What Is Keto Cycling, and Can It Aid in Weight Loss While Following a Ketogenic Diet?

You’ve probably heard of the ketogenic diet by now; it’s a weight-loss strategy that entails drastically lowering your carbohydrate intake, regulating your protein intake, and increasing your fat intake. Your body will enter ketosis after a few days of following the ketogenic diet, or keto for short. Research in the May 2021 issue of Nutrients connected this state to weight loss, lower cholesterol, and better glucose control.

However, not all medical professionals endorse the diet because, according to Northwestern Medicine, it might cause kidney problems, an increase in the consumption of “bad” fats, vitamin shortages, and food fixation. The difficulty of maintaining ketosis is another significant drawback of the ketogenic diet. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, you should stick to a daily carbohydrate intake of no more than 20 to 50 grams (g) while following the keto diet. One medium-sized pear provides 27 g of carbohydrates, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to put that into context.

It might be jarring for the body to suddenly consume so few carbohydrates. “The extreme lack of energy that many people suffer in the first few days of the keto diet is one of the difficulties they run into. The body is currently learning to use fat for energy instead of easily accessible carbohydrates, according to Susan Kieffer, department chair of the nursing school at Purdue University Global in Helena, Montana. You can have extreme fatigue and possibly some mental fog during this period.

Since this occurrence is so frequent, it is known as the “keto flu.” Another factor making the diet difficult to follow? cravings for carbohydrates.

here comes keto cycling. Keto cycling entails sticking to the ketogenic diet for a predetermined period of time, followed by a day (or more) off. According to Molly Devine, RD, the owner of MDS Nutrition in Durham, North Carolina, “It’s also known as carb cycling.” There are higher-carb days and lower-carb days, so that’s another phrase for it.

Making the keto diet simpler to adhere to is the goal. You might follow the diet longer if you know there will be a day soon when you can consume carbs once more.

How Exactly Does Keto Cycling Operate?
The term “keto cycling” is not well defined. Some people opt to follow a five- or six-day ketogenic diet with one or two days off. Some people will follow the keto diet for 10 to 12 days, then take three to four days off.

Generally speaking, Devine advises against taking more than two days off from keto. The majority of people “fall off the wagon” and have a significant carb and sugar cravings again after several days with higher carb intake, according to the expert. To evaluate how your body reacts and how quickly you return to ketosis thereafter, she advises starting with only one day at first.

It will be very difficult for you to return to ketosis if you consume too many carbohydrates since they will cause your glycogen levels to increase. She advises imagining your body’s stock of stored carbs, known as glycogen, as a gas tank. As long as we don’t let that tank empty completely, she claims, we may quickly drain it once more and enter ketosis. But after those first three or four days [off keto], our tanks begin to overflow and you start to store part of that glucose as fat, making it exceedingly challenging to empty them again and enter ketosis.

Devine advises avoiding full-blown carb binges and instead sticking to whole foods with little to no sugar on those days when you consume more carbohydrates. It will be simpler for the body to re-adapt to ketosis if you consume foods like fruit, sweet potatoes, and whole grains, which are all categorized as complex carbs. Also, take into account the time of day you consume these carbohydrates. If that’s the case for you, Devine advises eating carbs during the day when you’re most active rather than at night. Again, choose those complex options.

Devine advises against beginning keto cycling right away. She advises against trying keto cycling until two to three months have passed since starting the diet. That’s because your body needs to be fat-adapted in order for it to enter ketosis again quickly. Although there isn’t enough evidence to prove it, Devine has observed in her practice that a person who is accustomed to being in ketosis will recover from a carb-heavy meal more rapidly than someone who isn’t. Unless a person has been adhering to a clean ketogenic diet, which calls for getting the healthiest version of keto-approved items, she does not advocate for keto cycling.

for at least three months, including whole meals and grass-fed meat, and following a strict and consistent workout regimen. This ought to enable individuals to consume more carbohydrates without gaining weight or experiencing strong cravings.

Devine advises doing an intense activity the next morning after a high-carb day. The goal is to have the body burn the glycogen you consumed so it can resume burning fat.

