, 10-12 working sets for each major body part. Weight – 60% of 1MP, the break between exercises is a minute. The task of the training is to “flush” glycogen from the muscles.

The best workout for Monday is a circuit workout that enhances fat burning. Wednesday workout should be less active. After each workout, 30 to 60 minutes of medium cardio is acceptable, however, this is not necessary.

Stage 2 of the cycle: loading with carbohydrates

The second stage of the cyclical keto diet creates optimal conditions for activating muscle growth, accumulating energy during carbohydrate loading and spending it on strength training. At the end of the 48-hour period, the body returns to full metabolic rate.

Friday is the most important loading day, when the calorie level rises by 30-40% of normal (in fact, two to three times higher than at the beginning of the week). Saturday night – powerful strength training, forcing the body to turn on muscle growth.

Thursday workout

On Thursday morning, the keto phase of the low-carb diet continues. Three hours before strength training – main meal. 40-60 minutes before the start – a cocktail of 25-30 gr. fast carbohydrates (a glass of juice) and 15-20 gr. whey protein.

The Thursday workout itself should be a light basic workout, 5-6 exercises for all muscles of the body, performed in 3 sets with a high number of repetitions. The goal is to increase blood flow in the muscles by activating the filling of energy stores.

Carbohydrate loading

After a light strength workout on Thursday evening, the period of carbohydrate loading of the body begins, lasting Friday and the first half of Saturday. The goal is to accumulate enough energy in the body to trigger muscle growth.

The consumption of carbohydrates during the loading period should be 700-1000 g., The consumption of proteins – 150-200 g., However, fats should be reduced as much as possible – no more than 80 g in total. Recommended sports supplements: 10-15 gr. creatine and 3-5 gr. omega-3 fats.

Carbohydrate Loading Tips

Despite the fact that nutrition at this stage of the cyclical keto diet implies about 4 thousand calories, the body does not accumulate them into fat, since these processes are stopped by three days of low calorie content. Fat cells are still “closed” because the body thinks it is starving.

When choosing a carbohydrate source, limit your intake of fast carbohydrates and sugars by opting for hard pasta. Also, remember to drink plenty of fluids as your body needs a lot of fluids to keep your digestive system working.

Saturday workout

It is most effective to carry out a Saturday workout according to the basic program, since this guarantees the development of all large muscles in one session. Low repetitions and high working weights will trigger hypertrophy mechanisms.

Before training, take a pre-workout complex, during the strength training itself, it is permissible to consume a carbohydrate drink containing 5-10 grams of BCAA amino acids and 20-25 grams of simple carbohydrates – this will help to further increase strength performance.

Stage 3 of the cycle: switching to keto

On the last day of the week, calorie intake is reduced to baseline, with most of the food consumed in the morning. Mid-range cardio is ideal on Sunday nights.

It is important to note that with a cyclic diet, the weekly calorie intake is within the baseline, preventing the body from slowing down its metabolism – it is a mistake to believe that the body resets the calorie consumption counter at midnight, starting a new day from zero.

The third and final phase of the cyclical keto diet, lasting Saturday and Sunday, creates optimal conditions for the processes of recovery and muscle growth. After a period of normal eating on the weekend, the diet will repeat itself, returning to the keto phase on Monday.

Saturday meal plan

Immediately after Saturday workout, you need to take a standard serving of a gainer or 40-50 grams of carbohydrates and 15-20 grams of protein isolate. This amount of nutrients in the best way helps the body to activate the anabolic growth processes in the muscles.

Any food is allowed on Saturday night, since it is psychologically important to give yourself a break from a difficult diet. The main rule is to refrain from consuming fast food, excessively fatty foods, and also limit the possible consumption of alcohol by a glass of wine or beer.

Sunday meal plan

Any food that falls within the normal calorie intake is also allowed on the first half of Sunday – you can have breakfast and lunch as you like. However, in the late afternoon, it is recommended to cut back on simple carbohydrates.

Another important task on Saturday and Sunday is to provide the conditions for optimal muscle recovery after strength training. Fitseven recommends active recovery techniques and sports massage as additional tools.

Light cardio

As the first component of muscle recovery on Sunday evening, a short cardio workout is permissible, devastating muscle glycogen stores and preparing the body for the low-carb phase of the first half of the next week.

As an activity, both 25-40 minutes of slow running and swimming or any other sports are suitable, allowing most of the time to be in the heartbeat zone no more than 75-80% of the maximum heart rate (about 140-150 beats per minute) – so called the fat burning zone.

Sports massage

The main advantage of sports massage is that it improves blood circulation in the muscles, significantly accelerating the elimination of various toxins and lactic acid that naturally accumulate in muscle tissue during strength training.

This massage improves blood flow, positively affecting the permeability of tissues for both oxygen and nutrients, thereby increasing the percentage of protein absorption. Among other things, massage relaxes the person by lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

4. Repetition of the diet cycle

On Monday, the diet repeats, returning to the low-carb keto phase. If you’ve done your Friday boot phase and weekend recovery phase correctly, you should feel a little more muscle volume on Monday.

In addition, you should not feel hunger pangs, and next week’s workouts should be easier for you, since the body will be better suited to work in conditions of shortage of fast calories of carbohydrates and low muscle glycogen stores.

Cyclic keto diet: contraindications

The main contraindications for following a cyclical keto diet are heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In fact, both strength training and cardio training performed with low glucose levels are especially dangerous for these conditions.

In addition, the diet is strictly not recommended for people with diseases of the liver, kidneys and alimentary tract, for pregnant and lactating mothers. If you have any doubts about whether a cyclic diet is right for you, check with your healthcare professional.


The Cyclic Keto Diet (CKD) is the most effective way to trick the body’s metabolic mechanisms into burning fat without losing muscle. The first phase of the diet consists of following the rules of the carbohydrate-free keto diet and training aimed at “flushing” the glycogen stores from the muscles. This is followed by a phase of loading with carbohydrates, which allows you to maintain a normal metabolism.

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