how to exercise in ketosis

Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.

909 Shares

Since going keto means greatly reducing carbs, and since carbs are the body’s primary source of fuel, you might be wondering what your options are when it comes to how to exercise while in ketosis.

The good news is that while there are some things to keep in mind, exercise is totally possible on the ketogenic diet and even has some big benefits health- and energy-wise. These are important to know when wading through any misconceptions or poorly-understood topics around low carb eating and working out such as how to build muscle on keto or how many carbs you can actually eat on keto when you exercise often.

 

Exercising in Ketosis

First, let’s note that the traditional view of weight loss—simply eating less and exercising longer, often with long bouts of cardio—is outdated and unsustainable. In order to see real results when it comes to losing weight and getting leaner, what you eat really matters. A great place to start is checking out a guide on sourcing meat, dairy, and seafood. Therefore, paying attention to the quality of your ketogenic diet itself, and maintaining a steady state of ketosis, is the most important first step you can take. To see if you are actually in a metabolic state of ketosis, testing your ketone levels is vitally important.

However, exercise also has many benefits for your health. It’s good for the heart, builds muscle to keep you lean and toned, and strengths the bones. Thankfully, exercise can completely fit into your routine while eating for ketosis. You just need to keep in mind a few simple considerations:

Type of Exercise

Nutritional needs vary depending on the type of exercise performed. Workouts styles are typically divided into four types: aerobic, anaerobic, flexibility, and stability.

Exercise in Ketosis

Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio exercise, is anything that lasts over three minutes. Lower intensity, steady-state cardio is fat burning, making it very friendly for the keto dieter.

Anaerobic exercise is characterized by shorter bursts of energy, such as from weight training or high-intensity interval training. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for anaerobic exercise, so fat alone can’t provide enough energy for this type of workout.

Flexibility exercises are helpful for stretching out your muscle, supporting joints, and improving muscle range of motion. Increasing your flexibility can help prevent injuries caused by shortening of the muscles over time. Yoga and simple after-workout stretches are good examples of this.

Stability exercises include balance exercises and core training. They help improve your alignment, strength muscles, and control of movement.

When you’re in ketosis, the workout intensity matters as well:

  • During low-intensity aerobic exercise, the body uses fat as its primary energy source.
  • During high-intensity aerobic exercise, carbohydrates are normally the main energy source.

When you’re in ketosis, you’re using fat as your primary energy source. This can make high-intensity exercise, namely anaerobic exercises, more difficult at the beginning of the diet. But there’s a solution:

How to Use a Targeted Ketogenic Diet for Exercise

If you do exercise that is more intense, such as working out more than three days a week and at high intensity, like sprinting or weightlifting, you’ll need to adjust your keto diet to fit your carb needs for your amount of exercise. Simply sticking to the standard ketogenic diet likely won’t be enough in this case.

A good rule of thumb is to eat 15-30 grams of fast-acting carbs, such as fruit, within 30 minutes before your workout and within 30 minutes after. This will ensure you provide your muscles with the proper amount of glycogen to perform during the training and also recover. It allows the carbs to be used exactly for this purpose and prevent any risk of leaving ketosis.

Types of Ketogenic Diets

The difference between each ketogenic diet type depends on carbohydrate intake.

Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): 20-50 grams of net carbs per day

Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): 20-50 grams or less of net carbs taken 30 minutes to 1 hour before exercise, best for athletes with high-intensity activities

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): Eating low-carb keto for several days, then eating higher-carb for a couple of days

Other than this change, you can continue with the standard keto diet ratios during the rest of the day, and a normal keto diet should be fine for low or moderate aerobic, flexibility, and stability exercises.

Keto-Adaptation

The good news is that as the body adapts to low-carb eating and using fat for fuel (which typically takes around 2-3 weeks), exercise performance value can greatly increase. Since the body isn’t getting carbs for energy, it must turn to the secondary form: fat. This can change how the body utilizes energy when working out, as the preferred source for muscles, glycogen, isn’t as present without carbohydrate intake.

