- Yeah, You’ve Heard of Keto, but How Do You Work Out on Keto?
- Is There a Best Time to Eat Carbs?
- 8 Things You Need to Know About Exercising On the Keto Diet
- You might not feel so great at first.
- The first few weeks on keto is not a good time to try a new workout.
- It’s super important that you don’t undereat.
- You could burn more fat during cardio.
- You really need to eat enough fat.
- It could help you reach your body composition goals.
- You might need to rethink your favorite HIIT workouts.
- Listening to your body is crucial.
- Can You Exercise on the Keto Diet? Best Workouts for Weight Loss
- Is exercise on the keto diet safe?
- Best workouts for weight loss
- Before you exercise on the keto diet …
- Exercising in Ketosis
- Targeted Ketogenic Diet and Athletic Performance
- Working Out on Keto: A Healthy Combination
- Working Out on the Keto Diet Can Be Weird—Here’s What Works
- I lost 49kg without exercising
- Does Keto Work Without Exercise?
- #1: You’re Not Actually in Ketosis
- #2: You’re Not Eating Satiating Meals
- #3: You’re Missing Hidden Carbs
- #4: You’re Eating Too Much Fat
- #5: You’re Not Eating Enough Calories
- #6: You’re Getting Too Much Exercise
- #7: You’re Experiencing Stress
- #8: You’re Not Sleeping Enough
- #9: You Have Food Sensitivities
- #10: Leptin Resistance
- The Solution to Not Losing Weight on Keto
- What Type of Workout Is Best on a Low Carb or Keto Diet?
- Understanding the Exercise Types
- What Workout is Best on a Ketogenic Diet?
- Tips for Exercising on Keto
- A Few Notes on Our Approach to the Keto Diet and Exercise
- The Keto Diet and Strength Training
- The Keto Diet and Cardio
- The Keto Diet and Exercise for Weight Loss
- The Keto Diet and Athletic Performance
- The Keto Diet and Carb Cycling for Athletes
- Getting Started Working Out on the Keto Diet
- Keto Workout: Exercising While on a Ketogenic Diet
- No More Concerns
- How to Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle
- Fat vs. Muscle
- About Weight Loss
- How to Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle: A Step-By-Step Guide
- How do I maintain all my muscle mass on keto diet?
Yeah, You’ve Heard of Keto, but How Do You Work Out on Keto?
Back in the day, weight loss involved eating low-fat, low-calorie foods, combined with intense cardio workouts. That view is largely considered outdated today. We know now that the first, most important step toward losing weight and keeping it off is to change how you eat. You should consume real foods that feed your body, providing it with much-needed energy and nutrients.
The ketogenic diet is an excellent regimen for both overall health and fat loss. What some people may be surprised to know, however, is that keeping a keto diet and exercising don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. If you want to just lose weight, then working out isn’t actually a requirement with keto. So then how should you maintain your physical fitness while doing keto? To get the best results out of your keto diet, there are particular keto workouts and tips that you can follow to be at your physical best.
Keto Workouts: What Are They & Do You Need Them?
Even though we said keto diets and exercise don’t necessarily need to go together, don’t kick your kettlebells and yoga mats to the curb just yet! Consider all the many other reasons to exercise that don’t focus on weight loss. Cardiovascular workouts can make you feel happier, increase your energy levels, reduce the risk of chronic disease, stave off memory loss, promote brain health, and are great for your bones and muscles. Consider working out on keto as an investment in your future—it will help you stay supple and active in your later years.
Ok, so you’re still sold on putting in some time at the gym. But just how do keto and exercise go together? To gain a better understanding, first, let’s review how the body gets its energy while on keto.
Keto Workouts and the Body’s Glucose
Our bodies were designed to be fat burners. Before there were questions of keto workouts or gluten-free everything, our prehistoric ancestors lived off meat and vegetables, but they weren’t eating enough carbs that their bodies needed to learn how to use them for fuel. They were using meat and fat for fuel.
Today, carbs are consumed en masse. This abundance of carbs forces the body to start learning how to process them and use them for energy. When you eat carbohydrates, your body converts those into glucose and uses the glucose as fuel, a very fast process. That’s why when you are feeling a little sluggish, you can have some candy and feel better almost right away. It’s also why you tend to start feeling drowsy in the afternoon—your body has used up its glucose reserves, and you need to replenish them. But the question is: why doesn’t your body just keep using fat instead? Why do keto and exercise even need to happen?
The answer is insulin. Insulin is a hormone that’s used to help the glucose travel through your bloodstream and allow your body to use it as energy. Insulin prevents the fat stores in your body from being released. That’s why your body can’t simply flip the “fat burning switch”. It is only when you reduce your carbs to a very low level, and your glucose levels drop, that your body stops producing insulin and begins to burn fat. So now that you know how your body uses fuel, we’ll tell you how it relates to your keto workout.
The Relationship Between Exercise and Energy
Glucose can be burned during aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen) activities. However, ketones, a type of acid produced by the liver, can only be burned during aerobic activities. This means that purely anaerobic activities such as a 100-yard sprint, or Olympic weightlifting, don’t work as effective keto workouts because they don’t burn off ketones, just glucose.
Conversely, low-intensity exercises like walking, jogging, or cycling (if done at a low enough intensity), don’t specifically require glucose and make for great workouts when on keto. When you restrict carbs, you are depriving your muscles of the glucose it needs to fuel high-intensity activities. This means that a ketogenic diet can actually have a detrimental effect on your performance if you take part in high-intensity activities such as:
- Sprinting or swimming
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- Sports that have minimal resting periods, such as soccer, rugby
- and other high-intensity sports and activities
Bottom line: if your exercise on keto falls under low-intensity cardio, flexibility, or stability, then you can continue with your keto diet as usual. If you are about to initiate a ketogenic diet for the first time, however, be aware that your athletic performance may be impacted for the first month or so. Take it easy and focus on getting your eating right, then you can resume your activities as normal. If you’re finding that even on a keto diet, you’re struggling with weight loss, you might consider adding a natural fat burning supplement to your keto diet and workout plan.
Keto and Exercise for Athletes
Getting the correct breakdown of macros (macronutrients like fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) is important when following a keto diet. But if you’re an athlete who needs to engage in anaerobic or high-intensity cardio, working out on keto can be hard and it becomes even more imperative to get the ratio correct.
So how do you start a keto diet and exercise if you’re an athlete? Start with the right amount of protein. Protein is responsible for muscle building and promotes calorie burning more than the other macronutrients. Eating enough protein while working out on keto will also ensure you don’t lose muscle mass. Once you have calculated your protein needs, then you can work out the other macronutrients based on the Targeted Ketogenic Diet.
A Targeted Ketogenic Diet is based on the Standard Ketogenic Diet with one important addition. You eat 20-50 grams (or less) of net carbs taken 30 minutes to an hour prior to exercise. This 20-50 grams is in addition to your 5-10% caloric carb intake per day as part of the standard macronutrient breakdown in a keto diet. If you are still trying to lose pounds, count the extra carbs as part of your daily calories (and then cut down on the fat).
This extra nutritional boost for your keto workout should ideally be in the form of glucose. Fructose will go straight to the liver, to replenish liver glycogen, rather than going to the muscles. Dextrose tablets or glucose gel packets are ideal for this purpose.
Another option for athletes is to follow the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet while exercising—you follow the Standard Ketogenic Diet for five to six days, then have one to two days of high-carb consumption to refill the muscle and liver glycogen stores. If you are following the ketogenic diet for health reasons (for example, hyperinsulinemia or hypertension), then you should avoid the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet.
While it might seem like working out on a keto diet can be a pain in the gluteus maximus for athletes, it is actually shown in studies to be quite helpful. Also, it’s important to remember that your individual needs will be unique, as every athlete burns fuel at a different pace. You should use these guidelines as a baseline to your keto and exercise plan, and monitor and adjust constantly to find the ideal eating plan for you and your training.
For more information on fitness plans, recipes, and inspirational stories, visit Bare Performance Nutrition today to learn more!
Is There a Best Time to Eat Carbs?
You may wonder whether timing matters when it comes to eating carbs.
The following section reviews the research on the best time to eat carbs for different goals.
To lose weight
When it comes to fat loss, research on the best time to eat carbs is inconsistent.
In one 6-month study, 78 obese adults were asked to follow a low-calorie diet that involved eating carbs either only at dinner or at every meal. The dinner-only group lost more total weight and body fat and felt fuller than those who ate carbs at every meal (5).
Conversely, another study in 58 obese men following a low-calorie diet with either more carbs at lunch or dinner found that both diets were similarly effective for fat loss (6).
Meanwhile, a recent study observed that your body is better at burning carbs in the morning and fat in the evening, meaning that carbs should be consumed earlier in the day for optimal fat burning (7).
Also, several studies indicate that weight gain tends to occur with eating more calories later in the day, so larger, carb-rich meals in the evening may hinder fat loss (8, 9, 10).
Due to these mixed results, it’s unclear whether there’s a best time to eat carbs for fat loss.
Additionally, your total carb intake is likely more important than timing, as eating too many carbs or calories from other nutrients can hinder weight loss (11).
Aim to choose more fiber-rich, complex carbs like oats and quinoa over refined carbs like white bread, white pasta, and pastries, as the former are generally more filling.
To build muscle
Carbs are an important source of calories for people looking to build muscle mass. However, only a few studies have looked into timing carb intake for this purpose.
Some studies find that consuming carbs along with protein within a few hours after a workout may help increase protein synthesis, which is the process by which your body builds muscle (12, 13).
Yet, other studies indicate that eating protein on its own post-workout is just as effective at stimulating protein synthesis as consuming protein along with carbs (14, 15, 16, 17).
That said, when resistance training, your body relies significantly on carbs as a source of fuel, so a carb-rich pre-workout meal or snack may help you perform better in the gym (1).
In addition, carbs have a protein-sparing effect, which means that your body prefers to use carbs for energy instead of proteins. As a result, it can use protein for other purposes, such as building muscle, when your carb intake is higher (18).
Moreover, eating carbs after a workout may slow the breakdown of protein that occurs post-workout, which may aid muscle growth (19).
Still, for most people, eating adequate amounts of healthy complex carbs throughout the day is more important for building muscle than timing.
For athletic performance and recovery
Athletes and people who exercise intensely can benefit from timing their carb intake.
Research shows that eating carbs before and after a workout can help athletes perform longer and recover more quickly. It also reduces muscle damage and soreness (1).
That’s because exercising for long periods can deplete your muscle glycogen stores (the storage form of carbs), which are your body’s main source of fuel.
