Exercising On The Keto Diet
First of All, Exercise!
Are you confused? When you research exercising while on a keto diet, you’ll find there are different schools of thought, and those weighing in on the subject are quite passionate.
But first, if you’re in keto, intermittent fasting, or implementing another type of diet regimen, you are obviously concerned with your health and most likely your appearance. We believe exercise to be a key component of a healthy lifestyle. It can prevent health problems, build strength, boost energy, and reduce stress. It also helps you maintain a healthy body weight.
So, we agree exercise is good. But, what about exercising specifically on the ketogenic diet? We’ll drill it down for you, looking at how keto impacts exercise and your performance.
Types of Exercise
A couple of important thoughts about exercise:
- Experiment until you find an exercise you enjoy. If you enjoy it, you’ll do it.
- “Use it or lose it” can be a real issue.
- Once your body is ready, try to incorporate a bit of intensity.
Below are some of the more popular types of exercise you may want to consider:
The American College of Sport’s Medicine defines aerobic exercise as “any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature.” Aerobic fitness refers to your body’s ability to get oxygen to your muscles. When your heart is strong, more oxygen-rich blood is pumped with each heartbeat.
Interval training is basically any exercise which consists of sets of high intensity for a short period of time, followed by low intensity for a time. Sometimes referred to as HIIT, “high-intensity interval training”.
Fitness experts recommend getting your heart rate up a minimum of three times per week for at least 30 minutes per session. For most healthy people, it’s recommended you keep your heart rate in the range of 60% – 80% of your maximum heart rate (maximum heart rate computed as 220 less your age).
It keeps your body fit, your mind active, your skin glowing, and makes you feel younger and more alive.
The word yoga means to bring together or unite, as in mind, body, and spirit.
Stretching is an extremely important aspect of exercising. Incorporating stretching into your program helps prevent injury to joints, tendons, and muscles while improving flexibility and balance.
In addition to the benefits you will gain from cardio training and stretching exercises, you may want to incorporate strength training into your regimen.
Strength training helps to build and maintain lean muscle, increases bone density, boosts your metabolic rate and energy, and relieves arthritic symptoms. Strength training also increases the production of good hormones in your body.
Exercising on the Ketogenic Diet
The two major points of contention regarding the keto diet, also referred to as a LCHFD, “Low Carb High Fat Diet”, in the athletic and scientific fields are:
- Does the keto diet help or hinder your exercise performance?
- Are carbs a necessity for you to build/maintain lean muscle?
Proponents of keto contend that it is possible to increase muscle mass and improve exercise performance, while keto’s detractors argue the reverse.
Both groups acknowledge that during the process of your body adapting to keto you may experience “Keto Flu”. During this transition, you may feel a bit lethargic and more sluggish than usual, making it difficult to get through your workouts. The good news is that this typically takes no more than a week or two, and once your body has adapted, energy returns to normal.
Energy Sources: Carbs versus Fats
For background, let’s do a quick review of energy sources in your body.
Your body’s preferred energy source is glucose, normally from the carbohydrates you eat. When these carbs are reduced or eliminated, such as when you’re on a keto diet, the body turns to other sources for energy/glucose. Ideally, that would be from dietary or stored fat.
Keto’s Impact on Endurance Training – What We Know
Your muscle glycogen levels decrease on a Keto diet within the first few weeks, your body turns to fat for energy, so you become less dependent on muscle glycogen. Both schools acknowledge this point and agree that normal endurance training performance should not be hindered. Proponents go further and cite a growing number of elite-level endurance athletes that are converting to LCHF.
This point of view seems to be substantiated by a recent UCONN study conducted on ultra-marathoners adhering to the LCHFD. Their conclusion? That the low-carb athletes suffered no ill-effects from keto and, in fact, had become “superior fat-burning machines”.
Their adversaries contend, it takes more oxygen to create energy from fat, which reduces economy. Further, the athletes on Keto didn’t go any faster in the test. In real life, and in a competitive setting, even endurance athletes at some point will go anaerobic, such as in a final sprint to the tape, and the glycogen stores simply won’t be available.
Which Brings Us to Anaerobic Exercise
Resistance training, body-building, and strength training are all forms of anaerobic exercise. This simply means your body will burn glucose for energy during these type of activities. We’ve established where glucose comes from, and why it isn’t as available during ketosis.
Both schools concur that carbs are beneficial for building muscle. From that point forward, their points of view diverge.
Proponents of keto assert there is a gain in body fat in addition to your muscle gains with normal carb consumption. Whereas, when you are on a ketogenic diet, your body composition improves; body fat decreases while lean mass increases.
Proponents of a more balanced, traditional diet contend that being in ketosis has an adverse effect on your exercise performance. Extremely low carbohydrate intake results in depleted glycogen stores in your liver and muscles resulting in less energy, less explosive power and shortened workouts. And, it doesn’t end in the gym, as repair and recovery are hindered as well.
You can be assured this debate will wage on, most likely until the next big weight loss, diet, or eating regimen comes along. Note, neither group asserted that while on keto you should abstain from exercise. The areas of debate tend to focus on serious athletes and optimum performance.
A few final thoughts to guide you on your Keto/exercise journey:
Try Cardio, if endurance training is your choice, as a lower intensity, steady-state exercise. It’s very keto-friendly, even if you do pick up the pace with some HIIT training,
Yoga and stretching are helpful for stretching your muscles, supporting joints, and improving muscle range of motion. Increasing your flexibility can help prevent injuries caused by shortening of the muscles over time. Keto should have little/no impact on these activities.
When it comes to anaerobic strength training – although, in this case, the preferred choice for energy is carbs – we’re confident you can lift on keto, provided you aren’t trying out for the Olympic lifting team.
Let the experts and elites debate. For we mere mortals, concerned with general health, fitness, and looking our best, exercise coupled with keto can work wonders.
One Final Thought
To help you stay on course, we recommend a fitness tracker for your exercise as well as your macronutrients. And, for those of you who are cardio fanatics, there are some sophisticated additional apps such as MapMyRide you may want to download as well.