Targeted Ketogenic Diet: Benefits and How to Start

The keto diet is a diet popularized by its ability to make one lose weight while getting numerous health benefits at the same time. Due to its restrictive nature, a few variations emerged, including the targeted keto diet.

This comprehensive article will discuss everything you need to know about the targeted keto diet, its benefits, how to do it, and everything in between.

Key Takeaways:

  • The targeted keto diet (TKD) is a variation that caters to athletes and people engaged in high-intensity exercise.
  • The primary purpose of TKD is to provide an immediate source of energy and to prevent low blood glucose levels among athletes.
  • The best sources of pre-workout carbs are glucose and dextrose, not fructose, as it primarily gets stored in the liver rather than in the blood.
  • The targeted ketogenic diet may kick you out of ketosis temporarily, and some never go out of ketosis after carb-loading, but the effects differ per individual.

Table of Contents:

What Is the Targeted Ketogenic Diet?

The targeted keto diet (TKD) is a variation of the standard keto diet that allows one to consume calculated carbohydrate consumption of about 15-50 g in one go, mainly before high-intensity workouts.

In the keto world, the targeted keto diet is a “compromise” between the standard keto diet, where strict carbohydrate restriction is observed, and the cyclical keto diet, where carbohydrate loading of up to 400 grams is observed 1-2 days a week.

The fundamental principle of the targeted ketogenic diet revolves around providing an additional energy source to fuel demanding physical activities and prevent low blood sugar levels without jeopardizing the metabolic state of ketosis for a more extended period than in cyclical keto.

Moreover, aside from the pre-workout carb-loading, the targeted ketogenic diet still adheres to the core principles of a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carbohydrate regimen.

It’s important to note that the carbohydrate intake in TKD is not a license for unrestricted consumption but rather a precise and calculated strategy.

The choice of carbohydrates, such as dextrose and glucose-containing sources, is typically rapidly absorbed to provide a quick and efficient energy boost.

Who Is the Targeted Ketogenic Diet For?

The targeted ketogenic diet is specifically tailored to cater to the unique needs and goals of individuals, especially those involved in high-intensity exercises, including the following:

  • Running (long-distance)
  • Sprinting
  • Swimming
  • High-Intensity Interval Training
  • Other Sports that require sprinting (soccer, rugby, lacrosse, hockey, basketball)

Studies have demonstrated that the targeted intake of carbohydrates can positively impact blood glucose levels,1 leading to improved endurance and reduced fatigue during high-intensity workouts.

However, it’s also important to note that other athletes do not feel fatigued even when doing the standard keto diet, which means the needs and effects of the targeted ketogenic diet differ per individual, and there is no need to get into the TKD if you’re doing excellent with the standard keto diet.

Moreover, if you’re into strength training, you can stick to the standard keto diet as it improves muscle mass without risking your ketosis.

Benefits of the Targeted Ketogenic Diet

Before diving into the benefits, it’s important to note that most clinical studies are focused on the standard keto diet, and while the same benefits may be considered with the targeted keto diet, they may have a limited effect due to the brief distraction of ketosis.

Increased Exercise Performance

Studies have indicated that carbohydrates are an important source of energy,2 especially when doing high-intensity activities.

The strategic introduction of carbohydrates around workouts provides a rapid energy source, potentially improving endurance and reducing fatigue while filling up one’s glycogen stores or preventing it from being used up.

However, it’s also important to note that studies suggest that both carbohydrates and fats can be used as energy fuel during exercise,3 which explains why other athletes don’t need carb loading before their exercise.

Stable Energy

The balanced macronutrient composition of the targeted ketogenic diet and the strategic timing of carbohydrate intake aim to provide stable energy levels throughout the exercise.

This stability can be attributed to the steady release of energy from both fats and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be used as the immediate energy source, and your ketones are less fluctuating and can be the stable energy source.

Cleaner Energy Production

Although there is an intake of carbohydrates before exercise performance, the body still uses ketones, which are a cleaner, more stable source of energy.4

Since the exercise will mostly use up all the carbohydrates ingested, the body will still mainly rely on ketones. Ketosis encourages mental clarity and reduces oxidative stress, which may benefit athletes.

Weight Loss and Increased Fat Oxidation

The keto diet is known to encourage weight loss among athletes. Preserving ketosis while incorporating carbohydrates strategically allows for a dual approach to energy utilization.

