What Is Keto Cycling, and Can It Help You Stick With the Ketogenic Diet? (2024)

How Does Keto Cycling Work Exactly?

Keto cycling doesn't havea strict definition. Some people choose to have five or six days on keto followed by a day or two off. Others will do keto for 10 to 12 days followed by three to four days off.

Devine typically doesn’t recommend taking more than two days off keto. “Several higher carb days in a row almost always lead to ‘falling off the wagon’ and the return of intense carb and sugar cravings for most people,” she says. She says to start with just one day so you can see how your body responds and how quickly you return to ketosis afterward.

“If you have too many carbohydrates, you’re going to build up your glycogen stores, and it’s going to be very hard for you to get back into ketosis,” she says. She says to think about your glycogen stores, which are your body’s supply of stored carbohydrates, as a gas tank. “As long as we don’t let that tank dip over, we can deplete it pretty quickly again and get back into ketosis,” she says. “But as soon as we go beyond that three or four days [off keto], our tanks flood and you start to store some of that glucose as fat, and it becomes very difficult to deplete that tank again and get back into ketosis.”

On those higher-carb days, Devine recommends sticking towhole foodswith low amounts of sugar rather than going on a full-blown carb binge. Foods like fruit, sweet potatoes, and whole grains — all considered complex carbs — rather than white bread and sweets will make it easier for the body to re-adapt to ketosis. Consider what time of day you’re eating these carbs, too. It’s best to eat carbs (again, opt for those complex choices) in the daytime when you're most active (if that's true for you) as opposed nighttime, Devine says.

Devine says not to jump right into keto cycling. “I would definitely not try keto cycling until you’re about two to three months into your keto diet,” she says. “That's because you need to make sure your body is fat adapted so that it can get back into ketosis easily.” In her practice, Devine has noticed that if the body is used to being in ketosis, it’ll snap back more quickly after eating a carb-heavy meal than if a person is new to keto, though there’s not enough research to confirm that this is always the case. She doesn’t encourage keto cycling unless the individual has been following a clean keto diet, which calls for sourcing the healthiest version of keto-approved foods, such as grass-fed meat and whole foods, for at least three months and has a regular and rigorous exercise plan. This should allow them to eat higher carbs without seeing weight gain or intense cravings.

Devine says to follow up a high-carb day with vigorous exercise the next morning. The idea is to force the body to burn the glycogen you took in so it can get back to working on fat burn.

What Is Keto Cycling, and Can It Help You Stick With the Ketogenic Diet? (2024)
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