- Before beginning keto-carb cycling, do an initial three weeks of strict keto to get your body fat adapted.
- Do not exceed 20-30 total or 20-30 net carbs during this time. After the initial three weeks, incorporate up to 100-150 total or 100-150 net carbs two to three times a week.
- Focus on high-quality complex carbohydrates while doing your higher carb days
- Incorporate keto-carb cycling during intense exercise by pre-fueling your workouts with up to 20 total (net) carbs before the session.
- Use exogenous ketones to help with the higher carb days. Remember, calories count and higher carb and standard keto days! Use the cronometer app to track net carbs and calories.
- If you have difficulty with will-power then meditate to help your solar plexus chakra[/callout]
Alright, so you did your initial three weeks of keto! Congratulations! Now, it is time to divulge into five things you should know about carb cycling on keto! I am sure by now, you are ready to revel in a little bit more carbohydrates. If not, then go longer to fine-tune your mitochondria. After all, this is your personalized keto plan, and you are the driver. If you are dealing with disease or cancer, then I recommend staying in ketosis longer to energize your mitochondria. Overall, the ketogenic diet has been shown to supply anti-tumor effects by reducing energy supplies to these cells. The anti-tumor forces will, in turn, suppress the tumor microenvironment and inhibits tumor growth (1).
However, if you are healthy, it may be of benefit your body to go ahead and increase your total carbs to a few times per week. Especially since there are certain complex carbs( not on the keto diet) that have beneficial nutrients for our body. This article will highlight the six things you should know about carb cycling on keto and will increase your confidence about going keto.
#1- Before beginning keto-carb cycling, you have to do an initial three weeks of strict keto
Doing an initial three weeks is a crucial stage before starting keto-carb cycling. Doing an initial three weeks of keto is mainly to get your body into its fat-burning stage. Initially, the process of using ketones and fatty acids for fuel is not in working order. However, during extended carbohydrate restriction, the body undergoes physiological adaptations similar to what occurs in extended fasts. This is an adjustment period known as keto-adaptation or fat adaptation(2). If a high amount of carbohydrates are eaten at this time, then the body will just go to the routine metabolism that it does daily.
After you have done this initial three weeks, then you will be considered fat-adapted. At this point, if you wanted to add in more carbohydrates, then feel free to do it. As long as you don’t eat too many net carbs, then you will stay in your ketosis. During this period, you want to stay around 20-30 total (or net) carbohydrates. If you are dealing with some sort of illness, then I recommend staying under 20 total(or net) carbs for a longer period of time. Also, if you need to lose more weight or have other health challenges, it may be in your best interest to continue to limit your carbs for 2 months or more!
#2- Add in more carbohydrates two days per week after the initial three weeks
If you are healthy, then feel free to start adding in more carbohydrates after the initial three weeks. An excellent place to start would be 80-100 total(or net)carbs about two days per week. If you are an athlete, you could probably increase your total (or net)carbs from 100-150. Your amount of net carbohydrates depends on your level of ketosis. Remember, if your blood levels dip below 0.5 mmol/L, then you have exceeded your net carbohydrate tolerance. Please see these two posts for more information: what you should know about monitoring keto biometrics part 1 or what you should know about monitoring keto biometrics part 2.
Also, keep in mind that reintroduction to carbohydrates should include healthy higher carbohydrate foods. You may find that your net carbs may add up very fast, which may limit you as to what types of foods you eat. Keep in mind that you should still avoid any processed foods even though they may be in your allotted carb limit. Remember, you are incorporating a total lifestyle change even on the two days where you can eat more carbs. If you are eating cake, cookies, or foods high in sugar those days, then that will not be beneficial to healing and feeling like a holistic keto goddess.
#3- Focus on high-quality foods when doing keto-carb cycling
During your higher carbohydrate days, it is vital to focus on foods that decrease inflammation and promote healing. These are mostly healthy fruits or vegetables, but can even include starches such as rice. Your primary focus should be on any fruits or vegetables that are not on the keto diet. You need to focus on complex carbohydrates. Which would include different amounts of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (plant compounds) that improve your body’s ability to handle carbs(3).
On my higher carb days, I typically like to cook sweet potatoes because they contain a lot of beneficial nutrients. I especially love the purple varieties. There is a study that showed purple sweet potatoes could increase helpful bacteria in our colon and decrease pathogenic ones(7). Another food I like on these days is Basmati rice. A recent study, as of November 2019, showed numerous benefits from the extraction of oil from super kernel basmati rice. It was actually found to have effective analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-arthritic activities(8).
