3 types of Keto Diet explained: which one is right for you?
Authors: Saahil Karkera & Lotte Damen
In the previous article ‘What is keto? A Keto Diet for beginners!‘ you could read about the basic aspects of a Ketogenic Diet. But did you know there’s actually not one way to do Keto? There are 3 main types of a Keto Diet, and which one is right for you, depends on the main goal you want to achieve. For example, your approach should be different if you’re looking for a great way to lose weight, than if your goal is to increase your endurance or gym performances. So which one is right for you? Let’s help you decide!
Firstly, let’s give you more in-depth information on the 3 most common approaches of a Keto Diet. If you think this is too confusing, don’t worry. We will keep it simple! So, the 3 most common types of a Ketogenic Diet are:
- The Standard Keto Diet (SKD) also known as The Classic Keto Diet
- The Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD)
- The Targeted Keto Diet (TKD)
We hear you ask: ‘uh okay, but what is the difference? I thought a Keto Diet was just a very low-carb high-fat diet in general?’ Yeah well, you’re kind of right, the basic is actually the same: mostly eating whole low-carb high-fat foods with its main goal: reaching ketosis. But there are some slight variations, depending on your activity level. We will break it down for you:
The Standard Keto Diet – in general, the best way to start your Keto journey
The Standard Keto Diet is the most common type of doing Keto. You consume the standard Keto macros, which are: 70-80% fat from high-quality products, 10-25% protein, and just 5% carbs. This is also the type of Diet that is an established treatment to control seizures in patients with epilepsy. If you follow a Standard Keto Diet, your carb-intake should be low all the time. We are talking about a daily amount of 20-30 grams of net carbs here. This amount is mostly required to stay in ketosis. Therefore, your primary food products should be: low-carb vegetables, nuts (best: macadamia, pecans, and brazil nuts), seeds (pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds), grass fed meat, fish, eggs, butter & oils and full-fat dairy. If your main goal is weight loss, it is important to create a daily caloric deficit. In other words: eat less calories, than you burn! This is the golden rule of every type of diet.
This Diet is perfect for: people who just start their keto journey with the main goal of losing weight & increased energy, and who perform low to moderate intensity activities for about 3 times a week. These activities include: walking, jogging, cycling, light fitness. This is also the best type of doing Keto for endurance athletes such as marathon runners who are in need of a steady energy supply. Because this makes it easier to become fully fat adapted, and really rely on fat for energy during long runs!
The Cyclical Keto Diet – best for building muscle, and increased strength
Next up, is the Cyclical Keto Diet. This is a combination of a prolonged duration of the Standard Keto Diet, followed by consuming lots of carbs during a day or meal once in a while. ‘Wait, what? Why would you eat carbs on a low-carb diet? I thought this article won’t be confusing…’. We understand your confusion. But of course, there’s a story behind this! If you’re a bodybuilder or if your goal is increased strength or building muscle, you should continue reading.
If you do strength training, you need quick energy. This type of energy mostly comes from glucose, and stored glycogen. This is exactly what is depleted if you follow a Standard Keto Diet. Therefore, by eating many carbs (also known as a carb refeed) once in a while, the amount of glycogen in the muscles restores. This carb refeed will kick you out of Ketosis, and it will take a few days to get back into it. The shortest suggested cycle for this is six days on Standard Keto Diet, followed by one day of a carb refeed. A carb refeed means, literally switching your carb & fat ratios for 1 day. So on this day, you will eat 70-80% carbs, and just 5% of fat. It is very important to not overdo it with the calories, otherwise you will gain weight, instead of muscles.
Perfect for: athletic individuals who want to see some lean muscle gains, and who’s goal is to burn body fat to the max. If you notice drops in your lifts, this is a pretty good sign you should experiment with this type of Keto Diet.
The Targeted Keto Diet – a less ‘extreme’ way to increase your physical strength, and performances
Finally, the Targeted Keto diet (TKD). This is actually a less ‘extreme’ way to provide your muscles with some extra energy during your workouts. This type of Keto Diet, compared to The Cyclical Keto Diet, is a simpler way to maintain high-intensity exercise performance and replenish glycogen storage in your muscles, without result of being out of ketosis for a couple of days. How does this work? You time your carb-intake before an intense workout and eat the remaining of the Keto Macros throughout the rest of the day. Mostly, this carb-intake lies between 10-20 grams. For example, you would consume some fast digesting carbs like a scoop of Dextrose 30-60 minutes before your workout.
This is your Keto Diet if: you don’t want to be out of Ketosis for a longer time, and you train at a higher intensity level at the gym and want to hulk-smash those deadlifts.
Unlike The Cyclical Keto Diet – where the primary goal is to completely replete stored glucose (glycogen) during carb refeeds, and deplete them between carb refeeds, the primary goal of a Targeted Keto Diet is to maintain blood sugar levels & stored muscle glycogen at a moderate level for training. Although this difference, both approaches increase your energy levels, and strength.
So: which Keto Diet is right for me?
If you are completely new to Keto, we suggest to start with a Standard Keto Diet for a few months, and see how this goes. If your main goal is weight loss & increased energy levels, and you are not so into high-intensity workouts, you will probably see some very good results with this type! In fact, most people need nothing more than the Standard Keto Diet. If you, however, reach a weight-loss plateau (you’re not losing weight anymore), you could experiment with intermittent fasting. Oh no, another term… Keep breathing, we will discuss this topic in detail in on of our next articles! But switching to one of the other types will only makes it more difficult to maintain ketosis.
However, if your main goal is to improve physical strength, and you’ve followed a Standard Keto Diet for several months (meaning you’re fat-adapted), you can experiment with The Targeted Keto Diet. We do only recommend this, if you don’t experience enough energy and progress during your workouts. Otherwise, it’s best to stick to your Standard Keto Diet and enjoy the health benefits of being in constant ketosis. If you implement The Targeted Keto Diet for a couple of months, and notice some significant improvements during your workouts, you can start your cyclical journey! It is just a matter of personal preference what works best for you 😉
If you don’t exercise at high-intensity levels on a regular basis, and have not reached a weight-loss plateau, you should stick to the Standard Keto Diet. Enjoy your keto journey, and experiment with what type of Keto Diet works best for you! The most important aspect is to meet your individual nutritional needs. If you need help with this, and have no idea how to start, reach out, and we will start your keto journey together 🙂 Are you curious if you’re in actual ketosis? Check this infographic!
Note to this article
Be aware of the fact that there are no strict guidelines when it comes to these 3 types of Keto Diet. It is important to experiment, since no individual is the same. But being familiair with these 3 types, hopefully gives you more freedom to decide what’s best for you. Besides, if you don’t notice any progress anymore or if you’ve reached a plateau, it’s nice to know that there are ways to work on this! It is also important to keep progress of your workout schedule / program, since it might be necessary to try something new. An important note is that there are many more aspects than only your diet that define whether you see progress in reaching your goals or not.
Stay tuned! More articles coming soon
- 5 keto health benefits besides rapid weight loss
- How to get enough fiber on keto: 5 easy ways!
- 10 things you should know before starting Keto
- Is a Keto Diet safe for everybody?
- Does a Keto Diet ask for vitamin or mineral supplementation?
Let me know if there’s any topic you want to read on my blog!