Cyclical Keto Diet Meal Plan

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Written by Bridget Nalwoga, Certified Nutritionist and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

Imge of Cyclical Keto Diet Meal Plan



If you are unsure about going all in with the ketogenic diet, there are many less restrictive options you can try. More flexible variations of the ketogenic diet include lazy keto, dirty keto, and the increasingly popular cyclical keto. 

It is basically the same as regular keto, but you get a few days off every week to eat more carbs, ideally from nutritious sources.

If you would like to try or just know more about this way of eating, keep reading. You will learn the benefits, drawbacks, and foods to eat and avoid while on the diet. 

You will also get a shopping list and a free meal plan. 

What is cyclical keto? 

The cyclical ketogenic diet is an eating plan that involves eating high-fat low-carb food for 5 to 6 days and high-carb for 1 to 2 days.

The diet involves cycling between standard keto and a high-carb diet. A complete cycle is usually a week, for example, if you eat strict keto for 5 days, you will have 2 high-carb days, and if you do 6 low-carb days, you will have 1 high-carb day. 

Some may prefer longer cycles like 10 days or 2 weeks, but these do not match most people’s schedules. 

For the days you are low-carb, you must maintain a strictly low-carb high-fat diet with this macro distribution: 

  • Fats: 70-80%
  • Carbs: 5-10%
  • Protein: 20%

On the high-carb days, you will switch to mostly carbs instead of fats. Your macros will look like this:

  • Carbs: 70%
  • Fat: 10-20%
  • Protein: 15-20% 

This style of eating is common among athletes and physically active individuals. The high-carb days enable you to enjoy high levels of athletic performance that may not be possible when eating very low-carb. 

Benefits of cyclical keto 

For some, cyclical keto may have some advantages over regular keto:

  • Better capacity for physical exercise. Carbs are the body’s preferred source of energy during exercise. Allowing yourself a few high-carb days can improve your physical activity. 
  • Muscle growth. By improving physical capacity, you can increase the rate at which you grow your muscle. Carbs also cause insulin production, which plays a significant role in muscle growth. 
  • The diet can reduce the severity of the side effects of keto. For those at the beginning of their low-carb journey, doing a cyclical diet can help you reduce the intensity of some common side effects like headaches, nausea, and fatigue. 
  • Higher fiber intake. Some of the best fiber sources are high-carb foods. You can add these foods to your meals on your high-carb days. Fiber has many health benefits including better digestion and supporting gut bacteria. 
  • It is less restrictive than keto. If you feel like strict keto might be a little much for you, trying a cyclical version may be more manageable. 
  • It can act as a transition phase to the ketogenic diet. Allowing yourself a few days without all the restrictions can make your transition a little bit easier. 


Drawbacks and side effects of cyclical keto 

The convenience of a cyclical diet may be wonderful, but it doesn't come without some drawbacks. 

Below are some of the disadvantages of this eating plan.

  • Weight gain. Some people may overeat on their high-carb or refeeding days, resulting in weight gain. Especially if they are choosing unhealthy carb sources on these days.
  • It may not work for inactive people. It may prove very difficult for sedentary people to get back into ketosis after their refeeding days. They may therefore not achieve ketosis while on the diet or spend a very limited time in ketosis. This may hinder fat loss (especially if you are not in a calorie deficit).
  • Water retention. Storing carbs requires a lot of water. For this reason, adding carbs back to your diet may result in water retention and bloating.  

All these side effects can occur if one doesn't do the diet correctly. If done right, there seem to be no specific downsides to a cyclical ketogenic diet.

However, being a ketogenic diet, you can still experience some of the downsides of a standard high-fat low-carb diet. Some of these include:

  • Keto flu
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Possible nutrient deficiencies


How to start the cyclical keto diet

If you are already eating ketogenically, starting a cyclical diet is a matter of adding in 1 or 2 high-carb days. However, if you have been eating a high-carb diet, it can be complicated.

Here are a few tips on how you can successfully do this diet.

  • Stay physically active. The cyclical ketogenic diet works best for people that are physically active. Physical exercise is essential for losing weight and retaining or building muscle mass, and overall health.
  • Consult your doctor to see if the diet is safe or necessary for you.
  • After consulting your doctor, seek the help of a registered dietitian or nutritionist to guide you on how to make nutritionally balanced meals.
  • Focus on healthy sources of carbs. Just like fat, not all carbs are nutritionally equal. Whole grains like oats, brown bread, brown rice, and popcorn should make up the bulk of your carbs. Processed carbs like soda, juice, and corn flakes should be restricted.