However, the longer someone remains on a low-carb, ketogenic diet, the body goes through what’s known as keto-adaptation—becoming more efficient at burning fat and using ketones for fuel. This adaptation plays a powerful part in more efficiently burning fat during exercise.

Health Benefits of Exercise in Ketosis

It might seem like ketosis is a hindrance to long-term exercise, but it actually has shown to provide significant benefits:

  • In one recent study, during a three-hour-long run, 2-3 times more fat burn was seen in ultra-endurance athletes who ate low-carb for an average of 20 months versus those following a high-carb diet.
  • In the same study, the low-carb group used and replenished the same amount of muscle glycogen as the high-carb group.
  • Being in ketosis might also help prevent fatigue during longer periods of aerobic exercise.
  • Plus, ketosis has been shown to help with blood glucose maintenance during exercise in obese individuals.
  • As mentioned above, the power of keto-adaptation helps low-carb dieters perform better in all forms of exercise with less carbs over time.

Historical Evidence for Ketosis Benefiting Exercise Performance

Besides what we know today, we also have records showing the power of ketosis for movement and peak physical performance.

  • For example, demographic verification of European cultures from the past has shown us people were living as mostly hunters, meaning they had very little dietary intake of carbs and were still functioning without any physical hindrances.
  • Before the diets of the Inuit people were altered more, their traditional diet was virtually devoid of carbs with a heavy emphasis on animal foods and no known problems. They also were hunters, meaning prolonged steady movement was required for survival.

Although ketosis might get a bad rep in terms of exercise due to popular carb-heavy philosophies, the truth is the diet has a healthy place within a regular low or moderate exercise routine and can easily be adapted to fit the lifestyles of those who are more active. It just takes a little tweaking to find what works best for you.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26892521
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19373224
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7000826

 

909 Shares

Ketosis is now easy

Lose weight and obtain optimal overall health — in an easy and natural way.

Shop Ketones

What to read next:

Whey protein
Will low carb diets kill you

Responses (47)

  1. Remarkable! Its genuinely awesome article, I have got much clear idea concerning from this paragraph.

    Many folks still don’t eat enough nutrient-rich foods from key groups including whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy product,
    according to federal health statistics.

  2. Basically, our bodies need fuel to figure. once we scale back our carbohydrate intake, particularly to levels that instigate ketosis, our bodies need another fuel supply. Since supermolecule isn’t associate degree economical supply of energy, our bodies swing to fat. Any fat you eat whereas in symptom is employed for vitality, creating it extraordinarily laborious to store fat whereas in ketosis. Pick sound, unsaturated fats as ofttimes as may be expected below the circumstances: nourishments like avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds are excellent.

  3. Do you utilyze fats for energy at all if you are fully keto adapted and take in 20 to 30 grams of carbs before high interval workouts, or just primarily glucose

  4. Hi, i am on a keto diet for shear fat and i have 10g or less a day of carbs. I eat high quality turkey/fish/chicken/beef with avocado/olive/coconut oils and eggs/whites. I am consistently in a mild state of ketosis, under 1.0. I noticed that when i do a fasted spin cardio (only cuz no time to eat so early on Sunday AM). I noticed that my ketones dropped. What would cause this, all ketones used up or a pre-catabolic state? I have been ALL over the web and cant find this answer only most peoples ketones go up?

  5. I would like to clarify on this point – “A good rule of thumb is to eat 15-30 grams of fast-acting carbs, such as fruit, within 30 minutes before your workout and within 30 minutes after. This will ensure you provide your muscles with the proper amount of glycogen to perform during the training and also recover. It allows the carbs to be used exactly for this purpose and prevent any risk of leaving ketosis.” Does this 15-30 grams fast acting carbs count in your daily macros? Or is this on top? Thanks.

  6. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after browsing through
    some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it
    and I’ll be book-marking and checking back often!

