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Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: The Best Ever Bodybuilding Diet?

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: The Best Ever Bodybuilding Diet?

This diet did not originate with me of course. However, because of the massive impact it had on my results, I feel compelled to share it. Learn more right here and give it a try.

What would you consider to be the perfect bodybuilding diet? If such a thing existed it would meet the following criteria:

  • Allow you to build muscle without accumulating fat when bulking. You'd stay lean all year round.
  • Allow you to lose fat without losing muscle when cutting.
  • Induce an increase in serum anabolic hormones naturally (without supplements).

What would it mean to you and your bodybuilding goals if this diet was not something that only existed in fairytales, but was available to you right now!

You may have heard of this strategy before, but dismissed it. I advise you to keep an open mind and test it for yourself, many others including Hugo Rivera have tried it with amazing results.

Origins And Method

This diet did not originate with me of course. However, because of the massive impact it had on my results, I feel compelled to share it with as many people as possible. I would like to credit the following people for their wisdom before I go any further:

So what is this diet? It's a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet, or CKD for short. CKD basically means that you cycle periods of low carb, high protein, and high fat with periods of high carb, high protein, and low fat.

The majority of time you will be consuming a low carb diet, with a period set aside each week for carbing-up. This isn't for the fun of it; there are real scientific reasons for this, reasons with exciting implications for the bodybuilder.

Increasing Anabolic Hormones

A diet that maximizes serum levels of growth promoting hormones is a dream come true. Specifically we're talking about:

  1. Testosterone
  2. Growth Hormone
  3. IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor 1)

I'm sure that all sounds good to you. So how do you actually implement a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?

For most of the time you will be consuming a high fat, high protein, low carb diet. This is interspersed with smaller periods of high carb, high protein, low fat nutrition. There are variations on the CKD but the standard (and my favorite) way is to implement it in the following way:

  • 5-6 days of low carb.
  • 1-2 days of high carb.

This gives a manageable and sociable weekly cycle where you carb up over the weekend and return to your low-carb diet during the week.

Carb up over the weekend.

Please note: Depending on how intense you train, some people may find that their gym performance deteriorates towards the end of the low-carb phase. In this case, it is highly recommended that you implement a mid-week carb-spike to replenish your muscle glycogen stores by having another high-carb, high-protein, low-fat day on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Low-Carb Advantage

When you keep your carbs sufficiently low, you body switches to a fat metabolism; this is called the 'Metabolic Switch'. Switching from a carbohydrate to a fat metabolism has some real advantages for the bodybuilder:

  • Increased Lipolysis (breakdown of fat)
  • Decreased Lipogenesis (accumulation of body fat)

This metabolic switch usually takes around 3 days to take full effect. Synthesizing the correct enzymes in sufficient quantities to become a fat-burner takes a little time. This is why some new comers to low carb diets can feel foggy at the beginning.

Please do not confuse this short period for the whole diet; your energy will be back up in no time, and for some people, better than ever!

The Role Of Insulin

Some of you may have noted that I left out an important anabolic hormone in the above list - Insulin.

What Does Insulin Do?

Insulin is a hormone with extensive effects on both metabolism and several other body systems (eg, vascular compliance). Insulin causes most of the body's cells to take up glucose from the blood (including liver, muscle, and fat tissue cells), storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle, and stops use of fat as an energy source. When insulin is absent (or low), glucose is not taken up by most body cells and the body begins to use fat as an energy source (ie, transfer of lipids from adipose tissue to the liver for mobilization as an energy source). As its level is a central metabolic control mechanism, its status is also used as a control signal to other body systems (such as amino acid uptake by body cells). It has several other anabolic effects throughout the body.


So when does our body produce insulin? Insulin is secreted by our pancreas primarily in response to the carbohydrates in our diet. Since we are keeping carbs low, our insulin levels will also be low. Does this mean we miss out? Not at all.

This is where the carb-up period comes in. Once a week you should load up on carbs and let your insulin levels spike. Insulin will shuttle amino acids into the muscle tissue, but we also refill our depleted muscle glycogen stores during this time.

Our muscles are like tanks for glycogen. They fill up and empty again when we workout. Unfortunately when we eat too many carbs these tanks become satiated. Some glycogen is then stored in the liver and any excess is converted to triglyceride and stored as fat. This is where traditional high-carb diets can let us down. So why fill them at all?

