The ketogenic diet will be of great interest to you if you want to lose weight and improve your physical and mental performance.
The ketogenic diet is a food system that is based on high-fat intake, moderate consumption of proteins and an almost zero consumption of carbohydrates, which forces the body to extract the energy it needs from fats and not from glucose, as is usual.
By using fat as a metabolic fuel the body gets into what is called ketosis. This state helps you lose weight quickly and without affecting your health, besides making you feel full by the high-fat intake.
Can I exercise during the ketogenic diet?
Of course you can keep exercising while you are on the ketogenic diet. However, you should pay attention to the period of adaptation because of the difficulty that this stage results for most people. This means that while your body adapts, it is advisable not to force it with exercises.
This adaptation period has a different duration for each person. In general, the body takes 3 to 10 days (It may take more time) to get used to a food system that changes the source of energy from carbohydrates to fats.
Even if you are a person who exercises daily, in the adaptation period you will feel exhausted and it will be very difficult to follow the routines that you used to do easily. However, once the adaptation time is over, you can train as you did regularly, even increase your exercise routine.
What type of exercise can I do?
This is a controversial point; the keto-followers do not agree here. Some of them claim that if you are following this food process you should not do strength and power exercises, but you can practice those sports of speed and endurance.
However, many athletes follow this nutritional system and have improved the results obtained in both modalities.
At this point, I advise you to follow the recommendations of your own body. If when you are training you feel tired, it would be better to change your exercise routines. For example, you can walk.
Of course, once again I remind you that during the adaptation period it is advisable not to exercise or do moderate exercises, since your body feels sick and you would be stressing it unnecessarily.
Once your body has adapted to this new way of obtaining energy, you will notice that your performance improves.
Weights and power
Some of the keto-followers declare that despite feeling healthy and without hungry, they feel so tired that they could not comply with weight routines. In addition, many people complain that their muscle mass does not increase, although it does not decrease either.
That is why the ketogenic diet is recommended for those who want to lose weight or define their muscles, since your muscles will look firmer thanks to the reduction of the accumulated fat.
Some research carried out on elite athletes has shown that the ketogenic diet does not generate benefits for those who practice high-intensity exercises. Therefore, the results will depend mainly on how the ketogenic diet is applied in athletes, as well as the level of training they have.
Controversy in sports performance
Through the intake of carbohydrates the body produces glycogen, which is one of the main sources of energy that your muscles use when you train with moderate to high intensity. Studies about the effects of the ketogenic diet in sports are not yet conclusive enough to affirm or deny their benefits in athletes. What has been proven is that those athletes who practice resistance activities -such as marathon runners- have benefited from the ketogenic diet when using fat as an energy source, since it is more durable than glucose.
What exercises are more recommendable on the ketogenic diet?
The first thing you should keep in mind is that with the ketogenic diet you will not increase your muscle mass, but you can define your muscles thanks to the decrease in body fat.
It is necessary for a high intake of carbohydrates to increase your muscle mass, and this does not happen when you are on the ketogenic diet, where the consumption of carbohydrates is almost zero.
However, this does not mean that you need to stop training; on the contrary, you must continue with your anaerobic exercises and weightlifting to avoid losing muscles; although, you must make some changes in your routine.
Here are some recommendations:
- Perform groups or series of long exercises without increasing the weight. For example, your repetitions will be from 12 to 20, even from 25 to 30 depending on your level of resistance, instead of the 8 to 12 that you have been doing. In this way, you will be in a more aerobic phase that will help you lose weight.
- Change your routine; work with different groups at the same time instead of doing one day back and biceps, another day chest and triceps, another day legs and other shoulders. For example, chest and back at the same time, and upper chest with lower back; if you exercise the lower chest, then train the upper back, and so on with all the muscle groups. In this way, you can perform your routines three times a week with high repetitions and light weight.
- Integrate the superset to your training routines. A superset consists of performing series of 3 exercises for the same muscle group. Always with long series and light weight.
- Giant-Sets. This is to perform different groups of exercises, one after the other, for different muscle groups. For example, make 3 different series for chest and then 3 different series for back.
- Include cardiovascular exercises to help you burn fat. The recommended during the ketogenic diet is to do cardio 3 hours after your last meal of the day or 1 hour before breakfast, that is, before your first meal. In order to not consume muscle protein you must keep yourself in your fat-burning zone. To calculate your fat-burning zone you must subtract 220 (maximum palpitations that the heart can withstand) from your age. Here you would be getting your maximum zone, which you do not want to reach because you would be consuming muscle. The result of subtraction is multiplied by 0.75 and that would be your fat-burning zone. Let’s see an example: 220-35 = 185, 185x0.75 = 138 is your fat-burning zone, where you must maintain your heart rate when you do cardio.
- The best cardiovascular exercise you can do during the ketogenic diet is walking. It is advisable to do it for long periods (2 hours), adding a little weight, and it is better if the road is irregular or pretends to be, in the case that you use a treadmill.
- HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) consists of repeated sequences of high intensity periods followed by varied breaks, boosting metabolism and oxygen consumption. For example, run as fast as you can for 20 or 30 seconds and rest for 20 or 30 seconds, according to your capacity. Repeat the routine for 20 minutes. You can do HIIT with any sport or exercise such swimming, biking or weights.
Once your body gets used to the ketosis you will feel stronger and in better physical condition; however, do not forget that you are not building muscle but defining your body.
Some benefits of the ketogenic diet in athletes
- Highly recommended for low-intensity and high-resistance exercises.
- It helps you to define your muscles.
- Your muscles increase the ability to process energy from fatty acids, reducing muscle fatigue when exercising.
- Increase the speed of muscle recovery.
- It helps you feel full.
- More stored energy.
- Concentration increases (ketosis sends a constant flow of energy to the brain).
- It improves health markers such as cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar levels, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.
Even when the ketogenic diet is a good strategy to improve the metabolic flexibility of out-of-competition athletes, it is not advisable to follow in order to optimize performance during the competition.