Consuming carbs at least 3–4 hours before a workout can help athletes exercise for prolonged periods, while consuming them within 30 minutes to 4 hours after a workout can help restore your glycogen stores (1, 20).
What’s more, having protein alongside a source of carbs after an intense workout can further help your body replenish its glycogen stores, all while aiding muscle repair (1).
While athletes and people who exercise multiple times per day can benefit from timing carb intake around workouts, research indicates that it’s less important for the average person.
For the ketogenic diet
The ketogenic, or keto, diet is a very-low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet, often used to lose weight.
It typically involves restricting carb intake to less than 50 grams per day to reach and maintain ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbs (21).
Currently, evidence to suggest that timing your carb intake to aid weight loss on a keto diet is lacking.
However, if you’re an active person, timing your carb intake around your workouts may improve your performance. This is known as a targeted ketogenic diet (22).
Furthermore, if you experience insomnia while on a ketogenic diet, eating carbs closer to bedtime may help you relax and fall asleep faster, according to some research (23, 24).
Summary Eating carbs at certain times does not appear to improve weight loss on low-calorie or ketogenic diets. However, timing carb intake around workouts can benefit athletes and people who exercise heavily.
8 Things You Need to Know About Exercising On the Keto Diet
By now, you’ve probably heard about the ketogenic diet-you know, the one that allows you to eat *all* the healthy fats (and almost totally nixes carbs). Traditionally used to treat patients with epilepsy and other serious health issues, the keto diet has made its way into the mainstream and is especially popular with the fitness crowd. While it’s true that it may have some performance benefits, experts say there’s some very important info you need to know if you’re planning to exercise while on the keto diet.
You might not feel so great at first.
And, naturally, that might affect your workouts. “You may feel like you are in a fog for the first few days,” says Ramsey Bergeron, C.P.T., a seven-time Ironman, keto athlete, and owner of Bergeron Personal Training in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Your brain’s primary fuel source is glucose (from carbs), so as it switches over to ketone bodies created by breaking down fats in the liver, it will take some adjusting.” Luckily, the mental fog will typically pass after a few days, but Bergeron recommends skipping workouts that require quick reactions to stay safe, like riding your bike on roads with cars or doing a long, challenging outdoor hike.
The first few weeks on keto is not a good time to try a new workout.
“Keep doing what you are doing,” advises Bergeron. This is mainly because of the first point-most people don’t feel so great at first on keto. When extreme, this initial icky period can be dubbed the “keto flu” thanks to its flu-like grogginess and stomach upsets, which generally pass within a few days to a couple of weeks. Still, it’s probably not the best time to try out a new class or go for a PR. “I always recommend that my clients limit the variables when they do something different,” says Bergeron. “If you change too many things at once, you won’t know what worked and what didn’t.”
Image zoom Photo: wundervisuals / Getty Images
It’s super important that you don’t undereat.
“Make sure you’re giving your body enough energy and you’re not cutting calories too strictly,” says Lisa Booth, R.D.N., dietitian and health coach at 8fit. This is especially key because people on keto are likely to undereat, she says. “When you restrict an entire food group (in this case, carbs), you often naturally cut calories, but a keto diet also has an appetite-suppressing effect, so you might think you’re not hungry even if you don’t give your body enough energy.” When you reduce calories too much and combine that with working out, you will not only feel crappy but it can also affect your performance and results. (Not sure where to start? Check out the keto meal plan for beginners.)
You could burn more fat during cardio.
This is one of the main reasons people swear by keto for weight loss. “When in ketosis, you aren’t using glycogen as your energy source,” says Booth. “Glycogen is a substance deposited in muscles and tissues as a reserve of carbohydrates. Instead, you’re using fat and ketone bodies. If you are following aerobic exercises such as running or biking, a keto diet can help increase fat oxidation, spare glycogen, produce less lactate and use less oxygen.” In other words, that could translate into more fat burned during aerobic exercise. “However, it probably won’t enhance performance,” he adds.
You really need to eat enough fat.
Otherwise, you’ll miss out on all the benefits, and your performance could suffer. “If you don’t eat enough fats on a keto diet, you are essentially doing an Atkins diet: high protein, low carb, AND low fat,” says Bergeron. “This can leave you extremely hungry, can actually lower your muscle mass, and is almost impossible to maintain.” There’s a reason why most low-carb diets get a bad rap. Without enough fat to compensate for the carbs you’re missing, you’re likely to feel tired and miss out on actually going into ketosis. That’s why it’s super important that the majority of your calories come from healthy fat sources like grass-fed meats, fish, avocado, and coconut oil, says Bergeron.
It could help you reach your body composition goals.
“Studies have shown that ketogenic diets coupled with moderate-intensity exercise can positively affect one’s body composition,” says Chelsea Axe, D.C., C.S.C.S., fitness expert at DrAxe.com. “They have shown that ketogenic diets enhance the body’s ability to burn fat, both at rest and during low- to moderate-exercise intensities, so your weight-loss efforts may be maximized while training in these zones.” A 2011 study published in the Journal of Endocrinology found that a ketogenic diet increased hepatic growth hormone (HGH), which can improve strength and youthfulness. Though the study was done in rats and thus can’t be translated directly into human results, this is definitely a promising finding. (Related: Why Body Recomposition Is the New Weight Loss)
You might need to rethink your favorite HIIT workouts.
“Studies have shown that diets high in a specific macronutrient like fat promote an increased ability to utilize that macronutrient as fuel,” says Axe. “However, during high-intensity exercise, the body shifts to use glycogen as fuel regardless of your macronutrient ratio intake.” As you’ll remember from earlier, glycogen stores are fueled by carbs, which means if you’re not eating many of them, higher-intensity exercise performance can be compromised. “Instead, moderate intensity exercise is ideal for optimizing the body’s fat-burning potential,” says Axe. Because of this, athletes and exercisers who are doing intense workouts like CrossFit or HIIT are better off doing keto in their off-season or when they’re less focused on performance and more focused on body composition improvements.
Listening to your body is crucial.
This is especially true in the first couple weeks you’re on a keto diet, but also during your whole experience. “If you often feel tired, dizzy, or exhausted, your body might not be working well on a very low-carb diet,” says Booth. “Your health and well-being should be the most important. Add some more carbs and see how you feel. If this makes you feel better, the keto diet might not be the right choice for you.”
Can You Exercise on the Keto Diet? Best Workouts for Weight Loss
What started out as a disease-specific meal plan eventually transformed into a low-carb weight loss fad. Dieters cut out most unnatural sugar in an attempt to lose weight as quickly as possible.
When you think of weight loss, exercise probably comes to mind after you think about all the foods you’re going to have to stop eating mass quantities of. Working out equals weight loss — right? But it might not be the best choice for everyone on the keto diet in some cases.
Can you exercise saftely on the keto diet? Can you start working out on keto even if you haven’t exercised in a long time? Keep reading for the answers to these questions — plus a few important things to note before you start working out on this diet.
Is exercise on the keto diet safe?
Exercise at the gym | vadimguzhva/Getty Images
The short answer is: yes. Being on a low-carb diet does not mean exercise is completely off-limits. In fact, exercise can still decrease your risk of heart disease, obesity, and other health conditions. It’s also great for mental health.
You just have to be careful about the types of exercise you choose. It might be best to speak with your doctor or a certified personal trainer — and/or nutrition professional — to make sure you’re selecting the best workouts to go along with your restrictive low-carb diet.
The keto diet can also affect your performance during certain exercises, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely or often as you’re used to. This doesn’t mean you can’t still use exercise to keep your heart healthy, manage your stress, and improve your overall health.
Best workouts for weight loss
The best workouts to do on keto won’t necessarily speed up weight loss or burn off fat as quickly as you’d like. This is because while working out on the keto diet is safe and possible, certain workouts don’t always pair well with a restrictive diet such as this one.
Most health experts recommend that people following the keto diet perform:
- Low-intensity cardio workouts such as cycling, jogging, rec sports, or swimming
- Strength training exercises such as weight lifting (fewer reps with lighter weights).
They do not generally recommend workouts that rely heavily on carbs to provide energy. Avoiding a sufficient amount of carbs means your body can’t make use of easily accessible energy stores. Therefore, you should try to avoid:
- Circuit training
- HIIT workouts
- Any workout you’ve never done before
Basically, anything that requires you to exert short bursts of energy don’t belong in your exercise regimen if you’re following keto. You also shouldn’t start a brand-new workout routine when you’re on this diet. Adjusting to exercise on keto is hard enough on your body when it’s already used to exercise. Don’t try to implement too many new, intense changes at once.
Before you exercise on the keto diet …
Workout with personal trainer | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages
There are a few important things you should know before you start working out while following the keto diet. Don’t exercise while on this diet until you consider the following factors.
- You need to make sure you’re eating enough. Not just enough calories, but enough healthy fat. Exercise often utilizes carbs first, fat later when burning energy during a workout. If you’re not taking in enough nutrition, you won’t be able to sustain even a simple workout. You could even be putting yourself in danger.
- Avooid high-intensity workouts. More is not always better — especially when you’re following an extreme diet such as keto. These workouts rely on carbs you’ve stored away, which you won’t have if you’re following a keto diet. Stick with lower-intensity workouts, especially in the first few weeks of your new diet.
- Listen to your body. You should not continue to push yourself if your body is trying to tell you it can’t handle it. Ongoing feelings of exhaustion, dizziness, or fatigue are not normal, and could mean your body isn’t responding well to a low-carb diet that includes exercise.
The keto diet puts a lot of stress on your body and can take weeks to adjust to — if you adjust at all (this diet isn’t for everyone). Don’t push yourself too hard for the sake of losing weight “fast.”
If you pace yourself, eat well, and pay attention to how you’re feeling physically, it is possible to lose weight on the keto diet. In the beginning, anyway.
Going keto means significantly reducing carbs. Since these macronutrients are the body’s primary fuel source, you might be wondering about your best exercise options for working out on keto.
The good news is that exercise is one of the most beneficial lifestyle choices you can make to complement your high-fat ketogenic diet and overall health.
Working out on keto can deliver great health benefits. To help you discover the advantages of a keto diet — and to debunk misconceptions — this guide offers the facts on low-carb diets and working out, especially when it comes to muscle building and carb intake.
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Exercising in Ketosis
First, it’s important to note that the traditional view of fat loss — eating less and exercising longer, often with long bouts of cardio — is outdated and unsustainable.
To see real results when it comes to losing weight and getting leaner, what you eat matters.
A great place to start is learning how to choose meat, dairy, and seafood. Paying attention to the quality of the foods you’re consuming on a keto diet — and maintaining a steady state of ketosis — is the most important first step you can take.
