Blog Categories

Popular

The Four Types of Keto Diet: What to Eat and How to Choose

Disclaimer

This may come as a surprise, but a ketogenic diet isn’t just one diet.

Although any diet that calls itself keto will achieve the metabolic state of ketosis through a unique breakdown of macronutrients, multiple versions of the diet exist for different goals.

Whether you’re a beginner pursuing weight loss or an athlete working toward elite performance, there’s a keto variation for you. It’s even possible to combine a keto diet with other popular diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, Paleo, or veganism.

Below, we’re covering the four most common versions of keto and who each is best for, plus all the details on how to mix and match a keto diet with other eating plans to suit your needs.

The Four Keto Diet Types

Anyone can put their own unique spin on a ketogenic diet, but in general, the four most common variations on this high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet include:

Each of these can help you lose weight, burn fat, and balance your blood sugar levels, but they all differ in their objectives and benefits. Here’s a look at what to expect from each.

Standard Keto Diet

Not surprisingly, the standard keto diet is the most common version of the keto diet. This is the classic form you’re likely familiar with – the one most people simply refer to as “keto.”

What It Involves

A standard keto diet features a macronutrient breakdown of about 70-75% of daily calories from fat, 15-20% from protein, and 5-10% from carbohydrates. For most people, this looks like a total of about 20-50 net grams of carbs per day, 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, and the remainder of calories from fat.

By consuming this balance of high levels of fat, moderate protein, and minimal carbs, you’ll shift your body’s metabolism to the fat-burning state of ketosis.

What to Eat on a Standard Keto Diet

On a standard keto diet, you can enjoy a variety of foods, especially those rich in healthy fats. (Find our complete guide to foods to eat and avoid on keto here.) With a target of 75% of calories from fat, you’ll want to focus meals and snacks around items that are high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbs, such as:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • Meats, including beef, pork, and lamb
  • Eggs
  • Avocados
  • Oils like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, and MCT oil
  • Grass-fed butter or ghee
  • Full-fat yogurt and cheese
  • Nuts, nut butter, seeds, and seed butter

For your small daily allowance of carbs, a standard keto diet can include the following:

  • Salad greens
  • Berries
  • Low-carb vegetables like bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, and radishes
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts

Following a healthy standard keto diet also means limiting highly processed foods, hydrogenated oils, and sweetened beverages.

Who It’s Best For

If you’re new to keto, you’ll likely want to start your dietary journey with the standard keto diet. This plan is quite straightforward, and since it’s the most popular form of keto, innumerable resources exist to help you understand its principles (and ultimately stick to them). This form of keto is ideal for those looking to lose weight or manage blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes, since research shows it can help achieve both of these goals.[*]

Looking back at the keto diet’s history reveals another group who will benefit from a standard keto diet: people with epilepsy. A high-fat keto diet was originally developed in the 1920s to treat this neurological condition. Even now, people who suffer from epilepsy can often find non-pharmaceutical relief by adhering to a standard keto diet under a doctor’s supervision.[*]

High Protein Keto Diet

As its name suggests, a high protein keto diet is simply a higher-protein version of a standard keto diet.

What It Involves

On a high protein keto diet, you’ll take your protein intake up a notch from what it would be on a traditional keto eating plan. Instead of getting 20-25% of your calories from protein, you’ll strive for about 30-35%. From there, you’ll adjust your fat intake down from 70-75% of total calories to about 60%. Carb intake stays the same at 5-10% of total calories.

What to Eat on a High Protein Keto Diet

On a high protein keto diet, you’ll eat many of the same foods you’d have on a standard keto diet, with a particular emphasis on those that are higher in protein. Some examples of high-protein, high-fat foods for your meal plan include:

  • Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines)
  • Meats, such as beef, lamb, and pork
  • Eggs
  • Nuts, seeds, and their butters
  • Greek yogurt
  • Edamame

How Much Protein Is Too Much?

