The Target Keto Diet (TKD) differs little from the Standard Keto Diet (SKD) in one important way: when and how you eat carbohydrates.
On a standard ketogenic diet, you don’t have to worry about timing your carbohydrates. You just keep your carbs low at all times. In TKD, you consume your daily carbohydrate allotment before, during or after a workout.
What is targeted keto diet and how does the keto diet work? What are the benefits of this diet? Is a this keto diet right for you? Let’s find out.
What Is a Targeted Ketogenic Diet?
TKD and SKD are both high-fat and low-carb diets – even the daily macronutrient breakdowns are similar.:
- 10% of calories from carbohydrates
- 60% of calories from fat
- 30% of calories from protein
The biggest difference is when those carbs are consumed. In SKD, your carbohydrates may be distributed throughout the day, evenly across your three meals. In TKD, your carbohydrates are consumed almost entirely at one time. For example, if you are planning an intense workout (think: HIIT), you might consume your daily carbohydrates about 30 minutes before your workout.
What does the timing of carbohydrate consumption have to do with your workout? Timing your carbohydrate intake can help your body in several ways. TKD can replenish your glycogen stores and then prevent exercise fatigue and hypoglycemia.
At the end of the day, you have consumed the same amount of carbohydrates, but you just ate them before a big workout.
How Does Targeted Keto Work?
The role of targeted keto foods is to ensure you have enough glucose to perform high-intensity workouts effectively for a sustained period of time.
An expert panel report explains how carbohydrates are still king when it comes to high-intensity exercise performance. It adds that the speed at which a carbohydrate source enters the bloodstream affects performance and duration.
This is where fast-acting carbohydrates become beneficial because they can be utilized for energy quickly. They have a simple structure that allows your blood sugar and insulin levels to rise quickly and provide energy for your muscles.
The TKD way of eating will indeed fill your glycogen stores and get you out of nutritional ketosis at that particular time. However, remember that ketosis is not your goal here, but rather a significant improvement in your athletic performance.
You don’t have to worry about going back into ketosis. As long as you stick to your overall ketosis plan, you can get back into this fat burning mode after a few hours.
What to Eat (and When) On Targeted Keto
The trick to a target keto diet is to eat enough carbohydrates. You want to burn them off during your workout and get back into ketosis within a few hours afterwards.
You can follow a simple rule of thumb: any time you work out or are under extra stress, eat 20-50 grams of good carbs 30 minutes before your workout (or before stress).
This is one of the rare times when you want to eat high glycemic carbohydrates. Your goal is to burn them for energy quickly during your workout and get them out of your body at the end of your workout. With that in mind, a few good carbohydrate choices are:
- White rice
- Baked sweet potato
- Beets (you’ll get a nitric oxide boost as a bonus, which gives your muscles more oxygen)
- White potato (if you tolerate nightshades)
Note: You don’t want to eat high fructose carbs on targeted keto. The fructose goes directly to your liver, not your muscles, so you end up dropping out of ketosis without giving your muscles extra energy. High fructose carbohydrates include fruit, honey and agave. For targeted keto, these carbohydrates should be avoided.
For the ultimate boost, drizzle your pre-workout carbohydrate source with cerebral platinum oil (MCT oil) so you can get ketone bodies alongside your carbs for maximum energy and metabolic flexibility.
Before you dive headfirst into a targeted keto diet, there is an important note. You must already be acclimated to ketosis before you can start TKD. This means first following a cyclical or regular keto diet for 30 to 60 days. Otherwise, you run the risk of never getting into ketosis on a targeted keto diet.
Benefits of a TKD
Considering the exercise physiology section, it is easier to understand the potential benefits of targeted keto versus a very low-carb, high-fat diet. Not only will you experience similar benefits to a traditional keto diet, but you will also be able to utilize glucose (from pre-workout carbohydrate intake) for high-intensity exercise performance.
In fact, many keto dieters using a targeted approach report improvements in strength and endurance during high-intensity activity when nothing else seems to work.
The current study suggests that endurance athletes and moderate-intensity exercisers can benefit from a targeted keto diet when participating in activities lasting an hour and a half or longer. Studies have shown that supplementing carbohydrate intake prior to prolonged endurance tasks, such as running a half marathon, can improve performance and reduce perceived fatigue in runners without compromising ketosis.
In other words, using pre-exercise carbohydrates can help improve performance and reduce the difficulty of the event. While this only existed in a study of endurance runners in half marathons, this phenomenon could also explain why many keto dieters report increases in strength and endurance during high-intensity exercise as well.
Another benefit of consuming carbohydrates before exercise is the effect it has on insulin levels. Yes, high insulin levels are the exact opposite of what you want on a standard keto diet – but when it’s released at the right time, insulin can have an anabolic effect, preventing muscle breakdown and promoting an increase in lean muscle mass.
Should you try targeted keto?
To find out if this is right for you, be sure to meet with a doctor, nutritionist and coach who can help tailor the diet to your unique needs as an athlete. If you need to be on a keto diet for health reasons, it’s best to stick to the classical approach. If you are on a prescribed medical ketogenic diet, this may not be right for you because it has the potential to take your body out of ketosis.
If you are an athlete who could benefit, it may be worth it. Following a TKD can get your body used to using dual fuel sources, including glucose and ketone bodies. This gives you more energy to use for workouts, especially if you are an endurance athlete.
This works great for endurance athletes, weight trainers and CrossFit athletes to provide more energy for their long, intense workouts.
Anyone who may want to transition to eating more carbs can benefit from TKD, just be sure to test your blood ketones to see if it’s right for you and your body. If you’re not already in ketosis from eating it, then it may not work as well for you.
How to Start a Targeted Ketogenic Diet
If you’re already on SKD but not seeing the athletic performance and results you want, here are a few steps to get started with TKD.
- Become fat-adapted. TKD works best when you are already fat-adapted because your body is more likely to enter and exit ketosis. It can take four to six weeks from the time you start SKD before you become fat-adapted. It’s especially important to avoid TDK while you’re still dealing with the keto flu.
- Calculate your macros.
- Consume about 15 grams of carbohydrates 20-30 minutes before your workout. Quick-acting carbohydrates include crackers, white bread and sports drinks. If you don’t like to work out on a full stomach, you can purchase glucose gels.
- Stay hydrated and always keep your electrolytes balanced.
- Get back into ketosis. The rapid influx of carbs can affect your blood sugar, but if you are fat-adapted, you can get back into ketosis quickly. Try MCT oil after your workout. MCT oil can increase your ketone bodies and give you another energy boost. You can also add a light workout after an intense workout. This helps your body stay in fat burning mode.
Targeted ketogenic diets for runners, athletes and people who exercise regularly at high intensity can help improve performance. With the right carbohydrate timing, this extra edge may be all you need to reach your goals.
But if you’re not working hard at all to complete those high-intensity workouts, or if you’re only doing light workouts, follow a standard keto diet instead. To know if it’s right for you, you need to try it. Observe how you feel and track your performance.