The ketogenic diet is a popular low-carb, high-fat diet. When you go keto, you basically eliminate carbohydrates from your diet and replace them with fat.
You’ve probably heard of the ketogenic diet as a weight-loss method. As such, it’s popular and successful, owing to the fact that it makes you feel full and eat less.
Many people, however, believe that building muscle on keto is difficult, if not impossible. This is because your body prefers carbohydrates when you lift weights, and carbohydrates release insulin, an anabolic hormone.
Recent research indicates that even elite powerlifters can gain strength on a ketogenic diet, but gaining muscle may be more difficult.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about building muscle on keto.
What Is Keto?
The ketogenic diet is both a low-carb and a high-fat diet. You reduce your carbohydrate intake to 5-10% of your total energy intake and replace those calories with fat. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, you should limit your carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams per day. Some people avoid carbohydrates entirely.
After a period of time without carbohydrates, your body enters a state known as ketosis. It usually happens within a few days, but it can take up to a week or longer for some people.
When you’re in ketosis, your body switches from carbs to fat and ketone bodies as fuel. When you run out of carbs, your body fat releases a large amount of fatty acids, which your liver converts into ketone bodies. Ketone bodies will then take the place of carbs as your primary energy source.
You will remain in ketosis as long as you do not consume any carbohydrates. Ketone bodies are used by your body to fuel your muscles, organs, and even your brain, which is normally a sucker for sugar.
A ketogenic diet is at least as effective as a low-fat diet for weight loss. It also improves blood lipids and blood sugar levels in people who are overweight or obese.
Can You Gain Muscle While on Keto?
You certainly can. There are numerous real-world examples of people using the keto diet to transform their bodies and gain muscle.
According to research, it is also possible to gain muscle while losing fat with keto. In a 2020 study, for example, 25 young men participated in a strength-training program for 12 weeks while following either a ketogenic diet or a traditional Western diet. 5 Lean body mass increased in both groups. Furthermore, the ketogenic group lost more fat.
Other studies are not as upbeat. One study concluded that while keto may help you maintain your hard-earned lean muscle mass while losing weight, it makes muscle hypertrophy more difficult. The majority of them show that you can perform just as well in the gym on keto, but it may be more difficult to gain muscle without carbs.
How Many Calories Are Required?
You must eat enough food to gain muscle. This entails consuming at least as many calories as you burn. While it is possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, it is much more difficult. 10 After a week or so, even a moderate calorie deficit reduces muscle protein synthesis. 11
The first step is to figure out how many calories you need to consume in order to maintain your body weight. Based on one of the most widely used and accurate equations, our calorie calculator estimates how many calories you require.
How to Gain Muscle While on Keto
The three most important things to remember when building muscle on keto are the same as they are when building muscle on any diet:
- Regular weight lifting Weight training is the most effective way to stimulate muscle growth.
- Take in enough calories. It will be more difficult to gain muscle if you eat too few calories.
- Consume an abundance of protein. Gaining lean muscle is much easier with a high-protein diet.
Muscle Building Exercise Programs
We have several effective muscle-building programs if you’re looking for a new training program tailored to your experience level or just want a change from your old routine.
- Three-day beginner barbell program: A time-efficient muscle-building training program for beginners. If you’re new to strength training and want to gain muscle and strength, this barbell-based program based on compound movements involving several large muscles at the same time is a great place to start. You exercise three times per week, completing three exercises per workout.
- Two days per week, Beginner Machine Program: This program introduces you to strength training using machines as an alternative to our barbell program for beginners.
- Full Body Hypertrophy by StrengthLog, three times per week: This is an intermediate-level training program in which you train your entire body three times per week. Each training session is unique, focusing on all muscle groups with a variety of repetitions to promote hypertrophy.
- Upper/Lower Program from StrengthLog, four days per week: If you want to train four days a week, this program is a great place to start. It’s pretty minimalistic, with only compound movements, but you can add isolation work if you want.
- Bodybuilding Ballet, 4-6 days per week: Our most popular and advanced muscle-building training program. Train like a bodybuilder to get the most muscle growth. This is not for beginners.
- Bodybuilding 313 – 5-6x/week Bodybuilding Training Program: A traditional three-day training split in which you train three days, rest one, and train three again. Throughout the years, many top bodybuilders have used such a program.
Ketogenic Muscle Building Training
How should you modify your strength training for a ketogenic diet?
You shouldn’t do it. One of the benefits of the ketogenic diet is that you can live your life normally while avoiding carbs. A muscle-building training program looks the same whether you’re on a ketogenic or a high-carb diet.
To gain serious muscle, regardless of your diet, you must hit the weights hard!
- In your training, use progressive overload. Always try to increase the weight you use or perform more reps with a given weight.
- Muscle building exercises can range from 3 to 30 reps. 6-15 is a good starting point from a practical standpoint. Using heavy weights all the time strains your joints, and high-rep training to failure is mentally draining.
- If you want to see the best results in terms of muscle growth, you should do at least ten sets per muscle group and week.
- It makes little difference whether you work a muscle once or five times per week as long as your total weekly training volume is the same. If you enjoy high-volume training, you will benefit from spreading it out over several workouts. Otherwise, your sets’ quality may suffer.
- Rest for at least two minutes between sets.
- Include a variety of exercises to target your muscle from various angles, and mix and match compound movements and isolation exercises rather than relying solely on one.