There’s always the possibility of getting too much of a good thing on a high protein diet. The body has limits for how much protein it can reasonably process each day. Consistently overdoing it can put you at risk of developing kidney stones, and excessive amounts of certain high-protein foods like red and processed meats may raise your risk of colon cancer.[*]

Though each individual’s protein “ceiling” will differ, experts often recommend 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (that’s about 0.9 grams per pound of body weight) as an upper limit for people who aren’t bodybuilders or elite athletes.[*]

Evidence suggests that for highly active people who lift weights and exercise frequently, 3 grams per kilogram of body weight (around 1.4 grams per pound of body weight) may have additional benefits, but that’s probably not the case unless you’re highly active[*].

You may have also heard that eating too much protein can put you out of ketosis because of gluconeogenesis (GNG).

Fortunately, that’s just a myth. Gluconeogenesis (making glucose from non-carbs) doesn’t work at the same rate as carbohydrate metabolism (making glucose from carbs). GNG is a highly stable process.

When you eat chocolate cake, for example, your blood glucose spikes in response to that sugar in a small window of time. Your blood glucose doesn’t spike the same way when you eat extra protein because GNG remains stable.

Long story short: protein will not turn into chocolate cake in your bloodstream, so high protein intake per se isn’t a problem when it comes to maintaining ketosis. (And aren’t you glad?)

Who It’s Best For

The primary goal of a high protein keto diet is to consume extra protein to build muscle and recover from physical activity. This is a popular method among bodybuilders, weightlifters, or those who need more protein in their diet for health reasons[*].

Increasing your protein to the upper end of the normal range of the standard keto diet, around 25% or so, is also linked in research with feeling fuller, burning more fat, and faster recovery from exercise[*].

Cyclical Keto Diet

Looking to change things up in your keto routine? The cyclical keto diet could be for you.

What It Involves

The cyclical ketogenic diet or CKD involves eating a low-carbohydrate keto diet for several days, followed by a day or two of a high-carb diet. The idea goes that switching back and forth between keto and a higher-carb eating plan allows you to replenish your glycogen stores, as well as easily stock up on nutrients from carb-containing foods you wouldn’t eat on keto days.

On the CKD, you alternate between two phases: a standard ketogenic diet phase and a carb-loading phase. The high-carb phase can last anywhere from 24-48 hours. On carb-loading days (also known as “refeeds”), roughly 70% of your calories will come from carbohydrates (in contrast to the usual, approximately 70% of calories from fat that you’d eat on standard keto).

Over the course of one week, your eating habits will resemble this example:

  • Standard ketogenic diet phase (five days):
    • 70-75% of calories from fat
    • 20-25% of calories from protein
    • 5% of calories from carbohydrates
  • Carb-loading phase (two days):
    • 70% of calories from carbohydrates
    • 20-25% of calories from protein
    • 5-10% of calories from fat

What to Eat on a Cyclical Keto Diet

For five or six days per week on CKD, you’ll adhere to a standard keto eating plan, focusing on healthy keto foods low in carbs and high in healthy fats.

When it’s time to switch to a higher-carb menu for a day or two, you can eat carb-rich foods packed with fiber and micronutrients. These may include:

  • Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, farro, oats, and whole wheat pasta and bread
  • Starchy vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash
  • Legumes like black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and lentils
  • Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cherries

For the most part, you’ll want to steer clear of ultraprocessed foods and “junk food” as carb sources. It’s not only better for your health to avoid them, but the other issue is that they’re high in carbs and unhealthy fats like vegetable oils . You can indulge in these types of treats occasionally, but they’re not staples on cyclical keto.

Who It’s Best For

Research on the cyclical keto diet is still in its infancy, but some studies have suggested that this form of keto could promote muscle building. Diets with extremely low amounts of carbs can suppress insulin – a hormone that actually helps create muscle.[*] Adding carbs back into the diet might boost the body’s ability to bulk up. If you’re working on building muscle and not getting great results on standard keto, you might want to try CKD as a next step.

