If you want to lose weight but find the keto diet too restrictive, you might consider the keto cycling diet as an alternative option. You're not alone: Many keto fans out there find it difficult to cut ties with their beloved breads and pastas. But what is keto cycling? Is it really less restrictive than traditional keto? And most importantly, does it even work? Read on to find out if keto cycling is a good choice for you.
What is keto cycling?
Keto cycling, which is also known as a cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD), involves following a strict ketogenic diet for five or six days per week and allowing yourself the remaining one or two days to not follow it. As you might already know, the keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat, and limited-protein meal plan. So in the case of keto cycling, your non-keto days are the days that you can eat more carbs. The goal of this strategy is to temporarily get you out of ketosis — a state where your body gets energy from fats instead of carbohydrates — in order to refill muscle glycogen.
Keto cycling is especially popular with athletes, with many of them claiming that this technique allows them to engage in high-intensity exercise while following the diet for most days out of the week. In other words, many of them find it easier to lose fat while still continuing to build muscle in the midst of keto cycling. But whether you work out a lot or not, loading up on carbs on your "cheat" day(s) will cause your body to store some of those carbs as energy for the week ahead, according to Keto Resource. On top of that, who doesn't want to have a nice bowl of pasta or a tasty sandwich every now and then?
Does keto cycling work?
Dietician Chloe McLeod said in an interview with Australia's News AU that everyone should exercise caution before making any dietary decisions based on theories, especially since there hasn't been much research done on keto cycling just yet.
"Being on a lower carb diet may be useful for some individuals, but it is not right for everyone," McLeod said to the publication. "Something to keep in mind is if you are truly following a keto diet, as soon as you eat your carbs, this will take you out of ketosis."
That said, McLeod pointed out that keto cycling may benefit folks who find the keto diet too restrictive, in terms of giving them more options of different types of healthy food to eat on the weekend. It may be helpful for balancing hormones as well.
She added, "It can be a good chance to get some extra fiber and whole grains in your diet, which is more beneficial for your gut health (and overall health) long term," she said. "High-fat diets have been shown to change the types of bacteria in the gut."
Another plus about doing keto cycling is that it might help prevent you from getting the dreaded "keto flu" — a loose collection of symptoms that some keto dieters experience early on in the diet, including brain fog, nausea, fatigue, headaches, dehydration, and irritability.
It's worth mentioning that the small body of research on keto cycling that does exist points to it being a potentially valuable option for athletes specifically. So if you're looking to add high-intensity exercise to your specific weight-loss plan or fitness goals, this may be of particular interest to you. Remember, always get an OK from your doctor before starting any new diet plan.