The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: True Fat Loss
In recent media, low carbohydrate diets have been THE fad for almost everybody in America wanting to lose weight. From your secretaries, elementary school teachers, and desk clerks, to bodybuilders, models, actresses, and athletes.
However, there is a huge difference between those who follow an Atkins plan and those who follow a cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD). Atkins is a low carb plan for those who are quite sedentary, walk maybe 3 times a week at the most, and just follow normal everyday activities. So forget Atkins here. The CKD is for those who’s main concern is true fat loss and muscle preservation—muscle for sports and high intensity activities.
My opinion for those who practice Atkins is that while they do lose fat, there is much water loss and most importantly muscle loss. Something we athletes do not want. A CKD is a true fat loss diet that works undeniably, if followed properly and strictly. Yes, low carb diets can be hell at first, but after two to three weeks, there have been anecdotal reports from many dieters that the cravings for carbohydrates decrease. This route to fat burning is unlike any traditional diet all the low-fat diet authors and FDA people have been advocating in history.
I got turned onto this diet a few years back when I got tired of cutting fat and still not being able to lose those last percentage points of bodyfat without losing hard earned muscle. I would start a low-fat diet, and be a either a social misfit (not going out with my friends to party or not going out to eat). Or in the worse case, feel so deprived of delicious junk foods I missed and bail out on the diet all together. One advantage to this diet is that there is no true restrictions on food. One may eat anything labeled a "food"! Well, almost. I’ll explain later.
How the diet works.
The science behind the CKD is simple. Carbohydrates in the diet cause an insulin (a "storage" hormone) output in the pancreas. It is used to store glycogen, amino acids into muscles, while causing excess calories to be stored as fat. So common sense asks me, "How can one try to break down fat, when your body is in a storage-type mode?" Difficult to do, indeed. That is why it makes perfect sense for step one to be cutting carbs.
The next thing that happens in your body is the rise in catecholamines (a "fat mobilizing" hormone), cortisol (a "breakdown" hormone), and growth hormone. Now your body realizes there’s no more carbs to burn for energy, so it must find another energy source: fat.
This usually happens during a metabolic condition called "ketosis." This is when your liver is out of glycogen and starts to produce ketones (by-products of fatty acids). You can check your status of whether or not you are in ketosis with urinalysis strips you can pick up at any local drug store called "Ketostix." Just urinate and see if it turns color. If so, you have ketones in the urine.
When the body is fed fat and protein, it will use dietary fat along with bodyfat for energy with protein going towards repair.
As a side note, there is another reason why this diet makes the most sense to use while keeping muscle. When one follows a high carbohydrate, low-fat, reduced-calorie diet, there’s a point when some bodyfat is burned, but when the body is still in a carbohydrate burning metabolism while trying to lose "weight," it will strip down precious body protein to convert to glucose for energy.
On the other hand, during fat metabolism, protein cannot be converted into free-fatty acids for energy. Although there is no scientific research done on this, there have been reports from followers that there truly is a "protein-sparing" effect. It makes sense doesn’t it? Where else would the body look for fat energy when all dietary fat is burned? Bodyfat.
Diet Requirements Mon. to Fri.
The phrase "working smarter, not harder" applies here more than any diet one has tried. One must fully understand what they must do in order to optimize their goal. To set a CKD up, one cannot just expect to cut all carbs in the diet, train hard, and lose fat! Although some have come up with variations to this plan, the one stated in this article, I have found, has worked for myself (it got me to 6% BF), and other clients I’ve trained to the leanest, hardest they’ve ever been.
First, to set up the diet, write down your lean mass weight. Not your total weight, dough boy. If you weigh 200, but have 20% bodyfat, your lean mass weight would be around 160 pounds. Multiply this by one, getting your grams of protein requirements for a day. Make sure you eat at least one gram of protein/pound of lean mass! This is important in recovery from workouts and enough nitrogen retention to keep muscle. Next, multiply by four, to get your protein calories. Here, it is 640.