Exercise is not only one of the crucial pillars of optimal health, but it also plays a vital role in your ketogenic way of living. It can improve cardiovascular health, help build lean body mass, strengthen your bones, and have an incredibly positive impact on your mental health.
Thankfully, working out on keto is possible and even advisable, especially when trying to avoid “keto flu” symptoms. You just need to keep in mind the next simple considerations.
Type of Exercise
Nutritional needs vary depending on the exercise type performed. Workout styles are typically divided into four types: aerobic, anaerobic, flexibility, and stability.
Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio exercise, is anything that lasts over 30 minutes. Low-intensity, steady-state cardio workouts can lead to an increase in fat burning, making it a great option for those whose main goal is weight loss.
Anaerobic exercise is characterized by shorter bursts of energy, such as strength training, CrossFit, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Carbs are the primary fuel for anaerobic exercise, so fat alone might not completely provide enough energy for this type of workout.
Flexibility exercises can stretch your muscles, support your joints, and improve your muscle range of motion. Yoga and simple after-workout stretches can increase your flexibility, thus helping to prevent injuries caused by the shortening of your muscles over time.
Stability exercises include balance exercises and core training. They can help improve your alignment, strengthen your muscles, and promote better control of your movements.
Carbs, Exercise, and Keto
When you’re working out on keto, the intensity is vital:
- During low- to moderate-intensity workouts (aerobic exercise), the body uses fat as its primary energy source.
- During high-intensity workouts (anaerobic exercise), carbohydrates are usually the main source of energy.
When you’re in ketosis, you’re using body fat as your primary energy source. This can make high-intensity exercise a bit more challenging at the beginning of your keto journey. As such, it might have some side effects on your physical performance.
However, there is a solution for those who make anaerobic exercise the core of their activity plan. It’s called the targeted ketogenic diet.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet and Athletic Performance
If you prefer higher intensity exercise (like sprinting or weightlifting) and enjoy working out more than three times a week, you may want to consider adjusting your keto diet to fit your carb needs. Sticking to the standard ketogenic diet won’t likely be enough in your case.
The best and most reliable way to figure out the optimal carb intake to support your lifestyle and health goals is to use a ketogenic calculator.
A keto calculator can help you figure out your macronutrients, support your weight loss journey, and give you an accurate value of how many carbs you should be eating.
How to Use a Targeted Ketogenic Diet for Exercise
While on the standard keto diet (SKD) you’d be sticking to 20-50 grams of net carbs per day, on a targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) these net carbs would have to be taken 30 minutes to one hour before high-intensity activities.
A good rule of thumb is to eat 15-30 grams of fast-acting carbs, such as fruit, within 30 minutes before your workout and within 30 minutes after. This will ensure you provide your muscles with the proper amount of glycogen to perform during the training and also during recovery.
Sticking to this time frame allows the carbs to be used exactly for this purpose and prevent any risk of getting kicked out of ketosis. Apart from this, you can continue with the standard keto diet ratios during the rest of the day.
For those who prefer low or moderate aerobic, flexibility, and stability activities, following a normal keto diet meal plan should be a good fit. Again, using a keto macro calculator is crucial to ensure you’re picking the right diet version to support your health goals.
Health Benefits of Exercising in Ketosis
It might seem like ketosis is a hindrance to long-term exercise performance, but it has shown to provide significant benefits.
In one recent study, during a three-hour run, 2-3 times more fat burn was seen in ultra-endurance athletes who ate low-carb for an average of 20 months versus those following a high-carb diet. In the same study, the low-carb group used and replenished the same amount of muscle glycogen as the high-carb group.
Another study conducted in Australia showed that being in ketosis might help with blood glucose maintenance during exercise in people who suffer from obesity.
Plus, being in a state of ketosis has been shown to help prevent fatigue during long periods of aerobic exercise as well as help athletes recover after high-intensity workouts.
Working Out on Keto: A Healthy Combination
If you start following a low-carb, high-fat diet and have a passion for high-intensity training, it’s important to fully understand which keto diet version is best for you.
Ketosis might get a bad rep in terms of exercise due to popular carb-heavy philosophies. But the truth is that it has a healthy place within a regular low or moderate exercise routine, and it can be easily adapted to fit the lifestyles of those who are more active.
It’s critical to arm yourself with the best information possible about adopting a keto lifestyle and how you can reap all the amazing health benefits that it can bring.
The beauty of the ketogenic diet is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all model. It just takes a little tweaking to find what works best for you.
This adaptability makes keto one of the most popular and sustainable diets. When combined with your preferred workout, it goes a long way towards a healthy and long-term lifestyle.
To learn more about keto and exercise, don’t miss these informative articles:
- The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: Strategic Carb Intake for Keto Athletes
- Low-Impact Exercises for Weight Loss
- Complete Keto Exercise Plan for Keto Beginners
- Keto Gains: How to Build Muscle Without Carbs
Working Out on the Keto Diet Can Be Weird—Here’s What Works
Oh, the keto diet. Everyone’s buzzing about it—my friends, their friends, random Facebook friends I don’t actually know but have somehow appeared in my feed. People simply won’t shut up about how the keto diet has been yielding all these amazing results, like super-fast weight loss and increased energy. At first, I found this profoundly annoying, but eventually, I decided that if you can’t beat ’em, well… I went ahead and tried it for myself.
Make fun of me for being the sort of person who would throw herself off a bridge if all of her friends were doing it all you want—at least I did my research going in: I learned early on that this diet is different, and I couldn’t just try keto out for a quick week or two like most fad diets. Clinical nutrition coach Ariane Hundt, M.S., told me that, depending on your usual eating habits, it could take 1-2 weeks to drop into ketosis—a state in which your body turns to fat instead of glucose as a main energy source—and that it’s best to go an additional two weeks to see significant results.
That put me at a month of counting my macros like crazy, making sure that 75 percent of my caloric intake came from healthy fats, 15 percent came from protein, and a mere 10 percent came from carbs. To put that into perspective, on my 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, I’d have about 25-50 grams of carbs allotted per day, and one New York City bagel (which I am very, very fond of) has about 67 grams of carbs.
Once I realized my usual eating strategy (that focused mostly on protein and a healthy hit of fats and carbs) was about to fly out the window, I started to wonder how my workouts would fare.
At first, I didn’t feel so hot.
Like any good dieter, I started keto on a Monday after a weekend of enjoying the f*ck out of some pizza and a few beers. More often than not, my calendar has a sweat session scheduled Monday through Friday, but I figured it’d be smart to take the day off from a hard workout in case I felt funky on day one.
That day came and went and I felt… fine. So I returned to my regularly scheduled programming on day two, starting with one of my favorite running-and-strength treadmill classes at Mile High Run Club. I know it’s not a genius idea to try a brand new workout and a brand new diet (the fewer variables you have, the better) so I thought it was a safe choice.
I felt OK during most of the class—I didn’t pass out or fly off the back of my treadmill—but whenever I kicked up the speed to my usual interval paces, I was quickly hit with fatigue. I rode the struggle-bus during the kettlebell portion of class too. Using the same weights I typically choose, I couldn’t bust out as many reps as I normally do in the time allotted.
Menacham Brodie, C.S.C.S., C.N.C., head coach of Human Vortex Training, tells me this is normal. “Your body is using a different pathway to unlock the energy it needs to meet exercise demands,” he says. “Plus, as a general rule, high-intensity workouts with repeated hard efforts tend not to go well with the keto diet, as your body is using fat for its fuel source. In order to get the energy it needs, the body has to break down fats as opposed to pulling from carbs, and that takes more time.”
Which is why, for the rest of the week, I scaled back on the intensity of my workouts. “Understand that what you ‘should’ be able to do will be different, as you’re asking the body to run in a different fashion, and on an energy system that can’t keep up with demands in the way that you’re used to,” Brodie says.
I also wasn’t fueling my workouts well enough, and I learned the hard way.
Toward the end of my first week, I was slammed with the keto flu, a series of nasty, flu-like symptoms that often crop up as your body adjusts to a new energy source and decreased electrolyte levels. I had a boxing class at Rumble scheduled but decided it was better for my body to rest—interval workouts needed to take a backseat as my body balanced itself out.
“For the sake of easing into ketosis, in the first week or two, it’s best to focus on workouts that ensure appetite, cravings, and energy are balanced—like weight lifting two to three times a week, followed by low-intensity cardio,” Hundt says. “Lower-intensity cardio burns more fat as fuel, while higher-intensity burns more sugar as fuel. That’s why lower-intensity workouts allow you to move into ketosis with more ease.”
What wasn’t easy? Eating.
Another change I needed to make? Eating more. Because I was consuming such a high percentage of fats—which Hundt says can be very filling—I felt full a lot of the time. But I wasn’t hitting my calorie goals. Brodie explained that if I was in too much of a caloric deficit, my body would kick into starvation mode, and that can lead to muscle breakdown and even more energy shortage than what I was already experiencing. It could also increase my odds of injury, he says, and there was no way in hell I was about to take myself out of the workout game entirely.
I thought I was doing enough, tracking every morsel on my Fitbit app and constantly Googling, “How many carbs does fill-in-the-blank have?” But I was still eating on the fly. Brodie explained that planning my meals in advance would make life on keto a lot easier.
Steady-state workouts were my jam.
Every so often, I have days when I totally draw a blank about what workout to do. When that happened during this month-long experiment, Brodie suggested I fall back on steady-state, endurance-style workouts.
“It’s the fluctuation of effort that can kill you,” Brodie explained. “When you start having these variations in intensity, that’s when the carbohydrates are called upon to fill a quick need.”
This actually ended up working out perfectly: I was signed up for a 62-mile charity bike ride right as my month of keto dieting was wrapping up. Rather than get bogged down with my normally interval-heavy workout schedule, Brodie gave me permission to hop on the saddle for exploration rides around the city. To stave off boredom, he suggested increasing my intensity once a week to see how I fared.
“Plan mini-experiments with increasing intensities in 1-2 workouts every 5-7 days,” he says. “This will help you find your body’s limits and continue to kick ass and take names while hitting your goals.”
And strength training saved me.
While I did a lot of bike riding on the weekends, I focused more on strength training during the workweek. “Increasing dense, lean muscle mass helps the body burn more fat at rest and can supercharge you on your body-transformation journey,” Brodie says.
Hundt agrees. “Strength-training workouts provide a much better metabolic effect than cardio workouts, whether you’re in ketosis or not,” she explains. So long as I busted out a routine that made me hot and sweaty, increased my heart rate, and reached muscle fatigue, I’d cash in on the coveted afterburn effect for up to 48 hours post sweat, she says.
Plus, strength workouts provide a boost in testosterone and growth hormone, which Hundt says shifts the body into fat-burning and muscle-building mode—two things I definitely wanted to experience on keto.
