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Weight Training On The Ketogenic Diet

You don't have to avoid weight training on the keto diet. 

Going on the keto diet does mean that you are significantly reducing carbs, your body's primary source of fuel, but this does not mean that you have to avoid strength and weight training. You just have to keep a few things in mind while you plan and Implement your exercise program. 

The keto diet, combined with strength training, can be the perfect combination to help you achieve your body composition goals. So how is this done when your body is in ketosis? 

Being in ketosis refers to when your body does not have enough glucose for fuel from carbohydrates. This forces your body to begin burning fatty acids as fuel instead. A ketogenic diet maximizes this natural metabolic process. On the keto diet, you are teaching your body to use fat as its primary source of energy instead of carbohydrates.  

The keto diet offers weight loss, blood sugar balance, reduces cravings, helps with mental clarity, aids in disease prevention, and yes, can improve your athletic performance.  

But how do we achieve maximum results in the gym on a lower-carb diet? 

It is far less difficult than you think. Exercising on the keto diet is totally possible, even beneficial. There's a lot of misinformation out there and misconceptions that confuse people on how to do this properly. 

While it may seem that ketosis would interfere with your exercise program, there are actually benefits to combining your weight training with ketosis. You don't have to lose muscle mass, strength, or endurance when you are on the keto diet. It is important to understand the connections between carb restriction and how muscle building really occurs. 

Building muscle involves eating enough protein, maintaining a calorie surplus from fats in your ketogenic diet, and training correctly to promote hypertrophy in your muscles. Instead of utilizing energy from carbs, you will get glycogen from a process called gluconeogenesis, which will come from the protein that you eat. You can keep your glycogen stores in your muscles, ready for your strength training while following a ketogenic diet. This way, you are gaining muscle mass but not fat as well. 

So, don't worry that you will need carbs to build muscle mass. You can certainly build muscle mass while you are following your keto diet. In fact, your carb restriction can provide a stimulus to the body that has been found to prevent muscle break down as low blood sugar levels spark the release of adrenaline, therefore, preventing muscle proteins from being broken down in the workout process. 

Exercises that require explosive activity is the only time that you need to be concerned about the relationship between carb restriction and performance. For these exercises, you can carb up by eating 25 to 50 g of carbs about 30 minutes before training, known as the "targeted ketogenic diet." The "cyclical ketogenic diet" can also be used so that the carb days coincide with heavier weight training or CrossFit days. This is a popular method among athletes, such as football players. 

To get the most of your workout, you will also want to make sure that you were getting the right amount of protein and at the right times. You want to avoid protein kicking you out of the ketosis state by spacing out your protein intake evenly throughout your meals. This is vitally important to getting the most from your weight training. 

Benefits of Weight / Strength Training 

Strength training and weight training or resistance training works on the basic principle of applying load to a targeted muscle or muscle group forcing the muscles to adapt and grow stronger, thereby improving your muscle fitness. Strength training is not just for bodybuilders but for any individual looking to improve their overall fitness, balance, bone strength, or who want to look and feel their best. 

Strength training benefits people of all ages and can be particularly beneficial for people with specific health issues like arthritis, heart issues, or even obesity. Our muscles tend to deteriorate as we age, making strength training an essential part of our overall fitness. 

Strengthening and toning your muscles with isometric resistance and isotonic strength training has a myriad of health benefits. Strength training improves blood pressure and is recommended at least twice weekly to maintain a healthy heart. Weight training also increases the number of calories burned by boosting your resting metabolism throughout the day, as well as during and after your workout. Combined with a keto diet, strength training can significantly reduce body fat composition and help you lose weight. Muscle is also an active tissue, which means that it burns more energy at rest compared to the fat in your body. 

Strength and weight training also boost your energy levels by elevating your level of endorphins, which are the natural opiates produced by the brain. This lifts your energy levels and improves your mood. 

Studies have also shown that certain chronic diseases, such as arthritis can be alleviated through a regular strength training regimen. By increasing your bone density through strength training, you can also reduce your risk of osteoporosis. 

How do I get started? 

Always check with your doctor before you begin any type of fitness program. This is especially important if you are older than age 40 or if you haven't been active recently. You want to get the added benefits of your strength training program while avoiding injury or exacerbating any existing health conditions. Your doctor can advise you on how to do this safest for your health. 