Keto Cycling: Potential Health Benefits and Risks for the Ketogenic Diet

Keto cycling is so new that no research has yet looked into its advantages and hazards. According to Kieffer, cycling through ketosis—eating carbs then not eating carbs—could be hazardous. “I think a person could be in danger of storing much of that consumed fat, which can result in high triglycerides and cholesterol, if they eat a high-fat diet one day (like what is advised in the keto diet) and then return to eating carbs the next,” she says. She notes that because the body does not have enough time, it might continue to use carbohydrates for energy while storing fat.

Keto cycling hasn’t received much investigation, but a tiny study was published in Nutrients in September 2020. The researchers discovered that keto cycling caused young, healthy men to lose weight at a rate comparable to that caused by a nourishing diet that reduced 500 calories each day. While the other dieters largely shed body fat, the weight reduction for the keto cyclers was a combination of decreased body fat, water, and lean body mass.

According to some anecdotal data, including cycling increases the likelihood that someone will remain on the keto diet. If you continue the diet for a longer amount of time than you otherwise would have, you can also end up losing more weight.

Some people think that professional athletes can benefit from keto cycling since their bodies require more carbohydrates for energy during challenging training and competitions. According to Devine, timing carbohydrate intake based on the type and intensity of activity can improve performance for committed athletes.

After all, studies have demonstrated that following a rigorous ketogenic diet reduces athletic performance. A high-carb diet or one that alternates between periods of high and low carbohydrate intake, according to one study, both improves and worsens athletic performance. (which is similar to keto cycling).

It appears that the body utilizes good carbs for energy during exercise. Running on glucose (carbs) during challenging strength training sessions can be advantageous, according to Devine. A different study that was published in Nutrition Today in January 2018 indicated that only carbs can be broken down quickly enough for the body to use during intense activity.

the difficulties with keto cycling
You won’t be able to escape the difficulties of starting keto, such as the keto flu, because it’s ideal to try keto cycling after your body has already adjusted to ketosis.

Devine cautions that while keto cycling may be beneficial for those who occasionally seek higher-carb foods, it is not for everyone.

According to anecdotal evidence, some people who attempt keto cycling do find it challenging. You don’t feel very good when you return carbohydrates to your diet, and I’m not talking about eating an apple. This is more about refined carbohydrates. According to her, some people experience a “carb hangover,” in which the body feels somewhat swollen and irritated and headaches may occur.

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On the days when you’re not on the diet, it can be difficult to control your appetite. “All of those cravings for those sugars and those carbs come back pretty strong for somebody who was a carb addict or a sugar addict before going on the diet,” Devine claims. It’s similar to declaring, “I’m going to stop smoking, but I’ll have one cigarette a month.” Good fortune. Simply put, I find the dietary strategy challenging to adhere to.

Are You Considering Keto Cycling?
If you are pregnant or nursing, exercise caution when beginning keto cycling or the keto diet in general. Kieffer advises these women to start by speaking with their primary care physician. According to the University of Chicago Medicine, people with type 2 diabetes should also seek medical advice, and those with type 1 diabetes, renal issues, or illnesses involving the pancreas, liver, thyroid, or gallbladder should avoid the diet.

Keto cycling won’t be nearly as beneficial as standard keto, says Devine, if weight loss is your ultimate objective and the technique has been approved by your medical team. Taking those days off “can halt your weight loss because you’re not going to be burning any fat during that time and you could be putting more on,” she warns. “I’ve seen ‘cheat days’ morph into ‘cheat months,’ which absolutely backfire on the client. It results in a very “yo-yo” style of weight reduction, which can be very demoralizing. According to Kieffer, the effects of keto cycling are never as striking as when the body is kept in a state of ketosis continuously.

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On the other hand, cycling might help you stick to the keto diet longer if you choose the strategy of following the keto diet most days but find that it keeps you on track.

The bottom line is that you must be aware of who you are and your capacity for restraint. “It might work for you,” adds Devine, “if you’re able to have a higher-carb day with healthy carbs and be able to get back on track the next day.” “But you’re going to have trouble with it if you’re someone who kind of loses control when you get around sweet foods, and one doughnut means the entire case of doughnuts.”

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