|October 17, 2023

Targeted Ketogenic Diet vs. Standard Keto: What’s the Difference?

By Dave Asprey
Reviewed for Scientific Accuracy

Targeted Ketogenic Diet vs. Standard Keto: What’s the Difference?

  • A ketogenic diet — roughly 75% of calories from fat, 20% from protein, and under 5% from carbs — is a powerful way to burn fat, lose weight, and increase focus.
  • However, there are downsides to eating keto long-term. Your body does better with some carbs, provided they’re the right kind and you eat them at the right times.
  • A targeted ketogenic diet like the Bulletproof Diet is the best of both worlds: it makes you metabolically flexible and gives you extra energy when you’re under stress, while still keeping you in ketosis most of the time.
  • Read below for a guide to eating a targeted ketogenic diet.

Eating a keto diet – getting roughly 75% of your calories from fat, 20% from protein, and less than 5% from carbs – is a powerful way to lose a few pounds, burn fat, and upgrade your brain. Without access to glucose from carbs, your body turns to fat as its main fuel source. While the keto diet boasts loads of benefits (you can read about them here),  there are potential downsides to restrictive, long-term carb-cutting, especially if you’re an athlete or under a lot of pressure.

That’s where the targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) comes in. With targeted keto, you eat some carbs, except you time them around workouts or times of heavy stress to give your body a little extra fuel. Targeted keto works well for athletes, and if you’re full-on keto, it’s a good tool to have for days when you’re under extra physical or mental stress, such as pulling an all-nighter, or feeling jet lagged.

This article will talk about the benefits of targeted keto, why you might want to do it, how to start targeted keto, and how it compares to other variations of a keto diet.

Related: The Keto Diet for Beginners – Your Complete Guide

What is the targeted ketogenic diet?

Targeted keto is similar to a cyclical keto diet, where you go in and out of keto, except you time your carbs around your workouts. Eating extra carbs when you exercise gives you more available energy for your muscles, and is especially helpful for long or grueling activities like long-distance running, CrossFit, and weight training. Drew Manning, who’s been on the Bulletproof Radio podcast, is a fan.

With the targeted keto, you dip out of ketosis occasionally (which could actually be good for you long-term), but as long as you time your carbs and workouts correctly, you’ll use all those carbs to fuel your muscles, and you’ll be in keto most of the time.

If you do intense training several days a week, targeted keto can help you get more out of your workouts, plus a few other bonuses. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of targeted keto.

Benefits of a targeted ketogenic diet

The goal of a targeted ketogenic diet is to give you the fuel for high-intensity workouts while keeping you in ketosis most of the time.

A lot of people on a full keto diet report “bonking” during intense workouts: they run out of fuel suddenly and don’t have the energy to keep going. Research suggests that with full keto, you’re likely to run out of energy during anaerobic workouts[1] — any kind of short, intense workout. That includes lifting, CrossFit, and high-intensity interval training.

Full keto seems to be good for endurance training like long runs — keto-adapted ultra endurance athletes did slightly better than their non-keto counterparts during a 62-mile run[2]. That said, these are super-athletes who are used to running up to 200 miles at a time. If you don’t fit that bill, you may benefit from doing targeted keto and having some carbs before a longer cardio session. Give it a try and see how you perform.

The other benefit to targeted keto is metabolic flexibility. People who stay in ketosis long-term gradually lose their ability to process carbs, and can actually develop insulin resistance[3]. That’s fine as long as you never eat carbs, but if you want to have maximum metabolic flexibility, you’re better off occasionally breaking ketosis with a targeted keto diet or a cyclical keto diet (More on cyclical keto vs. targeted keto below).

What to eat (and when) on targeted keto

The trick with the targeted ketogenic diet is to eat just enough carbs. You want to burn through them during your workout and go back into ketosis a couple hours post-workout.

You can follow a simple rule-of-thumb: any time you work out or are under extra stress, eat 20-50 grams of quality carbs, 30 minutes pre-workout (or pre-stress).

This is one of the rare times when you want higher-glycemic carbs. Your goal is to burn through them for quick energy during your workout, and have them out of your system by the time you finish. With that in mind, a few good options for carbs are:

  • White rice
  • Cassava
  • Baked sweet potato
  • Beets (you’ll get a nitric oxide boost as a bonus, which gives your muscles more oxygen)
  • White potato (if you tolerate nightshades)

Note: you don’t want to eat high-fructose carbs on targeted keto. Fructose goes straight to your liver instead of your muscles, so you’ll end up dropping out of ketosis without giving your muscles extra energy. Higher-fructose carbs include fruit, honey, and agave. Steer clear of those for targeted keto.

For the ultimate boost, drizzle Brain Octane Oil (MCT oil) on your pre-workout carb source, so you have ketones alongside the carbs for maximum energy and metabolic flexibility.

One important note before you dive head-first into a targeted keto diet. You must be keto-adapted before starting a TKD. That means following a cyclical or regular keto diet for 30 to 60 days first. Otherwise, you risk never getting into ketosis on a targeted keto diet.

Related: Cyclical Keto Meal Plan

Targeted ketogenic diet vs. cyclical ketogenic diet

Long-term keto comes with a few downsides, including thyroid imbalance[4][5] and gut issues. You’re better off having carbs occasionally. Targeted keto is a great way to do that.

Your other option is a cyclical ketogenic diet like the Bulletproof Diet. On cyclical keto, you stay in ketosis 6 days a week, and once a week you have a carb refeed day where you eat about 100-150 grams of carbs.

If you’re doing intense workouts several times a week, you may be best off with a targeted keto diet. If your workout routine isn’t quite as taxing, try a cyclical keto diet. Here’s a complete guide to cyclical keto.

You also may find that you do great on a full keto diet. Everyone processes carbs differently, and keto is still a pretty new area of study. Find your ideal carb intake, play around with different variations of keto, and settle on something that works well for you. If you’re new to all this, the Bulletproof Diet is a great place to start.

Read Next: Pitfalls of the Keto Diet and Why Carb Cycling Is Better

Join the Bulletproof Revolution

Sign up for early access to sales, product launches, the latest Bulletproof news and more!