Disclaimer: As with any big change in lifestyle or diet you should always consult your doctor for whether these changes are appropriate for you and to monitor you throughout the change. The following information is not medical advice and only my experiences with the ketogenic lifestyle.
One of the most common questions when anyone is transitioning to a healthier lifestyle is whether or not they should exercise and if so, what type of exercise they should do. Being keto then brings with it even more questions. The good news is, yes, you can absolutely exercise while on a ketogenic diet! So let’s clear up some of the confusion when it comes to keto and exercise.
Don’t I need carbs for energy?
One of the perks of the ketogenic diet is that since your body is burning fat for fuel, it allows most people to lose weight WITHOUT exercise. But, what if you do exercise on a ketogenic diet? How will your body have the energy for exercise without carbs? We’ve all been taught to eat carbs before working out. Runners even carb load before a big race. So where will your body get that energy if you’re not eating carbs? The answer is excess fat! Since you are already in a state of ketosis and your body is getting its energy from fat, it will continue to do so and tap into your excess fat stores to burn that instead. For most people, this means even faster weight loss!
But will keto impact my performance?
If you’ve just started keto, you may experience a temporary decrease in your performance. This usually happens in the first few weeks of starting keto and is because your body is still transitioning to using fat for fuel and exercise is creating a sudden demand for energy. During this transition period, you may feel weak, groggy, and slow. However, once you’ve transitioned to a state of ketosis, you should see an increase in your energy back to previous levels. Some people even report more energy during exercise than before.
How much should I eat?
A common problem with exercise is that because it increases your metabolism, many people feel the need to eat much more than if they weren’t working out. Eating too much will then negate the calories you burned and you’ll end up in a calorie surplus and not losing weight. But, one of the benefits of a ketogenic diet is that you’re eating enough protein and fat to satisfy you which results in a decreased appetite. Because of this, many people don’t feel those urges to binge on food after a workout. Some people do feel the need to increase their calories a bit when working out, but it should not be a significant increase.
Should I change my macros?
Depending on the type of exercise you are doing, you may want to increase your macros a bit. A common recommendation is to increase your carb intake by 15-30g of clean, fast acting carbs 30 minutes before exercise. Now, that doesn’t mean you should eat a bag of chips or cookies. Clean, fast acting carbs would be something like fruit that isn’t complex and going to feel like a rock in the pit of your stomach. Eating these carbs that are easy for your body to burn right before working out should allow your body to burn through them quickly and easily at the beginning of your workout, before switching over to using excess fat for energy. Since those carbs are being consumed for the sole purpose of being used quickly during your workout, that should ensure that you still stay in ketosis. Listen to your body. If you feel sluggish, you may need to increase your carbs a bit right before working out. Just make sure you’re choosing good carbs and not junk.
So should you exercise?
Absolutely! There are a ton of health benefits to working out not related to weight loss including bone, cardiovascular, brain health, and many more. Many people also see accelerated weight loss when incorporating exercise into a ketogenic diet.
As with any exercise program, it is important to include rest days, get enough sleep, and not overdo it. Working out more doesn’t always mean even more weight loss! Your goal should be to lose 1-2 lbs per week. Once you’re there, continuing a moderate exercise routine into your ketogenic lifestyle is a recipe for success!