  7. I can’t say exactly but in general, eating carbohydrate will cause an increase in insulin. Insulin will prevent fatty acids from leaving your cells. So eating carbs will provide carbohydrate energy but deter fat oxidation. Depends on what’s more important to you for that workout: performance or fat loss?

  8. Great great question. a) When exercising your body will be using those ketones in your blood (ie. absorbing them into cells and therefore no longer in your blood or urine). Also exercise causes a rise in blood glucose and insulin. Your blood ketone levels should be back to normal or higher an hour or two post workout. Let us know if this is true for you!

  9. Hi There!
    Great article! I have been eating KETO (less than 20 carbs) for 3 months now and last month added working out (cardio & lifting weights) and hiking back into my routine. Since I have done this I have been stalled and the scale has not moved in a month! Any suggestions on how to break through and continue with my weight loss? Thank you!

  10. FEEDBACK NEEDED
    I am a 26 year old male with 7% body fat, 6’2” and 170. Just a few months ago I started to experience “negative” effects for the first time: easily chilled, brain fog, nausea, and sometimes a lack of coordination. I naturally eat a KETO type diet so what should I do in order to prevent these negative side effects? I also suffer from hypothyroid so that throws a monkey wrench into the equation… please help!

  11. Great point of clarity – these are included in daily macros. Using targeted carbs may cause one to exceed 30g of carbs per day. Carb intake levels that will still maintain ketosis vary by person.

  12. Hello! Do you usee Twitter? I’d like to follow
    you if that would bbe ok. I’m absolutely enjoying yiur blog and
    look forward to new posts.

  13. Hi there! Yes, we have twitter account: @perfectketones.
    You can also follow us on our other social media accounts:

    Facebook: Perfect Keto
    Facebook Group: Perfect Keto Community
    Instagram: perfectketones
    Pinterest: Perfect Keto

  14. Hi, 1) do you recommend a workout routine for maintaining lean muscule/muscle density while in ketosis?

    2) the article I read said I should carb up initially on the 10th day and then once every 7 in the evenings; is there much danger in breaking fat burning cycle if carb intake spills over to a second day? It’s hard to have the ‘cheat’ day and the get strict again.

  15. Hi Kilvin, yes we recommend finding a workout routine that fits your lifestyle and is something that you enjoy doing. Working out should not be a chore and rather something you look forward to doing to optimize your health and well-being while also maintaining/increasing your muscle mass. In terms of “carb ups”..the research is still emerging as it relates to cyclical or targeted ketogenic dieting (these are the terms that are used when discussing “carbing up” on keto). It really depends on your goals and how you feel/perform when implementing these types of protocols.

  16. This happened to me too and my best guess is that I’m developing muscles, which weigh more than fat. So i’m losing fat but building muscles so the scale stays the same. This is a good thing.

  17. I am on day 7 of strict keto and I have no cravings for sugary/starchy foods. Does this mean that I am already adapted or are there other side effects that I should look for interview terms of being fat/keto adapted?

  18. Christina, seems like you’re getting well adapted! Keep it up! Sustained mental clarity, reduced appetite and overall increased energy are also signs of adaptation.

  19. Please help!😬 I did a keto diet years ago and got down to my goal weight. At that time I was not exercising. Now 5 years later I’m trying to get back to that goal weight (need to lose about 6 pounds, I’m short so that’s enough to make a big difference) and I feel like my eating is right on target! I started about 7 days ago and I haven’t lost one pound! But, I am exercising about 4 days a week only for 30 minutes (sprints and some weights training apps). Could this be why I am not seeing any results? I’m starting to feel frustrated. Also, I’m 47, maybe it’s just going to be tougher now. Thanks for any advice!

