This easy guide to help women start a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet will help you understand the hormonal, weight loss and energy benefits of the cyclical Ketogenic diet for women, how to carb cycle for optimal results in the gym and exactly what to eat on a cyclical Keto meal plan.
Maximize the Benefits of the Keto Diet for women
As you know the goal of a Keto Diet for women is to become fat adapted, aka for your body to burn fat as it’s primary fuel source rather than burning glucose (carbs and sugar) for energy.
The standard Ketogenic diet benefits women by (*)
balancing blood sugar levels
improves your moods
reduces carb cravings
reduces your risk of many chronic diseases
Let’s break down exactly how/why. You have a blood-brain barrier that protects your brain; it’s like your brain's gatekeeper that decides who/what gets into your brain. (*)
After consuming carbs, your blood-brain barrier will not allow your brain to use glucose (carbs & sugar) immediately for energy, so the glucose is circulated through your body until it’s broken down enough to be used and converted into energy. (*)
This delay is what causes that afternoon crash, mood swings, and brain fog.
On the other hand, when you follow a Keto diet, ketones are produced which your blood-brain barrier allows to enter your brain and be used immediately, promoting faster, longer lasting energy, better cognitive function and is why people say “fats are your brains preferred fuel source.”
To maximize the effectiveness of the Keto diet, women may want to consider a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet.
A Cyclical Keto diet is when you alternate between consuming low carbs for several days (standard Keto diet) and then increasing your carb intake to re-feed glycogen in the body for a day or two, which I’ll explain why this may be beneficial for the female hormones later.
Who Should Consider a Cyclical Keto Diet?
When following a Keto Diet, your body is more metabolically efficient and produces glucagon, which helps your body burn fat. Many women will thrive in ketosis long term with no issues.
However, some women may discover that after eating low-carb for an extended time, you hit a weight loss plateau or that energy boost and mental clarity you experienced when you first experienced Ketosis has backtracked.
Why? because for some women eating low carb for long periods causes them to become less sensitive to insulin and effects your thyroid, hormones, and adrenals.
If you have been following Keto for several months and are now feeling fatigued, fog brain, noticing hair loss, and weight gain you may want to try out carb cycling for four weeks to determine if it is a good fit for your keto journey and lifestyle.
Athletes or women who are doing intense workouts 5-7 Days a week may also benefit from carb cycling. If you are doing longer intense gym sessions, your body will use up ketones fairly quickly, and since you aren’t eating many carbs, your body will burn protein (muscle) for energy instead, which kinda defeats the purpose of working out. (*) If you incorporate carb cycling, your high carb day will replenish your glycogen stores to fuel your intense workouts and utilize anabolic hormones like insulin to build muscle.
Benefits of Cyclical Ketogenic Diet for Women’s Hormones and Weight loss
By first getting fat adapted through a Standard Keto Diet and then strategically adding in high carb days, you’ll become metabolically flexible, which allows your body to go in and out of ketosis. (*)
Typically large amounts of Carbohydrates quickly fill up your glycogen stores, and all the excess glucose that isn’t used for energy right away is stored as fat. (*)
However, when you carb load and then go right back to a standard Keto diet the next day your body can use up the carbs first and then jump back into burning fat for fuel (aka ketosis).
Carb cycling can also restore your thyroid and help with adrenal fatigue. In a way, ketosis is an extremely fasted state, and when you maintain ketosis for an extended time, the female body may respond by taking energy away from other processes in the body that aren’t as critical for survival.
A weekly high carb day temporarily takes you out of ketosis and can prevent these adverse effects that throw your thyroid and adrenals out of whack.
So, ladies, the glorious thing about carb cycling is you get the performance and hormone benefits from incorporating a high carb day, while still reaping the benefits of ketosis throughout the rest of your week. #TheBestOfBothWorlds
How to Start The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
It’s crucial that you are fat adapted before adding high carb days into your Keto diet. I suggest following a standard Keto diet for a solid four weeks before trying carb cycling. The goal is to be metabolically flexible.
To become metabolically flexible, your body must be adapted to burning fat for fuel without leaving you with Keto flu symptoms. This way, after a high carb day, your body can quickly bounce back into ketosis.
If not, attempting to carb cycle will only make you feel more fatigued and out of whack.
So before starting Carb Cycling head to “Keto For Women: How to Start the Keto Diet” where I break down a step- by step plan to get fat adapted on a Keto Diet.
If you follow all the steps that article will lead you back to this article on the final stage so you can transition to a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet.