Foods to eat and avoid on a keto cycle meal plan

On your low-carb days, you will stick to high-fat low-carb foods. You will eliminate most high-carb foods. It is also important to get most of your food from whole sources and avoid or minimize processed foods. 

On your refeeding days, you can indulge in some foods high in carbohydrates. However, you should still stay away from highly processed, refined, and/or packaged carbs.  Those to avoid or minimize include:

  • Breakfast cereal
  • High-sugar foods like ice cream, cake, and candy
  • High-sugar drinks like juice, soda, and tea
  • Pasta from refined flour
  • White bread
  • Sweet desserts
  • Biscuits

The carbohydrates you want to eat on refeeding days should come from whole, unrefined foods. Unrefined carbs you can eat on this ketogenic plan include:

  • Whole wheat flour and whole wheat products like whole-grain bread
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes
  • Legumes like beans, lentils, and peas


Shopping list for a cyclical ketogenic plan

As you will be eating from all food groups, you can shop almost all types of food as long as they are whole and minimally processed. 


  • Whole wheat flour
  • Whole grain or brown bread
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Sweet potatoes
  • White potatoes


  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Plain Greek yogurt


  • Healthy oils like olive and avocado
  • High-fat fruits like coconuts and avocado
  • Butter
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut and seed butters
  • Fish

Fruits and vegetables

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Lemons
  • Coconuts
  • Avocados
  • Bell peppers


1-day sample meal plan for cyclical keto

Your meals differ according to what day it is. 

You will eat as you would if you weren’t on a ketogenic diet on your high-carb days. You only have to remember to stick to whole unprocessed foods. 

On your low-carb days, your cyclical keto menu will look similar to this.

  • Breakfast: Chia pudding
  • Morning snack: Hard-boiled eggs
  • Lunch: Garlic butter shrimp and arugula
  • Evening snack: Greek yogurt and strawberries 
  • Dinner: Pork chops and broccoli 

Calories: 2,108 | Macros: 35.7 g net carbs, 95.7 g protein, and 163.5 g fat.

BREAKFAST Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Chia pudding Chia seeds 2 oz 276 4.3 9.4 17.4
  Coconut milk 1 cup 445 6.4 4.6 48.1
  Strawberries 1/2 cup, sliced 27 4.7 2.2 0.3
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
748 15.4g 15.1g 65.8g            
MORNING SNACK Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Hard-boiled eggs Eggs 2 144 0 12.2 10
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
144 0g 12.2g 10g            
LUNCH Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Garlic butter shrimp and arugula Shrimp 100g 99 0 24 0.3
  Butter 30g 221 0 0 24.6
  Arugula 2 cups 10 0.8 1.2 0.4
  Olive oil 3 tablespoons 345 0 0 38.4
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
675 0.8g 25.2g 63.7g            
EVENING SNACK Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Greek yogurt and strawberries Whole Greek yogurt, plain 100g 97 4 9 5
  Strawberries 1 cup, whole 46 8.2 1 0.4
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
143 12.2g 10g 5.4g            
DINNER Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Pork chops and broccoli Pork 1 chop, 199g 338 0 40.2 18
  Broccoli, raw 2 cups, raw 60 7.3 5.2 0.6
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
398 7.3g 45.4g 18.6g            
DAILY TOTALS   2,108 cal 35.7g net carbs 95.7g protein 163.5g fat




FAQs about the cyclical keto diet

Still have some questions? Keep reading as we answer some of them.

Not necessarily. In regards to health benefits, regular keto and cyclical keto both yield similar results. Both diets can help you lose weight, reduce water retention, improve heart health, and so on. 

Athletes or highly active people may find that the cyclical version works better for them. It’s all about what is best for each individual.  

Yes, it does. Remember, weight loss is mostly about maintaining a calorie deficit. If you manage to eat fewer calories than you burn on this diet, you will most likely lose weight. 

Yes, this type is as safe as any ketogenic diet. However, the long-term effects of the diet have not been studied extensively. This type of eating is not recommended for people with certain medical conditions, so it’s important to speak with your doctor before considering it.

Yes, you can.

In fact, it is encouraged to practice intermittent fasting on the days after your high-carb ones to make it easier to get back into ketosis

The research on this is still mixed. Some studies say that cyclical keto is better for muscle growth than regular keto. However, other studies have found no difference between the two diets. 

You can lose up to 10 lbs on cyclical keto in your first month. The amount of weight you lose depends on how many calories you are eating, how many you are burning, and your body health.


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