Have you tried keto but are struggling with your exercise performance and electrolytes? There may be a solution for you with the targeted keto diet (TKD), a variation of the popular low-carb trend.
On the targeted diet, you are allowed a slightly higher amount of carbohydrates to be eaten before, during, or after a workout. Targeted plans are an excellent way to get your body adapted to using both fuel sources, glucose and ketones, and ensure that you have more energy for workouts.
Sounds great, right?
In this article, we will discuss all things TKD, from the basics of what it is and how to start, to a custom food list and a sample of a full day of eating.
Be aware that there are currently no studies to support targeted keto or its proposed benefits.
The targeted keto plan involves consuming a small amount (15-50 g per day) of rapidly-absorbing carbs before, during, or after intense workouts.
The macro distribution is:
Before starting this diet, you should already have been in strict ketosis for a month or two, so that your body is fully keto-adapted. This allows you to move in and out of ketosis more easily on the days that you eat more carbs.
(Not there yet? If you're just starting out, here's our beginner's guide to keto.)
You also need to be glycogen-depleted, which is possible if you are engaging in regular, intense exercise. Glycogen is the way your muscles store carbs. If you are not depleted, the rise in blood sugar will take you out of a ketogenic state.
Please discuss any dietary changes with a medical doctor or dietitian, especially if you have a history of an eating disorder, are currently pregnant or breastfeeding, or have diabetes or any other medical condition.
The possible benefits of the targeted low-carb diet, beyond the standard keto diet benefits, are:
This keto lifestyle, unfortunately, does not come without some drawbacks, which might be different for everyone!
Thinking about switching from the SKD to the TKD and not sure where to start?
1. Calculate your energy, protein, and carb requirement.
You can use the PlanKetogenic quiz to determine your specific macronutrient intake (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) for ketosis. Depending on your activity, you might need a higher amount of protein.
Calculating macros for the targeted ketogenic plan is the same as calculating for any other low-carb diet, but you will add the extra calories from the carbs you will be eating, and adjust your fats as needed.
2. Decide on the amount of carbohydrates to have with workouts.
Plan to consume 15-50 g of carbs 30-60 minutes before your workout. The more intense the exercise, the higher the carb intake. The key is to eat just enough to boost your workout, while not interrupting ketosis when your workout has ended.
There is no “right” amount of carbs on this plan. You need to find out what your max carb intake is to still be producing ketones. The key is to start with a small amount of net carbs, under 30 g. (Remember that the number of grams of net carbs is calculated by taking the number of total carbohydrates and subtracting fiber). Then measure your ketones throughout the day with ketone test strips. If your ketone levels don’t dip below 0.5 mmol/L, you can try increasing your carbs. This process is trial and error because everyone’s body is a bit different. Don’t give up and keep documenting the amount of carbs and the level of ketones.
Let's use an example to help you calculate in the future, by starting with a 1,800 kcal daily intake. For your own calculation, a gram of protein contains 4 kcal, a gram of carbohydrate contains 4 kcal and a gram of fat contains 9 kcal.
Start small, for instance:
You can play around with the numbers, if you find that it takes you too long to get back to ketosis, decrease the carbs and increase the fat, or change some of the fat in your meal plan to MCT oil.
As you progress and you are able to tolerate more carbs or you are exercising more, increase the percentage of carbs, for instance:
As you can see, 15% of carbs/day (68 g) is more than the regular keto limit of 50 g/day. Remember that the extra carbohydrates should be eaten before or during your workout.
In this specific version of the keto diet, you will:
Say good-bye to foods like:
Low-carb targeted keto foods to eat include:
The usual keto foods:
High-GI carbohydrate foods that absorb quickly (to be had before or during a workout):
Pro tip: Before or during a workout, you want to choose quick release carbs (high GI) and avoid slow release (low GI) carbs as well as carb sources that are high in fructose. High fructose sources refill liver glycogen instead of muscle glycogen, which may interrupt ketosis.
Examples of carbs to avoid:
To prepare for your low carb diet, planning and shopping is crucial for success.