How to Carb Cycle on a Keto Diet.
Carb cycling is alternating days of lower and higher carbs. I suggest adding one high carb day a week, so you’ll stick to a standard Keto diet for six days and on the seventh day have a high carb day.
For five days stick to a standard Ketogenic Diet:
70% Fat, 20- 25% Protein and 5-10% Net Carbs.
For one day follow High Carb Macros:
55-60% Net Carbs, 20-25% Protein, and 10-15% Fats
Monday: Standard Keto meal plan
Tuesday: Standard Keto meal plan
Wednesday: Standard Keto meal plan
Thursday: Standard Keto meal plan
Friday: Standard Keto meal plan
Saturday: Standard Keto meal plan
Sunday: High Carb Day
Repeat every week
It’s essential to keep your fat intake low on your high carb days so your body will use up the carbs rather than storing them as body fat.
When first starting it can be super helpful to track your macros, so you better understand how to hit these ratios and get optimal results.
What Days Should You Plan High Carb Days?
There's no right or wrong day to plan your high carb day. However, you want your body to use up those glycogen stores from all the extra carbohydrates, so I suggest planning your high carb day the day before an intense workout.
So for me, I like doing high carb days on Sundays, which are typically my rest day. Then on Monday, I usually start my workout with two heavy lifts (squats, sumo deadlifts, or leg press) followed by two higher intensity circuits and then sprints. You will be pretty impressed how much heavier and more you can lift after a high carb day!
4 sets of 5 Barbell Squats (continue adding weight after each set when able)
3 sets of 8 Sumo Dead Lifts
Do 3 Rounds (do all three exercises before resting and repeat 3 times)
15 Dumbbell Step Ups
18 Banded lateral walks
10 squat jumps.
Do 3 Rounds
20 Leg extensions
10 Romain Deadlifts
40 second plank
10 Sprints (sprint 20 seconds rest 40 seconds/or however long it takes to catch your breath)
Ideally, if you are considering carb cycling, you should have a fairly intense workout regimen to follow so your body can deplete glycogen stores you load up on high carb days.
What Foods Should You Eat on The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?
The biggest mistake women make on the Cyclical Keto Diet is treating their high carb day as a full on extreme cheat day.
Simple Carbs from candy and other processed junk don’t contain vitamins, minerals and will create an unhealthy spike in insulin and defeats the whole purpose. (*)
Even on high carb days avoid:
artificial sweeteners like, dextrose, maltodextrin, Sucralose
high fructose corn syrup
all processed foods
On high carb days, in addition to standard Keto friendly foods you can also add in:
Download this Complete Keto Approved Food List for more options
On high carb days, I like to eat fruit with my breakfast, eat extra veggies, huge salads, baked sweet potato fries and every once in a while I’ll make the exception and have whole wheat pasta, rice, oatmeal or a 100% corn tortilla.
If you add in one meal that includes something similar that should be fine, but don’t jam pack your high carb meal plan with a bunch of junk or a full day of fast food.
Tips for being successful on the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
Eat Clean- if you want to truly benefit from the Keto Diet, it’s essential to consume healthy fats, clean protein sources, grass-fed and organic meats, and veggies. Download this printable Keto Food List and read through this article “ what foods you do and don’t need to buy organic” to help you put together the best Keto meal plan
Take an electrolyte supplement- on a keto diet, your body doesn’t retain as much water, so it's essential to add pink Himalayan salt to your food and even supplement with an Electrolyte supplement, like Hi-Lyte, to prevent you from getting dehydrated and feeling fatigued. Check out this list of Keto Supplements for women so you can avoid Keto flu-like symptoms and replenish vitamins and minerals you aren’t getting through food alone.
Stay Hydrated- To reiterate how easy it is for you to get dehydrated on keto…You should be drinking at least half your weight in ounces of water and start your day buy chugging a big cup of water every morning. I feel my best when I have at least a gallon of water a day.
Have MCT Oil on hand- If you are staying hydrated, eating keto friendly foods, but having a rough time getting back into ketosis or just feeling sluggish taking a tablespoon of Perfect Keto MCT Oil will provide your body with a quick dose of ketones and give you a little energy boost.
Intermittent Fast the day after your high carb day- Intermittent fasting can improve metabolic flexibility and if practiced after a high carb day will speed up the time it takes for your body to get back into ketosis.
If you have never fasted before I’d start with just a 12 hour fast, so stop eating at 7 pm and don’t have your first meal until 7 am the next morning. If the 12 hour fast feels good work your way up to a 16 hour fast.