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A targeted ketogenic diet for athletes is a protocol that has just recently started gaining traction in the fitness industry. Even though the principle of targeted keto dieting has been around for years, it has only recently become popular within athletes. 

And it’s been very successful.

The normal ketogenic diet is based on consuming mainly protein and fats while keeping carbs as low as possible.

Once you read through this article, you’ll be properly equipped with everything you need to know to start your targeted keto diet as an athlete.

What Is The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)?

Lyle McDonald explains TKD in his book “The Ketogenic Diet” as:

The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) is nothing more than the standard ketogenic diet (SKD) with carbohydrates consumed at specific times around exercise. This means that extra carbohydrates are consumed on days when exercise is performed.

If fat loss is the goal, the number of calories consumed as carbohydrates should be subtracted from total calories, meaning that less dietary fat is consumed on those days. The TKD is a compromise approach between the SKD and the CKD.

The TKD will allow individuals on a ketogenic diet to perform high intensity activity (or aerobic exercise for long periods of time) without having to interrupt ketosis for long periods of time.

In short, TKD is the simple act of consuming carbs immediately before or after exercise. By doing so, you will get the added benefit of more strength/speed/explosiveness from carbs and by the time you finish exercising, you are immediately back in ketosis (if done correctly).

What Are The Benefits To A Targeted Ketogenic Diet For Athletes?

Athletes who are performing high intensity exercises such as sprinting, power lifting, cycling, MMA or anything that involves anaerobic activity, will benefit greatly from a targeted ketogenic diet.

A targeted ketogenic diet for athletes will experience:

  • Increased explosiveness. Sprinters and powerlifters for example will experience a huge surge of energy from the quick carbs which will help get personal records.
  • Maintain a lean physique. By timing carbs around exercise, your body will efficiently use every carbohydrate you have in the tank which means none of these carbs will turn into fat.
  • Mental Relief. I’m sure you know that sticking to a ketogenic diet can sometimes be difficult when you sometimes crave carbs but can’t have any. A TKD allows you to have small portions of carbs every day, that is, if you exercise every day. We want what we can’t have and by sticking to a TKD protocol, it becomes a breeze to stick to the diet.
  • No more “bonking” or “hitting the wall”. Endurance athletes experience something called “bonking” when running for long distances. The TKD will help you greatly by switching from your carb storage directly to your fat storages when you need it. You will have a huge advantage compared to the runners who are trying to compete in endurance competitions. You will no longer need to carry gels and other quick carbs on your long runs because you switch to your fat storages as energy when you have depleted your glycogen storages.

It’s important to note that you might not experience these benefits right away. This is because your body is still adjusting to a fat adapted state when you’ve been relying on carbs for energy your whole life.

targeted ketogenic diet

Why Don’t All Athletes Do This?

There simply isn’t enough proper research that has been published behind the idea of using a targeted ketogenic diet for athletes. The marketing behind a ketogenic diet isn’t appealing to many people. A low carb high fat diet has not been given a “sex appeal” like carbohydrates have

Think about it.

All of these cereal brands, gel packs, gatorade, the whole sugar industry, they are very good at marketing. Look around you, the commercials on TV, the labeling at grocery stores, the ads on the internet, they are all geared towards having you consume as much carbs as you can fit into your mouth.

Meanwhile, the media has portrayed fats as a culprit for a host of metabolic disease. When in reality, it’s carbohydrates that are responsible for a lot of health issues.

There was an article posted recently, that explains how the sugar industry actually paid scientists in the 1960’s to make saturated fats the culprit to heart disease while making it seem like sugar had nothing to do with it.

Aside from all of that, many athletes simply aren’t taught how to properly fuel their bodies.

I predict that in the next coming years, there will be a large shift in the way athletes treat their diets and will begin to adopt a low carb high fat diet while utilizing carbohydrates more efficiently.

What Type Of Athletes Is The Targeted Ketogenic Diet For?

The whole idea behind a TKD is to consume carbs immediately before or after exercising which gives your body the proper energy it needs to become more explosive.

Sprinting on a low carb ketogenic diet is not an optimal way to perform.

This is because explosive movements such as sprinting requires you to utilize your anaerobic energy pathways. These pathways do not require oxygen and only gets its energy from glucose that come from carbohydrates.

