The Ketogenic Diet and Strength Training
It’s time to answer the question, “What’s the deal with weightlifting when doing the ketogenic diet?”
You already know that your performance will suffer as you adjust from using glycogen as your primary fuel source to using ketones instead, but how does this impact your ability to lift weights?
Back in 2002, researchers looked at the effects of a six-week low-carb diet on body composition in healthy, normal-weight men (31). The men were split into two groups:
• Group #1 ate a ketogenic diet for the six weeks.
• Group #2 continued with their regular diet for the six weeks.
At the end of the six weeks, the researchers found that the keto group had gained just over 2 lbs. of muscle, while the regular diet group had only gained 1 lb.
This sounds significant until you look at the study a little closer.
Upon closer inspection, you’ll find that the keto diet group ate twice as much protein as the regular diet group, which on its own could account for the extra muscle mass gained during that period.
In addition to this, the two groups didn’t follow the same workout plan. Instead, they were left to continue doing whatever they were doing before joining the study, which could also account for the difference in muscle mass gained.
More recently, in 2017, a study aimed to measure the difference in muscle growth between ketogenic dieters and regular dieters (32).
They again split their participants into two groups, except this time, everyone ate the same amount of protein and followed the same workout plan.
At the end of the eleven-week study, the keto group had gained roughly twice as much lean mass than the regular diet group and had larger gains in muscle thickness.
However, again, this result \appears to support the ketogenic diet until you look closely at the way that the study was conducted.
In the final week of the study, the keto group had carbs reintroduced to their diet and as a result, gained 7 lbs. This means much of the increase in muscle size and lean tissue came from increased glycogen and water stores in the body.
This is supported by the fact that in the previous ten weeks of the study, both the keto and regular diet group gained muscle at the same rate.
The current logical conclusion is that the ketogenic diet offers no advantage when it comes to weightlifting.
However, there also isn’t any obvious disadvantage.
This was seen in a study conducted in Brazil with a group of overweight men and women who were split into two groups (33):
• Group #1 had a carb-restricted keto-type diet.
• Group #2 had a regular moderate-carb diet.
Both groups lifted weights three times a week for eight weeks and ate a similar amount of protein, which was approximately 0.7 g per lb. of bodyweight.
At the end of the study, the results between the groups were similar, with both groups getting stronger, losing fat, and reducing their waist circumference.
Additional studies show similar results:
• Study #1 looked at eight male gymnasts who followed a ketogenic diet for 30 days, during which time, they lost fat but increased muscle mass (34).
• Study #2 looked at CrossFit training and showed no significant difference between keto and regular diet participants when it came to muscle mass and performance (35).
All this means that if you hit your calorie and protein goal, then you can maintain or even build muscle when following a ketogenic diet.
Of course, results may vary between individuals, and it’s impossible to say what your individual outcome will be; maybe you’ll thrive, maybe you’ll struggle.
Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at frequently asked questions, busting a few myths, and setting the record straight.
Don’t miss it.
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