And there’s at least some research to back her up: A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research recorded the results of 25 men following a resistance training program. Some were on the keto diet, and others were on a standard Western diet. While lean body mass increased and fat mass decreased in both groups during the first 10 weeks, only the keto group showed more of an increase in lean body mass during the final week, when carbs were reintroduced. Of course, a study of 25 people is hardly proof, but it is a good start to supporting evidence.
That’s why Brodie suggested I incorporate 3-4 days a week of strength training. But seeing how much I love the tread, he said I didn’t have to ignore the machine completely. “After your strength training, hit the cardio equipment for 20 minutes of low-endurance work based on heart rate,” he suggests. My go-to? Audio-guided outdoor running and treadmill classes on the Peloton app.
At the end of the day, sure, I had to scale back on the HIIT classes I usually sign up for…
but that freed up time for activities I know I love but rarely make time for, like riding outside and lifting. And after that first week, so long as I fueled correctly, I could still work my body in an endorphin-producing, sweat-inducing, fat-burning way.
And now that I’m done? I have a hot date—with an everything bagel.
Samantha Lefave is a freelance writer who is living, eating, and sweating her way around the world. You can find her Instagramming her favorite destinations, squeezing a Friends quote into every conversation she can or—when there’s downtime—eating peanut butter straight from the jar.
I lost 49kg without exercising
Just 10 months ago, Teresa Venetoulis tipped the scales at a whopping 103kg — while her wardrobe was overflowing with frumpy size 22 clothes.
But now the 32-year-old mum is happier than ever with her svelte size 8 figure after losing an incredible 49kg in only 10 months.
The Sydney woman now weighs just 54kg after embarking on a major diet overhaul — ditching her daily bread, pasta and pizza habit in favour of a strict high-protein, high-fat ketogenic diet — but never once had to exercise to shed the flab.
Teresa revealed that her doctor suggested she try a keto diet to help ease her hormone and fertility issues, which had caused her to rapidly pile on the kilos in just matter of months following the birth of her son Liam, 9, in 2009.
Teresa Venetoulis (pictured with her husband John) before she lost the weight. Picture: Caters News.Source:Caters News Agency
With her other option being to try a ‘cocktail’ of various medications, Teresa felt she ‘had nothing to lose’ and decided to go ‘full keto’ in June 2017.
And she was ‘astounded’ to drop 15kg in just two months after seven years of ‘trying everything’ to lose weight.
Teresa said: “I’d never been overweight before and have always been naturally slim.
“I always tried to be as healthy as I could be.
“After giving birth to my son, my hormones went into overdrive, which made me pile on the weight really quickly.
“It worsened my PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome, which she was diagnosed with in 2007), which made it harder to lose weight.
“Within a year, I’d piled on 50 kilograms. I felt like crap.
The PCOS didn’t just affect her weight. The condition can make it harder to have children.
Teresa and her mortgage broker husband John Venetoulis, 38, struggled to conceive for almost two years before giving birth to their son.
Following a devastating miscarriage at in 2010, Teresa’s erratic hormones skyrocketed — causing her to gain a staggering 50kg in less than a year.
While the weight gain was devastating, Teresa was also struggling to have another child.
At the time, doctors warned there was only a 5 per cent chance of conceiving naturally.
And after trying to get pregnant again for five years, Teresa had lined up an egg donation as a last resort — but amazingly, discovered she was pregnant with ‘miracle baby’ Faith, two, in 2015.
While her weight was stable at this time, only putting on a small amount when she was pregnant, Teresa was saddened to realise she was 103kg after the birth of her daughter.
“I tried all the diets, went to the gym and ran every day. But it was no use.
“I might lose 2kg, but then gain 5kg. It was so frustrating.
But while she felt she had tried everything, there was one dramatic diet she hadn’t tried.
“I went to see a new doctor, and he suggested I try a ketogenic diet, as it is supposed to be especially good for women suffering from PCOS.
“I’d never heard of it before, so I did heaps of research about keto diet for a month before I decided to give it a go.
KETO ON A PLATE: Check out this seven-day meal plan
Teresa’s transformation has been dramatic, all the more so as she hasn’t had to hit the gym. Picture: Caters NewsSource:Caters News Agency
“In the first two months, I lost 15kg. I was astounded. Nothing had ever worked before.
“I just kept going with it, and the weight just melted off.
“I ditched all carbs and focused on high protein and high healthy fats.
“It’s always drilled into us to go low fat or fat free, but our body needs good, healthy fats.
“It’s the best diet I’ve ever tried. But now it’s a lifestyle choice.”
The strict ketogenic diet has meant Teresa has cut all carbs in favour of high protein, high fat foods such as oily fish, lean meat, nuts, avocados and eggs.
She revealed that only exercise she does each day is ‘incidental’ — such as housework, roaming around the shops and walking her children to school.
Teresa said she also practices intermittent fasting and eats two large meals a day.
She said: “I’ve never been one of these fanatic gym people because I absolutely hate working out.
After having her two children, Teresa saw her weight balloon. But a dramatic change in diet resulted in her losing half her body weight in 10 months.Source:Caters News Agency
Teresa admits the fasting was difficult at first, but she has adjusted to it, especially after seeing the dramatic results.
“I’ll have breakfast at around 11am, and then I’ll eat again at 2pm.
“Then I’ll fast until the next morning. It was hard at first, but your body just gets used to it.
“I still feed my kids their three meals and snacks a day as usual.
“The meals are large, and I’m getting all the calories I need without constantly snacking.
“I feel fantastic now that I’ve lost all the weight.
“It wasn’t just about slimming down, but it was about being healthy and the best mum I could be.
“Now I can run around after my kids easily.
“I’m less moody, and I have so much more energy.
“I have so much confidence and I’ve never felt better.”
Breakfast: Two cheese toasted sandwiches.
Snack: Fruit and a biscuit.
Lunch: Pasta or pizza.
Dinner: Spaghetti bolognese, lasagne or roast dinner with potatoes.
Breakfast: Big breakfast with eggs with avocado, spinach, mushrooms and bacon.
Late lunch / dinner: Large plate of grilled chicken or baked fish with lots of vegetables or large salad.
Occasional treat: Low-carb Keto cake.
Too busy to bother with Superfoods?
Too busy to bother with Superfoods?
Does Keto Work Without Exercise?
Keto for overweight people
Here’s another scenario. You’re overweight and you can’t really work out because it’s hard to move your body. This is what a keto diet can do for you now.
In the initial phase of the diet, a shock occurs in your body as it is forced to rely on fat instead of carbs for fuel. You will begin to lose a few pounds but after a while your weight will stabilize. This doesn’t guarantee you’ll be happy with the dropped pounds.
The reason for this is that you already have lots of excess fat to burn. Just adding on top of that with a keto diet is not always ideal as you can’t burn enough of it to make a dent.
This is where keto pairs so well with aerobic workouts. Low-intensity aerobic exercises are perfect for burning fat instead of carbs for fuel. Since you already have a significant reserve of fat and your keto diet is just adding more, it’s also possible that your liver won’t react too well to the extra work.
Combining your diet with aerobic workouts will take some of the pressure off your liver. Don’t misunderstand; your liver still burns all the fat you need for exercising, it’s just burning more of it at once so you can eventually lose weight and require less energy to get through the day.
Despite seeing success story after success story, you may be frustrated if you’re not losing weight on keto. You were expecting an immediate “whoosh,” but after dropping an initial couple of pounds, your weight loss is stalling.
The ketogenic diet can be tough to master if you don’t know the right steps to take to get into ketosis. And once you’re in ketosis, it can be a challenge to stay there. How do you set yourself up for continuous weight loss on the keto diet?
The answer to your sweet tooth. 17g of fat, 3g of net carbs, incredibly delicious.
Here are the top 10 reasons you might not be losing weight on the keto diet.
#1: You’re Not Actually in Ketosis
Have you been following the ketogenic diet for a while but have no idea if you’re in ketosis? This is where testing your ketone levels comes in.
You’ll only truly know whether you’re in a ketogenic state when you test your ketone levels.
How do you test your ketones? There are three ways to get a good measurement:
- Urine testing
- Breath testing
- Blood testing (the most accurate)
A urine strip indicates the concentration of ketones in your urine by changing color. While this type of testing is the most affordable, it does not always yield the most accurate results.
Urine tests only measure the flushed out ketones that your body didn’t use for energy. When your body becomes more adapted to ketosis, it will be using more ketones for energy — meaning you may not have any signs of ketones in your urine at all once you are fat-adapted.
Breath testing is considered a little more reliable than urine testing, but still not the most accurate.
The ketones that show up in your breath are acetone, not beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). Breath testing can be done by blowing into a Ketonix breath analyzer, which gives you a reading based on the level of acetone it detects.
Blood testing is the most accurate way to measure your levels of BHB. All it takes is pricking your finger with a blood meter. The Precision Xtra meter is a great option for blood testing.
This is considered the most accurate way to test your ketone levels because there’s nothing that can dilute the results, and you see the exact amount of blood ketones in mMol/L.
If you’re not losing weight on the ketogenic diet, the first checkpoint is whether you’re even in ketosis. If you have that covered, there are a few other reasons you may not be losing weight on keto.
#2: You’re Not Eating Satiating Meals
One of the keys to weight loss is eating at a calorie deficit, but it’s also important to pay attention to the quality of the calories you do eat to make sure you’re satisfied.
Eating at a calorie deficit doesn’t mean you have to be hungry all the time. In fact, being hungry will only make you miserable, less likely to stick to your diet, and more likely to give in to cravings.
You can eat a calorie deficit and feel satisfied by eating the right kind of keto-friendly foods.
Satiating healthy fats — especially saturated and monounsaturated fats — are the cornerstones of the ketogenic diet. If you want a high-quality keto diet, you’ll need abundant sources of high-quality fats. MCT oil is particularly helpful because it’s more satiating than coconut oil and boosts ketone production, so you can enter fat-burning mode faster.
One study found that MCT oil can make you feel fuller than coconut oil over the three hours after breakfast.
High-quality proteins are also important. Fatty cuts of meat (like a ribeye steak), as well as wild-caught salmon and other high-fat fish, are excellent at keeping you satisfied.
You don’t need to shy away from protein — it won’t kick you out of ketosis like you may have heard. The belief that too much protein triggers gluconeogenesis (glucose production from non-carb sources) and therefore lowers your ketone levels is just a myth.
The truth is, gluconeogenesis (GNG) is crucial for maintaining ketosis because it fuels those cells that can’t use ketones (like red blood cells) and keeps your blood sugar in a healthy range. Without it, ketosis would not be possible.