Muscle glycogen means better performance in the gym. We load up on it and fill our tanks. By the end of our low-carb period we have once again emptied the tanks and we repeat the cycle over again.

Growth Hormone & Insulin

These 2 hormones have a strange relationship. It seems that when one is in abundance, the other is nowhere to be found. We therefore do not want chronically elevated insulin levels as:

  1. Our growth hormone production will be blunted
  2. We may overspill our glycogen tanks and start to lay down fat (lipogenesis)

Fat & Testosterone

Testosterone and dietary fat have a positive correlation; i.e. diets higher in fat and dietary cholesterol lead to higher concentrations of circulating testosterone.1 We all know how important this hormone is to maximizing our lean muscle gains. You could be throwing away potential gains by consuming a low-fat diet, that goes for the ladies too.2

How Many Carbs Is Low-Carb?

In order to become a 'fat-burner', you should consume around 60 grams or less of net carbohydrate per day (total carbs minus fiber). However, in order to determine just how many carbs you personally should be consuming, a little trial and error is necessary.

The general rule is this:

Eat the smallest amount of carbs it takes to allow maximum output in the gym.

This will vary from person to person. Please bear in mind that fat will become your main source of energy and large quantities of carbs are unnecessary.

If you are unsure, try beginning at 30 grams and adjust as necessary.

What About Post-Workout Carbs?

Remember, our goal is to keep insulin low and growth hormone elevated for most of the week. Post-workout carbohydrates will therefore work against you here.

Apart from blunting growth hormone levels, carbohydrates may do nothing to increase protein synthesis in the post-workout period beyond that which protein can do by itself 3. Take the following study for example:

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The following study took place in the Netherlands, the subjects being healthy young men. The study split the men into 3 groups, each ingesting different combinations of protein & carbohydrates. Therefore the only variable was the level of carbohydrate.

Each group performed resistance training for 60 minutes and was given either protein or a combination of protein and carbohydrate each hour for 6 hours after training. The amount of protein for all the groups was 0.3g per kg of bodyweight. The protein and carbs varied as follows:

  • Group 1 - Just protein, no carbs
  • Group 2 - Protein with 0.15 g per kg of body weight of carbohydrate
  • Group 3 - Protein with 0.6 g per kg of body weight of carbohydrate

STUDY CALCULATOR
Weight
Results
Protein
Carbs 1
Carbs 2

Protein synthesis rates were then measured for 6 hours after training. The results?

  1. The intake of protein after training increases protein synthesis.
  2. The addition of carbohydrate (whether in small or large amounts) to this protein did not further increase protein synthesis at all.

This is good news for those interested in or currently living a cyclical ketogenic lifestyle.

What To Eat

Any anabolic lifestyle is only as good as it is practical to actually live.

Perhaps you think a low-carb diet is too restrictive. Maybe you've even tried something like this before and failed because you felt that there wasn't a wide enough variety of food. This is understandable.

In order to experience the awesome benefits of this diet and also make it enjoyable, I am continually searching for recipes and concocting a few of my own. To show you just how tasty and easy it is to live this lifestyle here's a typical 1-day eating plan:


Mid Morning:

  • Low-carb wrap

    Low-carb wrap filled with: Tuna, Mayo, Cheese

    (Low-carb tortillas can be bought in some stores and online)

Lunch:

  • Caesar Salad

    Caesar Salad

    (With full fat sauce, no croutons)

Main Meal:


Late Snack:


Low Carb Concerns

When the light of science shines on the concerns some people have about low carb diets, they vanish without a trace.

Sluggish Gym performance

Once your body gets fully fat-adapted (3-14 days) this isn't a problem. Also, you fill you glycogen stores once or twice per week.

Once your body gets fully adapted sluggishness isn't a problem.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

Is a high fat/low carb diet increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease? Not on your life! This belief is based on an unproven hypothesis from the 1950's. The surprising truth is that low carb/high-fat diets consistently outperform all others in improving lipid profiles. Typically, HDL (good) cholesterol rises, LDL (bad) cholesterol drops and triglycerides plummit, producing a much reduced risk of heart disease. 4 5

Brain Fog

This does not happen to everyone though some experience it only in the initial 'metabolic switch' period. A fat metabolism requires different enzymes to function than a carbohydrate one. Synthesizing the correct enzymes in sufficient quantities to become a fat-burner takes a little time, stick it out.

Conclusion

So there's no reason to not give this a go. Prepare for some initial water weight loss at the beginning, you'll put it back on every carb-up phase.

