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What is Keto Cycling and Is it Effective? A Look at the Pros & Cons


Are you interested in the ketogenic diet, but aren’t sure about giving up some of your favorite high-carb foods? (Looking at you, pizza!) If so, keto cycling could be a great option for you to consider. The idea behind keto cycling is simple... You follow the normal, low-carb dietary restrictions of keto, except for a planned, 1-2 day break period where carbs are purposefully reintroduced to your system.

This article will uncover the facts, presenting the pros and the cons of keto cycling so you can make an ultimate decision on if it’s right for you. At the end, we'll uncover our secret for how to make both regular keto and keto cycling work for your busy lifestyle. It includes a super handy keto kit to make following the diet much easier and more enjoyable.

Let's get started...

First, What Is The Keto Diet?

The keto diet involves upping the fat content in your diet and reducing your carb intake in order to get your body into a prime fat-burning state called ketosis. Those who follow a keto eating plan report increased energy levels, enhanced focus and greater weight loss, to name a few potential benefits.

If keto is brand new to you, check out these in-depth resources to get caught up on the basics:

    Common Challenges of the Keto Diet

    Even the biggest fans of the ketogenic diet will admit it can be hard to follow. The dietary guidelines on keto require that your daily food intake encompass 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs. Only 5%! That means many of your favorite grain, starch, and sugar foods are off the table. To figure out your daily intake of fat, protein, and carbs use our keto calculator to get personalized macros. 

    There’s also been some controversy in the health community over whether or not regular keto is sustainable for the long-term. Whereas the diet encourages the consumption of healthy high-fat foods like avocado, coconut and olive oils, grass-fed beef and butter, many people abuse these guidelines. Instead, they use keto as an opportunity to indulge in too many unhealthy saturated fats such as cheese and processed meats.

     There are also a lot of nutritious, wholesome foods (including grains, beans, many vegetables and fruits) that are off limits on a keto diet because they’re too high in carbs. And this is a restriction that many feel is not ideal for continued wellness maintenance.

    So What is Keto Cycling?

    For the reasons listed above, a new form of keto dieting has emerged called keto cycling. Keto cycling has both staunch supporters and opponents. But from an outside perspective, it definitely makes “going keto” look a lot easier. Read on to learn more about what it is, how it differs from carb cycling, and the top pros and cons of following it.

    Following a keto diet that includes “cycling” involves taking strategic, short breaks from keto in order to reset your body. It may have a number of potential benefits, which we’ll discuss below. 

    But first, how do you do it exactly? The experts state that there is no tried and true “right” way to do keto cycling. Most of them agree, however, on doing regular keto first for about 30-90 days. Then, once your body is familiar with the diet, you can opt to add in keto cycling as more of a long-term maintenance plan. (1) 

    Here are two popular ways to implement keto cycling each week:

    • 2 days on the keto diet then 1 day of eating carbs (then repeat)
    • 5-6 days on regular keto then 1-2 days of higher carbs

      Keto Cycling vs. Carb Cycling

      You may have also heard of the term “carb cycling”, and you’re wondering how that compares to keto cycling. Those who carb cycle aren’t interested in switching their bodies into a ketogenic state. That means their fat content doesn’t have to be super high. Instead, those who follow this plan usually eat high-protein and moderate-fat on a regular basis. They vary how many carbs they eat based on the level of activity they are doing that day.

      In short, carb cycling is much less restrictive. It’s also popular amongst athletes or anyone who regularly performs high intensity workouts. The theory behind the plan is that you save your high-carb days for high intensity workout days – so you can use the carbs as fuel and help improve your exercise performance. 

      Considering the Pros and Cons of Keto Cycling

      So, is the keto diet looking more attractive now that you can add carbs back into the equation? One of the best parts, in our opinion, is that you can build a schedule that works best for you and your family – whether that’s having carbs on the weekend or during the week. But before you get too ahead of yourself with excitement, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of keto cycling so you can have all the facts…

      mother and daughter eating bread as a part of their breafast

      4 Pros of Keto Cycling:

      • May help balance hormones

        Greatly restricting carbs over a long time span could potentially have a negative effect on your hormones, cholesterol levels, or mood. But this problem could be solved by adding carbs back into your diet on certain days. (2)
      • Helps sidestep the keto flu 

        When starting the keto diet, your body needs to get used to cutting the carbs. This could result in some temporary symptoms including tiredness, nausea and digestive troubles. But adding in keto cycling days could help alleviate and even eliminate “keto flu” symptoms altogether.
      • Get healthy carbs into your diet 

        Research continues to show that a wholesome, balanced diet is your best bet for long-term health. And there are many nutrient-packed carbs that aren’t allowed on keto. Taking breaks to have some carbs could help you get those nutritious foods into your diet for better all-around wellness. 
      • Makes keto easier to stick with long-term 

        No matter how much you may enjoy the keto diet, not being able to have ice cream or even certain fruits indefinitely could get old. Having days where you’re allowed to eat some carbs gives you the option to enjoy some of those foods you’ve missed (in moderation), to make the diet more manageable.

      4 Cons of Keto Cycling:

      • Easy to abuse it with “bad carbs”

        According to some experts, many people use keto cycling as a way to binge eat their favorite high-carb junk foods. This is not the correct way to follow a keto cycling plan, yet many people fall victim to it simply from lack of self-control. Having too many of these bad-carb binge days could obviously have a negative effect on your health, and completely negate the positive effects of keto.
      • Might be hard on your body 

        If you’re already on keto and you re-introduce carbs into your diet, you kick your body out of ketosis. Since running on ketones is a completely different metabolic state than running on glucose, it may leave your body confused. And as a reaction, you may feel pretty bad in the process. 
      • Potentially less weight loss 

        When you’re in ketosis, the ketones suppress your appetite, which benefits your weight loss goals. But as soon as you have carbs again, you’ll likely be more hungry and want to eat more. Taking a break to cycle in carbs may ultimately have some benefits, but you may sacrifice some weight loss in the process.
      • Refuels your sugar addiction 

        Dropping carbs is no walk in the park. This is one of the main reasons that some people experience early keto flu symptoms. Though keto cycling may help alleviate keto side effects if you’re just starting keto, it’s likely to set you back a bit if you’re already adjusted to low-carb living. Basically, you will have to re-adjust to jumping in and out of ketosis and be strong enough to cut the carbs again once you have them. (3)

      The Final Verdict: Is Keto Cycling Right for You?

      Now that you know the facts, you’re probably deciding whether you want to dip into keto cycling, or if perhaps regular keto is more your thing. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of research that can help you make the decision one way or the other, since there are no published studies on keto cycling.

      However, the “theoretical” evidence should be enough to help you realize whether or not keto cycling could work for you. If you’re already loving keto however, you may not want to rock the boat! It’s really a personal decision based on your present and future health goals.  

      But one thing is for sure… No matter which version of keto you go with, it can often be hard to stick with nutritious, keto-friendly food options on a busy schedule. Make abiding by your diet easier with keto-friendly meal replacement shakes mixed with ketone-boosting MCT Oil. You’ll have a delicious, low-carb, sugar-free, and nutrient-filled keto meal in seconds.

      Get everything you need to make these delicious shakes, along with keto recipe ideas and other essentials in this keto kit

      After reading this article, are you on board with keto cycling? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!







      Written by:

      Dana Gates

      310 Nutrition Senior Writer

      Dana Gates is a seasoned writer and researcher with over a decade of experience writing about all things health and wellness. Through her articles, she aims to inspire others to live their best, healthiest, and most active lives–by making wise lifestyle and dietary choices daily. Her ultimate goal at 310 [...]

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