While there are debates on whether the weight loss is lean mass or fat mass, studies suggest that the keto diet does not interfere with muscle mass, which is vital for athletes.

In a study conducted on semi-professional soccer players, being on the keto diet showed increased fat mass loss without detrimental effects on strength, power, and muscle mass.5

Appetite Control

Some studies suggest that keto may influence appetite-controlling hormones, potentially aiding in appetite regulation.6 This aspect can benefit individuals seeking to manage their caloric intake.

However, due to the carb-loading nature of the targeted ketogenic diet, there is a need to restrict one’s carbohydrate intake within allowable limits.

Constant intake of high amounts of carbs may kick you out of ketosis and even encourage binge eating, especially when you eat sweets for your carb-loading.

Improves Metabolic Health

Research indicates that keto positively impacts metabolic health markers, including insulin sensitivity and regulating blood sugar levels.7 Keto has also proven benefits for managing lipid levels,8 which promote heart health.9

Moreover, exercise is an underutilized tool to improve metabolic health,10 so doing both can synergistically enhance one’s overall health.

What to Eat on The Targeted Ketogenic Diet

The targeted keto diet is similar to the standard keto diet in food consumption, with a few tweaks on the carbohydrate part.

The carbohydrate of choice before exercise should be high-glycemic and simple carbs containing glucose or dextrose, as they are easily absorbed and readily used upon intake. Here are some of the sources:

  • Glucose or dextrose powder or gel
  • Sugary sports drinks
  • Sugary candies, tarts
  • Bread
  • Cake
  • Crackers
  • Cereals
  • Rice
  • Wheat
  • Potatoes
  • Corn

Carbohydrate sources to avoid: foods containing fructose, which encourages storing sugar in the liver rather than the muscle. Some sources include:

  • Fruits (apples, dates, figs, pears, prunes)
  • Honey
  • Table sugar (mixture of glucose and fructose)
  • Sugar cane
  • Agave syrup
  • Caramel
  • Molasses
  • Fruit juices

Moreover, here are other food groups allowed in the targeted keto diet and some food options:

  • Healthy fats: Avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pecans
  • Seeds: Chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Fatty fish: Salmon, tuna, sardines, herring
  • Meat: Chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb, eggs
  • Shellfish: Shrimp, crab, lobster
  • Low-carb vegetables: Zucchini, asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms, cucumber
  • Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, swiss chard, lettuce
  • Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage
  • Dairy: cheese, heavy cream, greek yogurt (full-fat, unsweetened), cottage cheese, sour cream, butter
  • Beverages: Water, black coffee, unsweetened tea (green tea, herbal tea), sparkling water (plain or with a splash of lemon/lime)

How to Start a Targeted Ketogenic Diet

targeted ketogenic diet (TKD)

1. Calculate Your Macros

Determine your daily caloric needs based on age, gender, weight, activity level, and goals.

Establish the appropriate macronutrient ratios, adhering to the targeted ketogenic diet principles. A typical breakdown includes high fat (70-75% of total calories), moderate protein (20-25%), and low carbohydrates (5-10%).

You may need to adjust this ratio depending on your needs. For instance, if you are engaging in a high-intensity exercise for more than 1 hour, you may need to consume up to 50 grams 30-60 minutes prior.

You can also split your carb intake into two sessions, one 30-60 mins prior and one just before your exercise or between sessions.

2. Know Proper Carbohydrate Sources

As mentioned, glucose and dextrose are the best sources of carbohydrates before an intense exercise. Avoid fructose and other sweets that may contain them.

3. Identify Timing for Carbs

Plan your carbohydrate intake strategically around your exercise/performance sessions. It’s advisable to consume targeted carbs 30 mins and just before exercising to support energy levels and aid recovery.

Timing may vary based on personal preferences and the nature of your workout routine. Experiment with different timings to find what works best for you.

4. Transition Gradually

You need to stick to the standard keto diet until your body adapts to using ketones as the fuel source before you start transitioning to the targeted keto diet. This way, your body will still prioritize using ketones for sustained energy.

5. Monitor and Adjust

Regularly monitor your progress by tracking key metrics, including weight, energy, ketone levels, and workout performance.

Be open to adjustments. Individual responses to the targeted ketogenic diet can vary, and you may need to fine-tune your macronutrient ratios or carb timing based on your body’s feedback.