There are multiple types of higher carbohydrates that are good for you and contain a lot of nutrients. I recommend you to try to incorporate ones that you may need at specific points in your life. It is pertinent to do your research and figure out which ones will apply to your personalized keto plan.
Some examples of complex carbohydrates include the following :
[callout]starchy fruits such as bananas and mangos, sweet potatoes, whole unrefined grains, lentils/ legumes, quinoa, rice, and squash along with other starchy vegetables[/callout]
It is essential to avoid anything with processed sugar, gluten, refined grains, fruit juices, or even syrups. Maple syrup and honey are considered good in limited amounts on the higher carb days. Again, it is always best to gauge your ketosis using a blood ketone monitor. As mentioned in my first keto biometrics post, I highly recommend using Keto-mojo.
#4- Keto-carb cycling during exercise.
It is of utmost importance to implement exercise during your keto regime. In the beginning, when you are limiting your net carbs, it may be challenging to do high-intensity interval training types or other high endurance types of exercises. However, during this time, I do highly recommend you at least do mild types of yoga, walking, or any other sort of training, which is not “intense.”
After the first three weeks, incorporate higher intensity work-outs to supercharge fat loss
Once you have passed the initial three weeks, it is essential to include more endurance types of work-outs, weight lifting, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The incorporation of these types of exercises will supercharge your weight loss and help with fat elimination in those problematic areas. According to the Journal of Obesity, 12 weeks of HIIT not only can result in significant reductions in the total abdominal, trunk, and visceral fat but also can give you significant increases in fat-free mass and aerobic power(5). One thing to keep in mind is that HIIT should only be done at most three times a week for 20 minutes due to the high intensity(6).
Incorporate HIIT two days per week on your higher carbohydrates days or utilize pre-workout carbohydrates
The best time to do HIIT, heavy weight lifting, or high endurance exercises is on your higher carb days. Which means you will do HIIT on an average of 2 days per week. However, if you want to do more days than that, it is okay, all you would do is simply pre-fuel your work-outs the other days (remember for HIIT limit this to 3 days per week). By consuming carbohydrates before your intense work-out session, you are giving your body fuel to provide oxygen to your muscles for fat-burning.
It is crucial to keep in mind that exercise at high-intensity, the body tends to become more dependent on carbohydrates for fuel as the oxygen reaching the muscles drops, and fat-burning is temporarily shut down(4). However, if you are doing low to moderate types of exercise, pre- fueling your body with pre-workout carbs is not necessary, and your body’s fat-burning capabilities can handle the job just fine.
Remember that even though you will be pre-fueling your work-outs, you still need to stick to a typical keto approach most of the time. It is okay to do this if you know you are going to do a supercharged work-out because you will use up the energy from this carbohydrate. The beautiful thing is that after your work-out session, you will still reap the benefits of keto while efficiently supporting your work-out.
Do not exceed 20 total carbs or 20 net carbs for pre-fueling your work-out
If you wanted to do the intense hard work-outs twice a week when you take more carbs, then that is fine. If you choose this, then just do less intense work-outs on the other days when you are following standard keto. However, if you want to do this more, than that is fine too. Focus on keeping your pre-fuel total carbs(net carbs) to around 20 in order to maintain a ketotic state. Remember, you want to remain in a ketotic state, which would be to have blood levels at least be 0.5 mmol/L. If you are going under the value when you cycle in more carbs with exercise, then you are eating too many.
#5- Use exogenous ketones on higher carbohydrate days
It is essential to utilize exogenous ketones on your higher carbohydrate days to help your body maintain a ketotic state. Exogenous ketones can boost your ketone levels, which enables you to stay in ketosis, even when you have some carbs in your system(9). You can do this via MCT oil, or Bulletproof has a brand called Brain Octane MCT oil, which is the happy medium between pure nutritional ketosis and exogenous ketones.
I have experience with using MCT oil and have found it helpful for the maintenance of ketosis. I especially like placing MCT oil in my coffee in the AM. All I do is use about 1-2 tsp in about 2 cups of coffee. After that, I put a little bit of stevia and blend in all together in an immersion blender. After blending it like this, I find that it makes the top frothy like a cappuccino.
