The TKD (Targeted Ketogenic Diet) protocol is a specialist and advanced approach for ketogenic athletes that will allow one to lift harder and heavier, do some extra reps, as well as promote muscle growth while minimizing fat gain (as long as diet and training are on par, of course).
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.
“The Ketogenic Diet” by Lyle McDonald
Weight training is not generally limited by the availability of blood glucose. Studies giving carbs prior to resistance training have not found an increase in performance, and to build muscle, one really does not need carbohydrates, but more so adequate protein intake, resistance training, and energy (that can come from carbohydrates, dietary fat, or body fat).
Here is a great write-up of how one can build muscle on a Ketogenic Diet.
However, almost without exception, individuals on a SKD who consume pre-workout carbs report improved strength and endurance and an ability to maintain a higher intensity of training during their workout.
Anyone following a ketogenic diet who wishes to perform high intensity training can benefit from the TKD approach.
Very little research has examined the effects of a ketogenic diet on weight training performance and it is difficult to determine exactly why performance is improved with pre-workout carbs. It may be that raising blood glucose to normal levels, which only requires a minimal 5 grams of carbohydrate, allows better muscle fiber recruitment during training or prevent fatigue, but also that having insulin around a workout will allow for better protein synthesis:
Protein Synthesis – Protein Breakdown = Net Protein Gain
Training causes both Protein Synthesis and Protein Breakdown.
Ingesting Amino Acids (a Whey Shake, for example) pre workout, stimulates Protein Synthesis.
Ingesting a bit of Glucose pre-workout, rises insulin, which inhibits Protein Breakdown.
This in turn, will generare an even greater Protein “Gain”
The major goal with pre-workout carbs is then not necessarily to improve performance, although that is a nice benefit, especially for some types of sports that require explosive movements or lots of sprinting (soccer, jiu-jitsu, etc.)
One goal can be to provide enough carbohydrate to promote post-workout glycogen synthesis without interrupting ketosis for very long. That is, the carbohydrate taken prior to one workout is really an attempt to ‘set up’ the body for better performance at the next workout by maintaining glycogen levels.
But again, the most important factor here is to inhibit protein breakdown, as shown in the graphic above.
Although experimentation is encouraged, most individuals find that 5 to 15 grams of carbohydrates taken twenty to thirty minutes before a workout enhance performance, and some who train more heavily may of course need more.
A good number to start experimenting with is to use 0.05g / lean lb (example, an individual of 140 lean pounds, would start with 7g of glucose).
For pre-workout carbs, we suggest easily digestible carbohydrates, either liquids or high Glycemic Index (GI) as to have them absorb very rapidly in the body and also to avoid problems with stomach upset during training.
The best source for TKD is dextrose, or glucose (which is dextrose bound to water), maltodextrin, but one can even use “hard candies” such as sweet tarts, runts, smarties. We suggest one to avoid fruits, honey, and even “natural” sugars as even though one may believe natural is better, in this case we want to avoid fructose as much as possible, as it seems to disrupts ketosis longer than needed, and won’t impact insulin in the manner we desire.
On the other hand, another promising source for pre-workout carbs that I have recently started to experiment with, and have had good results, is Vespa:
VESPA does not “boost” performance but optimizes your natural potential. VESPA’s effects are subtle and largely un-noticed in the conventional sense. While the direct effects of tapping in to your natural fuel stores are key to endurance/stamina, the indirect effects are just as critical.
Research suggests that carbohydrates consumed before or after exercise should not negatively affect ketosis. However, some individuals find that they drop out of ketosis transiently due to the ingestion of pre-workout carbohydrates. After workout, there will be a short period where insulin is elevated and free fatty acid availability for ketone production is decreased. However, as blood glucose is pushed into the muscles, insulin should drop again allowing ketogenesis to resume within several hours.
Post-workout carbohydrates might be expected to have a greater effect on ketosis, in that insulin levels will most likely be higher than are seen with pre-workout carbohydrates. For this reason, individuals may want to experiment with pre-workout carbohydrates first, only adding post-workout carbohydrates if really necessary (although for most people, it may be overkill).
The formula for the Ketogains Version of TKD: “The Ketogains TKD Coffee”
Take this formula about 30 minutes before strength training:
- Coffee of your choice (even decaf) – this is not only for the caffeine, but for the ergogenic properties of the coffee flavonoids that aid glycogen replenishment and muscle growth.
- 25g Zero Carb Whey Protein
- 10 to 15 g MCT Oil or MCT Powder
- 5 to 15g Dextrose. Glucose or Maltodextrin (because they are high glycemic, easily and fast absorbing carbohydrates)
- 5g Creatine Monohydrate
- 1-2g Sodium
A suggestion by Lyle McDonald is to avoid ingesting fat for 1 to 2 hours after training, but its and old recomendation that in the context of Keto does not really apply:
Fat should generally be avoided in a post-workout meal. First and foremost, dietary fat will slow digestion of protein and/or carbohydrate. Second, the consumption of dietary fat when insulin levels are high may cause fat storage after training (1)
(1) Conley M and Stone M. Carbohydrate ingestion/supplementation for resistance exercise and training. Sports Med (1996) 21: 7-17
“The Ketogenic Diet” by Lyle McDonald
On the other hand, Alan Aragon says to not worry about it.
So, the jury still stands: more evidence is needed. It could be beneficial to avoid fat ingestion post workout if you feel inclined to and as a “safety” measure if your main goal is to lose body fat.
- It is best to use MCT Oil or Powder over Coconut Oil, be aware that MCT Oil is about 50% more potent and may cause stomach upset on some people.
- For carb sources I suggest Karo “Lite” Syrup – the zero high fructose version – or Dextrose Tablets. Start with 5g, and only after careful experimentation you may increase a little.
- For carb intake, start with 0.02g / lean lb (example, an individual of 140 lean pounds, would start with 7g of glucose).
- For most people, post workout carbs are not needed, this is is overkill, unless you are having various training sessions a day.
- Coffee is suggested for much more than its caffeine. Coffee itself has other compounds that are beneficial for muscle building and glycogen replenishment.
- You can always use some additional pre-workout compounds (citrulline, nitric oxide, etc.), just review ingredients and carb content.
- For most people, especially if overweight (men over 15%BF and women over 25% BF) and whose main goal is fat loss, unless training competitively, I would NOT suggest a TKD approach. A SKD (Standard Ketogenic Diet) is enough.
- Creatine timing is inconsequential, just take your 5g on a daily basis (even if you do not work out that day).
- You should still meet your suggested ketogenic macros: 0.8-1.2g protein per lean lb; less than 30g NET carbs (PLUS your additional TKD carbs); and the rest of your calories from fat, according to your goals.
- I strongly suggest to avoid fruits and high fructose in general for the sake of TKD. Why? Because fructose just refills liver glycogen, and does not really help toward muscle glycogen replenishment.
- If you have various training sessions a day, you could experiment by dividing carbs between both sessions, or adjust depending on the intensity and duration (example, 5g for the first session, 10g for the second one).