6. Consider Supplements

Depending on individual needs, consider incorporating supplements such as electrolytes, creatine, taurine, beta-alanine, L-citrulline, MCTs, and multivitamins to fill potential nutritional gaps.

Consult with healthcare professionals to determine if any specific supplements are necessary based on your dietary choices.

Will the TKD Kick Me Out of Ketosis?

The short answer is yes. The targeted ketogenic diet may kick you out of ketosis temporarily, but that’s not the issue. The issue is how quickly you get back into ketosis.

Also, some individuals may find that the targeted ketogenic diet minimally affects their ketone levels, while others may experience a temporary drop. Testing ketone levels using blood, urine, or breath ketone meters can provide insight into individual responses.

So, what affects the time you get back into ketosis?

  • Carb Amount and Timing: The amount and timing of carbohydrate intake during the targeted ketogenic diet are critical factors. Adhering to recommended guidelines for targeted carbs around workouts can help mitigate the risk of being kicked out of ketosis.
  • Fat Adaptation: As mentioned, you must be fat-adapted before starting the targeted ketogenic diet so your body returns to ketosis quicker.
  • Individual Sensitivity: Sensitivity to carbohydrates varies. Some individuals may remain in ketosis even with a moderate increase in carb intake, while others may find it more challenging.
  • Type of Exercise: People engaged in light to moderate exercise may not need carb loading and may be unable to utilize them in the exercise, meaning glucose levels will rise for longer.

Should You Try the Targeted Ketogenic Diet?

The answer to this depends on your needs. You may benefit from the targeted ketogenic diet if you’re a high-intensity athlete and experience low blood glucose when doing your exercises or sports.

However, it’s important to remember to be fat-adapted first and to consider carb amount and timing to get back into ketosis quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can you lose weight with cyclic keto?

Yes, the cyclic keto could still cause weight loss if done correctly. Cyclic keto follows the standard keto macros on “keto days, ” meaning your body will be in ketosis most of the time.

Is carb cycling good for fat loss?

Yes, carb cycling may result in fat loss, as it limits carbohydrate intake intermittently. However, this depends on how much you limit and how often you do it.

What is the difference between the keto diet and the targeted ketogenic diet?

The main difference is the carb-loading before exercise in the targeted keto diet. Besides that, all rules are the same as the standard keto diet.


1Hantzidiamantis PJ, Lappin SL. Physiology, Glucose. [Updated 2022 Sep 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

2Gollnick, P. D., & Matoba, H. (1984). Role of carbohydrate in exercise. Clinics in sports medicine, 3(3), 583–593.

3Mul, J. D., Stanford, K. I., Hirshman, M. F., & Goodyear, L. J. (2015). Exercise and Regulation of Carbohydrate Metabolism. Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science, 135, 17.

4Prince, A., Zhang, Y., Croniger, C., & Puchowicz, M. (2013). Oxidative metabolism: glucose versus ketones. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 789, 323–328.

5Paoli, A. A., Mancin, L., Caprio, M., Monti, E., Narici, M. V., Cenci, L., Piccini, F., Pincella, M., Grigoletto, D., & Marcolin, G. (2021). Effects of 30 days of ketogenic diet on body composition, muscle strength, muscle area, metabolism, and performance in semi-professional soccer players. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 18.

6Roekenes, J., & Martins, C. (2021). Ketogenic diets and appetite regulation. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 24(4), 359–363.

7Alarim, R. A., Alasmre, F. A., Alotaibi, H. A., Alshehri, M. A., & Hussain, S. A. (2020). Effects of the Ketogenic Diet on Glycemic Control in Diabetic Patients: Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Cureus, 12(10).

8Batch, J. T., Lamsal, S. P., Adkins, M., Sultan, S., & Ramirez, M. N. (2020). Advantages and Disadvantages of the Ketogenic Diet: A Review Article. Cureus, 12(8).

9Dyńka, D., Kowalcze, K., Charuta, A., & Paziewska, A. (2023). The Ketogenic Diet and Cardiovascular Diseases. Nutrients, 15(15).

10Myers, J., Kokkinos, P., & Nyelin, E. (2019). Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and the Metabolic Syndrome. Nutrients, 11(7).

Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.

Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.

Click on the links above to visit his author and about me pages.

Leave a Reply