Eating more protein than you’re used to won’t increase the rate of GNG enough to put you out of keto because GNG is an extremely stable process.
Studies show that even when there’s an abundance of raw materials for GNG (including protein), the gluconeogenesis rate stays about the same.
Excess protein won’t increase gluconeogenesis the same way chocolate cake increases your glucose levels.
#3: You’re Missing Hidden Carbs
Veggies, dairy, nuts, and nut butters are on the keto food list, but the grams of carbs can add up fast if you’re not tracking.
Both dairy and nuts should be eaten with caution on a low-carb diet. One common mistake people make on keto is overeating dairy and nuts to feel satisfied, but too much of these foods can increase both your carb intake and calorie count without you realizing it.
Other possible hidden carbs can be found in some cruciferous vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, fennel, and turnips. You also want to limit your intake of fruit due to its high sugar content.
#4: You’re Eating Too Much Fat
Another major mistake people make when starting a keto diet is thinking they can eat an endless amount of fat. Yes, it’s a high-fat diet plan, and there are tons of great fat bomb recipes out there, but that doesn’t mean that you can eat unlimited avocados and bacon drizzled in olive oil.
Overeating fat can create a surplus of total calories that prevents weight loss. Here’s one way to look at it: one pound of body fat stores roughly 3,500 calories. This would lead you to conclude that cutting 500 calories a day for a week would result in roughly one pound of weight loss.
Going overboard with fats could get tricky.
Fats contain more than twice the amount of calories as carbs or proteins, so it’s crucial you count how many grams of fat you’re eating and remain mindful of your fat intake.
This is another way the Perfect Keto Macro Calculator comes in handy. It takes into account your age, height, weight, body fat, activity levels, and how much weight you want to lose (or maintain) to measure your exact keto macros.
Overall calorie intake depends on your individual needs. If you’re not eating the correct amount of calories, you won’t reach your weight loss goals no matter how low your carb count is.
#5: You’re Not Eating Enough Calories
This is usually not the case if you’re struggling with losing weight on the ketogenic diet. But along with being unaware of eating too many calories, not getting enough calories can disrupt your weight loss.
When you don’t eat enough, your metabolism slows down to conserve energy in response to inadequate energy levels or excessive exercise.
Make sure you’ve created a calorie deficit that your fat stores can still cover. Otherwise, your body will begin to use lean mass to get the energy it needs.
If you create a deficit that’s too large, your metabolic rate will drop significantly in order to protect organs and normal bodily functions.
Again, you can use the keto calculator to figure out your individual calorie needs.
#6: You’re Getting Too Much Exercise
You know the saying “you can have too much of a good thing.”
That applies to exercise too. Exercise is crucial for improving overall health. However, there is a healthy limit for everyone.
The main type of exercise abused by those trying to lose weight is chronic cardio. Repetitive aerobic training increases your appetite because your body feels deprived and wants those calories back.
And in a battle between your willpower and your biology, your biology will always win. You’ll end up overeating to compensate for the excess calories burned.
While all effective exercise creates some type of acute inflammation, chronic exercise can create systemic, internal inflammation as well as oxidative stress.
#7: You’re Experiencing Stress
Stress is a significant factor when troubleshooting weight loss. When you’re emotionally or physically stressed out, your body produces a hormone called cortisol.
The Role of Cortisol
Cortisol is a signal hormone known as the stress hormone. It’s one of the top hormones your body releases when you’re under pressure or in a fight-or-flight situation. Cortisol has the ability to channel glucose to the muscles during your body’s response to stress.
It plays a major role in keeping you alert, awake, motivated, and it’s necessary for survival.
It’s also responsible for storing fat around your stomach area, making weight loss a challenge. It’s also directly connected to insulin production.
The real problem kicks in when cortisol production becomes chronic due to constant stress, so the fat around your stomach starts to increase. Too much cortisol pulsing through your bloodstream on a regular basis could eventually lead to insulin resistance, a metabolic condition that could trigger chronic medical conditions like type 2 diabetes.
#8: You’re Not Sleeping Enough
Often an underestimated factor, not sleeping enough can stall or prevent weight loss.
Lack of sleep can throw off your circadian rhythm and increase the risk of metabolic problems. All of your organs follow a certain timing (known as your internal body clock), and disrupting it can put you at a severe disadvantage. Maximum fat loss can only be achieved with adequate sleep.
Sleep is also essential for balancing hormones — especially hunger hormones. Sleep regulates both ghrelin (the hormone that makes you feel hungry) and leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full).
Your ghrelin goes up and your levels of leptin go down when you don’t get enough sleep, which is bad news for weight loss.
#9: You Have Food Sensitivities
Even if you are following your macros and tracking your calories, food sensitivities can still contribute to not losing weight on keto.
Many people have food sensitivities they don’t even know about — the most common being dairy products. Dairy includes cheese, cream, butter, yogurt and ghee.
When your body is sensitive to a particular nutrient in certain foods such as lactose, casein, or gluten, those compounds can cause imbalances in the gut — which then leads to overall inflammation.
Inflammation prevents weight loss and increases weight gain. If you think you may be sensitive to a certain food, it’s important to experiment and pay close attention to what foods make you feel better or worse.
#10: Leptin Resistance
Leptin is a fat-controlling hormone that tells your brain when your body is satiated, so it can know when to stop eating. Leptin is produced by your fat cells. It’s mainly responsible for regulating how many calories you eat, how many you burn, and how much fat you carry on your body.
Leptin resistance happens when you have plenty of leptin, but the messages aren’t being received. The major causes of leptin resistance include:
- Funky sleep patterns
- A diet full of processed foods
It’s not that obese individuals don’t have enough leptin — it’s that the signals leptin is sending to their brains aren’t being received. The brain is resistant to the message of satiety, creating snacking habits and overeating that eventually leads to weight gain.
The Solution to Not Losing Weight on Keto
So, how do you figure out the root cause for not losing weight on keto?
The most important thing to remember is that everyone’s body is different and will react differently to each of the variables.
Figuring out which foods and habits work best with your body will take some trial and error, but it’s worth it. Run through the reasons above and take note of anything you may be missing.
What Type of Workout Is Best on a Low Carb or Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate diet that restricts carbs to the point that the body goes into prime fat-burning mode. In fact, research has shown that the ketogenic diet is so good at helping the body burn more fat that you can experience fat loss without the addition of exercise. However, that doesn’t mean exercise can’t accelerate your results or help you achieve other goals besides shedding fat. Moving your body is important to your overall health, and adding exercise to your ketogenic lifestyle can lead to even more drastic health improvements. But the question is, what type of exercise is best on a keto diet?
Understanding the Exercise Types
There are many different types of exercise, each of which impacts the body a little differently and relies on different energy systems. The two primary categories of exercise we’ll discuss in this article are resistance training and endurance training, since these types of exercises are most impacted by keto.
Each of these exercise types can be further broken down as follows:
Resistance Training (anaerobic training)
- Strength Training: training with the primary goal of improving strength. While all resistance training can improve strength to some degree, strength training is exercising in a way that maximizes increases in strength. Bench presses, deadlifts, and squats are great examples of strength training.
- Hypertrophy Training: a type of exercise that’s focused on muscle growth. Differences between hypertrophy training and strength training include different repetition ranges, different rest times, and different training volume. For hypertrophy training, rep ranges are between 8 to 12 with a lower weight, greater rest time, and a higher training volume than strength training.
- Power Training: a type of training that focuses on training the body in a way that promotes rapid, explosive movements, most often used for sport. This type of training also differs in rep ranges, rest time, and training volume. During power training, you’ll do explosive movements like box jumps, broad jumps, or squat jumps. Strength training lifts can also be used for power training, but at lower rep ranges, longer rest time, and a much lower training volume.
Endurance Training (Aerobic Training)
- High-Intensity Interval Training: Also known as HIIT, this is a type of cardiovascular training that is short in duration but high in intensity and repeated after bouts of rest. An example of HIIT is sprinting for 10 to 20 seconds followed by one minute of rest, repeated for multiple rounds.
- Low-Intensity Steady State: Also called LISS, this training is the opposite of HIIT. It’s long in duration but low in intensity. An example of LISS is a 30-minute jog.
What Workout is Best on a Ketogenic Diet?
While it was previously thought that muscle and strength gain was not possible on keto, there is more and more research demonstrating that you can improve strength and muscle mass on a ketogenic diet. Thus, there is no one exercise that is best for a ketogenic diet; the exercise you choose should be based on your goal.
Heightening Overall Strength
If your primary goal is to get stronger, then you should follow a strength program. A strength program will consist of a lower number of repetitions and a greater amount of weight. You will also have more rest time between sets on a strength program to allow your muscles to recover for the next set. On most strength programs, squats, bench presses, and deadlifts are the core three lifts you’ll be mastering.
You may have seen conflicting information regarding improving strength on keto. This is because many exercise performance studies are short. One thing we know about ketogenic dieting is that after the initiation to the diet, there is a period of reduced physical performance. Thus, short-term studies show decreases in exercise performance. However, longer studies typically demonstrate improvements.
For Greater Muscle Mass
If your primary goal is muscle growth, then you should be following a hypertrophy-training program. A hypertrophy program will consist of more reps, typically 8 to 12, with a shorter rest time. During hypertrophy training the goal is to stimulate the muscle to grow, and this is done through increasing your training volume and decreasing your rest time.
You may have also heard that carbohydrates are required to stimulate muscle growth, but this is not true. What’s more important is getting enough protein in to stimulate the repair and growth of muscle tissue following hypertrophy training.
Endurance training, better known as cardio or aerobic training, is a type of training that relies heavily on your cardiovascular system. Endurance training includes both HIIT training and LISS and should be used when your primary goal is improving your cardiovascular endurance. Endurance training is also a great way to stimulate fat loss, making it a fantastic addition to a weight-loss plan.
Research has shown that the most robust improvement in exercise from ketogenic dieting is endurance performance due to the diet’s ability to tap into stored fat, a fuel source of more than 20,000 calories in even the leanest individuals. This ability to tap into a larger fuel source means more energy to support endurance performance.
For Weight Loss/Better Overall Health
If you’re looking to add exercise to your keto diet to improve overall health, then you should be practicing a variety of strength, hypertrophy, and endurance training, since each provide different benefits. Plus, if you’re incorporating exercise for fat loss, a variety of these exercises will be helpful. Remember, keto makes fat the body’s primary fuel source. If you exercise, you will burn more fat.
