As with any type of diet, there are a lot of myths surrounding exercise on the keto diet. Despite what you may have heard, exercise is safe and effective while in ketosis.
In fact, there are even some major benefits in choosing to exercising on the ketogenic diet rather than the standard american diet (SAD) or a high carb diet, which is often touted by exercise fanatics.
I exercise regularly on keto and even while intermittent fasting. Not only do I love exercising on the keto diet, but I feel more energetic during my workouts and don't feel the need to eat immediately before or after to keep my energy up.
Why, you ask? Let's take a look at some of the benefits of exercise on the keto diet in order to understand.
1. You'll Burn More Fat
Who doesn't want to burn more fat while they exercise? Keto burns more fat for a couple of reasons:
- If you're already fat-adapted your body will resort to burning fat for fuel easily during your workouts, rather than burning off excess carbs.
- The larger amounts of fat and (healthy) cholesterol consumed on a keto diet support your testosterone levels, which leads you to burn more fat. In contrast, carbs cause your testosterone to drop, making you store more fat.
2. You'll Have More Energy
When you train your body to consume fat instead of carbs for energy, your energy stores are deeper. A person can only store 500 grams of glycogen at a time for energy. Fat stores on the other hand are more or less bottomless.
Keto dieting athletes can burn mostly fat for fuel at up to 70% of max intensity, compared to only 55% in high-carb athletes (source). In fat, ketogenic dieters have burned the most fat during exercise ever recorded in a research setting.
In addition, low carb dieting can prevent fatigue during prolonged exercise and help you lose more fat during low-to-moderate exercise (source).
3. You'll Be Leaner and Faster
Ketogenic dieters naturally hold less water weight. It's not uncommon for keto dieters to hold 4-12 lbs less water weight than typical eaters.
Quite simply, the glycogen and accompanying water are no longer stored in your muscles and liver.
Without the bloating effect of a higher-carb diet, you'll be faster and lighter on your feet. This light feeling can make a huge difference when it comes to how you feel during a workout.
In addition to making you feel less bloated, you will look leaner. Who doesn't like the sound of that?
4. Exercise Can Help You Get & Stay in Ketosis
Your muscles and liver can store enough glycogen to sustain 90-120 minutes of exercise at an intense pace. This means that it can take anywhere from 1-10 days to burn off your glycogen stores, depending on your activity and carb intake.
In order to get into a ketogenic fat-burning state, you will need to burn off all of your extra glycogen stores. This means that working out, especially intensely, can help you reach ketosis faster.
Short bursts of exercise followed by short periods of rest (such as HIIT) are best for burning glycogen stores with the least amount of effort.
5. Exercise Allows You to Up Your Carb Intake Slightly
In order to get your body into a state of ketosis, the keto diet requires that you restrict your carbohydrate. Ideally, you should eat below 20 grams of net carbs per day, especially if you are first starting out.
However, once you achieve ketosis and your body's fat-adapted (meaning it begins primarily burning fat for energy) you can begin to experiment with carb intake.
Exercise helps you stay in a ketogenic state, which also means that you may be able to increase your carbohydrate intake slightly, to as much as 50 grams of net carbs per day.
Why is this? After exercise your blood sugar is low and glycogen is depleted. The time immediately after exercise is the ideal time to consume a small amount of simple carbs. Thanks to post-exercise hormones such as insulin, a fair amount of the sugar that you consume will be used directly by your muscles, keeping your body in a ketogenic state.
If you exercise regularly, try increasing your daily carb intake slightly. If you find yourself being kicked out of ketosis easily, go back to 20 grams of net carbs per day.
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