There seems to be a fair bit of confusion around what difference there is between keto diets and carb cycling. The confusion happens because both of these ways of eating involve keto as a baseline, however, carb cycling means that at regular periods you will replenish your body’s glycogen stores by eating some carbohydrates.

There are different ways in which you can ‘carb-up’. And people who decide to integrate carb cycling into their eating can choose which one suits them the most.

Examples are:

  • Weekly carb replenishing.

    Once a week, or every few days you have a day where you shift your fat and carb macros around so instead of eating 80% fat and 5% carbs, you swap them around to 80% carbs and 5% fat. Some people do this through out the whole day, and others will just do this for their evening meal.

  • Carb loading

    This is where you anticipate a time when you will be pushing yourself hard physically, and you load up on carbs in advance. Some people swear by this and others claim that carb loading is a load of nonsense, and you’re better off eating some peanut butter and coconut oil.

  • Daily carb replenishing.

    This is where you eat mainly fats and proteins throughout the day and at your even meal you add in some carbs. This means your carb intake for the day is likely to be between 75g-100g, but you eat it in the evening, so you are running on ketones during the day.

So in essence, the difference between whether you stay in full keto, or you use carb cycling is up to you. Every one is different and what works for one person might not work for someone else.

I recommend you spend some time solely eating keto to make sure you are adapted, and then at that point, you can try out one or other of the carb cycling methods to see if they work for you. You might find that you feel brilliant when you add in a few carbs periodically, or you might find that it’s just not for you. Either way, the only way to be sure is to test it out for yourself.

When to Use Carb Cycling and/or Keto to Your Advantage

When would you stay in full blown keto?

People who do best in full blown keto without carb cycling are those who do not have any issues with their thyroid gland or their adrenals. They have probably been on a clean diet for a while and do not have much healing to do. Also, people who are suffering from cancer, epilepsy or diabetes would benefit the most from sticking with full keto.

When would you practice carb cycling?

If you have metabolic derangement, adrenal fatigue, hyper/hypothyroidism or imbalanced hormones, you will most likely benefit from replenishing your carb stores. In fact, if you’ve got any healing to do at all you are far better adding in some carb cycling to your keto diet. Try out evening carb meals and weekly/every few days and see how you feel.

Incidentally, if you are healing, it’s best to stay away from intermittent fasting until you are in tip top health too. Get some nutrients in at breakfast time.

If you do have some healing to do, the most important thing is to get in as many nutrients as possible on a daily basis to help your body do what it needs to do. Carb cycling means that you regularly have access to more nutrients from starchy vegetables.

Some women find that at times of ovulating and menstruating, the difference between carb cycling and not is pretty big and having a carb-refeed produces positive results. These are times of the month when we really need to support our hormones.

Overall, the thing is to listen to your body and test, test, test. Find out for yourself which way of eating gives you the best results in both physical and mental health.

Framed image linking to ketogenic diet guides and plans

3 thoughts on “Carb Cycling and Keto – What’s the Difference?”

  1. I love that there are people looking into Keto and Carb cycling for women like you. But there are women like me who are on BC so we don’t have a cycle or women who’ve had hysterectomies or have gone through menopause (early or not) and I wonder if and how that might affect our bodies on Keto or with Carb cycling. I’m on day 7 and only down 1 lb. I know I must be doing something wrong not sure what though. I’ll stick with it for a bit longer to make sure but I’m considering switching to carb cycling. Mostly because I love to lift weights and energy for that is just as important to me as losing this fat. Well maybe a little less 😉

    1. That’s a very interesting point you bring up – thank you, and I won’t claim to be an expert in the subject as I’m not! However, even on BC or following hysterectomies, women still have a lot of hormones that need to work in a fine balance. It seems to me that a diet that helps with hormonal balancing and health can only help in situations like these too. Don’t worry about only losing a 1lb in the first week. The first week’s weight loss is nearly always water weight, and although some people experience quite a ‘whoosh’ of weight loss straight away, some women don’t. It’s depends on what your diet was like before you started. Also, the body will always heal itself before it sheds excess weight. It could be that your body is doing a lot of good work right now, putting all those nutrients and good fats to use – but you just can’t see it on the outside!

      It would be good to stick with keto for another week or so before adding in carb cycling. I have found this works best (for me at least), to really help get your body used to burning fats first. All the best, Joan.

      1. Thanks for the reply! Yea I’m sure my hormones are all over the place and some times I see signs like when my period was supposed to start though not always and if I kept a diary or record of those changes I might pinpoint my hormonal changes as if I did. But I’m lazy! Also I should point out that I’m doing something a bit stricter than keto. I started a sugar detox last week. So no artificial or natural sugars along with no dairy, grains, carbs (except the few in veggies trying to stay under 20gs per day) only water. When I’m done this at the end of the month I’ll add in some full fat dairy. And at least a weekly cup of grapefruit juice. I love the stuff and miss it more than Pepsi!

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