Since going mainstream, the phrase "keto diet" has become a staple in many health enthusiasts' vocabularies—one that translates to high-fat, ultra-low-carb eating. And while this definition isn't exactly wrong, there is another way to go keto that doesn't involve giving up sweet potato fries forever: keto cycling.
How does it work? According to Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, you follow two keto days and then a higher carb day, and repeat indefinitely. "On your keto days, you [eat] under 30 grams of total carbs, and on the carb day you [eat] between 80 and 100 grams," he explains. He says you can start doing this after 30 days on a regular ketogenic diet, by which point your body should be adapted to utilizing fat for fuel. And, of course, you want to stick with good-for-you carbs—this isn't an excuse to have a cupcake free-for-all every few days.
Increasing your carbs a few days per week takes you out of ketosis. (This is basically the goal of the ketogenic diet—and it's associated with benefits like increased energy, weight loss, and mental clarity.) Instead, on those days, your body ends up running on glucose from the carbs. By the second day, when you go back to eating keto, your body returns to ketosis.
"Our bodies should be like hybrid cars. It's like driving gas and electric—we are able to burn both carbs and fat efficiently for fuel."
It may sound counterintuitive to switch things up like this, but Dr. Axe swears it helps keep your metabolism sharp. "Our bodies should be like hybrid cars," he says. "It's like driving gas and electric—we are able to burn both carbs and fat efficiently for fuel."
Kim Crawford, MD, is another fan of keto cycling, particularly for its gut-health benefits. "We’ve observed that long-term ketosis interrupts the mucus lining and the function of the microbiome," she says. "We don’t know the clinical significance of this, but we do know it's very important to have a nice mucus layer and good bacteria doing their good things." Her version of keto cycling involves adding starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes or squash, to a dinner every two weeks. "Going super-high on carbs will make it harder to get back into ketosis the next morning," she says.
But ultimately, Dr. Axe recommends cycling because it makes keto-style eating more sustainable and less restrictive. "Getting to eat carbs two days a week is basically something to look forward to, and it allows [you] to stick to [keto dieting] more long-term," he says. Looks like you really can have your avocado and your grain-free toast, too.
Carb cycling or not, these are the supplements you should consider taking when you go keto. You'll also want to grab this pantry staple to ward off sugar cravings.
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