The Ketogains TKD (Targeted Ketogenic Diet) Protocol

The TKD (Targeted Ketogenic Diet) protocol is a specialist and advanced approach for ketogenic athletes that will allow one to lift harder and heavier, do some extra reps, as well as promote muscle growth while minimizing fat gain (as long as diet and training are on par, of course).


The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) is nothing more than the standard ketogenic diet (SKD) with carbohydrates consumed at specific times around exercise. This means that extra carbohydrates are consumed on days when exercise is performed.

If fat loss is the goal, the number of calories consumed as carbohydrates should be subtracted from total calories, meaning that less dietary fat is consumed on those days. The TKD is a compromise approach between the SKD and the CKD.

The TKD will allow individuals on a ketogenic diet to perform high intensity activity (or aerobic exercise for long periods of time) without having to interrupt ketosis for long periods of time.
“The Ketogenic Diet” by Lyle McDonald

Weight training is not generally limited by the availability of blood glucose. Studies giving carbs prior to resistance training have not found an increase in performance, and to build muscle, one really does not need carbohydrates, but more so adequate protein intake, resistance training, and energy (that can come from carbohydrates, dietary fat, or body fat).

Here is a great write-up of how one can build muscle on a Ketogenic Diet.

However, almost without exception, individuals on a SKD who consume pre-workout carbs report improved strength and endurance and an ability to maintain a higher intensity of training during their workout.

Anyone following a ketogenic diet who wishes to perform high intensity training can benefit from the TKD approach.

Very little research has examined the effects of a ketogenic diet on weight training performance and it is difficult to determine exactly why performance is improved with pre-workout carbs. It may be that raising blood glucose to normal levels, which only requires a minimal 5 grams of carbohydrate, allows better muscle fiber recruitment during training or prevent fatigue, but also that having insulin around a workout will allow for better protein synthesis:

Protein Synthesis – Protein Breakdown = Net Protein Gain

Training causes both Protein Synthesis and Protein Breakdown.

Ingesting Amino Acids (a Whey Shake, for example) pre workout, stimulates Protein Synthesis.

Ingesting a bit of Glucose pre-workout, rises insulin, which inhibits Protein Breakdown.

This in turn, will generare an even greater Protein “Gain”


The major goal with pre-workout carbs is then not necessarily to improve performance, although that is a nice benefit, especially for some types of sports that require explosive movements or lots of sprinting (soccer, jiu-jitsu, etc.)

One  goal can be to provide enough carbohydrate to promote post-workout glycogen synthesis without interrupting ketosis for very long. That is, the carbohydrate taken prior to one workout is really an attempt to ‘set up’ the body for better performance at the next workout by maintaining glycogen levels.

But again, the most important factor here is to inhibit protein breakdown, as shown in the graphic above.

Although experimentation is encouraged, most individuals find that 5 to 15 grams of carbohydrates taken twenty to thirty minutes before a workout enhance performance, and some who train more heavily may of course need more.

A good number to start experimenting with is to use 0.05g / lean lb (example, an individual of 140 lean pounds, would start with 7g of glucose).

For pre-workout carbs, we suggest easily digestible carbohydrates, either liquids or high Glycemic Index (GI) as to have them absorb very rapidly in the body and also to avoid problems with stomach upset during training.

The best source for TKD is dextrose, or glucose (which is dextrose bound to water), maltodextrin, but one can even use “hard candies” such as sweet tarts, runts, smarties. We suggest one to avoid fruits, honey, and even “natural” sugars as even though one may believe natural is better, in this case we want to avoid fructose as much as possible, as it seems to disrupts ketosis longer than needed, and won’t impact insulin in the manner we desire.

On the other hand, another promising source for pre-workout carbs that I have recently started to experiment with, and have had good results, is Vespa:


VESPA does not “boost” performance but optimizes your natural potential. VESPA’s effects are subtle and largely un-noticed in the conventional sense. While the direct effects of tapping in to your natural fuel stores are key to endurance/stamina, the indirect effects are just as critical.

Research suggests that carbohydrates consumed before or after exercise should not negatively affect ketosis. However, some individuals find that they drop out of ketosis transiently due to the ingestion of pre-workout carbohydrates. After workout, there will be a short period where insulin is elevated and free fatty acid availability for ketone production is decreased. However, as blood glucose is pushed into the muscles, insulin should drop again allowing ketogenesis to resume within several hours.

Post-workout carbohydrates might be expected to have a greater effect on ketosis, in that insulin levels will most likely be higher than are seen with pre-workout carbohydrates. For this reason, individuals may want to experiment with pre-workout carbohydrates first, only adding post-workout carbohydrates if really necessary (although for most people, it may be overkill).

The formula for the Ketogains Version of TKD: “The Ketogains TKD Coffee”


Take this formula between 15-30 minutes before strength training:




Preferably, avoid fat for 1 to 2 hours after training:

Fat should generally be avoided in a post-workout meal. First and foremost, dietary fat will slow digestion of protein and/or carbohydrate. Second, the consumption of dietary fat when insulin levels are high may cause fat storage after training (1)

(1) Conley M and Stone M. Carbohydrate ingestion/supplementation for resistance exercise and training. Sports Med (1996) 21: 7-17

“The Ketogenic Diet” by Lyle McDonald

Now, about avoiding fat post training, Alan Aragon says to no t worry about it in this post.

