Ok so as you all know I am a huge advocate of fitness and healthy cooking. At the start of the year I started working with a lot of women on their diet and exercise routines which has delivered some incredible results. However, I am always looking to challenge myself both mentally and physically, so after lots of people started asking my thoughts on the Keto diet I decided to experiment with it on myself so I may answer those questions honestly and with experience.
I really enjoy my food, that is no secret, but what I enjoy most is creating new recipes which suit all the different requests I get from clients. Keto is something I am new to which meant I have been reading up a lot on the topic to find out how it affects the body and the type of results you can expect to achieve if you carry out the diet plan correctly. So, this last week has been a very experimental one trying out some new ideas based on the Keto diet that are not just consisting of eggs and bacon!
There’s a number of myths, misconceptions, and misinformation floating around that are confusing a lot of people about the Keto or correctly said Ketogenic diet. They’re proposing ideas like “carbs are absolutely necessary to build muscle” and “The Ketogenic diet hurts exercise performance”.
With all of the conflicting information about these topics, it is easy to become discouraged and think that you can’t get the health benefits of keto without losing muscle mass, strength, and endurance. Fortunately, this isn’t the case as it was a huge concern for me when I decided to give this a go since I have spent this entire year lifting weights to tone and define my body. The truth is that — with a deeper understanding of how the body works and what it needs when carbohydrates are being restricted — it is possible to experience the health benefits of keto, increase muscle mass, and improve exercise performance at the same time. No carbs required.
You Need Carbs To Build Muscle!
People that tell you this don’t understand how muscle building really works at the nutritional level, and I have to be honest, this was once me – it’s entirely possible to be gaining muscle mass while on keto.
In a simple way, the 3 easy steps to build muscle are:
- Eating enough protein – For mass building between 1.0 – 1.2g / pound of LEAN body mass.
- Eating a calorie surplus – You can’t build muscle without eating more calories than you need, and these come from fats in a ketogenic diet.
- Training correctly – You need to promote hypertrophy in your muscles.
Are carbs good for building muscle? Of course they are – they promote insulin release and help restore glycogen in the muscles. With carbs, you gain mass quicker, but that’s because you’re also gaining fat. So, what exactly is glycogen? It’s a molecule that our bodies use as energy.
And, what exactly does glycogen do? Wikipedia explains it nicely:
In humans, glycogen is made and stored primarily in the cells of the liver and the muscles, and functions as the secondary long-term energy storage (with the primary energy stores being fats held in adipose tissue). Muscle cell glycogen appears to function as an immediate reserve source of available glucose for muscle cells. Other cells that contain small amounts use it locally as well.
As you can see, glycogen is being used as a secondary source of energy, where fats are being used instead of it. Once your body has become adapted to using fats (you’re in ketosis), then little glycogen is actually needed. That little amount of glycogen you need? Well, it can be created from the protein you eat in a process known as gluconeogenesis I have since researched.
Are carbs necessary for building muscle? Of course not – You can still refill glycogen stores in muscles by following a ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet is great for building muscle as well because the protein intake is relatively high and you’re unlikely to lose muscle mass.
In fact, even if your protein intake is low, the ketogenic diet can still elicit a muscle sparing effect. More specifically, the ketone body called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) — that is produced by keto-adapted individuals in higher quantities — has been shown to decrease leucine oxidation and promote protein synthesis. I know this is all getting a little like biology lesson, but it is worth knowing the facts if you really want to get this to work. On top of that, carbohydrate restriction provides an adrenergic stimulus to the body that has been found to prevent muscle breakdown. In other words, when blood sugar levels are low, the body releases adrenaline, which prevents muscle proteins from being broken down. Pretty cool isn’t it!
Although ketones and adrenaline can help preserve muscles mass, this doesn’t mean that you should eat less protein. It is essential that you eat the appropriate amount of protein that you need to meet your goals. If you are unsure of what your nutrient intake should be, then give me a shout and I will help you find out. Putting mass on may be slower on a ketogenic diet, but that’s because you will primarily be putting lean mass on (without the extra fat). If you need to put total mass on quicker with the keto diet, then you can achieve your goals through other methods. A subject for another day if you don’t mind.
In a nut shell: Carb consumption is not essential to maintain or build muscle. As long as you eat the right amount of protein and calories and train correctly, you will gain muscle mass. On the other hand, if you are looking to preserve muscle mass while you lose fat, the ketogenic diet is your best option. By limiting carbs, you will stimulate two processes — ketosis and adrenaline release — that reduce muscle protein breakdown. I am so glad I found this out as I was stressing about losing my hard earned muscle mass in an attempt to get rid of a little fat.
It Will Hurt My Performance I Asked?
If it’s not about building muscle, people will argue that performance is decreased while on a ketogenic diet. That just isn’t true at all. I found a study online that was done on well-trained cyclists who were on a ketogenic diet for 4 weeks. I read that the results showed that aerobic endurance was not compromised at all. Their bodies adapted through ketosis, limiting both glucose and glycogen stores, and using fats as the predominant energy source. Music to my ears I thought!
Before your body enters ketosis and can use fats as the primary source of energy, you will see some strength and endurance loss. I can testify this as between day 2 and 5 I didn’t feel like training at all, and then all of a sudden I had the urge to get back out into my gym for a heavy session. BUT, once your body becomes adapted to the fat intake, you will begin to convert fats into ketones to be used as a source of energy for both strength and endurance.