  20. Paula you listed as your meats “turkey/fish/chicken/beef.” 3 of those are very lean meats. That is not what you want on Keto, and may be the reason your ketones dropped. Keto is a *super high fat diet!* If you eat LEAN meats, you have to eat that much more FAT, to compensate for the protein in the lean meat, and that means too many calories overall. If you don’t have the extra fat, the excess protein causes gluco-neogenesis, where your body will turn the exess protein into glycogen, and kick you out of ketosis.

  21. I’ve been on Keto for two solid weeks, and believe I’m fat adapted. No longer craving sweets, rarely hungry, and a thirst that is unstoppable (I end up drinking a gallon plus a day of water due to how thirsty I am).
    I am wanting to lose about 35+ lbs from where I am at (SW: 203 CW: 195 GW: 160-170). I want to add strength training to help tone however I’m afraid to stall weight loss. I understand muscle weighs more but my goal isn’t to be a bulky/muscly woman. I’ve been researching exercise with this WOE and all I find is people going into weight stalls. Any suggestion? I’m not planning on hardcore weightlifting or high intensity and I’ve considered on waiting until I hit 180, yet the process is a bit slow. Not sure if I’m getting ready to experience a “whoosh.” Regardless I am pleased to see what I have so far, just hoping to get guidance.

  22. Hey Jen, don’t be discouraged! 7 days is still a very short period of time. Stick with it for a few more weeks, make sure you’re tracking your carb intake and maybe incorporate some intermittent fasting to help get you into that fat burning state!

  23. Im no expert but i assume you measure the keytones in urine? I assume that the reason for the drop is due to the keytones coming out in your sweat.

  24. Right now I’m carb cycling but find that I’m just not sticking with it and cheating here and there which is hurting my progress. I am going to go back to Keto which I was before and had great results…question…I take a spin class 5 days a week..do I carb up even though I’m not fat adapted ?

  25. Sure does! Once you start to see results though, you’re energy will be through the roof and you’ll want to get out and do some exercise!

  26. I’ve been on a keto diet for the last 4 weeks and have seen great results in weight loss. I’ve also started running again a couple times a week and my question is what can i use for fast energy while out on long runs?
    Right now I just eat a banana 30min before and nothing during the runs but need a boost half way through. I was looking into GU Energy gels or similar to use during my runs but I’m afraid that the gel will kick me out of ketosis due to the fructose in the gels.

  27. My first keto diet phaze was a fast the whole first day to kickstart ketosis. Then a strict 30g of simple carbs directly after workout for about a month. During that time, i consumed black coffee or caffine pills upon waking up, hit a fasted workout(heavy weights 5 to 6 times a week). Made a berry shake with protein shake because the sugar raises insulin, so you absorb protein better and refill glycogen for next day. After a month i srarted carb back-loading. Which means no carbs till meal after workout, but i would do “bad carbs”. After a month of 73% fats, 23% protein, and 4 % carbs, and the month of carb backloading, I went from 185lbs/12% body fat to 196/ 7% body fat. I was amazed with speed of results. Only do carb back-loading with heavy workouts. But the caffine when you wake up helps you burn more fat due to high stress hormones. So if you can get to gym right away and do workouts fasting, results are stupid fast!

  28. The weight stall shouldn’t be a concern. As the body gains muscle of course weight will remain the same as fat is burned off. Just look in the mirror – the way your clothes fit will be different. You may weigh the same but your health has changed dramatically. To prevent being a “bulky/muscly woman” ensure that you use light weights at more reps to tone the “long” endurance muscles rather than the “short” strength muscles. The heavier the weights, the more muscle you build. The lighter the weights and extra reps you do, the more endurance you build. Using lighter weights will help you lose weight faster.

  29. I’ve been on Keto since Nov 2018. In Jan ’19 I started working out at the gym. My gym has this great machine that scans your body and tells you all your measurements including lean muscle and body fat %. My weight is going down VERY slowly and occasionally stalls. But my body fat level continues to go down. My theory is that Keto really protects the muscle you already have and helps you build muscle. And don’t worry about becoming some big muscle hulk type women. Really, our bodies are not made for that. Your goal needs to be health, not perfect measurements. Being strong is improving your health.