This could be the step you've been waiting for. Take your game to the next level!

Mark McManus

References:

  1. Alteration of the Lipid Composition of Rat Testicular Plasma Membranes by Dietary (n-3) Fatty Acids Changes the Responsiveness of Leydig Cells and Testosterone Synthesis1 Elena Sebokova2, Manohar L. Garg3, Antoni Wierzbicki, Alan B. R. Thomson* and M. Thomas Clandinin4 Nutrition and Metabolism Research Group, Department of Foods & Nutrition * Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2C2
  2. Effect of low-fat diet on female sex hormone levels. Ingram DM, Bennett FC, Willcox D, de Klerk N.University Department of Surgery, Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre, Nedlands, Western Australia.
  3. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Sep;293:E833-E842
  4. Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet. N Engl J Med 2008 Jul 17; 359:229.
  5. Krauss, Ronald, et al. "Carbohydrate, Weight Loss, and Atherogenic Dyslipidemia." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006 May;83(5):1025-31.

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About The Author

Hailing from Ireland, Mark is a muscle & nutrition enthusiast who has spent years in independent research... Better nutrition for fat loss!

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andre178

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andre178

Great read! Definitely makes it easier when the "diet" adapts for the weekend social carbs!

Jan 20, 2012 9:32am | report
 
naturalhench

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naturalhench

I've been finding it hard going just sticking to one carb up day a week. Maybe I'll try 2 but keeping to strict calorie levels.

Feb 5, 2012 3:36pm | report
 
Elvin10002

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Elvin10002

Wow what an amazing transformation you have done it dude. I currently live in nyc and I currently have the body you had in 2009. Is there any way you could email me a week of the diet you used to get to where you at now. My email is elvin10002@yahoo.com

Feb 14, 2012 7:25pm | report
Experiencaholic

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Experiencaholic

Love your profile pic - - how you chopped the vefore and after!

Mar 21, 2013 4:56pm | report
07Maestro

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07Maestro

Great read

Feb 19, 2012 11:04am | report
 
kaagy2005us

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kaagy2005us

sorry I'm confused
in week days we shod eayt less than 60g for carp
on weekend should i eat high carps more than 60 or less than 60 gm?
and what about fat. How many fats Is low-fats?

May 6, 2012 1:21am | report
 
badwella

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badwella

Yes, you will eat less than 60 g of carbs; really less than 30 grams. Your diet consists of protein and fat with fat being your main source of energy through the day.
On weekends you "carb-up" upwards toward 500-600 grams of carbohydrates. During this time you minimize fat intake. This period is to restore muscle glycogen (the fuel for muscle contraction).

So, in practice. M-F Fat Protein. S-Su Carb Protein.

Jul 13, 2012 2:35pm | report
stevez23

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stevez23

I have a question about this diet. How many calories are you supposed to be eating a day with this on weekdays/weekends?

Aug 7, 2012 9:11pm | report
 
Eric9185

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Eric9185

How many grams of protein per day would you want to take in on this diet?

Aug 8, 2012 7:00am | report
 
lwyzykowski

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lwyzykowski

I dont understand why you eat carbs on the weekend? How many carbs are considered high on the weekend? Why do you need to spike your insulin? Can some one explain this to me?
I have been doing low carb, under 25 carbs a day and working out split workout with a day off a week, little cardio walking, but have not lost much, maybe 5 lbs in 2.5 weeks and I have a long way to go! Any advice?

Aug 22, 2012 9:18am | report
 
ComputerHabit

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ComputerHabit

I've been doing Keto for about 2 months and have dropped about 20 lbs. About 2 lbs a week is normal.

I haven't been doing CKD but just Keto. I'm about to start through. I wanted to really cut off any fat I had around my middle first and it melting away. I work out 5 days a week and walk on the weekend. Weights are where it's at. Even for the ladies.

I'll give you an example of what happens when you CKD because I did an experiment last weekend since it was my birthday. I decided to eat as much carbs and sugar as I wanted to. I went crazy I started the day with a big breakfast at IHOP with pancakes and all, cleared the plate. I had two indian food dishes complete with rice and naan (bread). I had a steak dinner with a baked sweet potato and all the sides. I ate a whole lemon meringue pie. The list goes on and on.

From Friday night until Saturday night I gained about 10 - 12 lbs. My muscles felt like they were about to rip my skin open. I felt so buff. I then went back on Keto and by Wednesday I was back down the 10 lbs.