Even if you are doing very long cardio training, marathons and biking included, a ketogenic diet has been proven. Summed up, the paper explains that a very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet can be useful for weight-class based athletes in their respective sport. Over the 30 day period of the study, on 8 different athletes, the results came out to be the same. The athletes were fed a strict diet of green vegetables, olive oil, and high-quality proteins (fish and meat). In all of their physical tests, they performed the same as when the initial tests were done. Each athlete decreased their body weight, their body fat, and kept their muscle mass near enough the same. None of them had negative effects on their strength performance over the course of the study.
The only real time where ketosis can give performance loss is in exercises that need an explosive action. If you need a little boost in your performance during these, you can “carb-up” by eating 25-50g of carbs about 30 minutes before you train. This “carb-up” approach is otherwise known as targeted ketogenic diet (for more on this variation of keto just google the topic).
Another way to improve high-intensity exercise performance is by following the cyclical ketogenic diet. This is a variation of the ketogenic diet that requires you to eat a strict ketogenic diet for 5-6 days to get the benefits of ketosis and a higher-carb diet 1-2 days a week to deplete glycogen levels and help improve high-intensity exercise performance. Athletes who play explosive sports like football, soccer, lacrosse, and hockey and people who do high-intensity training multiple times a week like CrossFit and heavy weight-training (this will suit me then) will benefit most from the cyclical ketogenic diet.
In general, carbing up — whether it is right before training or during carbohydrate refeeding days — will give your muscles the instant energy that they need to be explosive without mitigating the benefits of the ketogenic diet. If you are still curious as to why certain types of training require carbohydrates while others don’t, you’ll find a lot more deeper explaining online.
In a nut shell: The ketogenic diet will not hurt exercise performance for endurance activities like jogging and cycling. High-intensity athletes and exercise trainers, however, may experience a decrease in explosive power while they adapt to keto. This is why they may benefit from properly timed carbohydrate consumption. The targeted ketogenic diet works best for high-intensity exercise beginners, while the cyclical ketogenic diet is ideal for high-intensity athletes and experienced exercise trainers.
Timing is Everything With Protein
Many people seem to believe that a large amount of protein eaten in 1 sitting is wasted. I had never heard of this before but the myth that’s floating around is that if you eat more than 30g of protein in 1 sitting, the rest is wasted. Where did this 30g of protein come from? I have no clue, it may have been assumed from the 10g/hour standard that many bodybuilders use in their typical meal approach which I have read about a few times from various sources. Nutrient timing provides minimal results in regular trainers. Fulfilling your daily nutrient needs is, by far, the most important thing. That being said, you probably don’t want to sit down and eat 150g of protein in one sitting, as this can bring you out of ketosis apparently.
Eating too much protein at once is fine; none of it will be wasted. As you eat high amounts of protein, your body can regulate the speed at which the intestines contract, resulting in slower digestion for proper absorption. Which is why it is best to eat protein at the end of the day as it takes a lot longer to digest. I suffer from bloat terribly and when I eat fruit, salad or veggies after protein it then sits in the gut over night waiting for the protein you ate to pass all the while fermenting and turning into sugars and subsequently fat if it isn’t burnt off. A whole other topic, do feel free to ask me about orders of eating food if you too suffer from bloat.
In normal conditions, your small intestine is responsible for sucking up all that fantastic protein as you digest it. In fact, it’s been shown that it absorbs about 95% of your protein. If by chance you skip a meal and have to eat 100g of protein in one sitting, your small intestines won’t be able to properly absorb all of it. When this happens, your small intestine will store the proteins and amino acids and release them as the body needs, and even recycling them if that’s needed. Here’s a link if you are interested https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18577772
In a nut shell: Make sure you are eating enough protein every day to meet your body composition goals. To keep protein from kicking you out of ketosis, break up your protein intake evenly throughout your daily meals.
Practical Applications for Exercise Training on The Ketogenic Diet
Now that I know the truth behind these common keto training myths, I propose these actionable steps that you can use to implement what we have learned from this blog:
- Eat enough protein. For example, to gain muscle the body requires around 1.0 – 1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. However, to get a much more accurate estimation of your personal protein needs, use a Keto calculator or ask me for some help.
- Distribute your protein intake evenly amongst your meals. Protein timing doesn’t matter nearly as much as your daily protein intake. But this doesn’t mean that you should eat 100 grams of protein at one meal — this will rapidly decrease your ketone levels. On the ketogenic diet, it is best to break up your protein intake evenly throughout your daily meals.
- Eat the right amount of calories to meet your goals. If your goal is to build muscle on the ketogenic diet, you must eat more calories than your body needs, and make sure those calories come from fat. On the other hand, if you want to lose body fat and maintain muscle mass, then you must increase protein intake while you are in a calorie deficit. To clear up any calorie confusion, use our a Keto Calculator.
- Train correctly. To promote muscle growth, you must lift weights (e.g., free weights, machine weights, body weight, etc.).
- Use carbs as a tool to improve high-intensity exercise performance. High-intensity exercise requires glucose. The best way to ensure that you get the benefits of keto and carbohydrates at the same time is by using the appropriate Keto diet.
By using these recommendations, you will get the positive results that you expect from the ketogenic diet. I hope this blog has been helpful and remember, If you are looking for fitness motivation and a group of women with one mission in mind, which is to completely change their bodies by focusing on health and fitness then you must join the group at Abbie Curtis Bikini Fitness. https://m.facebook.com/groups/1965502373698233