Many people find a keto diet attractive because they don’t have to work out to lose fat, but does that mean you shouldn’t exercise at all? Is it even realistic to work out on a keto diet? Yes, in fact, you can exercise on a ketogenic diet without having your physical performance diminish.
What is there to worry about?
The general understanding is that carbs have to be a part of your diet for your body to get the energy it needs for an exercise session. However, you won’t consume many carbs when you’re on a keto diet. The question then becomes how your body can get through a workout without the adequate fuel it requires from carbs.
While this is a valid concern, you actually don’t need all those extra carbs to exercise efficiently, even if you intend to be extremely active. What will happen when you exercise on a keto diet is that your body will figure out how to make use of the energy sources available to it and that will be the fat stored in your body.
What you should know about exercising on a keto diet
While it’s possible to exercise as much as you want to, it’s a good idea to know exactly what you’re getting into and what you might expect.
High-intensity workouts are best avoided
Science indicates that you’ll be more likely to use a particular macronutrient as fuel if it constitutes the majority of your diet. However, it’s different with high-intensity exercise because, in that case, your body will utilise glycogen as its fuel source no matter what macronutrients you take in the most. Since carbs are responsible for fuelling your glycogen stores, high-intensity workouts won’t be suitable if you’re on a diet that’s low on carbs. A much better option would be moderate-intensity exercise.
You may have a better shot at reaching your body composition goals
Research has shown that performing moderate-intensity exercise while on a keto diet can be good for your body composition. When you’re on the diet, your body is better able to burn fat both during low to moderate exercise intensities and at rest. other studies, though conducted on rats, have shown that the youthfulness and strength-improving hepatic growth hormone (HGH) increases with a ketogenic diet.
You must ensure that you get enough fat in your diet
A keto diet without enough fat is essentially the Atkins diet. In addition to being extremely difficult to maintain, it can reduce muscle mass and make you extremely hungry. You need to compensate for the carbs you won’t consume with sufficient fat, otherwise, you’ll most likely not go into ketosis as you’ll constantly feel tired.
There’s a possibility that you’ll burn more fat during cardio
Since you won’t be using glycogen as your source of fuel during cardio, your body will turn to ketone bodies and fat. Engaging in aerobic exercises like biking or running while on the keto diet can help you use less oxygen, produce less lactate, spare glycogen and increase fat oxidation, even if your performance is not enhanced.
You need to be careful not to eat less than you should
While on a keto diet, you can easily end up eating less than you should. Due to the appetite suppressing effects of the diet, you may not even realise you need more energy because you don’t feel hungry. Don’t be surprised if you end up feeling low due to exercise. This could mean you’re not eating enough.
It’s best to avoid trying a new workout in the first few weeks of the new diet
At first, you may not feel fantastic on keto. You may experience stomach upsets and grogginess, but this will pass in a matter of days or a few weeks. This is not the time to try something different as far as exercise goes, as it can be hard to tell what is working and what isn’t. Wait until you’re properly settled into your diet.
What to remember about food when exercising on the keto diet
The ketogenic diet is one that’s high in fat, but that doesn’t mean you should opt for a high-fat meal right after an exercise session. Eating a meal that’s high in fat immediately after working out will result in slower digestion of the protein intake that happens after a workout. This is not what you want if you’re looking to gain muscle or lose weight.
The ideal proportion of fats while exercising on the keto diet should be about 70% of your daily calories. From that benchmark amount, you can then adjust the number down or up depending on what you hope to achieve. Naturally, you might want to lower it if you’re looking to lose weight faster. However, putting it too low may make you perpetually hungry.
When it comes to proteins and the ketogenic diet, it’s important to remember that your protein intake has a crucial role to play in muscle protein synthesis. In particular, the blood level of the essential amino acid, leucine, that triggers the process, increases when you’re on a ketogenic diet. However, this doesn’t mean you have to consume too much protein. All you need is enough protein to suit your needs.
As for carbs, you don’t need to follow the common belief that whatever you eat after a workout should have lots of carbs. While it’s believed that a high-carb meal will increase insulin levels and, consequently, amino acid uptake, consuming loads of carbs is not as effective as believed for promoting muscle protein synthesis.
On the contrary, only a small amount of insulin is needed to produce the maximal effect. That is not to say you should not eat carbs at all. Depending on the nature of the exercise you’re engaging in, it may be a good idea to take in carbs in small amounts. However, you have to remember that any extra carbs you consume will have to be timed wisely later in the day or round your exercise sessions.