Stick with Keto. Stay away from sugar and carbs and you will begin to melt away.

Best of luck to you. I hope you succeed in your goals.

Sep 26, 2012 4:00pm | report
jwethall

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jwethall

This is an older post, but to answer your question, you eat carbs because your Thyroid gland begins to stop producing as much T3 and your Leptin levels begin to fall after carb fasting for so long. This slows your metabolism to a crawl and you begin to see diminishing returns. The trick is not to pig out at IHOP for your carbs, but to be responsible and calculate how many good complex carbs you need for your given BMR. With a keto diet, and with most diets, you're looking to eat about 1g/lb of your bodyweight in protein to maintain muscle mass. for example, I'm 220lbs so I eat 220 g which =880 calories. For my weight, my BMR is about 3300 cal. Since I want to be in a calorie deficit, I cut 600 cal out per day to give a total of 2700 cal. Minus the 880 cal in protein and that will give me how many fat cal you need IE 1820. Divide that by 9 (9 cal in each gram of fat) and you get about 200 g of fat per day. When you carb up on the weekend, you should be getting 1820 cal in carbs or 455 grams. Pick good carb sources like brown rice, sweet potato, oatmeal, or ezekial bread. Do this and you will burn fat much faster that by going strictly Keto.

Dec 18, 2012 11:30am | report
bradkins78

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bradkins78

Jwethall, I have no thyroid gland (was born without one), how will this effect me? Thanks.

Oct 11, 2014 10:45pm | report
JimmyHimself

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JimmyHimself

I like the looks of that diet!

Sep 3, 2012 2:03pm | report
 
benstopper

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benstopper

CKD is without doubt my favorite diet. I do miss eating carbs during the week but it gives you something to look forward to on the weekend.

Another good read.

Sep 6, 2012 1:37am | report
 
TreverMason

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TreverMason

hey man im just starting this diet any advise and can u cut while on it

Sep 7, 2012 8:21pm | report
LukeSwatko

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LukeSwatko

How long does it takes to first carbs loading?One week is enough or two weeks would be better?

Nov 4, 2012 2:23pm | report
 
Coriell

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Coriell

What about Protein Shakes on this? Since I consume 2 or 3 a day and they net around 10 to 15 carbs each, that gives me my 30 to 45 gms right there.

Nov 8, 2012 6:35pm | report
 
CarbZero

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CarbZero

Get some whey protein (isolate 90). Very low in carb!

Jul 17, 2013 9:02am | report
jlambo00

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jlambo00

I've been workigng this diet for 2 weeks now. Im not dropping alot of weight. Only afew pounds a week. I've even been doing atleast 30 mins of cardio after my workout, usally running. Does the 60gs include ALL carbs i.e. drinks etc? I've been keeping around 30-40 never to exceed more then 60. Thanks for the help

Nov 24, 2012 5:30pm | report
 
jwethall

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jwethall

Yes, all carbs including and especially sugary drinks like pepsi/coke products. Drink diet if you have to have soda. Andy Haman drinks a gallon of diet Mt. Dew a day. your carbs ideally should be as low as possible and as close to zero as you can get them.

Dec 18, 2012 11:50am | report
jwethall

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jwethall

also, consider the fat sources you use. Natural peanut butter for example has 7 grams of carbs per serving. If you're eating 2 servings of PB per meal 4-5 times a day that's 56-70 carbs right there. If you want it to work, you have to do it right.

Dec 18, 2012 12:20pm | report
krisM4

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krisM4

I just started this diet a week ago and I am already seeing the water weight fall off. I just had a few questions, When I get off of this diet will I regain all the weight I lost because my body wont be use to eating regular amounts of carbs? Will this effect my metabolism long term? Lastly on this cycle should I not eat fruits?

Jan 15, 2013 12:36pm | report
 
CarbZero

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CarbZero

No fruit, they contain fructose (a fruit sugar) so can possibly kick you out of the state of ketosis. Yes, if you go back to eating carbohydrates and other refined sugars like the average person, you'll most likely gain weight because you'll be carbohydrate sensitive.

Jul 17, 2013 9:04am | report
Carreira04

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Carreira04

I was wondering, do you do the protein shakes only after a weight lifting session, or after cardio as well? I work out 6 days a week, and try to throw in 2-3 weight workouts in there. I HATE the shakes my husband drinks, so I try to make some egg beaters after working out instead.

Feb 8, 2013 10:51pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 53 Comments

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