For Therapeutic Reasons
If you’re practicing keto for therapeutic reasons, you may need to get even more specific with your exercise selection. According to naturopathic doctor Dr. Nasha Winters, “Folks with high stress/adrenal issues might do better without cardio and cancer patients need to be careful of stimulating too much growth factor so it’s not a time to train for a marathon or start bodybuilding.”
To further drive the point home, exercise should be tailored to the individual and should primarily be based on goal. However, choosing the best exercise also depends on where you are in your ketogenic journey.
Exercising for New Keto Dieters
It’s important to point out that just because you should exercise on a ketogenic diet, doesn’t mean it will be easy, especially for people new to the ketogenic lifestyle.
If you’re new to keto, it’s likely that you will be experiencing at least one of several common “keto-flu” symptoms as your body adjusts to the diet. Common keto-flu symptoms include:
- Brain fog
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle cramps
- Impaired mood
Experiencing any of these symptoms could impair the desire to exercise or the quality of exercise performance. However, skipping exercise is the last thing you want to do because exercising can aid in faster adaptation to the ketogenic diet. Thus, exercise should especially be included while you are adjusting from a high-carb lifestyle to a low-carb, higher fat one.
For this reason, during this time it’s important to select exercise that’s enjoyable to you. It can be as simple as going for a walk, shooting some hoops, or being out in your garden. Just move!
Remember, physical performance is going to decrease for a short period of time after starting keto so do not be discouraged if you are not performing as well as you usually do. Your performance will come back, especially when you incorporate some of these keto exercise tips!
Tips for Exercising on Keto
There are many strategies you can take to improve your exercise performance while following a keto diet:
- Hydrate: Without making a point of hydrating, dehydration is a common side effect of ketogenic dieting. Dehydration can impair exercise performance and general well being, so be sure to drink ample water daily.
- Get enough electrolytes: Electrolyte deficiency is also a common side effect of keto dieting. Several electrolytes, like sodium, magnesium, and potassium, all of which can get kicked out of balance on a keto diet, are especially important for muscular function. To combat this, replenish electrolytes via whole food sources, supplementation, and a pinch of Himalayan sea salt in your drinking water.
- Take pre-workout supplements: While many pre-workout supplements just contain a lot of caffeine, a good pre-workout supplement will also contain ingredients that support exercise, such as citrulline, beta-alanine, and creatine.
- Consider taking exogenous ketones: Supplemental ketones can provide additional energy to your body during exercise. Ketone salts are also rich in electrolytes, further contributing to their exercise improving capabilities.
- Eat more protein/calories: If you are exercising, your calorie demand is higher, especially in the form of protein since your body needs it to help recover from the exercise. Be sure to adjust your macronutrients accordingly. You can do that here.
One final note on exercise: It’s important to not push too hard. As Dr. Winters advises, “Many in the keto community are also weekend warriors or ‘over-exercisers,’ which can increase a lot of inflammation and oxidative stress.” Be sure to not push too far and listen to your body when it needs more time to recover.
The Last Word
Choosing the best exercise on a ketogenic diet is dependent on your goal. Whether your goal is improving physical performance, body composition, or overall health, the right training program accompanied by a ketogenic diet can help you get there.
Remember, when starting keto, you may struggle with exercise. Don’t get discouraged, follow the keto tips mentioned in this article, stay consistent, and watch your health transform!
For a more in-depth read on the connection between health, nutrition, and exercise, check out Dr. Marc Bubbs’ book Peak: The New Science of Athletic Performance That is Revolutionizing Sports.
You’ve got questions about the Keto Diet and exercise, and we’ve got answers!
Our coaches help folks with their workouts and nutrition (it’s kind of our thing), and today we share with you the secrets of training under a low-carb diet.
Nerd Fitness Coaches build custom-workouts and guide weight loss. Learn more here!
Here’s what we’re going to cover in our Keto + Exercise Guide today:
- The Keto Diet and Strength Training
- The Keto Diet and Cardio
- The Keto Diet and Exercise for Weight Loss
- The Keto Diet and Athletic Performance
- The Keto Diet and Carb Cycling for Athletes
- Getting Started Working Out on the Keto Diet
Real quick: if you are just starting your low-carb journey, make sure you grab our MASSIVE Beginner’s Guide to the Keto Diet. It’ll teach you everything you need to begin Keto. You can grab it for free when you join the Rebellion (that’s us!) by enlisting below:
Download Our Beginner’s Guide to the Keto Diet
- 55-page Keto Diet guide: how to start today!
- Learn the benefits and pitfalls of going Keto.
- Keto recipes, snacks, resources, and more!
A Few Notes on Our Approach to the Keto Diet and Exercise
We’re going to approach this guide with a few caveats:
- I don’t care what the “optimal” way to eat or train is. Unless you are an elite-level athlete or trying to build a specific physique, being “good enough” will suffice. This is true for your nutrition and for your training. The OPTIMAL way for you to train and eat is whatever method you will actually stick with long enough to build the habit!
- We’ll look at what happens to your body on both cardio and strength training. You’ll be covered no matter what kind of exercise you follow.
- You might suck at everything for the first few weeks of Keto. As pointed out in The Ketogenic Bible: “Significant declines in physical performance after one week of following a Ketogenic Diet; however, performance levels are restored after about six weeks, although it sometimes takes longer.”
- The jury is still out on all of this – studies have suggested that reducing carb consumption dramatically could impact performance negatively depending on the activity, and below I’ll show you studies that present the exact opposite conclusion. So…
Alright, let’s do this thing…
The Keto Diet and Strength Training
“Steve, I like strength training. What does Keto look like for me?”
Great. I do too.
In fact, I train in a fasted state four days per week. When you strength train or train intensely, your body starts to use up the glycogen stored in your muscles.
And you’re probably wondering “Steve if I don’t consume carbs, which becomes sugar, which my muscles store as glycogen…am I gonna run out of glycogen and my strength training might suffer?”
Good question. Maybe.
“Does eating low-carb alter your body’s reliance on glycogen stores in the muscles? Does it change how much glycogen your muscles use or how quickly these stores are replenished?”
Maybe. We’re still learning.
I did find multiple studies in which strength training was either not impacted or positively impacted by a Keto Diet:
- A 2012 study put 8 male gymnasts on a 30 day Keto Diet – they lost more fat mass and increased lean body mass while following the regimen. Suggesting Keto can help with body composition, which is probably why you are strength training to begin with.
- A 2016 study looking at CrossFit programming showed no significant difference in muscle mass or performance between a Keto group and the control group.
- A 2017 study worked with 25 strength training men – both groups gained muscle mass, while the Keto group lost more fat.
Now, this isn’t law, more studies are being done as we speak, and your results may vary.
What this simply means is that there have been studies done that show one can do resistance training or Crossfit while eating Keto and not lose gains or muscle mass.
Other studies show the opposite. Which means…
Your results MAY vary.
Make sure you give it enough time to push through the Keto flu, the performance-suckage phase, to get a true answer for your situation.
Also: unless you’re a competitive athlete or compete in powerlifting competitions, this might not matter as much!
Athletic performance is often negatively impacted once somebody gets to a low enough body fat percentage, but it doesn’t stop people from chasing that “ripped” six-pack abs look!
The Keto Diet and Cardio
“Steve, I’m a runner/biker/etc. and I always carbo-load. Sounds like Keto isn’t for me, right?”
Your body can only store 1600-2000 calories worth of glucose at any time – but might have 40,000+ calories worth of fat stored in the body.
So instead of having to consistently eat gels and goos and snacks to keep the glucose levels high, what happens if you switch to “Keto-adapted” and fuel yourself with fat?
Let’s go to the science:
Earlier studies had suggested that a moderate-carb diet provides better endurance by increasing the concentration of glycogen in your muscles, but newer research seems to be swinging more in the direction of Keto.
As it turns out, the Keto Diet has been tested in ultramarathoners, Iron Man trainees, and endurance athletes, and in all cases, ketosis resulted in enhanced body composition and some of the highest rates of fat-burning ever recorded!
A 2016 study looked at 20 ultra-marathoners and Ironman distance triathletes – half of which were instructed to be on a fat-adapted diet for at least 6 months and the other 10 were on a traditional carb-focused nutritional strategy.
- Both groups had the same perceived level of exertion during a 3-hour trial run.
- The Keto group had a fat oxidation rate of 2.3 times higher than the carb group, at an average of 1.5 grams per minute.
- There were no significant differences in pre- or post-exercise glycogen concentrations.
Just like with strength training, this MIGHT work for you – or you might be better off as a carb-adapted runner and athlete. You have to do what works for you.
My above caveat still stands: unless you are an elite athlete, this should be less of a concern for you – follow the diet that makes you look and feel good, and then base your training progress of your previous day’s results!
The Keto Diet and Exercise for Weight Loss
“Steve, I’m not a competition-level ANYTHING, but I like exercising and want to look good.”
While dietary changes make up at least 80% of your weight-loss efforts, exercise will help you stay healthy and build a body you’re proud to look at in the mirror.
So track your workouts, track your nutrition, and work on getting better with it – running one second faster, doing one more rep, lifting 5 more pounds, etc.
Compare yourself to your past self.
The Keto Diet and Athletic Performance
“Steve I read this study that says Keto + Athlete = good/bad/ugly.”
Fair. Do what works best for you!
In my research, and in learning from people that I trust and admire in this space:
Studies are often focused on short term ketosis (a few days or weeks), which could result in adverse performance in athletes who have not become fully Keto-adapted yet.
We are all unique snowflakes and your mileage may vary depending on your physiology. So who cares if you lift 5 pounds less!
If Keto works for you and makes you look better, keep doing that.
If you are going to try Keto + Strenuous Exercise, consider the following advice: Keto might work for you! It might not!
The recommendation from Dr. Steve Phinney:
- Allow 2-4 weeks to become Keto adapted.
- Make sure your electrolytes are in balance.
- Eat enough protein to ensure your muscles are getting the tools they need to rebuild themselves.
- See how your body responds – course-correct as necessary.
Elite performance chaser? Consider “targeted ketogenic dieting” – introducing timed carb intake strategically around training, which we’ll explore next.
The Keto Diet and Carb Cycling for Athletes
“Steve, what’s up with carb cycling? How does that influence exercising on a low-carb diet.”
If you are an athlete and looking to maximize performance on a low-carb diet, consider “carb cycling.”
With carb cycling you follow a low-carb diet, but increase your carb intake around key events, generally training related.
So let’s say you have a really intense training session and want to replenish your glycogen levels. The evening or day after your training, you could perhaps double your carb intake.
That’s carb cycling.
Does it work?
There is some evidence to suggest it does. Carbohydrates do indeed help muscles regain glucose when depleted, so the mechanisms of carb cycling tie out.
However, it should be noted that there isn’t much current research on a carb cycling diet.
