The ketogenic diet and weight lifting are two fabulous tools for weight loss and body strengthening.
By putting your body in a state of ketosis, your liver ketones (instead of blood sugar) metabolize healthy fat into energy, which ultimately burns the unhealthy fat stored around your muscles.
Paired with exercise, it’s possible to achieve your weight loss goals in a short space of time. So what about gaining muscle in weight lifting on a ketogenic diet?
If you are looking to gain weight via weightlifting, or even tone your existing muscles, there is a whole new side to the ketogenic diet that you need to understand.
In this article, we’ll take a more in-depth look at how your body uses the carbohydrates you’re consuming every day.
You’ll learn where these nutrients are going in your body and how to include weight lifting on a ketogenic diet.
Also included in this article are some helpful tips like how to balance diet and exercise, the proper way to use your energy levels, and keto supplements you can add to your diet.
Can You Do Weight Lifting on a Ketogenic Diet?
Even while on a ketogenic diet, many bodybuilders have been able to gain muscle growth while still cutting down on carbohydrates and increasing their fat intake.
The process of eating a low amount of carbs and a high amount of fat forces the body to use other sources of energy for everyday functions and exercise.
One of these alternative fuel sources is ketone bodies, produced in the liver, as opposed to glucose that has been metabolized from carbohydrates.
By maintaining a ketogenic diet, your body enters into a state of ketosis.
Ketosis can increase your fat loss. To gain muscle, however, you’ll need to read below to learn how carbohydrates are used in weight lifting on a ketogenic diet.
Who Needs Glucose, Anyway?
Who needs glucose? Well, we all do!
Glucose in carbohydrates is necessary for supporting muscle growth, as well as other bodily functions that require energy.
However, the amount of glucose your body needs to metabolize varies from person to person.
The primary objective of a ketogenic diet is to push your body into producing alternative fuel sources in response to a significant cut in carbohydrates.
This alternative fuel source is excellent for daily functions like sustaining natural energy, regulating sleep patterns, and stronger and more focused brain functions.
However, activities that require more copious amounts of energy like weight lifting still need to be supported by some glucose. It’s the 5-10% of carbohydrates still included in your diet that are crucial for ketogenic diet weight lifting.
Carbohydrates, Protein, and Insulin
Consuming carbs sets off a chain of events that are driven by hormones; Anabolism is your body’s process of using stored energy to build complex molecules.
One of the main hormones your body produces is insulin, which is delivered by the pancreas. Insulin is what regulates your body’s blood sugar level, but it can do more than just that.
The combination of consuming carbs and a controlled insulin release is what helps your muscles grow during weight lifting.
Insulin has so many critical bodily functions that some health professionals believe insulin release to be integral to growing muscles.
Aside from regulating blood sugar (so the sugar doesn’t get stored as fat on the body), insulin also drives up your amino acid intake, so more amino acids go into your muscles as well.
Despite wanting to reduce carbs on your diet, the carbs you do consume (and the subsequent insulin response) are crucial for your ketogenic diet weight lifting journey.
Carbohydrates and Protein Synthesis
It’s important to understand that protein synthesis and anabolism are not the same.
Protein synthesis is one part of anabolism, while anabolism is the entire physiological process your body goes through to grow.
Carbohydrates are not required for protein synthesis to take place. The primary component in protein synthesis is amino acids.
Technically speaking, you don’t need to consume carbs for muscle growth, but you do need to consume carbohydrates for other functions that support muscle growth.
To put it simply, your body still requires carbohydrates for the body to release insulin.
That insulin production is part of the whole system that encourages muscle building during ketogenic diet weight lifting. Both insulin release and protein synthesis are anabolic!
Creatine is a supplement used in ketogenic diet weight lifting, and many weight lifters find it essential to muscle growth. Powdered creatine can be mixed into shakes and are taken before or after workouts.
Creatine is naturally found in protein metabolism and is an integral part in supplying energy to muscles while you lift weights. Creatine is known for increasing a weight lifter’s strength.
However, many people don’t realize that creatine also helps improve cognitive function. The brain is a muscle too, after all!