So, the jury still stands: more evidence is needed. It could be beneficial to avoid fat ingestion post workout if you feel inclined to and as a “safety” measure if your main goal is to lose body fat.

Additional Notes:

  • You can use pure MCT Oil instead of Coconut Oil, be aware that MCT Oil is about 50% more potent and may cause stomach upset on some people.
  • For carb sources I suggest  Karo “Lite” Syrup – the zero high fructose version – or Dextrose Tablets. Start with 5g, and only after careful experimentation you may increase a little.
  • For carb intake, start with  0.02g / lean lb (example, an individual of 140 lean pounds, would start with 7g of glucose).
  • No post workout carbs are needed, this is is overkill.
  • Another way to get energy is with KetoCaNa, which is exogenous beta-hydroxybutrate (BHB) in powdered sodium and calcium salt form.
  • Coffee just adds caffeine which helps with energy and is a good delivery method, but you may substitute it with tea or take all the ingredients separately if you prefer to.
  • You can always use some additional pre-workouts, just review ingredients and carb content.
  • Creatine timing is inconsequential, just take your 3 to 5g on a daily basis (even if you do not work out that day).
  • You should still meet your suggested ketogenic macros: 0.8-1.2g protein per lean lb; less than 30g NET carbs (PLUS your additional TKD carbs); and the rest of your calories from fat, according to your goals.
  • I strongly suggest to avoid fruits and high fructose in general for the sake of TKD. Why? Because fructose just refills liver glycogen,  and does not really help toward muscle glycogen replenishment.
  • If you have various training sessions a day, you could experiment by dividing carbs between both sessions, or adjust depending on the intensity and duration (example, 5g for the first session, 10g for the second one).



About Author

Amateur natty bodybuilder/powerlifter, marketeer, entrepeneur and all around great guy... Lifting since 1996, ketogenic since 2001.



    Great post bro! As an endurance cyclist and sprint finisher. TKD works best for me. On a ride of say just over 100km, i would take 60 grams dextrose at least 30 mins before mixed with 30 grams MCT OIL and then intra workout the same dosage every hour (Just over 3 hours) Works wonders and i dont have to eat a thing. Whey isolate straight after ride and blood ketone meter is reading over 0,8 most of time.

  2. Andrew B

    What’s your though on honey? There are some with glucose some with fructose?

    1. Andrew B

      Right now I have Raw Cane Sugar, Coconut Sugar & Splenda (Maltodextrin/Sucrose)

    2. darthluiggi (Post author)

      Best to avoid for keto.

  3. Pingback: Interview with Thor Grove- From 392lbs to 195lbs on the Keto Diet - The Keto Cookbook

  4. Dominic

    I was wondering if I could take 1 serving of Optimum Nutrition’s Naturally Flavored Whey with Silk Vanilla almond milk as a pre-work out carb boost. The Almond milk is sweetened with 16 g of cane sugar (aka sucrose) and has 16 g of Total Carbs. The ON Whey has 5 g Total Carbs and 2 carbs of sugar. The mix would have 21 grams of carbs. Is this an acceptable TKD pre workout carb source? Thanks!

  5. Dominic

    Can I drink one serving of Optimum Nutrition Naturally Flavored whey protein (5g of Carbs) with Silk Vanilla Almond Milk (16 g of Carbs) before working out on TKD? The almond milk is sweetened with Sugarcane (sucrose). The total carbs are 21g. The would that be acceptable? Thanks!



  6. Reto

    Useful article, thank you! Im a big fan of keto diet

  7. Juan

    Is there an alternative of this coktail for:

    – someone allergic to coconut PLUS pre-diabetic?

    I was thinking Butter as an alternative to MCT and some kind of carb for insulin splike, like, say, banana (natural, not “pure” glucose)?

  8. danielle

    Has anyone tried tkd the opposite way, high glycemic carbs (dextrose etc) after training in your shake but none before?

    1. Tyler Cartwright

      What’s the logic of doing so?

      1. Danielle

        To spike insulin and stop cortisol

  9. Just


    I was wondering if this should be followed for fat loss while doing combat sports training? Im looking to lose some fat on this for a month with lower volume and intensity and then increase my carbs (not too substantially but i havent any plans yet) in the second month to allow for higher training volume and intensity, not sure how my body will react to the change.


  10. Zues

    This is great…just one question though:

    If practicing a TKD but using IF on a 23/1 schedule, would you be concerned about the fat content of your meal, if it was eaten post-workout?

    If so, would you suggest holding off on a post-workout meal altogether and maybe eat it 4 hours or so after the workout instead — obviously that’s technically still PWO, but would that be minimizing any potential fat storage, do you think?

  11. Shimon

    Question, do you count the mct oil as part of your macros for the day??