People who can’t shake carb cravings on keto could also benefit from a day or two per week of higher-carb foods. Plus, adding higher-fiber foods combats the common problem of keto constipation. If your gut is having trouble adjusting to standard keto, a cyclical keto diet could help.

Targeted Keto Diet

Targeted keto is similar to cyclical keto, but the “targeted” part of a targeted keto diet involves targeting your carbohydrate consumption specifically around your workouts.

What It Involves

The targeted keto diet (TKD) is a hybrid between the standard ketogenic diet and the cyclical ketogenic diet. It allows you to train at higher intensities at the gym, but doesn’t force you out of ketosis for extended periods of time (which is likely to happen on the cyclical keto diet).

If you are looking to try TKD, aim to consume 25-50 or more grams of net carbs 30 minutes to an hour before exercise. This would make up your carb intake for the day.

We recommend you start with low amounts, then increase if needed to fuel your performance. Some people report good results with higher amounts like 100-250 grams of carbs eaten in 1-2 meals prior to activity, but these cases mostly include heavy weight training, intense practice sessions, or competition.

By starting with a lower carb intake, you’ll be able to retain more of the benefits of standard keto as you learn how many carbs your body needs to fuel exercise performance.

What to Eat on a Targeted Keto Diet

People experimenting with TKD typically start by eating 25-50 grams of carbohydrates half an hour before their workout. They consume easily-digestible, high glycemic carbohydrates, which are easily absorbed.

“Absorbed where?” you may ask. Good question! Dextrose, glucose, galactose, and fructose are all absorbed differently in your body:

  • Dextrose and glucose are the best high-glycemic carbs to eat, as they go to your muscles to replenish glycogen stores[*][*]. You can also supplement your carbohydrate intake with protein.
  • Fructose and galactose should be avoided, as they go directly to your liver (not your muscles) to be converted into glucose, lactate, glycogen, and lipids — which takes longer compared to dextrose and glucose[*]. High-fructose foods include fruit, fruit juice, and honey[*].

On a targeted keto diet, you cannot generally supplement with fat before working out, because it slows the digestion of carbohydrates. The one exception to this rule is medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), because they’re easily digested and can help boost ketone levels (whether eaten with carbs or not).

Consider supplementing with MCT powder before a training session for added performance.

Who It’s Best for

If you’re exercising at high intensities, targeted keto can aid high-level performance. Giving your muscles the glucose they need right before a workout allows them to perform at high intensities for longer periods[*].

Using Keto in Combination with Other Diets

We recommend that you dial in your standard keto or other keto approach before you experiment. But if you enjoy the variety of different eating patterns, or you’d like even more flexibility on your keto diet, you can always try combining it with other eating plans.

Keto-Paleo Diet

The keto and Paleo diets have plenty in common to begin with, so combining the two into one hybrid eating plan doesn’t take too much effort. On a keto-Paleo diet, you’ll keep your focus on minimizing processed or high-carb foods, with an extra emphasis on pasture-raised and grass-fed meats.

The basic rule of thumb on Paleo is to avoid all processed foods and eat exclusively whole foods that are minimally processed[*]. In the words of one Paleo diet scientific researcher, that means your menu consists mainly of plants, animal products, and seafoods.

Also, because the Paleo diet centers more around animal foods, you’ll likely consume more meat (and therefore more protein) on a keto-Paleo diet than a standard keto diet.

Vegetarian Keto Diet

On the opposite side of the spectrum from a keto-Paleo diet is a vegetarian keto diet. This diet combo may be more difficult to maintain than some other versions of keto, since there are fewer options for protein as well as plant-based fat sources than animal-based ones.

However, following a vegetarian keto diet isn’t impossible, which means it can be a viable option for someone who wants the benefits of keto but wants to avoid meat for whatever reasons (whether for ethical, environmental, or health considerations).