When you take a creatine supplement along with carbohydrates, you’re increasing your intramuscular creatine levels.
This means you’re increasing the amount of creatine your muscles are capable of storing, leading to a larger overall muscle volume.
This is the point where insulin comes into play again. The release of insulin (caused by consuming carbohydrates) can enhance the level of electrolytes your cells can store, so your tissue cells increase in volume as well.
Your cells need that extra volume to store more water. Better hydration and a larger cell volume are important factors at the beginning of your body’s anabolism process.
Anabolism Without Carbohydrates?
As we discussed earlier in this guide, consuming carbohydrates is not directly related to anabolism. However, carbs are typically required for the support of a well-functioning anabolic process.
What’s interesting to note is how adaptive the body is! There have been many cases of successful ketogenic diet weight lifting.
Even with few carbohydrates (sometimes as little as 20g of carbs per day), the body turns to other methods for supporting anabolism.
When you remove carbs from your diet, your body is required to change from the typical biological methods for building muscle.
Your body will become efficient in other areas, such as muscle glycogen (a form of muscle carbohydrate), by forcing other genes to regulate at a higher level than usual.
It is possible to be on a keto diet and train in weight lifting while successfully building muscle!
By following the proper tips and guidelines, you can create a healthy balance between eating a ketogenic diet and exerting energy through exercise.
Tips for Weight Lifting on a Ketogenic Diet
Now that you have a better understanding of the science behind ketogenic diet weight lifting, it’s time to understand how to incorporate this information into both your meal plan and exercise plan.
Reaching a metabolic state alone won’t improve your ability to exercise.
There’s a lot more to consider when introducing weight lifting to your weekly activities.
You can follow the tips we’ve compiled below. These tips will help you balance your diet and your exercise habits, so you can perform your workouts to the best of your ability, every time you hit the gym.
Don't Try to Out-Exercise a Bad Diet
Here’s a fact not a lot of people know: you can’t use exercise to compensate for a lousy diet.
When it comes to losing weight, a healthy diet is considered by some to be more important than exercise or a lot of cardio. Of course, you need a healthy balance of a good diet and regular exercise to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.
Creating a rock-solid nutrition plan while on your ketogenic diet is one of the most critical factors in losing weight.
After you’ve established your ketogenic diet, then you can begin implementing an exercise regime. Start with including a few brisk walks every week.
This will create a baseline of physical activity that you can build on further into your ketogenic diet or once you’ve completed a diet.
Unfortunately, you can’t just jump right into ketogenic diet weight lifting. You need to compensate for the sudden change your body is experiencing from a dramatic decrease in carbohydrates.
You’ll also need to turn to some alternatives while exercising.
Switch to a Timed Keto Diet Plan
One alternative for improving your ketogenic diet weight lifting is by developing a timed diet plan, also called a targeted keto diet.
While your macros don’t necessarily have to change to make this method work, it does involve eating carbohydrates directly before a muscle-strengthening workout.
When you consume carbs, your blood glucose level surges. Your body will get an increase in energy it needs to lift heavy weights and burn body fat, but you’re still keeping your carbs at a low amount compared to fat and protein.
If your body is already in ketosis, this single surge in blood glucose can be easily regulated by your body’s insulin response.
Eating a dense amount of carbs at the same time every day will also train your body to expect this blood glucose level increase.
It’s also important to note that when you eat more carbohydrates, you need to cut back on fat. Your timed ketogenic meal may have a different fat to carb ratio that what you’ll be utilizing during off days when you are not exercising.
Fuel Up With Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT)
It’s possible that timed keto diet plans are not for you. If you’d prefer to maintain the same amount of carbohydrates on a daily basis, then fueling up with medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) may be for you!
You already get MCT from coconut milk and coconut oil, but many bodybuilders doing ketogenic diet weight lifting supplement their diet with straight MCT oil.
MCT is composed of dietary fats that can be broken down quickly and easily by the body. As you know by now, during ketosis, your body uses healthy fats as energy to burn away unhealthy fats.
Taking MCT before a workout will provide you with a surge of energy, similar to the idea of timed carbohydrate consumption.
