A cyclic ketogenic diet helps me to reap the benefits of a low carbohydrate diet whilst avoiding the potential negative side effects, such as dry eyes and poor quality sleep. Timing is crucial when consuming carbs as the glycogen produced causes blood sugar spikes, which you want to avoid during the day, and improves sleep quality.
On a typical day, I aim for most of my calories to come from healthy fats, 70-75%, combined with a moderate amount of clean protein, 15-20%, and a small amount of carbohydrates from leafy green vegetables, about 5-10%. However, once or twice every ten days, I switch it up and consume a higher amount of starchy carbohydrates, reduce the amount of fat and maintain the level of protein. This method formulates my “carb re-feed”.
There are various different methods of carb re-feeding. The Bulletproof Diet suggests combining a re-feed with a day of ‘Protein Fasting’1. This entails restricting protein intake to up to 15 grams, and incorporating more starchy carbs in its place. This promotes autophagy, a deep cell detoxification, which recycles damaged cells and binds toxins lurking in the body. Having tried Protein Fasting I did notice a reduction in inflammation but, as I am currently recovering from thyroid issues and consequent hormonal imbalances, I need to limit the amount of stress to my body. Any type of fasting provokes some degree of stress and so until my body is at optimal health I generally avoid it.
Another method of carb re-feeding is targeted carb cycling. This is employed to reset leptin levels, helping to break through weight loss plateaux and achieve a leaner physique. Frequently, it is suggested that you eat no more than 50 grams of fat, maintain protein and increase carbohydrates. The lower your carb intake on a typical day, the higher your intake should be during a re-feed. Following this method, you should combine carb re-feeds with your heaviest training/workout days. The theory behind this is that after exercising, your glycogen levels will be depleted and so the carbohydrates you consume are going to be used/burnt as energy rather than being stored as fat2. I did experience benefits from this method of re-feeding but at the moment due to my current health issues, I restrict the amount of intense exercise I do until I recover.
When I re-feed, I eat a considerable amount of nutritious, starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash, and occasionally some berries. Although I experimented using white rice, I had a noticeable increase in mucus production, due to the higher level of glucose in my body. That, combined with the “keto flu” often experienced as the body enters ketosis, made me feel reasonably unwell and congested. So, I have concluded that getting most of my carbohydrates from starchy vegetables with an occasional, small serving of white rice and berries, is the optimal method for me.
Top tip: MCT oil is quickly converted to energy and not stored in the body so I consume it during my carb re-feed as it aids the absorption of nutrients and allows me to access fuel from two sources of energy: glucose and ketones.