The rest of your caloric requirements for the day should be fat. Here is the catch: you must eat fat to burn fat. There’s no way around it. There are many advantages to dietary fat on this diet: Feeling of fullness since fat digestion is slow (less hunger), tastes great, and lowers blood glucose levels (lowering insulin and allow all the fat burning hormones to do their job).
So how much fat? I always recommend starting out with a 500 calorie deficit from your maintenance calories. If you don’t know, it is usually 15 times body weight (full body weight here) depending on an individuals metabolic rate. So here, the example would need 3000 calories a day to maintain weight, and 2500 calories to begin fat loss.
2500 minus 640 (protein calories) is 1860 which works out to be around 206 fat grams a day. Now as you go deeper into the diet, and find the need to restrict calories more, you must cut fat calories, not protein.
The Weekend Carb Load
Since muscle glycogen is the main source of energy for anaerobic exercise such as weight training, we cannot simply deplete all stores while working out and not fill them back up. If that does happen, be rest-assured that the body WILL use protein for fuel then. But this won’t happen on the CKD.
Your one and a half days of "freedom" allow you to do two things: First, reward your carb cravings from the previous days, allowing you to enjoy pleasures like pizza, pasta, breads, etc. Second, eating these things are physiologically rewarding as insulin levels run high, storing amino acids and carbs, as glycogen, into the depleted muscle allowing you to be able to workout again the following week.
Your "carb-up" should begin Friday night and last until around midnight Saturday. Now the next important issue to address is how many carbs. Some lucky individuals find that they eat whatever they want for the 24-30 hour time interval and receive perfect glycogen compensation, while others rely on a better statistical number.
What has been recommended by other authors of the CKD is 10-12 grams of carbs per kilogram of lean mass. Again, time to do math. Our example had 160 pounds of lean mass, so divide that by the conversion factor of 2.2, and we get roughly 73 kg.
100 Grams of easily digested liquid carbs along with around half as many grams of carbs in protein (here 50) as a whey shake or something of that nature should be taken right after the last workout (which I will address in the workout section of the article) when insulin sensitivity will be at its greatest.
A few hours later this individual will start to spread the remaining 630 grams of carbs, along with the important number of 160 grams of protein (remember, keep this constant) during the remainder of the compensation period.
So what about dietary fat? I know you’re reminding yourself, "Didn’t this guy mention pizza?" Yes, I did. And here’s why. During the first 24-30 hours of carbing up, the body will use all dietary carbohydrates to refill glycogen, protein for rebuilding, and get this: fat for energy. Still?
Just like the previous five and a half days. Makes sense. When all the carbohydrates are being used for more important functions (muscle), what else is there to be used? However, you can’t just eat all the fat you want. Keep grams of fat intake below your body weight in kilograms. Again, here our example will keep is fat below 73 during the carb-fest.
By anecdotal reports, this should keep fat regain minimal to nil. Keeping fat intake extremely low has even caused some extra fat burning during the carb up!
As stated before, some dietary fat should be eaten to slow digestion and keep sugar levels stable. Whether it be saturated, unsaturated, or essential fats, is the dieter’s decision. All have nine calories per gram. (Note: there is a claim that essential fatty acids such as flax seed oil increase insulin sensitivity within the muscle cells, in turn, increasing glycogen intake.)
In Case You Missed It
So here’s how it breaks down during the week: Sunday through Friday afternoon , you will follow the low carb diet outlined above. Eat fat and protein all day everyday except on workout days because after workouts, you will need to consume strictly just protein—no fat or carbs.
Some have found to enjoy a protein shake afterwards because they are easily digested. Do whatever works for you. But fat is not logical since you want the protein to fuel the healing process as quickly as possible and fat will only slow it down.
Friday afternoon, around two hours before your last workout of the week, eat two to three pieces of fruit. This will get your body/liver ready to start the carb loading and give you some energy for that final, dreadful workout (trust me, during the first few weeks, you will not want to do that final workout, but you must). Then from Friday night until Saturday at midnight or until bed, eat those carbs!