Targeted Keto Diet Meal Plan

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Written by Niki Fourie, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

Imge of Targeted Keto Diet Meal Plan

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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. 

 

What is the targeted keto plan?

 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:

  • Fat: 60 - 80%
  • Protein: 20 - 30%
  • Carbohydrates: 5 - 15%. 

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. 

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.

 

Benefits of a targeted keto plan

The possible benefits of the targeted low-carb diet, beyond the standard keto diet benefits, are:

  • Increased muscle mass
    • This diet may protect the body from burning its muscle for fuel because there is some glucose as glycogen in your muscles and liver for your body to use as energy. Consuming carbs before exercise will also increase your insulin. The spike in your insulin levels prior to exercise will have an anabolic effect on your muscles. This process prevents muscle breakdown and promotes muscle growth. After the workout, you will stay in ketosis.
  • Improved exercise performance
    • It can also help sustain your energy throughout a session, replace your glycogen stores, prevent low blood sugar, and reduce exercise fatigue. Your body actually burns through 30-60 g carbs/hour of endurance exercise (once glycogen stores are depleted).TKD is intended for anyone who takes part in intense, glycogen-depleting exercises like sprints, Crossfit, HIIT, tennis, or long-distance sessions or when participating in activities that last an hour and a half or longer.
  • More flexible than the standard keto diet
    • ​​​​​​​This version contains more carbohydrates than other options and may increase the sustainability of the diet. 

 

Drawbacks of the targeted keto plan

This keto lifestyle, unfortunately, does not come without some drawbacks, which might be different for everyone!

  • Not for beginners
    • ​​​​​​​It's best if you're already fat-adapted before starting a targeted keto diet.
  • Designed for athletes and people who take part in high-intensity exercises
    • ​​​​​​​If you prefer yoga or walking over running marathons, then a standard keto diet is probably best for you.
  • Not appropriate for pure strength exercises
    • ​​​​​​​There is some evidence that suggests that the targeted ketogenic diet may not do much for performance during strength workouts. Weight lifting doesn't require loads of glycogen, so the muscles don't require extra carbs.
  • It is difficult to maintain
    • ​​​​​​​Its followers are notorious for yo-yo dieting, which can cause weight gain in the long term. It also requires consistent food intake tracking to ensure you stay in ketosis, which can be tedious and can cause an obsession with food. 
  • Not to be used exclusively for weight loss
    • ​​​​​​​The targeted keto diet may not be as effective as the typical keto diet for short-term weight loss. 
  • You won't always be in ketosis
    • ​​​​​​​Some people can quickly get back into ketosis after eating carbs, while others find it more challenging to switch back and forth.
  • Possible nutrient deficiencies
    • ​​​​​​​Due to the restrictive nature of the diet, you are not getting all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you would get from eating unlimited amounts of vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains. Some people report feeling tired and foggy, and complain of constipation.
    • Luckily, due to the increase of carbohydrates in the targeted keto plan, it is possible to include more high fiber options like legumes and whole grains
  • Possible increased risk for cardiovascular disease if you go heavy on saturated, “bad” fats, like fatty meat, bacon, butter, cream, etc.
    • Focus on getting more healthy, unsaturated fats like olive oil, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, avocado, and olives.
  • Dehydration
    • ​​​​​​​This is common because you are eliminating glycogen, the water-holding molecule, from the muscles and liver. Make sure you are hydrating properly throughout your low-carb journey!

 

How to start the targeted keto plan

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:

  • Protein (20 - 30%): 25%
    • = 0.25 x 1,800 kcal / 4 kcal = 113 g/day
  • Carbs (5 - 15%): 6% 
    • = 0.07 x 1,800 kcal / 4 kcal = 32 g 
    • You can also work backwards here, start by saying you want around 30 g of carbs for your workout: 30 g x 4 kcal = 120 / 1.800 kcal = 0.15 = 0.067 = about 7%
  • Fat (60 - 80%): 68% 
    • This will be your remaining energy
    • I.e. 100% - 25% - 7% = 68%
    • 68% (0.68 x 1,800 kcal / 9 kcal) = 136 g 

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:

  • Protein (20 - 30%): 25% 
    • 0.25 x 1,800 kcal / 4 kcal = 113 g 
  • Carbs (5 - 15%): 15% 
    • 0.15 x 1,800 kcal / 4 kcal = 68 g 
    • You can also work backwards here, start by saying you want 68 g of carbs for your workout: 68 g x 4 kcal = 180 / 1,800 kcal = 0.15 = 15%
  • Fat (60 - 80%): 60% 
    • 0.60 x 1,800 kcal / 9 kcal = 120 g 

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. 

