Exercise and Ketosis

The keto diet has been shown to encourage fast and effective weight loss as well as provide numerous other benefits including increased mental health, healthier skin, and better sleep patterns. As this diet grows in popularity, more and more research is being done to either prove or disprove its marketed benefits. As far as weight loss is concerned, the keto diet is a favorite among nutritionists due to its more “natural” approach.

Along with the beneficial research about the diet, there are increasing concerns about how the diet can affect different aspects of our day-to-day life.

In this article, we look at one of those concerns, namely howthe keto diet can affect exercise.

What is Ketosis?

The keto diet originates from the idea that our far-removed ancestors could go long periods of time without access to a stable food source. Early humans have been described as opportunistic foragers, it was not uncommon for them to gorge on food when it was available, and have the body burn fat instead of sugars when there was none. This metabolic process of burning fat over glucose (carbohydrates) is referred to as ketosis .

Ketosis is named from “ketones”, the amino acids your body produces as a byproduct when in the metabolic state of ketosis. These ketones have been shown to have a variety of beneficial side effects, attributing to the popularity of the keto diet.

Many modern-day diets consist of large amounts of carbohydrates, which leads the average human to rely on glucose and carbohydrates for energy. When we embark on the keto diet, we first have to adapt our body to burning fat over sugars by eliminating any available carbohydrates. This can initially result in uncomfortable side effects, and be an area of concern when trying to maintain an exercise routine.

How does Ketosis Affect Exercise?

There are some pros, and there are some cons. How the keto diet will affect your exercise routine largely depends on your fitness goals, and how stringent a diet you plan on taking on. Here we go through some of the main concerns people have while exercising on a keto diet.

Exercising While Becoming Fat Adapted

When dieters start their keto journey, they often experience a series of new and uncomfortable side effects associated with the body becoming fat-adapted. These side effects are cumulatively referred to as the “keto flu” and can manifest themselves as nausea, headaches, and general fatigue. If we are trying to start or maintain an exercise routine while our body is experiencing these side effects, it can truly add insult to injury. 

Don’t come out of the gate too fast by implementing a new diet and a new exercise routine all at once. Start by easing into the keto diet, eliminating carbs progressively while still getting adequate exercise. Listen to how your body is feeling, and don’t be frustrated if you have to take a small break from the diet, or your exercise, in order to ease the transition.

Maintaining Muscle is Easier than Building Muscle on the Keto Diet

Once our body enters ketosis, it is able to slowly lower the necessary amounts of calories in order to function at full capacity. It does this by relying more on slower-burning, more efficient fats.

Significant muscle gain normally is accompanied by a large influx of calories that allow for new muscle growth. This is difficult to achieve on the keto diet.

While it is not impossible to gain muscle mass on the keto diet, it is quite difficult. It would involve a comically large amount of caloric supplements that in some ways would undermine the goals of the keto diet. 

High-Intensity Exercise seems harder

Short-burst exercise relies on glycogen, a storage form of glucose, as an immediate fuel source. As the keto diet looks to minimize the glucose energy source, many people will find their normal high-intensity workouts much more difficult on the keto diet,

For those who enjoy high-intensity interval workouts, it is recommended to still maintain a certain level of carbohydrates in your diet, or look into exercise supplements that can provide the needed glycogen.

Burning More Fat

Research has shown that fat burning exercises such as slow and extended cardio exercises can boost the efficiency of the keto diet. While this may seem like a good thing to new dieters, fat-burning exercise needs to be done with caution, as your body will be initially lacking some of the vital components for recovery.

Speed up the Muscle Recovery

There have been studies showing that the keto diet can increase the speed of muscle recovery by decreasing levels of creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase, two enzymes that are key indicators of muscle damage.

While many of these studies have been far from exact in their conclusions, there is growing evidence that when balanced appropriately, more efficient muscle recovery could be a long term effect of the keto diet.

Best Exercise Practice While on Keto

So for keto dieters, what does this all mean? First of all, it is important to point out that new research is being conducted as we speak, and our knowledge of the subject increases with the popularity of the diet. There are a few things we feel safe in recommending for keto diets concerned about how their exercise routines will be affected.

Beware of too much, too fast

When starting out with a new keto diet, be sure to either stick to your comfortable exercise routine, or even relax it a bit until your body has had a chance to adapt. Don’t start exercising AND stare your new keto diet at the same time, as this could prove overwhelming.

Stick with Yoga

Practice low-intensity workouts like yoga or jogging that will further induce the positive effects of the keto diet. If your current routines focus on high-intensity exercises, consider easing into the keto diet slowly, or modifying it to ensure you don’t burn out.

Don’t be afraid to take a step back

If at any point you get to a point where you feel your body is too fatigued and you are suffering unwanted mental or physical stress while trying to maintain an exercise routine, take your foot off the gas and slow the transition. Instead of cutting carbs out completely, limit your carbohydrate intake progressively, and let your body adapt up to the change. Consider making use of some keto supplements to aid your body in adapting to ketosis.

Remember, everyone reacts differently to a new keto diet, so be patient with yourself. Continuing to exercise is essential, so take the necessary steps to ensure you can balance your new diet with your familiar routine. And remember, many of these side effects are temporary. Once your body adapts to the new metabolism, you will be able to get back to a more efficient and more energetic normal.


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