    1. Tyler Cartwright

      If it goes in your mouth, it’s counted.

      1. Shimon

        While I agree with that statement regarding a total calorie intake, I was referencing what was said about the carbs and if that applies to the MCT oil.

        As an example is my fat macros is 150g per day, do I add 14to28g of MCT to that or subtract from it.

        “You will still meet your suggested ketogenic macros: 0.8-1.0g protein per lean lb; less than 30g carbs (PLUS your TKD carbs); and the rest of your calories from fat, according to your goals.”

        1. Tyler Cartwright

          You would subtract the 14-28g from your macros of 150g/day.

  12. Maria

    I’m a type 1 diabetic and a climber. I’ve been on a keto diet for about 5 months now. It is really great for blood sugar control. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had hipoglicemia which is amazing for me.

    The only problem is that I’m feeling really low energy levels while climbing, especially when I climb consecutive 2 days, my second day is terrible. So, TKD seems like something that could have some benefits for me.
    You’re saying that high glycemic food is the most appropriate, but does this still hold for a long workout (5 hours or so intermittent climbing)? Or should I aim for something that will give me energy for a longer period such as oats? would you consider sweet potatoes to be good options?

  13. Zach

    So, as a type 1 diabetic, I should probably take only enough pre-workout carbs required to “manually” deliver the desired amount of insulin? Or, if my blood glucose level allows, take insulin without taking carbs?

  14. Mario

    Taking glucose for the insulin spike will draw glucose from the blood into the muscle for immediate use. I get that. But why the MCT oil or coconut oil. I thought you were trying to momentarily come out of ketosis for a 200 meter sprint or a game of basketball or couple of sets of tennis. Whats the point in taking the oil.

    1. Rick Passmore

      You’re not momentarily kicked out of ketosis at all. The MCT oil gets metabolized in the liver to Ketones as well gets used directly for energy since it can’t be stored. You’re getting the quick extra energy from both the glucose and fat, a boost to both ends of the energy spectrum.

      1. Mario

        So, are saying that in a typical skeletal muscle , both sources of fuel can be used simultaneously ? Are the keto bodies supplying Type 1 fibers and the glucose mainly going to Type 2 fibers or am I on the wrong track.

        1. Rick Passmore

          You’re on the right track, though ketones will likely go to fuel your organs, brain, etc before they go to muscle tissues that means that glucose is spared from those purposes and can be used for muscle or where necessary. Glycogen is already there to do most of the work, muscle tissues doesn’t really use ketones once fat adapted. FFA oxidation typically makes up the largest portion of energy expenditure. TKD is both for the insulin response and the small amount of “extra” carbs.

          1. Mario

            First of all, thanks for taking the time to explain this concept because I would really like to know how this works before I try my first TKD cocktail.
            Your first sentence was crystal clear but you lost me afterwards on two important points. Let me first start out with a premise.
            I am keto adapted at this time.
            First:, on my 20g of carbs per day , are you saying that I have glycogen stores in my muscles.
            As an active person , is 20g of carbs enough glucose to allow me to store glycogen. Second: You say “muscle tissues doesn’t really use ketones once fat adapted”
            So, what are the mitochondria in the sarcoplasm of the myocyte using for fuel if not beta-hydroxybutyrate.

          2. darthluiggi (Post author)

            I think you read wrong.

            Your muscles will always use glycogen if available, but once adapted, some tissues will prefer BHB / Fatty acids, hence why muscle glycogen is also spared.

            The main benefit of TKD, as more research points out, seems to be a spike in insulin and some extra energy, rather than glycogen replenishment.

          3. mario

            Got it.
            Thanks again.

  15. ahmad noman

    is it okay to eat the carbs post workout?, i go to the gym at 5 in the morning so dont have time to whip something up and i can’t aquire dextrose and MCT oil in my country.

    1. ahmad noman

      PS. if its okay to have the carbs post workout, can i have white oats or should i get something else?

      1. Rick Passmore

        Hi Ahmad, I think you posted on reddit about this too. For best effect, beforehand something that is high glycemic and mostly glucose is your best bet, I’m not sure what you can find near you. Taking them afterwards won’t be very beneficial because you want to utilize the insulin spike and available carbs for the workout itself. Wish I was more familiar with your part of the world to know what to suggest. Out of fruits that might work I think apricots (dried works) have the least fructose and most glucose per serving, maybe look in that direction.

    2. JD


      Very late to this, but I work out at 6 am and I prepare my pre and post shake the night before, so when I wake up I just go to the kitchen and drink it.

      Good luck!


  16. Darrick

    Should I avoid MCT oil for one to two hours after training also?

    1. darthluiggi (Post author)

      Why do you want pure MCT oil after training?

      MCT is best suited for energy prior training. If you are referring as Coconut Oil, yes, as suggested, on a cut try to avoid one to two hours after training.

      1. Darrick

        I was using the MCT throughout the day at work for fat and energy I go to work right after gym, just trying to figure out timing, I’m a bit of a newb

  17. Jeff Lynch

    Enjoyed you posts and I sent you an email.


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