Stock-up on some items for the freezer:
Include some staples for the pantry; example foods include:
Finally, fill the fridge or vegetable rack with some fresh produce:
See what one full day of following this eating regime might look like:
Calories: 1,824 | Total Macros: 66.6 g net carbs, 125.7 g protein, and 172 g fat
|BREAKFAST||Ingredients||Serving Size||Calories||Net Carbs(g)||Protein(g)||Fat(g)|
|Cheddar cheese||1 slice (28 g)||115||0.6||6.8||9.5|
|438||7.5 g||27.4 g||34 g|
|MORNING SNACK||Ingredients||Serving Size||Calories||Net Carbs(g)||Protein(g)||Fat(g)|
|Walnuts and berries||Walnuts||7 nuts||183||3.8||4.3||18.3|
|215||11.1 g||5 g||18.7 g|
|LUNCH||Ingredients||Serving Size||Calories||Net Carbs(g)||Protein(g)||Fat(g)|
|Chicken and blue cheese||Chicken thigh||190 g||430||0.2||32.1||21.5|
|Zucchini||1 cup sliced||19||3.5||1.4||0.4|
|Blue cheese||1 oz (28.4 g)||100||1||6.1||8.1|
|Broccoli||1/2 cup chopped||15||3||1.3||0|
|564||7.4 g||40.9 g||30 g|
|PRE-WORKOUT||Ingredients||Serving Size||Calories||Net Carbs(g)||Protein(g)||Fat(g)|
|Gum drops||Gum drops||8||114||28.5||0||0|
|213||1.5 g||13.7 g||15.7 g|
|POST-WORKOUT||Ingredients||Serving Size||Calories||Net Carbs(g)||Protein(g)||Fat(g)|
|Beef jerky||Beef jerky||60 g||124||0||23.5||3.3|
|213||1.5 g||13.7 g||15.7 g|
|DINNER||Ingredients||Serving Size||Calories||Net Carbs(g)||Protein(g)||Fat(g)|
|Stuffed peppers||Ground beef||100 g||240||0.6||25||14.5|
|Bell pepper||1 medium||24||5.5||1||0.2|
|Cauliflower||1/2 cup, chopped||13||2.7||1||0.2|
|369||12.1 g||28.9 g||86 g|
|DAILY TOTALS||1,824 cal||66.6 g net carbs||125.7 g protein||172 g fat|
In PlanKetogenic's low-carb, high-fat plans, we also offer total calorie and macros intake per meal.
You might have some questions regarding certain aspects of this eating style. Let’s take care of any lingering confusion! See below for some common queries.
Won't the fast-absorbing carbohydrates from the targeted diet kick you out of ketosis? It certainly is possible! This is why these carbs should be consumed close to when you exercise, so you should burn them off fairly quickly and jump right back into ketosis. Just remember to start with lower amounts of carbs, and monitor your ketone levels.
If you are still worried and it takes you a bit longer to get back into ketosis, consider adding a high-quality MCT oil to your daily intake. These fats are absorbed quickly and increase ketosis, regardless of carb intake.
If you feel that you need to have more than 50 g of carbohydrates for a training session, split the amount and have half 30 min before training starts, and the other half just before you begin to exercise.
This depends on your unique carb intake. For athletes who train more than once per day, start with dividing your 15-50 g of carbs between your sessions. Monitor your progress and performance, and then increase or decrease the amount per session depending on the intensity and duration of the workout¡. You can also monitor your ketones with strips to ensure you remain in ketosis.
If you would like to eat carbohydrates after exercising, you should stick to your daily limit of less than 50 g. Bear in mind that consuming carbohydrates after working out can make you spend more time out of ketosis.
Avoid fats during exercise as they slow down digestion and might keep you out of ketosis for longer. If you would like to add fat, consider an MCT oil.
Try to include carbohydrates that are quick to digest and absorb. Stick to glucose sweets, drinks, and powders, or a small amount of a high-GI starch like potatoes or rice.