 

GET A CUSTOM KETO PLAN

 

The targeted keto food list

In this specific version of the keto diet, you will:

  • include mainly high-GI carbohydrates during intense exercise.
    • These give you quick energy that you can burn during your workout
  • cut out most other carbohydrates.
  • make sure to get enough protein, fat, and calories.

Say good-bye to foods like:

  • Highly processed, packaged foods
  • Hydrogenated oils / trans fats

Low-carb targeted keto foods to eat include:

The usual keto foods:

  • Healthy fats: avocado, olives, avocado oil, olive oil, nuts, and nut butter, seeds
    • Nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, and their “butters”, i.e. peanut butter
    • Seeds: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and their “butters”, i.e. sunflower seed butter
  • Non-starchy vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, bell pepper, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, spinach, tomato, zucchini.
  • Dairy: butter, cream, cheese, plain Greek yogurt
  • Meat, poultry, fish, seafood
  • Low-carb fruits: blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries
  • Legumes: beans and lentils
  • Condiments: salt, pepper, herbs, spices, lemon juice
  • Drinks: water, variety tea, coffee

High-GI carbohydrate foods that absorb quickly (to be had before or during a workout):

  • High GI carbs: polenta, potatoes, white rice, sago pearls, sweet biscuits, corn flakes, weetbix
  • Glucose: dextrose supplements or other glucose gels
  • Sweets: Hard candies, gummy bears, wine gums, etc.
  • Drinks: Glucose-sports drinks
  • Sugar: natural maple syrup or sugar 

 
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:

Low GI:

  • Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, corn
  • Legumes: beans, lentils
  • Low-GI grains: whole grain bread, pasta, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, bran rusks, or digestive biscuits

High fructose:

  • Fructose: soft drinks with fructose-based corn syrup, fruit juice, honey, mangos, figs, apricots
  • Fruits: blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries berries 

 

Targeted keto shopping list

To prepare for your low carb diet, planning and shopping is crucial for success.

Stock-up on some items for the freezer:

  • Meat: beef strips, chicken pieces, pork fillet, lamb cutlets
  • Fish: salmon, cod, tilapia, shrimp, clams, pilchards, hake, sardines, tuna, bass
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, and a variety of berries 

Include some staples for the pantry; example foods include:

  • Canned foods: tuna, tomato paste, chickpeas and other legumes
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds
  • High-GI starches: white rice, cornflakes, polenta
  • High-GI snacks: Glucose biscuits, gummies, hard candies, energy drinks, glucose gel
  • High-GI drinks: Sports drinks

Finally, fill the fridge or vegetable rack with some fresh produce:

  • Low-carb fruits: strawberries, blueberries, avocado, nectarines, and other stone fruit
  • Non-starchy vegetables: zucchini, baby spinach, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower
  • Dairy products: butter, cheese, plain Greek yogurt
  • Eggs
  • High-GI starches: potatoes, butternut squash, and pumpkin

 

1-day targeted keto meal plan 

See what one full day of following this eating regime might look like:

  • Breakfast: Cheese omelet
  • Morning snack: Berries and walnuts
  • Lunch: Blue cheese chicken thighs with broccoli and zucchini
  • Pre-workout: 30 g gum drops
  • Post-workout: Beef jerky
  • Dinner: Stuffed peppers

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)
Cheese omelet Eggs 3 216 1.5 18.7 15
  Cheddar cheese 1 slice (28 g) 115 0.6 6.8 9.5
  Spinach 30 g 71.1 0.9 0.1 9.8
  Butter 1 teaspoon 34 0 0 3.8
  Tomatoes 35 g 9 1.3 0.3 0.2
  Avocado 1/4 58 3 0.7 5.4
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
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
  Raspberries 1/2 cup 32 7.3 0.7 0.4
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
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
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
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
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
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 23.5 3.3
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
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
  Oil 2 teaspoons 70 0 0 7.6
  Mushrooms 70 g 22 3.3 1.9 0
  Bell pepper 1 medium 24 5.5 1 0.2
  Cauliflower 1/2 cup, chopped 13 2.7 1 0.2
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
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.

 

PERSONALIZE YOUR MEAL PLAN


Commonly asked targeted keto questions

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. 

 

Alternative approaches to ketogenic eating