So you have decided to do a ketogenic eating plan, or perhaps you’re already in the midst of your fat-burning journey with keto already. You may be wondering whether it’s a good idea to exercise while your body goes through ketosis.
Will you have the energy for it? Will working out hurt the ketogenic process? Are there any benefits to working out while on keto? Are you more prone to pull or strain something since your body is in fat-metabolizing mode?
Let’s take a quick dive into what you should know about working out while doing a ketogenic eating plan.
(By the way, if you’re not sure what a ketogenic eating plan is or how it works, we recommend this helpful and quick 5-minute explainer video).
Working Out On Keto, Yay or Nay?
Maybe you’re wondering at a more fundamental level whether or not exercising on keto is a good idea.
The short answer: Absolutely, exercising on keto has many benefits and can certainly improve your health or increase weight loss.
The slightly longer answer: While exercising on keto can be a great boost to your ketogenic goals (which, for me, was enjoyable weight loss), there are some caveats that you should be aware of to make the most of your workouts.
Let’s break down the main ideas of today’s topic into Positives, Negatives, and then “The Big Question” at the very end.
Positive Aspects of Exercising on Keto
Your muscles can recover faster when you’re in a ketogenic state. If you’re someone who, like me, prefers resistance-based workouts instead of cardio-based workouts, then you’ll be happy to know that your muscles can recover more quickly after a muscle-intense exercise session.
There are studies that suggest a ketogenic diet can reduce the levels of two enzymes that indicate muscle damage — creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase. If you prefer stretching your limits and muscles through exhaustive exercise, then a ketogenic eating plan may help you bounce back more quickly so that you can rinse and repeat.
A ketogenic diet may (unsurprisingly) boost fat burning while working out. If you are familiar with keto, then this one may feel like a no-brainer, but it is still very much worth mentioning. Since the main function of ketosis is to convert fat into energy through those magical little ketones in your body, then it makes sense that doing fat-burning workouts would boost your overall fat reduction even more.
Keep in mind since the keto diet is based around consuming more fats, then that’s ultimately what your body is going to consume during ketosis (because that is what’s mostly in your system by that point). Also note that keto seems to work especially well in aerobic exercises such as distance running or cycling at a steady pace. So if you’re someone who likes to push for longer sessions (20 minutes or more) in your exercise, then keto can harmoniously boost your results.
Keto may also help you burn more calories than a normal diet. There was a study published in the BMJ which found that when overweight adults who replaced carbs in their diet with fat for a period of five months, their bodies were able to burn approximately 250 more calories per day than people who ate high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets.
Just remember that gram per gram, fat is doubly more dense with calories than carbs. According to the USDA, each gram of fat has nine calories, while a gram of protein or carbohydrate has four calories. This will be important to note if you’re someone who wants to build out personal macros for weight loss through keto and exercise.
Negative Aspects of Exercising On Keto
A ketogenic diet may decrease your energy levels (especially at first). I can attest from first-hand experience that switching from your normal eating into a ketogenic eating plan can cause noticeable dips in energy. In my mission to understand how to make keto as easy as possible, I eventually found a way (which I explain in this free course) to get my energy levels pretty much back to normal while still getting all the benefits of ketosis.
But this means that you may have less gas in the tank to do your workouts as you normally would, even more-so if you’re just starting keto. If you are someone who enjoys high-intensity integral training (or “HIIT”), then keep in mind that you may run out of juice more quickly when doing a ketogenic eating plan.
Keto is better for maintaining muscle, not building or adding it. If you are trying to maximize muscle growth and chase those coveted “gainz,” then be aware that keto has a tendency to impair muscle growth. Because keto is generally lower in calories, and if you’re trying to restrict your proteins so you can emphasize fats in your diet, then your body’s natural ability to grow and expand muscle may not be at 100% during the process.
Don’t expect to get swoll or jacked as easily while doing a ketogenic eating plan since you’re not taking in those mass-building carbs. However, if you’re trying to maintain your muscle and keep them nice and even, then keto can help you greatly in that regard.
Remember that keto can help with long-term workout results, not so much the short-term. You will want to keep a “playing the long game” mindset when working out while on keto. Since keto works best over the period of multiple months (or even years), this is a natural fit to your longer-term exercise goals. Let your ketogenic eating plan and workout combo boost your overarching health goals instead of looking for the short-term payoffs.
Some great exercise options for a keto diet would be the workouts that are low-intensity and steady state. Things like light jogging, yoga, rowing, and biking are a natural fit for someone who’s on a ketogenic eating plan.
The Big Question
With all this information we now know about what to expect when it comes to working out while on keto, you may now be excited to start exercising while on a ketogenic eating plan to multiply your results.
If so, I have a more important question for you to consider:
What kinds of exercise or workouts do you actually ENJOY doing?
This, in my personal experience of losing 170 pounds in just 11 months, was easily the most important thing to consider before ever doing a single pushup or sit-up. The whole point of losing weight comfortably is to increase your enjoyment as much as possible so that you can stay consistently in ketosis over time.
So after consulting your doctor about your keto and exercise goals, make sure that whatever you decide to do is something that you genuinely get pleasure out of so that it keeps you going. We want to avoid misery-based workouts as much as possible.
For me, I liked taking 15-minute walks with my dog. I also did some very light resistance-based workouts with dumbbells or core workouts. I didn’t need a gym membership; I didn’t need expensive equipment that took up half of my room; and I didn’t need a pricey trainer or coach to guide me through the process. I knew what I liked, and I just did that. This greatly boosted my keto success.
(No shade towards gyms or trainers, by the way. While they can provide a great service, I don’t believe they are as necessary as modern marketing conveys).
Of course, if you’re not sure what kind of exercises you like, then you have a great opportunity to experiment and find out! Consider asking the Comfy Community what exercises they like to do while on keto to get some firsthand feedback on what is fun and achievable.
No matter how you choose to pursue exercise while on a ketogenic eating plan, just make sure that it’s something that resonates with you personally and aligns with your health plan as recommended by your doctor. The more your exercises “harmonizes” with you and your preferences, the more success you will ultimately have.
Cale is the founder of Comfy Weight Loss, a cool little online community where he shows people how he lost 170 pounds in 11 months by eating delicious, fatty foods through a focused keto diet. It turns out that changing your life can be comfortable and enjoyable. To learn more or begin your own happy weight-loss journey, go to ComfyWeightLoss.com