Choose a weight or resistance level that will make your muscles feel tired after about 12 or 15 reps. As you can complete more repetitions of a particular exercise, you can gradually add more weight or resistance to that exercise. A single set of 12 to 15 reps is sufficient for building muscle effectively in most people, but you may do up to 3 sets of each exercise depending on the muscle mass you intend to build. Rest one full day between exercising each specific muscle group to allow those muscles time to recover. Keeping it simple in the beginning is the best way to get results. And as you begin to see results and maintain them, you can switch things up to help avoid a training plateau. You can also increase weights in the same exercises to avoid a training plateau, which basically means that your body becomes adjusted to the work and seems to stagnate rather than increasing strength and muscle tone. 

Each targeted muscle group needs to be worked into your fitness routine at least two times a week. As your muscle strength improves and muscle mass increases, you will be able to lift more weight and for more extended periods. Even if you are entirely out of shape when you begin your weight training routine, you will notice an improvement in strength over time. 

You can actually begin your weight training routine just using your body weight. Planks are a great exercise, to start with, along with squats and push-ups you can use dumbbells or medicine balls, kettlebells, or resistance bands. Keep it simple and work your way up to adding more substantial weight.  

It is a good idea to pair upper body exercises with lower body exercises so that you can build full-body strength and allow more time for your muscles to heal between workouts. The key here is the balance between movements. Combine some pulling exercises with other exercises that are more based on pushing. Good examples are to combine squats with push-ups. Or mountain climbers with bench row exercises. 

Listen to your body. Weight training should not cause you tremendous pain. You know when you are overdoing it or if you are doing it incorrectly and getting injuries. Take the time to learn how to target each muscle correctly and with proper form and technique. A few good sessions with a trainer can help you to get started and learn the basics so that you avoid injury and get the most out of your workout. 

Remember that weight training isn't just for bodybuilders. Many people that struggle with cardio and perhaps do not enjoy it at all find that strength training is much more empowering mentally as well as physically. You can enjoy better sleep, improved posture, and lowered inflammation among the benefits of strength training. 

After about age 30, you start to lose bone density, and strength training creates a force on the bones, helping them to stay strong and maintain bone density. Strength training also helps to reduce falls by improving your balance and posture, therefore, reducing your risk of injury from a fall. This is especially important as we age, and our body becomes less balanced. Falls are a significant risk factor, especially for the elderly. With improved balance, this risk is greatly diminished. 

Lifting weights is also a major confidence booster. Many people report that going to the gym and beginning a weight training program was the beginning of turning their life around mentally. The confidence achieved from continued steady improvement is highly valuable to your overall mental fitness.  

Pre and Post Workout 

Make sure that you prepare your muscles before you begin your workout with a proper warm-up. This can help to prevent injury. If you are doing a carb-load, you will want to do that 30 minutes before your workout. Warming up your muscles is a great way to prepare them for the work that they are about to perform but also warms up your flexibility and range of motion. It will allow you to fully take advantage of the exercises and fully engage your muscles for better results. It will also help you to push harder during your workout. 

Following your workout, you will also want to do a post-workout stretch. This cool-down time is crucial for calming the nervous system, but it also feels terrific to stretch out those muscles after you have pushed it so hard. Just a few stretches holding for 20 to 30 seconds at a time will suffice. 

You will also want to refuel after your workout. To stick to the keto diet, here are some recommended post-workout foods to provide protein for muscle growth: 

  • Whey protein
  • Meat and Fish
  • Protein bars
  • Eggs
  • Collagen powder
  • Nuts
  • Avocado
  • Greens

Also recommended are exogenic ketones and MCT oil in keeping with the keto diet. 

How much of these leucine rich-protein foods should you eat? For heavy exercise, 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For moderate exercise, 1.3 g of protein per kilogram of body weight or for light exercise 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. Up to 2 protein kg of body weight per day is considered safe. 

When it comes to post-workout recovery, whey is considered the top of the line. In studies of post-workout supplements, the athletes receiving whey maintain better muscle mass and had better markers of muscle recovery, strength, and power. Other studies involving elderly women showed similar results regarding muscle recovery and maintenance. A quick smoothie with whey protein isolate, preferably grass-fed, is a great post-workout addition. 

Don't believe all of the misconceptions regarding the keto diet and adopting a healthy weight training routine to boost your health and reel in the health benefits. The two are not mutually exclusive. The keto diet is excellent for kicking your metabolism into gear while teaching your body to utilize an alternative fuel source. Strength and weight training will build your muscle strength, boost your endorphins, improve your mental clarity, and make you leaner and stronger. 

Educating yourself on how the two methods work well together and how to be the most successful in your efforts is just the first step in getting the body composition and health that you want for your life. Don't let the anti-keto naysayers disrupt your efforts with false concerns over weight training on a carb-restriction diet. The two can work well together with just a little information on how they interact. 

Plan your weight training routine and adjust your keto diet to support the workouts, and you will see significant improvements in your strength and overall health. 

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