What are the types of ketogenic diets?

posted in: Enhancing Ketosis

Classic Keto Diet

The first use of intentional dietary ketosis is attributed to Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic for the treatment of epilepsy in 1923.  It is now called the Classic Ketogenic Diet and is a 4:1 fat to carb/protein ratio with ~90% fat calories, 6% protein calories and 4% carbohydrate calories. 

As you can imagine, the Classic Ketogenic Diet is very difficult to follow and typically is used under strict medical observation.  It would be VERY difficult to meet the requirements of this diet with actual food.

Modified (Medical) Keto Diet

Because it is so difficult to maintain a Classic Ketogenic Diet, most medical based ketogenic diets are modified to be at a 3:1 ratio of fat grams to protein/carb grams.  If you ate 90 grams of protein a day and 20 grams of net carbohydrates per day (maximum suggested intake for carbs – see “What are Net Carbs and why do they matter” for more information), you would need to eat 330 grams of fat.  Calculate by adding protein and carbs (90 + 20 = 110) and multiplying by 3 (multiply by 4 if you are doing 4:1 Classic Keto). 

As you can see, even the 3:1 ratio is a LOT of fat.  To give an example, butter is 92g of fat per stick… that is almost 4 sticks of butter a day!  Not that you should just eat butter, but it is a pretty telling example.

Non-medical ketogenic diets are what the general public think of as keto diets.  There are a lot of different versions out there right now, but we will focus on the main four: Standard, Targeted, Cyclical and High-Protein.  Standard is the basic ketogenic diet, Targeted is for more active people, Cyclical is for extremely active people and bodybuilders and High-Protein is basically the Standard diet with a little less fat and a little more protein and is for those that are not wanting rapid weight loss and want a more moderate diet.

Standard Keto Diet

The Standard Keto Diet is easier to maintain that either of the medical ketogenic diets and is best for new dieters. Typically, the Standard diet macros would be 75% fat calories, 20% protein calories and 5% carbohydrate calories.  Please note that we are now looking at % CALORIES, not grams. 

It is easy to confuse the two and it makes a huge difference.  This is because one gram of fat takes 9 calories to burn whereas one gram of protein or one gram of carbohydrate takes 4 calories to burn.  If you are looking at RATIOS, you are looking at grams.  If you look at percents, you are comparing calories.  Personally, I use ratios because I feel it is easier to determine the correct amount to eat, but calories make more sense to some people. 

To make a point, consider this scenario based on an 1800 calorie diet:

75% of 1800 calories = 1350 calories from fat or 150 grams of fat (1350 ÷ 9 = 150)

20% of 1800 calories = 360 calories from protein or 90 grams of protein (360 ÷ 4 = 90)

5% of 1800 calories = 90 calories from carbs or 22.5 grams of carbohydrates (90 ÷ 4 = 22.5)

Looking at the ratio, you add the protein and carbs and divide from fat:

90 grams protein + 22.5 grams carb = 112.5

150 grams fat ÷ 112.5 grams protein/carbs = 1.33

So the Standard Keto Diet is around a 1.33:1 ratio (quite a bit less than the 3:1 medical)

The higher the ratio, the faster the weight loss, but it comes at the price of eating more fat.  I personally shoot for a 2:1 ratio.  Using the previous example of 1800 calories and similar protein to carbohydrate amounts, it would look something like this:

160 grams of fat (1440 calories)

65 grams of protein (260 calories)

15 grams of carbohydrate (60 calories)

~1760 calories; 82% fat, 15% protein, 3% carbs

The less amount of carbs, the better. In fact, some people shoot for a zero-carb diet.  This is definitely not a diet for those new to keto, especially considering how difficult it is to get enough of the necessary nutrients to stay healthy.

Targeted Keto Diet

The Targeted Keto Diet is very similar to the Standard, but when you eat carbs is important. The same macros apply, but instead of spreading your carbohydrates out over the course of the day, you eat them all at once about 30 minutes prior to exercising. 

This gives you both a boost of energy as well as fuel for the workout.  It should be noted that this diet is for strenuous workouts or activities requiring long bouts of endurance, like long distance running.

If you know how many calories you expect to burn and then divide by 4.  That tells you how many grams of carbohydrate you can have without breaking ketosis. Because everyone is different and has a different metabolic rate, the above formula is only a guide. 

You should experiment with your pre-workout carbs to find the ideal amount to increase performance while still maintaining ketosis.  If you are an extremely active athlete or are a bodybuilder, the Cyclical diet might be a better option for you.

Cyclical Keto Diet

The Cyclical Keto Diet is unique in that it requires you to break ketosis. It should only be done by dieters experienced in ketogenic diets and even then, with caution (assuming you are trying to lose weight). Typically, one follows a Standard Keto Diet 5 or 6 days a week and then increases carbs (while decreasing fat intake) 1 or 2 days.

Most people that cycle eat their normal amount of carbs on these days.  Although this will kick them out of ketosis, it also makes the diet more bearable.  For bodybuilders, the process is more complicated.  Instead of normal amounts of carbohydrates on these days, they eat very little fat and load up on carbs. This allows for buildup of glycogen stores over the 2-day period which allows for more strenuous weight lifting during the rest of the week.

High-Protein Keto Diet

The High-Protein Keto Diet is a little controversial because of gluconeogenesis, the process the liver uses to make glucose from excess amino acids.  The concern is that any protein not used for muscle repair/growth or for other bodily needs can be used by the liver to make glucose.

Unfortunately, there isn’t scientific research on the subject.  The diet is easier to follow for most people, so it is a popular choice. 

Typically, the macros are 65% of calories from fat, 30% of calories from protein and 5% of calories from carbohydrates. Based on the 1800 calorie example from before:

65% of 1800 calories = 1170 calories from fat or 130 grams of fat (1170 ÷ 9 = 130)

30% of 1800 calories = 540 calories from protein or 135 grams of protein (540 ÷ 4 = 135)

5% of 1800 calories = 90 calories from carbs or 22.5 grams of carbohydrates (90 ÷ 4 = 22.5)

So, the High-Protein Keto Diet is around a 0.83:1 ratio. That isn’t very ketogenic. This is another reason that the High-Protein Keto Diet is controversial. Even though you can get into and stay in ketosis on this diet, it won’t be easy. 

Personally, as hard as it is to stay at or under 20 grams of carbohydrates, I don’t think the extra 40 grams of protein would be worth it. But then again, I’m not that active, so I don’t need as much protein to repair damaged muscles.                 

I know this was a lot of information, but that is what informed choice is all about. Whichever keto diet you choose, make sure if fits your lifestyle for as long as you plan to be on it. 

The very real problem with keto diets is that you are eating a lot of fat calories and if you don’t stay in ketosis, you may actually gain weight.  Please see “What are the rules for ketogenic diets?” and “How do you stay in ketosis

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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