In recent years, the ketogenic diet has grown in popularity, and with good reason. This low-carb approach to eating can help people gain control over their cravings, and can simplify the process of calorie reduction and weight loss.
Eating a ketogenic diet helps to transition the body into a state of ketosis. Once the body adapts to keto (and that definition is quite nebulous and hotly debated), it primes the body to derive more of its cellular energy (ATP) from fat and ketones rather than from glucose. It is important to note that this is not a light switch, but more a set of dials.
The result? It can lead to quite rapid weight loss.
But some adherents of the keto lifestyle have questions about building muscle while on keto. Many of them find their way to us at Ketogains for exactly that reason. They may not have access to full gym equipment, and so they wonder if a weight training is even possible? The answer may surprise you.
Keep reading for our guide to building muscle and getting healthy while on keto.
What Is the Ketogenic Diet?
Individuals who embark on a keto diet reduce their carb intake dramatically. At the same time, they will modify their protein and fat intake. There is a presupposition that a ketogenic diet necessitates high amounts of fat, but because of the calorie content of fat, that is not always necessary – especially when one is losing body fat.
These changes will move your body into a state of ketosis by limiting access to carbohydrates. Because protein sucks as a fuel source for the body, it will utilize fat as an alternative fuel source.
How low must you go to get into ketosis? Traditionally, individuals on a strict keto diet should stay below 50 grams of carbs per day to achieve and then maintain ketosis. We generally recommend that people start around 20-25g per day, and then moderate those changes afterward based upon results and performance.
It typically takes between two to four days for the body to transition into a state of ketosis. But once there, many people experience curbed appetite and consequent spontaneous weight loss. Note that a ketogenic diet per se does not guarantee fat loss, and usually the initial weight loss most people experience is the result of water and glycogen losses. To really lose body fat, one still needs to be in an energy deficit after all.
Benefits of the Keto Diet
The diet often proves beneficial for those with epilepsy, and it can help control blood sugar levels. For those with chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, this diet may also provide relief, and it can help as adjuvant therapy for those afflicted with certain cancers, too.
When people first embark on a keto diet, they may experience a phenomenon known as keto flu. Keto flu refers to a handful of symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, and foggy thinking. These symptoms will lessen after some time, but the single most effective means of handling the problems of keto flu is via the proper management of electrolytes. (If you need some additional electrolyte in your diet, that’s precisely why we made LMNT Recharge!).
Once you have a handle on the issues of keto flu, jump into training.
Keto Body Weight Training
But can you build muscle while losing weight on a keto regimen? If you’re new to the diet, you may experience an initial drop in performance and strength. Fortunately, these are often temporary conditions related to your body’s adaptation to relying on ketones.
Once this adaptation has taken place, however, studies show little difference in the body’s ability to build muscle and improve strength.
One study of 25 young men compared a traditional Western diet with that of keto. They found both diets proved equally effective in supporting muscle growth, performance, and gains in strength.
Plenty of research supports these findings. Keto appears to provide strength and performance gains similar to those of individuals on conventional high carb diets.
These results have changed how we look at fitness nutrition. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that many researchers argued low-carb diets contributed to muscle loss.
Building Muscle on a Keto Diet
What’s the best way to build muscle while losing weight on a ketogenic diet? Here are some tips to help you enjoy optimal results:
- Know your caloric intake needs
- Consume plenty of protein
- Track your food intake – all of it…by mass
- Understand how to exercise when you are in ketosis
What do you need to know about each of these tips to get ripped? Let’s take a closer look at how following these guidelines can help you get your dream body.
Know Your Caloric Intake Needs
To build muscle, you must support your fitness efforts with the right caloric intake. How many calories should you take in each day? This figure will depend on a variety of factors, including your:
- Fitness level
- Activity level
Begin by determining your calorie requirements. This figure refers to the number of calories you need to meet your goals. Here’s our calculator to help you get started.
Consume Plenty of Protein
An essential element of building muscle is protein. You must get sufficient amounts each day to get the growth and strength improvements you’re looking for. After all, protein is the building block of muscle.
The trick is getting more protein than your body breaks down through natural processes to increase muscle mass. What’s a reliable guideline to follow? Try to eat 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This goal is the sweet spot for muscle growth.
Could eating too much protein throw you out of ketosis? In a word, no. For more words, see this article.
Track Your Food
How low do you need to go when it comes to cutting enough carbs to facilitate ketosis? Stick to approximately 20-25g grams or less of carbs daily to start.
What if you feel that lack of carbs is impacting your athletic performance? If you are both lean and quite fit, you may wish to consider a target ketogenic diet (TKD) approach. You’ll consume a very small amount of rapidly-digestible carbohydrates just before beginning exercise.
Doing so can provide some additional glucose which can help drive insulin around training (a good thing). It can provide some additional energy for explosive movements also, but unless you are fit and relatively strong already, the benefit is negligible.
How do you make sure you stay in ketosis with the TKD method? In a nutshell, our response is that it doesn’t really matter. We aren’t concerned with transient departures from a state of ketosis. If you were to move out of ketosis, it would be only for a very short time.
What if you’re concerned about workout portability or can’t hit the gym due to lockdowns? Invest in resistance bands for an excellent workout on the go or from the comfort of your home.
Here’s a more in-depth perspective on keto strength training.
Working Out on Keto: How to Exercise When You Are in Ketosis
Once you’ve got the nutrition component down, tackle the fitness side of things. What’s the best way to do this? Commit to regular resistance training sessions at least three times per week.
Why three? Countless studies show a significant increase in muscle growth with three weight training sessions per week, as opposed to one.
What should you focus on during these weight training sessions? Exercises that build strength and promote muscle gains. Incorporate these exercises into your two weekly sessions:
- Bench presses
Are you new to working out? If so, enlist the help of our team to get you focused on doing things right. Not only will this help you build muscle more rapidly, but it’ll also help you prevent injuries.
A great coach can put you on the right track to unlocking your full potential.
Why You Should Be Lifting Weights
Many people have concerns about whether or not weight lifting will stall their weight loss when starting out on keto. But when you follow the tips above, you can increase muscle mass while burning fat and losing weight. You’ll be amazed by your results.
Are you ready to explore the multiple benefits of whole food and low carb dieting? Do you want to find out more about how keto weight training works? There’s no better time than the present to take control of your body and your life.
Find out about our Ketogains Bootcamp now and get ready for your dream body.