My advice: Only experiment with carb cycling if you are looking for top athletic performance. Otherwise, just keep your low-carb diet consistent.
Getting Started Working Out on the Keto Diet
If you are convinced you should try the Keto Diet, and want to train while doing so, let’s provide some resources to get you going.
First, if you have lots of questions on following a low-carb diet, read our Guide to the Keto Diet.
It’ll explain the science behind a low-carb diet, menu ideas, and how to start the Keto Diet.
Plus, there are ninja turtles in it.
What if you’re just starting your exercise journey?
I got you boo:
- The Beginner Bodyweight Workout: if you’re looking for a workout that you can do from the comfort of your own home, start here. It’s designed for a newbie and requires no equipment.
- 5 Best Strength Training Workout Routines For Beginners: if you want to start a strength training practice (our number one recommendation for getting fit), start here. We’ll level up your workouts from simple bodyweight exercises to full compound movements with barbells.
- 6 Beginner Gym Workouts: have a gym membership? Thinking about getting one? Then check out our full guide on becoming a gym warrior.
With these resources in hand, you’ll have everything you need to start working out on the Keto Diet.
However, we often hear from folks that they want MORE help. If that’s you, we built three great options to help you start your fitness journey:
#1) If you want step-by-step guidance, a custom strength training program that levels up as you get stronger, and a coach to keep you accountable, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:
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2) Good at following instructions? Check out our self-paced online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy.
The Academy has 20+ workouts for both bodyweight or weight training, a benchmark test to determine your starting workout, HD demonstrations of every movement, boss battles, meal plans, a questing system, and a supportive community.
Learn more about the Nerd Fitness Academy!
3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.
Sign up in the box below to enlist and get The Beginner’s Guide to the Keto Diet. It’s all you need to start your low-carb journey.
Download Our Beginner’s Guide to the Keto Diet
- 55-page Keto Diet guide: how to start today!
- Learn the benefits and pitfalls of going Keto.
- Keto recipes, snacks, resources, and more!
That should just about do it for this guide.
Alright, your turn:
Are you following the Keto Diet?
Have you noticed you perform differently while training under low-carb?
Any tips or tricks you’ve learned while exercising on Keto?
Let us know in the comments!
For the Rebellion,
PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our guides on following a low-carb diet:
- The Beginner’s Guide to the Keto Diet
- The Differences Between the Paleo Diet vs. Keto Diet
- 60 Keto Snacks: The Ultimate Low Carb Snack Guide
- Your Best Low Carb Fast Food Options
Photo sources: DECATHLON – Services
GIF sources: Rainbow Bright, Homer, Wheel, Pasta, Ninja Turtles.
Keto Workout: Exercising While on a Ketogenic Diet
Being on a ketogenic diet can make things a lot easier for you and your lifestyle when done correctly.
For most, the keto diet is appealing because it allows you to lose weight without ever having to do a workout.
I understand why this sounds so great. Lose weight without having to push yourself to the limits at the gym at any time.
However, I know that some of you aren’t the type to take things that easy. You may want to be active and change even more things about your life.
Is it a good idea to workout when you’re on this diet? Will it even benefit you to workout when you’re in ketosis?
A lot of people understand the basics of working out, like eating carbs provides you with the energy your body may need for the workout.
Being on a ketogenic diet forces you to restrict your carb intake. So, what are you going to do for energy? Your body can’t just run off fumes, right?
Your body isn’t going to just find random energy out of nowhere. There has to be some kind of fuel in your body for you to have a successful workout.
Having this as a concern is very reasonable. You’ve been so used to hearing how you need to do a certain thing to fuel your body and now you’re being told to do something completely different.
Luckily, the keto diet is going to help you fuel your body in other ways.
Once you’ve done everything you can to get your body into ketosis, the rest is relatively easy.
When your body doesn’t have carbs or sugars to use as fuel, the next thing it looks for is fat. Any excess fat that you have on your body is going to start being burned off since your body needs that extra bit of fuel.
The issue of having needing carbs for fuel is no longer going to be a worry for you.
You Can Still Have Carbs
Earlier when I said you’ll be restricted on carbs doesn’t mean that you will have to cut carbs completely from your diet. That is a near impossibility. It’s also impractical because your body does need some carbs to continue to function properly.
When it comes to working out, you’re going to be allowed more carbs than the average keto user. This is because you’ll be burning a lot more resources when you do workout compared to that of somebody that is choosing the less active route.
This will become easier and easier for you once you get the hang of things with the ketogenic diet. Your body will be in ketosis and start burning through the little carbs you eat faster during your workout.
It’s important that you do what you can to modify your macros accordingly so that you don’t overdo it with the carbs.
While In Ketosis
Being in ketosis means that your body has finally become a fat burner.
This is significant, especially when you’re an active person.
As I mentioned before, your body is going to look to burn the carbs and sugars first when you’re working out. Once all of that is used up, your body must look for fats if it wants to continue to fuel itself.
There should still be very little concerns about being able to make it through your workout. Your body will be producing ketones at an alarming rate and this will provide you with more than enough energy to finish any workout you do.
If you’ve been on a keto diet for at least a few weeks, you should be in an extended state of ketosis. This means that your body is finally at the point where it should be burning fat instead of sugar.
For beginners that are just starting the ketogenic diet, those first few workouts are going to be more difficult than usual because your body is adjusting to the significant changes it’s starting to make. If you’re able to stay patient and work through the tough workouts, you’ll be feeling more normal in a weeks time.
Naturally, when you start to workout, your metabolism is going to speed up. This means that your body is going to burn food much faster than usual.
When you burn food faster, you need to consume food more often to keep your body fueled.
Because of how fast your body is starting to burn food, you’re going to possibly feel the need to eat more. Yes, you might be eating more than the average keto user, but this does not mean you need to eat tons more.
When active people don’t see any significant weight loss while on the ketogenic diet, it’s because they are eating too much.
It can be an easy habit to fall into. You workout hard, you feel hungry after, so you give your body what you think it needs. This can easily lead to overdoing it with the food.
Ketogenic diets lay out the macros that you’re supposed to eat on a daily basis. Even when you’re very active, the macros are there for a reason. Don’t go away from your macros. They were calculated very carefully to help you reach whatever goal you set for yourself.
Quicker Fat Loss
It’s important that you are ready for significant weight loss. You can drop a great amount of weight in a matter of days when you’re working out on a keto diet.
When you’re putting the right foods in your system, your body is going to reward you, especially when you’re working out.
Accelerating the weight loss process is something that all active people want to see.
If you do the right things and stay within your macros, your body is going to shed fat like a machine.
If you’ve ever heard a rumor that said your performance will suffer on this diet, it’s wrong. Maybe for the first couple days, you’ll see a slight drop in performance. After that, you’ll probably be outperforming your pre keto self.
After giving your boy time to adapt to its new lifestyle, you’ll be feeling even more energetic and ready. All of your workouts are going to seem a little easier than before.
This is a natural process that happens when you start performing better and better. You’ll feel like you have more energy and are willing to attack each workout.
No More Concerns
If you really want to combine a keto diet and working out, I encourage it. I’m all for people wanting to improve themselves in any way they can.
Combining working out and a keto diet is only going to speed up the fat loss process and help you reach your goals much faster than usual.
Stay strict with the macros because, in the end, that is the most important aspect of the diet regardless of how active you are. Your macros can change slightly as well if you’re constantly changing your activity level.
Lose more fat and be happier.
If you are still looking for more answers or have concerns about working out on a ketogenic diet, check out Keto Bootstrap. Here there is a community of people that are possibly going through the same struggles as you. Keto Bootstrap does its best to help you through any and all of your keto concerns and needs.
How to Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle
Losing fat without losing muscle seems to be a challenge for many dieters. However, it is really important to maintain as much muscle as you can in order to keep the weight off and avoid the yo-yo effect. A carefully planned diet along with a foolproof workout routine will help you melt the fat away while maintaining muscle.
Fat vs. Muscle
Losing fat and losing muscle are two different things. The first one is highly welcomed if you’re even slightly overweight, and the second one could compromise your metabolic health. There are also many physiological differences between muscle and fat you may want to know about before starting any weight loss diet:
Muscle weighs more than fat
Muscle is denser and takes up less volume than fat. That makes it weight more ore per same volume of fat, which is bulkier. This is valuable information when you start tracking your weight-loss progress; not seeing the the number on the scale go down may not mean that you’re not losing fat, but gaining dense and heavy muscle mass.
Men and women have different body compositions
Women generally have a more body fat and men more muscle mass . Body fat percentage in a healthy woman is around 25% compared to 15% in a healthy man. This is entirely due to hormonal differences and because fat is essential for child rearing.
Both are endocrine organs
Fat is not simply your body’s inert storage space for energy substrates. It’s an endocrine organ that secretes satiety hormones, controls inflammation, regulates insulin sensitivity, and controls energy metabolism . Studies also show that muscles secrete hormones like cytokines involved in inflammation .
Muscle is expensive to maintain
Muscle tissue needs more calories for maintenance than fat tissue. Even at rest, your muscles burn more calories than fat. That’s why muscular people can eat as many calories as some of their overweight counterparts and still not gain any weight.
About Weight Loss
When talking about weight loss, what most people actually mean is fat loss. Unfortunately, many dieters are not aware that they may be losing muscle when seeing their weight go down. This happens on low-calorie diets combined with inadequate protein intake and little to no exercise.
The reason people lose muscle when restricting calories is starvation mode. Starvation mode, aka starvation, response is a range of adaptive physiological changes that reduce metabolism in response to low food intake.
One of these physiological changes is breakdown of muscle, which is an energy-hungry organ. Since your body’s focus is now on supplying energy to vital organs such as the brain, it shuts down secondary tissue that spends a lot of energy such as muscle. It also uses the protein broken down from muscle tissue to maintain its physiology.
And when you get back to eating more calories after weight loss, your body regains even more fat thanks to the now reduced skeletal muscle energy expenditure. This is often called the yo-yo effect and is completely avoidable with a well-planned weight-loss diet.
How to Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle:
A Step-By-Step Guide
Losing fat without sacrificing muscle is easy. You need to lower your calories, eat enough protein, exercise, rest, and get enough sleep. However, there are nuances to successful weight-loss dieting you need to know about. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you lose weight the safe way.
Step 1: Diet
The age-old rule of calories in, calories out is true to this day . You simply cannot lose weight if you eat more calories than you burn. Conversely, if you eat fewer calories than needed to sustain energy production, you’ll lose weight. The only exception to this rule is the keto diet.