MCT oil works very well for some weightlifters, but not everyone. Some have complained of gastrointestinal issues after ingesting MCT oil, so test it out or consult with a doctor before relying on the supplement to get you through a strenuous workout.
Match Your Workouts to Your Energy Levels
The next time you lift weights or do an intense workout, pay close attention to your energy levels. Take note if you feel tired quickly or your muscles become sore shortly after.
These can be signs that you’re missing out on crucial nutrients in your ketogenic diet to perform well!
While we have presented two alternatives for increasing your energy for workouts, you may not see the same results between both.
Choosing the timed ketogenic diet approach is more likely to increase your energy level for weight lifting. Since this method is a controlled way of raising your blood sugar, it’s a more direct approach.
While supplementing your diet with MCT oil can increase your ability to lift weights through the natural fats in the oil, this method is not as direct as ingesting carbohydrates.
If you’re experiencing exhaustion during your workouts while using MCT oil, you may need to dial back on the intensity of the workout, the amount of weight you use, how many sets you do, or how frequently you exercise in general.
If you consider your workouts to be at a moderate level, you are more likely to find success with MCT oil than with high-intensity workouts.
We can say the same for ketogenic diet weight lifting in general; so, if you intend to do heavy weight lifting, the timed keto diet method is highly suggested.
It’s important to remember that the ketogenic diet supports endurance also.
Just like you may experience more consistent energy levels and better sleep patterns, you’ll find yourself able to go for longer, more consistent repetitions at the gym instead of short bursts of heavy lifting.
Even if you are weight training, focusing on more reps at moderate-level weights will be better for you than increasing your speed or dumbbell size.
Use a Ketone Supplement
The ketones that are produced in your liver are endogenous. Exogenous ketones are synthetic, or human-made and they can be taken as a supplement, similar to creatine.
Unlike creatine, however, exogenous ketones don’t produce nutrients for the body to break down into energy. Instead, exogenous ketones help support your metabolic state and influence your physical performance through health.
These two reactions are explanations for why your muscles feel sore after a workout.
By supplementing your diet with exogenous ketones, your can reduce discomfort in your muscles, leading to longer and more beneficial workouts.
There’s quite a lot to consider when deciding on an exercise regimen during your ketogenic diet.
Before you even think about weight lifting, you’ll need to dial back on the intensity of any existing workouts you already do. Observe how your state of ketosis affects your energy and endurance levels.
Next, you’ll need to create a baseline of moderate exercise. A few brisk walks or light jogs every week is a good start for most on the keto diet. For some, even yoga is enough exercise to burn fat.
After your exercise baseline is created, then you can consider adding weight lifting and any necessary adjustments to your diet. For moderate weightlifters, including a supplement in your diet may be all you need.
For more intense weightlifters or bodybuilders, you may need to increase your carbohydrates on gym days or utilize the timed keto diet method.
For a more condensed summary of this ketogenic diet weight lifting article, we’ve listed the key takeaway points below:
- Your body needs glucose, but the amount is different for everyone. The average keto dieter includes carbohydrates in 5-10% of their macros. For weightlifters, this may be more.
- The carbohydrates you do consume are crucial to insulin production. Insulin regulates blood sugar, increases your amino acid intake, and promotes a stronger brain.
- Anabolism is the process of using stored energy to produce complex molecules. Protein synthesis is one of these processes.
- Creatine supplements are ingested to increase the volume of muscles.
- Your body will adapt to utilizing different forms of energy when you lower your carbohydrate intake.
- You can’t use exercise to compensate for a lousy diet.
- Timed keto diet plans use a surge in blood glucose to provide energy during weight lifting.
- Medium-Chain Triglycerides can be supplemented via an MCT oil to add healthy fats that can be quickly broken down by the body for energy.
- Use your energy levels for better endurance during workouts instead of increasing the intensity.
- Exogenous ketones are synthetic ketones that can be ingested to support your metabolic state of ketosis.
If you follow the tips in this guide, we're confident you’ll incorporate weight lifting on a ketogenic diet successfully.
Don't forget, for a quick boost; you'll want to check out Keto Activate to give back the essential minerals and salts lost during a keto workout.