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The Benefits of Working Out on Keto

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  Published on March 10th, 2022
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  Last modified March 10th, 2022
Woman working out keto diet

When you think of health, you probably also think of exercise. Whether it’s yoga, jogging, swimming, weighlifting, or brisk walking, everyone knows working out and getting your body moving is good for you. What about working out on keto? Let’s discuss the benefits of working out when your body is in the metabolic state of ketosis. 

Working Out on Keto

The advantages of a ketogenic diet are well-known and widely discussed, and so are the advantages of exercise. When you combine keto and exercise, you may experience positive health results, such as:

Accelerated muscle recovery

Several studies reported that a keto diet accelerates post-workout muscle recovery. In one small study, five athlete participants on a ketogenic diet perceived improvements in inflammation and muscle recovery following exercise. [1]

An animal study showed following a ketogenic diet for 8 weeks improved muscle recovery after exhaustive exercise [2]. Another study showed the ketogenic diet decreased levels of enzymes used to measure muscle damage: lactate dehydrogenase and creatine kinase. [3]

Exercises like resistance training help gain muscle and prevent muscle loss. Muscle loss lowers your metabolic rate, while building muscle raises and maintains your basal metabolic rate.

Woman on keto doing resistance training with bands

Improved Endurance

Studies reveal going keto could boost performance for endurance athletes. One study highlighted how athletes taking ketone ester supplements experienced greater physical endurance because of the body’s ability to use fat as an alternative fuel source. [4]

Another study of endurance athletes concluded that adhering to a ketogenic diet for 12 weeks boosted body composition, fat burning, and performance during exercise . [5] Increased levels of ketone bodies from supplements could decrease protein breakdown and speed muscle recovery following endurance exercise. [6] 

Increased Fat Burning

Research underscores how going keto can boost fat burning while exercising. For example, a study of 22 athletes over a 4-week period found switching to keto increased fat burning. [7] [8]

One study looked at overweight adults consuming fat in place of carbohydrates for five months. The adults burned around 250 more daily calories compared to those adhering to a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. [9]

Faster Transition to Ketosis

Intermittent fasting and exercise are two of the most effective ways to get you into ketosis more quickly. Once your liver glycogen (stored glucose) is depleted, your body can produce enough ketones to reach ketosis. Combining fasting with exercise (fasted cardio) is a smart two-pronged approach to expedite ketone production.

Adding Exercise to Your Keto Routine

Staying hydrated while running on keto diet

Studies are ongoing, but overall, exercise of any kind can complement your nutritious low-carb, high-fat diet.

The keto diet has shown the most promise in complementing strength and resistance training and low-intensity physical activities like rowing, yoga, and jogging. Endurance athletes also report better performance and longevity on keto.

For anaerobic exercises like heavy weight training, sprinting, and jumping, you could try a more targeted ketogenic approach where you consume a total of 20-50 grams of net carbs daily around 30 minutes pre-and post-workout. This provides your muscles with enough glycogen for optimal performance and recovery. 

Consider experimenting with different eating and exercise routines to find what’s best for you. Remember, protein is key for tissue repair and muscle synthesis, so make sure you’re eating lots of high-protein foods.

Start Slow If You’re New to Keto

When you’re transitioning to a ketogenic diet, it’s best to avoid trying any new and challenging exercise routines until you’re metabolically adapted. The sudden lack of carbs can shock your system, and you might need time to adjust. You could even experience fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms of the keto flu. Keep in these symptoms might negatively affect your performance, but they’re temporary, and can be resolved or reduced with exercise, electrolyte supplementation, and becoming more metabolically adapted. Make sure you’re also staying hydrated while on keto.

Woman doing plank exercises

Research points to a temporary reduction in endurance until the metabolic state has fully shifted to ketosis. In other words, until your body is fully fat adapted and your glycogen stores have depleted enough, you won’t be fully and efficiently capable of oxidizing fat. Research shows that after fat-adaptation, which typically occurs within a few weeks into ketosis, the same people experience maximized athletic performance and enhanced fat oxidation.

Studies of ultra-athletes on low-carb, high-fat diets revealed a higher potential for endurance and performance enhancement compared to ultra-athletes who didn’t restrict carbs. [10]

Do you work out on keto? Share your favorite workout tips with the keto community!

References

1.

Zinn, C., Wood, M., Williden, M., Chatterton, S., & Maunder, E. (2017). Ketogenic diet benefits body composition and well-being but not performance in a pilot case study of New Zealand endurance athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, DOI: 10.1186/s12970-017-0180-0

3.

Zajac, A., Poprzecki, S., Maszczyk, A., Czuba, M., Michalzyk, M., & Zydek, G. (2014). The effects of a ketogenic diet on exercise metabolism and physical performance in off-road cyclists. Nutrients, 6(7), 2493-508. DOI: 10.3390/nu6072493

4.

Cox, P. J., Kirk, T., Ashmore, T., Willerton, K., Evans, R…Clarke, C. (2016). Nutritional ketosis alters fuel preference and thereby endurance performance in athletes. Cell Metab, 24(2), 256-68. DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2016.07.010

5.

McSwiney, F. T., Wardrop, B., Hyde, P. N., Lafountain, R. A., Volek, J. S., & Doyle, L. (2018). Keto-adaptation enhances exercise performance and body composition responses to training in endurance athletes. Metabolism, DOI: 10.1016/j.metabol.2017.10.010

6.

Sansone, M., Sansone, A., Borrione, P., Romanelli, F., Luigi, L. D., & Sgro, P. (2018). Effects of ketone bodies on endurance exercise. Curr Sports Med Rep, 17(12), 444-453. DOI: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000542

7.

Durkalec-Michalski, K., Nowaczyk, P. M., & Siedzik, K. (2019). Effect of a four-week ketogenic diet on exercise metabolism in CrossFit-trained athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, DOI: 10.1186/s12970-019-0284-9

8.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). How many calories are in one gram of fat, carbohydrate, or protein? How many calories are in one gram of fat, carbohydrate, or protein? | Food and Nutrition Information Center| NAL | USDA

9.

Cipryan, L., Plews, D. J., Ferretti, A., Maffetone, P. B., & Laursen, P. B. (2018). Effects of a 4-week very low-carbohydrate diet on high-intensity interval training responses. J Sports Sci Med, 17(2), 259-268.

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