Carb Cycling vs Ketogenic Diet: What’s the Difference?

(Last Updated On: July 25, 2018)

Since both carb cycling and the ketogenic diet are relatively new diets to a large portion of people, there is a bit of confusion surrounding the difference between these two diets. This confusion is totally understandable though because both of these diets follow the eating style of keto as a base. Let’s get a better understanding of the differences between these two diets so we can see which one will be best for your lifestyle!

What is carb cycling?

Carb cycling is a great plan for people to follow if they don’t have large appetites and don’t easily give into cravings. While you are allowed to eat carbs while you’re carb cycling, eating healthy carbs will be the only way that you’re able to lose weight or achieve a healthier lifestyle. Eating bad carbs while you’re carb cycling is allowed, as long as it isn’t with every time you eat carbs.

In a personal belief, carb cycling is best left for people who are interested in bodybuilding or competitions. If you’re just looking to try carb cycling to lose weight, you will most likely struggle with making careful choices with your food selection. That isn’t to say that you’re going to fail at carb cycling if you aren’t a gym buff, but it does serve to be as a warning.

Depending upon what cycle you want to follow, carb cycling can be two different things. The first type of carb cycling you can follow along with is eating low carb meals and having two or three ‘cheat’ meals through the week that consist of higher carbs. Another option that you can follow along with is eating low carb all day and consuming the majority of your carbs during your last meal of the day. If you’re looking for a better explanation on the difference between these two cycles, read down below:

  • Daily carb replenishing

If you follow daily carb replenishing, you will eat mainly proteins and fat throughout the day. However, when you’re consuming your last meal of the day, you will add in some carbs. Throughout the day your body will be running on ketones and will switch over to running on carbs during the evening.

  • Weekly carb replenishing

Once a week (or even every few days), followers of carb cycling shift around their macros from around 80% and 5% carbs to 80% carbs and 5% fat. There are some people that will follow this throughout the entire day or simply just do this with their last meal of the day.

What is carb loading?

If there comes a time where you know you’re going to be putting out a lot of physical effort, you load up on carbs in advance. Followers of the carb cycling diet swear that this provides them with tons of energy to be able to complete difficult physical tasks. However, the followers of the keto diet say that if you just up your fat intake by eating peanut butter or coconut oil, you will receive the same energy benefits.

What are the pros of carb cycling?

If you are someone who has the ability to follow along with meal planning, following carb cycling could be very useful to you. Consuming higher carb meals are you complete high-intensity workouts will help you replenish the glycogen stores that you burned through during your workout. This means that you can eat higher carb meals and not have to worry about fat gain, as your body will use the glycogen in the higher carb food that you eat after your workout to replace its stores, instead of storing it as extra energy.

Maybe you are someone who enjoys dieting but wants to have a meal (or a few) to look forward to during your week. Following along with carb cycling may give you a few meals to look forward to during your week.

What are the cons of carb cycling?

A big problem that a lot of people have with carb cycling is people allowing themselves to consume ‘cheat’ food. When people are around these ‘cheat’ foods that high in both carbs and fat, they tend to over eat. By over eating on these high carbs, high fat ‘cheat’ foods several times a week, users will find that they begin to gain weight rather than lose weight.

If you know that you are someone who will fall into a pattern such as this, sticking to a consistent diet that allows to gradually adjust your carb intake. If you do choose to follow along with carb cycling, try eating carby foods that you know won’t trigger you to overeat!

What is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet that was popularized as a non-medicated way to help treat epilepsy. As it’s gained more popularity, fitness experts and body builders have sworn by the diet for both health and overall wellness purposes.

When you limit your intake of carbohydrates, your body will enter a state of ketosis once your glycogen stores have run low. Once your body has run low on its glycogen stores, it begins to run on fat stores to use for energy; during this process, ketones are created in order to prevent your body from eating away at your muscles.

In a short explanation, once you limit your intake of carbs, your body will start to produce ketones and start running off of fat for energy. In order to stay in ketosis, users should consume high-fat proteins such as bacon, eggs, oily fish, red meat, and cheese to help keep their body in ketosis.

What are the pros of the ketogenic diet?

One of the biggest pros of the ketogenic diet is the ability this diet has to help fight Type II diabetes. Since suffers diabetes suffers from an increased production of insulin, the ketogenic diet removes sugars from your diet, which will help to lower your A1C count. If you follow along with the ketogenic diet for a long enough time, you could effectively reverse your Type II diabetes.

Some of the other added benefits of following the ketogenic diet is increased energy levels, increased mental clarity, and increased stamina, on top of the weight loss that users experience while following the ketogenic diet.

What are the cons of the ketogenic diet?

People who have not ‘stepped down’ into the ketogenic diet, you may find that you will feel tied and that you have less endurance for a few weeks while your body is getting used to the diet. In other words, if you go from a high carb diet into the extreme low carb diet that ketogenic diet is, you will find that your body will feel worn and tired for a few weeks until it gets used to running on fat for fuel.

Also, the ketogenic diet is a very restrictive way of eating. There are a lot of foods that a person cannot consume if they’re looking to keep their body in a state of ketosis. It can be extremely difficult for some people to closely monitor their meals and snacks to ensure that they’re consuming enough fat, not too much protein, and not too many carbs to ensure that their bodies stay in ketosis.

Who should follow along with the ketogenic diet?

If you are someone who has health problems with your thyroid gland, have diabetes, cancer, or epilepsy, you should stay in ketosis without trying carb cycling.

Who should try carb cycling?

If you are someone who has problems with imbalanced hormones, adrenal fatigue, metabolic derangement, hyperthyroidism, or hypothyroidism, replenishing your carb stores will most likely do your body good. Try eating carbs at your evening meals or every couple of days to see how your body feels.

Healing your body should be important to you, especially if you are suffering from a medical condition. By eating carbs every few days or every evening, you’re providing your body with access to more nutrients, especially when you eat higher carb veggies.


As always, you should consult your doctor before you make any huge changes in your diet. Depending upon any medical conditions you have, you may or may not experience adverse reactions to either one of these diets. Even if you do not suffer from any medical conditions, you should complete some additional research on either carb cycling or the ketogenic diet to see if either of these diets would truly be beneficial to your lifestyle and your health.

Comparing these two diets and the benefits that they provide will really just matter depending upon the person looking at the two diets and the lifestyle that they lead. The difference is really up to you on whether you want to stay in full ketosis or if you want to follow with carb cycling. Every person has a different body, so what works for you may not work for someone else. Try out a few different options and listen to your body.  The only way that you’re going to know what works well for your body is by listening to and observing the way your body reacts to the changes you’re making.

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