Keto vegetarians can fill their plates with fats from oils, butter, ghee, seeds, nuts, eggs, and full-fat dairy. Protein choices include plant-based foods like tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Plant foods tend to contain more carbohydrates than animal foods, so this diet may naturally provide a higher percentage of carbs than a traditional keto menu, and limiting net carbs to stay in ketosis will be your main consideration.

Mediterranean Keto Diet

A Mediterranean keto diet brings together all the heart-healthy goodness of a Mediterranean eating plan with the low-carb benefits of keto. On this diet mashup, you’ll focus on sources of mono- and polyunsaturated fats like fatty fish, olive oil, full-fat dairy, nuts, and seeds.

Your macronutrient breakdown on a Mediterranean Keto Diet may skew higher on carbs and lower on fat, with protein holding steady at around 15-20% of total calories. Check out our full comparison and guide to the Mediterranean diet versus keto here.

How to Decide Which Keto Diet Is Right for You

With the various forms of keto out there, it can be confusing trying to figure out which one to follow. As a rule of thumb, if you’re just starting out on keto to lose body fat or manage blood sugar, begin with the standard ketogenic diet.

If you feel your athletic performance suffers on standard keto, consider switching to the targeted keto diet and test your results. Closely monitor your gym performance, test your ketone levels, and pay attention to your energy levels. Only then will you be able to see if targeted keto is right for you.

Meanwhile, if carb cravings make a standard keto diet difficult to follow, you might try a cyclical keto eating plan. Alternatively, for greater lean muscle gains, easier fat loss, and feelings of fullnes, a high protein keto diet could be your ideal choice.

Takeaway

The customizability or flexibility of the keto diet is one of its greatest assets.

Depending on your reasons for going keto, any of the four most common versions we covered here may be best for you.

There’s no universal answer for which type of the diet will give you the best overall results, but as you take stock of your goals, you can always adjust as needed while staying within the framework of the ketogenic diet.

410 Shares

11 thoughts on “The Four Types of Keto Diet: What to Eat and How to Choose

  1. Hello! first of all awesome information on your website and podcasts! I just bought some of your Exogenous Ketones.. looking to implement EK (exogenous ketones) into a current health plan I’m on called Optavia (formerly Medifast/TSFL).. Daily rules are
    Carbs: 80-100 grams (40%)
    Protein: 80-100 grams (40%)
    Fat: ~ 22 grams
    atleast 100 oz water daily..
    Meals are setup to eat 6 times a day (every 2-3 hours) with eating their provided foods which are balanced to have 90-110 calories and 25 grams protein.
    The science behind this is suppose to put you into nutritional ketosis. I just want to know how to further optimize this with EK’s if possible or are the Macro’s completely against body utilizing EK’s? I know “keto diet” is high fat/mod protein diet.. Thank you!!

  2. I am vegan.
    how can I get the protein/ carbs I need and maintain muscle? I am 66/ 194 pounds!
    I want to just maintain being strong and fit. I am on no medicine.

    1. Hi Veronica, you can consume plenty of fats if you stick to healthy oils, nuts/any kind of nut butter, avocados, seeds/any kind of seed butter, and coconut as your sources while making sure you get enough protein too.

  3. Hello, received my bundle and Keto bars, have not received the book , been looking for email, to see if it was sent separetley- can you please forward thank you! LOVE THE BARS!

  4. I cannot eat high fat or high carbs as i tried and gain weight, can i still do keto with low fat & low carbs as option? i hav diabetes, fibromyalgia, fatty liver & h hernia
    what would you recommend as my daily meal plan?

    1. Hi Kumari, ketogenic diet’s principle is basically high fat, low carb. It’s always best to consult with your doctor when trying a new diet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join the Internet's largest keto newsletter

We'll send you articles, product guides, and exclusive offers customized to your goals.