The high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet is very well known for helping people lose weight and improving their metabolic health. However, some people might be worried that this diet won’t help them achieve their muscle-building objectives.
To build muscle on Keto, one must lift heavy weights frequently, eat enough calories, and maintain a high protein intake, while not consuming so much protein that one interrupts the process of ketosis.
This post will go over how to properly increase muscle while adhering to a ketogenic diet, as well as body recomposition, which is the simultaneous loss of fat and growth of muscle. The cornerstone of the ketogenic diet is the ketosis state, in which the body switches from using carbs as its main fuel source to utilizing fat and ketones. This change can maximize fat burning, making it the best diet for anyone looking to lose more body fat. You need to make a few adjustments to your muscle-building routine in order to get the most out of your “recomp” (body recomposition) efforts.
The right macronutrient ratios must be established if you want to grow muscle while on the ketogenic diet. Since enough protein consumption is necessary for both muscle development and repair, protein intake should generally be modest, ranging between 1.2 and 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. However, if you often lift big weights, you may need a greater protein intake.
According to a typical keto diet, you should consume the bulk of your calories (about 70–75%) from healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish since these foods help your body produce hormones that are connected to ketosis as well as other hormones that affect your energy levels when you exercise. As previously indicated, intense weightlifting could call for adjusting these ratios in order to maximize muscle growth. The high-protein keto diet recommends consuming 60–65% of daily calories as fat, 30% as protein, and 5–10% as carbohydrates.
Because gluconeogenesis, a natural process that turns extra protein not used by the muscles into carbs, occurs when too much protein is consumed, some people worry that doing so might force them out of ketosis. However, research indicates that even on the ketogenic diet, the conventional recommendation of 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight still holds true. If you adhere to this advice, you should maintain ketosis while feeding your muscles the protein they require.
Staying Hydrated is Crucial
Hydration and electrolyte balance are essential since the ketogenic diet can cause an increase in water loss. This is because restricting carbs depletes the glycogen stores in your body, essentially doing the opposite of what creatine does for your temporary physique. Hydration is important for healthy muscular function and recovery. Include foods high in minerals like leafy greens, avocados, and nuts in your diet, and if necessary, think about taking supplements of magnesium, potassium, and salt. Certain sugar-free sports drinks are also a good option to help replenish your thirst. If you’re not careful, dehydration will make surviving even the simplest workout into a herculean task.
Timing Carbohydrate Intake
While the keto diet calls for one to limit their carbs to under 50 grams (at most) of net carbs per day (this number varies based on daily exertion and calorie intake needs), many people seeking to build muscle while doing keto may find that eating a small number of healthy carbs at the right time can improve the quality of their workout. Those doing more explosive lifts with lots of weight may find that their carb needs may hover at the upper range of the percentage allowed by the traditional keto diet (5 to 10 percent).
Vegetables such as cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, and green beans, as well as fruit like avocados and tomatoes, are sources of carbs that can be safely consumed on the keto diet without being so excessive as to interrupt ketosis. Nuts can also be a good source of complex carbohydrates that won’t far exceed your allowed macros if eaten in moderation.
Some people may find that they can eat more carbs than others and remain in ketosis. Those who fall into this category may find that eating simple carbohydrates immediately prior to heavy exercise will allow them to perform at their best while slipping back into ketosis soon after their workout is over.
Of course, the only way to know if this is the case is to test with ketone strips or other ketone-level testing measures. It’s not recommended unless you are lifting some seriously heavy weights, since getting back into ketosis can take several days to a week or more, depending on how strictly you adhere to your macros and if you fast or not. Exercise in and of itself can help accelerate the process of entering ketosis, though.
Strength training is crucial to muscle growth on any diet, even the ketogenic one. Weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, and resistance band workouts are examples of progressive resistance exercises that activate muscle fibers and encourage growth. Squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and overhead presses are examples of compound movements that should target many muscular groups at once.
Because strength training increases protein synthesis, working out regularly will not only help ensure that less protein you’re eating is converted to carbohydrates (keeping you in ketosis), but will also allow your muscles to grow larger and stronger faster. Frequency is key here: while ketosis (at least before you are fully adapted to it) may initially make it harder to lift your maximum weight on some lifts, these negative effects are usually temporary. The body adapts over weeks and months and becomes better at adapting fat as an energy source, meaning that the exhaustion felt while working out your first few weeks on keto will likely fade away as you continue.
Body recomposition, or “recomp” is the process by which one decreases the percentage of fat in their body while increasing the percentage or amount of muscle (preserving muscles while losing fat also fits this definition, because the proportions of each are still shifting favorably).
The secret is to maintain a careful balance between caloric intake and expenditure in order to achieve body recomposition. To this end, keto can be quite effective as an alternative weight-loss diet and when combined with resistance training. To promote fat reduction while maintaining muscular mass, slight calorie deficits are advised. It’s crucial to track your progress and modify your caloric intake as necessary to avoid overly rapid muscle loss. Remember, protein intake is going to be critical during this process. Eating protein and working out regularly will safeguard your muscles from being absorbed by your body as fuel.
Of course, if you are not concerned about losing weight (which is admittedly somewhat rare for those attempting the keto diet), then building muscle while using keto will simply require that you work out regularly, consume enough protein, and maintain a caloric surplus while maintaining your macros. Some say that this can help you bulk up without gaining fat along with your muscle, a serious win-win for any aspiring bodybuilder or powerlifter.
Rest and Recovery
Aspects of body composition that are sometimes disregarded include getting enough sleep and managing stress. Chronic stress and a lack of sleep can raise cortisol levels, which prevents fat loss and causes muscle breakdown. Get 7-9 hours of good sleep every night, and practice stress-relieving exercises like yoga or meditation. Keto can increase the amount of anabolic hormones available to someone (including, most importantly, testosterone), but this positive effect can be easily counteracted by poor sleep and stress.