Keto is a low-carb, high-fat diet that turns the body into a sugar-burning machine. On this diet, your body is forced to burn fat to supply the brain with an energy alternative to glucose: ketones. This process requires a lot of energy and can burn up to 600 calories all by itself resulting in steady weight loss and preservation of muscle mass even with normal calorie intake.
Another advantage of the keto diet is that it suppresses appetite. Normally, weight-loss diets lead to an increased appetite. Keto, however, suppresses appetite due to higher intake of fat and protein, lower blood glucose levels, and the ketones themselves . On a keto diet, your daily calorie intake comes from:
- 70-80% fats
- 20-25% proteins
- 5-10% carbs
As you can probably tell, the keto turns everything you know about dieting upside down. But trust us, it works to preserve muscle while melting fat and there are studies to prove it .
If, however, you’re not a fan of keto, then try to reduce your calorie intake moderately and gradually. Also, make sure to eat enough protein, around 0.8-1.2g per kg of body weight. Research shows that inadequate protein intake is a major reason people lose muscle when restricting calories . Protein is also the most satiating of the three macros.
Step 2: Exercise
Muscle mass depends a lot on how much you’re using them. Know how muscles atrophy when someone is bedridden or when a limb is in a cast? That shows you just how much movement is important to maintain big and strong muscles.
And while any workout will do to help maintain muscle while you lose weight, some workouts are better than others and some help you gain muscle. Consider the following two for your weight-loss plan:
Resistance training is exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance. Examples include weight lifting, leg presses, and push-ups. These increase muscle strength, tone, mass, and endurance. They also burn a lot of calories – around 180 per hour.
High-intensity training (HIT)
A meta-analysis published in 2017 states that HIT is more effective in reducing body fat in obese adults than traditional exercise . High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a special type of HIT, characterized by brief repetitions of high-intensity exercise (30‐min) with periods of rest or low‐intensity exercise (1‐5 min). A good example is walk and sprint.
However, for best effects, it’s always a good idea to combine different types of workouts. These then work in synergy to improve your metabolic health, build muscle, and enhance endurance. Try to exercise at least 3 days a week using a combo of aerobic, resistance, and endurance training.
Step 3: Rest
If you don’t give your body time to rest following workouts, it will damage the muscles and make you skip exercising. The resting period varies depending on the types of workouts. For example, studies show that you need to take 3-5 minutes of rest between sets in strength training .
Post-workout recovery is also important and involves eating a combination of proteins and carbs to help build muscle. Researchers aren’t sure if the timing of food intake post-workout matters, but a general agreement is eating a protein-rich meal and resting between 1 and 6 hours post workout helps build muscle .
Besides workout and post-workout rest, sleep also promotes weight loss. You may not be doing much while you sleep, but your body sure is. Studies show that growth hormone, which promotes muscle growth, is elevated during slow-wave sleep . Studies also show that just one of sleep deprivation elevates cortisol, a stress hormone that throws glucose metabolism off balance leading to weight gain.
Weight loss and body fat loss are not one and the same.
Many people who use crash diets to lose weight end up losing muscle mass, reducing their metabolic rate, and regaining more fat than they had before they started dieting.
In order to preserve muscle mass for long-term dieting success, eating enough protein, exercising, and getting enough rest is essential.
However, adopting a keto diet also helps lose fat and keep all of your muscle.
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Many people like to argue that the ketogenic diet is an efficient way to build muscle. Your strength will skyrocket, they posit, and you’ll feel less sore and recover faster. Critics of the diet, however, often say the exact opposite: Ketogenic diets limit your ability to train hard, the theory goes. Trying to build muscle without carbs is like Batman patrolling the streets of Gotham without his utility belt. There’s no way, they say, to add muscle while you’re in ketosis.
So who’s right? First, let’s take a look at the science: Back in 2002, researchers from the University of Connecticut looked at how six weeks of low-carb dieting affected body composition in two groups of healthy, normal-weight men. One group switched to a ketogenic diet for six weeks, while the rest continued with their regular diets. The men who went keto gained just over two pounds of muscle. The control group, on the other hand, gained just under one pound. On the face of it, that sounds like a win for the low-carbers; they gained twice as much muscle in the same amount of time.
When you look under the hood at how the study was done, however, there were more than a few problems that limit the conclusions we can draw. For one, there was a big difference in protein intake between the two groups. Subjects on the ketogenic diet ate twice as much protein as those in the control group, which by itself could account for the extra muscle growth.
In an ideal world, both groups would have followed the same training program. But they didn’t. Basically, everyone just carried on doing their own thing, so any differences in muscle growth between the two groups could have come down to a better training program rather than diet alone. More recently, a team of Florida researchers ran a similar study. This time, protein intake was matched between the two groups, and everyone in the study followed the same training program. What happened?
From weeks 1 to 11, the keto group gained roughly twice as much lean mass as subjects on the regular higher-carb diet. Gains in muscle thickness, measured using ultrasound, were also significantly greater in the keto group. On the surface, this research appears to provide strong evidence that keto diets are the way to go if you want to build muscle. But only until you take a closer look at the way the study was done.
The keto group “carbed up” in the final week of the study, which led to a seven-pound gain in lean body mass. In other words, much of the increase in lean tissue came from glycogen (the name given to carbohydrate stored in the body) and water. If you look at the results in the first ten weeks, before the keto group bumped up their carb intake, there was no significant difference in the rate of muscle growth between the two groups.
Even the researchers write that it’s “likely that both groups gained similar amounts of muscle mass throughout the entire study.” When it comes to building muscle, most research shows that ketogenic diets offer no advantage over their higher carb counterparts.
For example, a team of Brazilian researchers took a group of overweight men and women, and got them to train with weights three times a week for eight weeks. Half the subjects were told to restrict their carb intake, while the other half followed a diet that was higher in carbs and lower in fat. Both groups ate a similar amount of protein—roughly 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight.
There was very little difference in results between the low carb and conventional diet groups. They both got stronger, lost fat, and reduced their waist size. There was also no significant difference in muscle growth—measured with ultrasound at the biceps, triceps and quadriceps— between the two groups.
Similar results were found in a three-month study of men with metabolic syndrome, and a ten-week study of overweight women. Combining resistance training with a ketogenic diet had no beneficial or adverse effects on the preservation of muscle mass during weight loss compared to the same training program paired with a conventional diet.
Ketogenic diets can be useful under certain circumstances for people who know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. After a period of intelligent experimentation, they seem to do better with fewer carbs in their diet. You may be one of those people. If the diet is working and you’re feeling good, then stick with it.
Most low-carb diets get a lot of things right—the focus is usually on eating simple, wholesome, nutrient-dense foods that tend to fill you up on fewer calories. By almost completely cutting out a major macronutrient from your diet, you’re going a long way towards simplifying your dietary choices.
And your muscles don’t actually need carbs to grow. Lifting weights triggers an increase in muscle protein synthesis, which is the key driving force behind muscle growth. But you don’t need carbs for it to happen. Carbohydrate comes in handy because it helps you put in the work that stimulates muscle growth, not because it makes a direct contribution to growth per se.
Ketogenic diets, however, do have a number of potential downsides: They’re very restrictive, and you have to monitor your carb intake very carefully. When you know you can’t have something, it’s human nature to want it all the more. So if you’re “not allowed” to eat carbs, carbs are exactly what you’re going to want.
What’s more, the low carb approach does tend to leave some people struggling in the gym with low energy levels. They feel tired and mentally fuzzy. If you do a lot of intense exercise, the quality of your workouts may decline.
You don’t have to go full keto to get the benefits of restricting your carb intake. Many people do just fine with a moderate intake of carbs, cutting out the sugary snacks and replacing some of the starchy carbs with fruit and vegetables. But cutting carbs even further leaves them feeling worse rather than better, and they don’t stick with it for very long.
To sum it all up, it’s possible to gain muscle on a ketogenic diet. What’s more, there are several studies out there to show that ketogenic diets do just as well as their higher carb counterparts when it comes to preserving muscle while you lose fat. There’s no compelling evidence, however, to show that ketogenic diets offer any muscle-building benefits that you don’t get with a higher-carb diet that provides adequate amounts of protein.
If you want to get rid of your gut while building some muscle at the same time, a ketogenic diet is a viable option. But if you’re relatively lean, training hard 3 or 4 times a week, and your main goal is to add mass to your frame, there’s little point in being so restrictive. Indeed, a 2018 study shows that a group of resistance-trained men failed to gain any muscle at all after two months of lifting weights on a ketogenic diet.
Christian Finn is a UK-based personal trainer with a masters in exercise science.
How do I maintain all my muscle mass on keto diet?
The real question would be:
“Why are you on a ketosis diet?”
“Why are you on a diet at all?”
Why don’t you just change your lifestyle and drop the weight forever?
Why are you doing something that you know isn’t permanent?
Are you just going to stop eating carbs forever?
Or once your medical test is over, will just go back to eating carbs and gain it back?
Which you will, you will gain it back.
Your body will suck up those carbs and hold that fat for dear life. Your fat stores will be branded into your metabolisms main fuel source.
Your fat loss will come to a screeching halt.
The better question, and one I much preferred to be asked is:
“How do I change my lifestyle to keep the fat off, forever?”
If I get asked one more time about:
“Is the Atkins diet good to lose weight for my wedding in 2 weeks?”
“I’m going to Cancun and want to lose some belly fat, does the biggest loser diet really work fast?”
“Is the twinkle fucking toe diet a good choice to burn fat in 3 days?”
The evil side of me wants to tell them the amazing new:
“Drink warm milk while standing on your head diet!!!”
“You’ll lose so much weight, so super fast!”
Let me shatter your belief systems real quick.
I lose weight on a high carbohydrate diet.
Yeah that’s right, high carb!
Because carbs are not the enemy, they’re the weapon I use to lose fat FASTER! The enemy is your meal timing.
When you eat and what you eat is all that matters.
Eating high protein when you need to repair muscles.
Eating high carbs when you need to replenish muscles and back-load for a next day workout.
Insulin is like playing with fire.
It’s not scary. It’s no scarier than a fire in a fireplace. If used correctly, it provides us with what we need. If you start your fire in the middle of your living room, it’s going to be a problem.
You eating carbs in the morning all the time would be the same as starting a fire in the middle of your living room instead of in the fireplace.
However, you eating carbs after a workout would be lighting a fire in your fireplace.
Is keto a good diet for losing weight and preserving muscle mass?
No, keto is a terrible plan to preserve muscle or lose weight for a healthy individual. It’ll help you lose weight in the short run, just to backfire in your face sooner than later. If you’re looking to lose weight for just the medical test, then it would be fine for you.
If you’re looking for a long term solution, then it’s 100% not the answer and 100% not sustainable in a healthy manner.