Endurance runners tend to benefit the most from a targeted ketogenic diet. This is because our body can only hold a finite amount of carbs. When runners are going long distances, their bodies need to find energy from other sources once their carb storages have been depleted.

This is when the ketogenic diet comes in handy.

Our fat storages hold about 20 times more than carb storages. If you do some research on how people are running ultra-marathons, you will see that a lot of these runners are beginning to adopt a ketogenic diet specifically for this reason.

I have mentioned it previously, the problem of “bonking” or “hitting the wall” is immediately solved due to our large fat storages that can be properly utilized as energy on a targeted ketogenic diet for athletes.

targeted ketogenic diet for athletes

How To Calculate The Amount Of Carbs For TKD

There are a couple different ways to gauge the amount of carbs needed for a targeted ketogenic diet.

The general rule is to consume 0.33 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight before or after exercising. This comes out to around 30 – 85 grams of carbs for most people.

The Ketogains version of targeted ketogenic diet for strength training is as follows:

  • 15 – 30 minutes before your workout consume
    • 14 to 28 grams of MCT oil and/or coconut oil
    • 7 to 14 grams of Glucose or Maltodextrin or Dextrose (fast absorbing, high glycemic carbs)
    • 200mg of caffeine or a strong cup of coffee

It is recommended to NOT use fruit prior to or after your workout for your carbs because fructose doesn’t process the same as high glycemic carbs like dextrose. This means it will be stored as fat rather than utilized as energy.

My Suggestions

Depending on your goals, its hard to say there is a one-size-fits-all formula for the targeted ketogenic diet for athletes. With that being said, there are different ways to go about the targeted ketogenic diet.

If you are an endurance athlete…

  • I recommend eating a strict ketogenic diet (virtually no carbs) up until 30 minutes to an hour before your exercise / competition.
  • Consume 30 – 80 grams of carbs depending on your weight and activity level.
  • Reap the benefits of additonal energy and no “bonking”

If you are strength training…

  • I recommend a mixture of 15 – 30 grams of MCT oil / Coconut oil AND around 14 grams of quick carbs (Karo “Lite” Syrup or Dextrose).
  • You must gauge the way you feel after a workout to determine whether or not additional carbs post workout is necessary.
  • Enjoy the extra strength gained from these properly timed carbohydrates.

If you are a sprinter / powerlifter / fighter / any high intensity athlete…

  • I recommend consuming .33 grams of carbs per pound of body weight for EACH MEAL.
  • Decreasing or increasing this amount depends on whether or not you are training to lose or gain weight at the same time.
  • Before exercising / competition, be sure to load up on around 14 – 28 grams of carbs and 15 – 30 grams of MCT oil depending on how intense you will be performing.

targeted ketogenic diet for athletesFinal Thoughts On The Targeted Ketogenic Diet For Athletes

As you can tell, there are different ways to use the targeted ketogenic diet for athletes. The best way to utilize TKD for optimal performance is through trial and error.

It doesn’t sound pretty. But that is the only way you can truly reap the benefits.

It’s like they say, you can lead the horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

I’m currently using the targeted ketogenic diet to increase my lifts at the gym. I have also given clients who are athletes the proper protocol to increase athletic performance with much success.

Quick key points:

  • A targeted ketogenic diet for athletes has started to become popular since study after study has proven how beneficial it can be for athletic performance.
  • As an endurance runner, you will mitigate the risk of “bonking” or “hitting the wall” when utilizing TKD.
  • As a weight lifter, consuming a mixture of MCT oil and quick carbs before a workout will allow your muscles to achieve proper muscle glycogen to increase strength. After the workout, you should be back into ketosis if done correctly. This allows you to gain muscle while building minimal fat.
    • Post workout carbs are not usually required unless you are a very experienced lifter and are looking to gain more weight.
  • Try to avoid fruits and high fructose carbohydrates when following a targeted ketogenic diet for athletes protocol. This is because fructose refills your liver glycogen rather than muscle glycogen.
  • The best way to get into a state of ketosis for competitive athletics is by consuming exogenous ketones. Sure they may cost money, but they’re absolutely worth it.

You should now be properly equipped with everything you need to increase athletic performance, run longer, and lift heavier weights. You should already be subscribed to my email list, I give even more tips and applicable stories. If you aren’t, just sign up below.