#6- Remember to count your calories on your higher carbohydrate and standard keto days
Higher ketone levels do not correlate with more weight loss! Remember, to lose weight; you need to have an overall caloric deficit and be in ketosis as well. People start keto and forget about the calories! They seem to think that as long as then keep their total carbs or net carbs between 20-30 per day, they will lose weight. This is far from the truth.
Figure out your caloric deficit!
The easiest way to figure out your caloric deficit is by using an app such as cronometer! However, if you want to do it another way, then you can start with figuring out your Total Daily Energy Expenditure ( TDEE). After you have that number, then multiply by 25% to figure out how much of a calorie deficit you will need per day to lose weight. You can find a TDEE calculator here.
For example, you have a woman named Violet, who is above a healthy weight, and her TDEE is around 2500 calories per day. To maintain her weight, she would have to eat this many calories per day. However, to figure out how many calories she should restrict to lose weight, we would take the 2500 calories and multiple it by 25%, which would equal 625 calories. So for her to lose weight, subtract 625 calories from 2500 ( her TDEE), and then that would equate to about 1875 per day.
Use a daily journal to log calories in and out
Once you have figured out your caloric deficit, then it is time to start your journaling. You would simply record all of your calories in a notebook and also figure out your net carbohydrates. Figuring out your net carbs is very easy. All you do is take your total net carbs and subtract the amount of fiber along with the sugar alcohols.
The equation is the following: Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber – Sugar Alcohols(10).
Use the cronometer app to track your net carbs and calories
Again, as mentioned before, the easiest way to monitor your calories would be via some type of app. Cronometer is very keto-friendly, and it makes it very easy for you to figure out your net carbs along with calories. This app will figure out your TDEE and will automatically figure out which deficit you need to have to achieve your goal weight. It is effortless to do, and all you have to do is put in your current biometrics. If you are interested in signing up, please click here to go to my keto biometrics post. Just scroll down towards the end of this post and click the link which says cronometer.com.
Keto diet is what you make of it
In my experience, I have had people tell me that they don’t like a keto diet because it is very limiting. I think that this is furthest from the truth! I believe that the keto diet is what you make of it. If you are cynical about it, then it will be just that.
Keto diet for more than just weight loss
I think it’s important to keep in mind that there is more to the keto diet than only weight loss. It is also a diet to help reduce your inflammation and risk for disease. We can acheive weight loss with any type of food as long as there is a calorie deficit. However, those foods may not help give our mitochondria the beneficial nutrients they need to work at their best. To feel our best and be energized, we need to consume foods that are helpful to our cells.
You answer for yourself
” To Each His own” is one of my favorite sayings. Overall, I am here as your coach for holistic wellness; however, you have to determine your destiny. You are the key player, and I want to help you acheive goals. Please slow down and take some time to examine your intentions. You are the one becoming the holistic keto goddess and will be the person to shine on the stage. I know that all of this takes will power! If you are having difficulty with this concept, then I recommend you to do a solar plexus meditation. Just take five to ten minutes out of your day, relax, and this will help you to hone in on your goals. For an excellent solar plexus meditation, please click here.
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[toggle title = “References”]
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Metcalf, Tasha. Keto. Quarto Publishing Group USA, 2019(2,4).
“What to Eat on a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet.” Ruled Me, 25 Mar. 2020, www.ruled.me/eat-cyclical-ketogenic-diet/(3).
Freund, et al. “The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males.” Journal of Obesity, Hindawi, 6 June 2012, www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2012/480467/(5).
“High-Intensity Interval Training 101: HIIT Benefits.” Mercola.com, fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/06/21/interval-training.aspx (6).
Kilua, Aldrine, et al. “Purple Sweet Potato Polyphenols Differentially Influence the Microbial Composition Depending on the Fermentability of Dietary Fiber in a Mixed Culture of Swine Fecal Bacteria.” Nutrients, MDPI, 30 June 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31262003(7) .
Ashraf S et al. “Potential nutraceutical benefits of basmati rice bran oil as analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritis.” Pak J Pharm Sci. 2019 Nov;32(6):2545-2551. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=basmati+rice+benefits (8)
“Why Carb Cycling Helps You Deal With the Pitfalls of the Keto Diet.” Bulletproof, 23 Mar. 2020, www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/carb-cycling-diet/ (9)
“Net Carbs Calculator.” Calculator Academy, calculator.academy/net-carbs-calculator/(10).