So, you’re starting the keto diet. By now you know this means your carbs will be limited and your body will have to adjust. But what about keto and your exercise routine? Going keto means significantly reducing your carbs, the main source your body uses for fuel during workouts. So, the question is, “Can I work out on the keto diet?”
The short answer is yes! Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your overall health and lifestyle, and it’s a great complement to a keto diet.
Keto and Exercise: What to Expect
When starting any new diet, it’s important to give your body time to adjust. The keto diet is no exception. The sudden lack of carbohydrates in your diet can be a shock to your system. You might experience the “keto flu” symptoms such as brain fog and fatigue. This is temporary while your body learns how to operate on the fuel source of healthy fats.
Needless to say, you do not want to start a new and challenging exercise routine while making this lifestyle change. But exercising on keto by continuing your current routine is encouraged to improve your overall health and help avoid the “keto flu” symptoms mentioned above.
How to Eat for Different Types of Exercise
As your body adjusts to the low-carb life, your workouts may need to adjust too. When it comes to different exercise routines, keto may affect some more than others. This is where the intensity of your workout comes into play. The two main types of exercise we will discuss are:
- Anaerobic exercise
- Aerobic exercise
Anaerobic exercise includes heavy weight training, sprinting, jumping, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), circuit training, etc. Any exercise that consists of short bouts of energy and high-intensity movement is considered anaerobic exercise. During high-intensity exercise, carbohydrates are usually the main source of energy. So, it’s no surprise that performing anaerobic exercise on keto can be challenging.
You’ll feel fatigued much quicker and may even lose your peaking power. In fact, one study looked at the performance of 42 healthy adults for six weeks on the ketogenic diet. The results showed that the participants’ performance in endurance capacity and peak power dropped.
If you do enjoy your anaerobic exercise and want to continue exercising intensely throughout the week, you can still follow what is referred to as the targeted ketogenic diet. While the standard ketogenic diet (SKD) limits your carbs to 20 to 50 grams of net carbs per day, the targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) allows you to eat 20-50 grams of net carbs about 30 minutes pre and post-workout. This gives your muscles enough glycogen to perform and recover properly.
Unlike anaerobic exercise, aerobic exercise includes exercise such as cycling, running, jogging, walking, hiking, swimming, etc. Any exercise that can be classified as steady-state cardio would be considered a form of aerobic exercise.
In the case of burning fat and utilizing energy stores, the ketogenic diet is a great complement to this type of training. Low-intensity cardio workouts lasting longer than 30 minutes can help increase fat burning, making it a suitable option for those whose primary goal is to lose fat. 
Before You Start Training
If you’re an active individual following a keto diet, it’s important to customize it based on your goals. If you’re a weightlifter hoping to maintain a ketogenic lifestyle, just keep in mind that you need those carbohydrates pre and post-workout as they are vital to optimal performance and recovery.
Ketosis may get a bad rap in the fitness world as far as fueling performance goes, but as long as you listen to your body and personalize your diet based on your individual needs, you can have the best of both worlds.
- Paul Urbain, Lena Strom, Lena Morawski, Anja Wehrle, Peter Deibert, and Hartmut Bertz, Impact of a 6-week non-energy-restricted ketogenic diet on physical fitness, body composition and biochemical parameters in healthy adults. Nutr Metab. 2017; 14:17.
- Joseph E. Donnelly, Jeffery J. Honas, Bryan K. Smith, Matthew S. Mayo, et al. Aerobic exercise alone results in clinically significant weight loss for men and women: Midwest Exercise Trial-2. Obesity. 2013; 21(3):219–228.
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