  30. So…52 year old male, 6’2″, 320lbs, estimate around 30% bodyfat. I am on the third day of a fast, consuming only water, black coffee, tea (sweetened with stevia) and, every morning, a supplement drink containing 6g of carbs. For safety, I’ve been monitoring my blood sugar and my ketones and I am at “moderate ketones” and my BS this morning on waking was 120. I’m surrounded by nurses telling me this is a good way to begin the Keto Diet so research brought me to you because I don’t want to lose my 200lbs of muscle while losing eighty pounds of fat. I lift heavy but don’t do much cardio. Obviously, that needs to change. I’m considering adding a regimen of sprints and long walks in addition to my jujitsu practice. Does this sound reasonable? You’re the experts and I’d appreciate any contribution you can make. Thanks.

  31. make sure you include “refeed days” every couple of weeks in your diet.this will also help you with your workout and it will start your stalled weightloss.
    it basically eating 400-600 grams of carbs on refeed days
    for more details google it

  32. what if i get time to hit the gym in evening. and i noticed you have increased your lean muscle mass
    how much time did it take you to increase 11lbs of muscle mass

  33. Its a great blog and i have learnt a lot from the previous post. I am on Keto since Febraury… Initially i lost around 8 ponds in 4 weeks and now since 2 weeks the scale hasn’t budged . I started with sustained walking and fasting to accelerate weight loss .. still the same ….. losing inches not at the same speed as before….
    Also; is it possible that one loses fat from some sites preferably over others . For me my thighs are the slowest and probably haven;t budged at all..

  34. I would think that even a 20-30 minute walk every day would start to show results rather quickly, improve muscle tone, and reduce the appearance of cellulite. That is my goal anyway, I’m 57 with knee problems so that’s where I’m starting. Maybe some simple stretches as well to stay loose and flexible.

  35. You may need to have thyroid level checked again. My TSH level decreased (thyroid function improved) after only 1 month on keto. I take less thyroid medicine now.

  36. Hey sully 2 questions – what was in the protein shake you made, the type of protein powder etc. and second how many carbs in the carb back loading phase

  37. I am 45, 5’2″, approx. 115 lbs (I don’t weigh myself), and am somewhat muscular with some fat–especially around belly, inner thigh, and bra area. I’ve been doing P90X and Insanity workouts for years with low carb, no sugar (though I’ve cheated in the last 2 years due to stress), and moderate protein. Recently, I’ve had no energy and have been sick more. I want to try Keto, but do not know where to begin. I want to have lean muscle and good bones, and not having dairy is a concern. I’ve also read that doing intense cardio (like Insanity) can take you out of ketosis. I want to know what is the best meal and exercise plan for someone like me.

  38. Should we restrict how much coffee we drink when on keto? I am having cream in my coffee and am guessing having too much, so guessing should have black coffee or coffee with unsalted butter instead? I am starting HiiT / CrossFit but do not want to ‘Carb Up’ so guess am okay to see how I go and just be sensible? I have lost 7kg so far but want to lose the same again, seem to be stalling somewhat hence the slight changes having to be made. I am still enjoying my alcohol but only Gin & slimline now as I believe 0g carbs in that!?

  39. I’ve been in ketosis for a couple of weeks and would like to start weight lifting to tone. I don’t want to do many different ones, rather, a few that compound different body groups. Also, you recommend to increase carbs,is that above of what I eat already or just simply distribute the carbs before and after workingout?

  40. My ketone levels are high and I’m stuck at a weight where I can’t get passed am I doing something wrong my husband has lost twice as much as me and we started the same time

  41. Hi Rachel, there are many benefits of putting the body into a state of ketosis, the most popular being weight loss. The length in time will vary depending upon your activity level, lifestyle, body type and carbohydrate intake. If your body has been burning sugar for fuel your entire life, it will need time to adapt to burning ketones for fuel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.