Why the Role of Exercise in a Ketogenic Diet Succeeds

Exercise is vital whether following a low-carb, ketogenic lifestyle, or another health plan. However, regular physical activity can act more efficiently following a ketogenic diet.

Let’s face it- the primary reason you exercise is to look good, period. Sure, health benefits are a nice secondary benefit, but if we are brutally honest, it’s because looks matter to almost everyone.

A mere diet can never help you achieve the body you want, even though diet is essential in supplying the building blocks and setting the stage for your desired outcome.

Do you want to know exactly how exercise can help you while on the ketogenic diet? Read on and find out!

Combine the ketogenic diet and exercise for maximum results.

Exercise Improves Insulin Sensitivity

In many people, insulin sensitivity decreases with age, along with the level of physical activity. Sedentary persons are much more likely to have elevated blood glucose levels, record a higher level of insulin secretion over the day, retain excess body fat, and may likely pave the way to pre-diabetes. 

Exercise, especially weight-bearing, anaerobic activity, has been shown to improve the efficiency of insulin in response to blood glucose or amino acid levels and promotes the absorption of nutrients. 

When following the ketogenic diet, blood glucose levels are lowered, along with muscle glycogen stores, making the body more efficient at handling small bursts of glucose either ingested or produced via the Krebs cycle. 

Fat Burning Is Amplified

One of the most sought-after benefits of low-carb diets, specifically the ketogenic diet, is its marked effect on fat metabolism. In the absence of carbohydrates, insulin’s activity decreases markedly, paving the way for significantly increased levels of lipolysis. Excess insulin caused by eating too many carbs, for instance, can hinder fat burning and increase fat storage, which is a terrible scenario if you are trying to lose weight. So, be sure to choose keto-friendly foods that can help stabilize insulin and get regular exercise.

Are you not following a strict ketogenic diet? That’s fine. There are many variations of the ketogenic diet that are not as strict, but which still reap many of the benefits associated with it. For example, exercising first thing in the morning on an empty stomach place the body in a position to burn fat for energy, as glucose levels are depleted following 8 hours of fasting. Many athletes prefer to work out in the morning, which is the best time to amplify fat metabolism.

Exercise Promotes Muscle Gain

Well, this depends mainly on the type of exercise; weight-bearing, anaerobic types supply significantly more onus for muscle growth than steady-state aerobic varieties. 

Why is muscle growth significant? Muscle is the “powerhouse” in our bodies, better known as the mitochondria, and handles the literal burning and oxidation of ATP. The more muscle we have, either the more of these power units we have or, the larger they are. The result? Greater caloric burn while doing absolutely nothing, including enhanced fat burning. It is also crucial for you to keep exercising, as the adage, “use it or lose it,” is very much true.

Tweaking Keto

There are keto adaptions for bodybuilders, athletes, and others who perform intense exercise, where carb intake revolves around training. 

  • Cyclical Ketogenic Diet – Athletes, bodybuilders, weightlifters, and anyone taking part in high-intensity exercise use this plan, and it features short periods of high carb intake. Typically, five keto days are followed by two high-carb intake days. 
  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet – Bodybuilders also use this plan, athletes, and those who work out regularly to fuel intense workouts. Features high-load carb intake based on activities.

Exercise is a mandatory addition if you’re trying to extract maximum benefit from the ketogenic lifestyle. Your health will significantly improve, including your glucose and lipid profile, but so will your overall body composition. If you genuinely want to look your best, you will not reach it unless you incorporate aerobic (cardio) and anaerobic (weight-bearing) sessions. 

Exercise may seem difficult during the first two or three weeks of adapting to the ketogenic lifestyle, but once your body efficiently produces ketones, fat loss, strength, and muscle gains will ensue.

Making Sense of Macronutrients: A Brief Look at the Ketogenic Diet

Photo credit: Kjokkenutstyr [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Macronutrients are the building blocks needed to maintain health. The seemingly simple concept is the source of debate among scientists, nutritionists, celebrities, and laypeople. The question of ratio, quantity, and combination of macronutrients is not new. At different points in recent years, we have seen advocates for a surplus of one over the other in most fad diets—making it nearly impossible to know what to eat.

One diet currently gaining popularity was created to treat childhood epilepsy in the early twentieth century. A ketogenic diet, recently rebranded as a “bio-hack,” has been proven to be effective in the treatment of childhood epilepsy—but is it safe for everyone?

Following a ketogenic diet means strictly limiting carbohydrates—starchy vegetables, grains, and fruits—that convert to sugar during digestion and are used to power the body. Instead of being fueled by sugar, the body is forced to burn fat for energy. The body enters a state of ketosis, a similar effect to fasting in which the presence of both acetone and beta-hydroxybutyric acid appear. Followers of ketogenic diets get up to 75 percent of their daily calories from fat, 5 to 10 percent from carbs. Remaining calories come from protein, typically 1 gram per kilogram of body weight.

In addition to epilepsy, researchers have studied the therapeutic effects of a ketogenic diet on obesity, headaches, neurodegenerative diseases, and endocrine, sleep, and psychiatric disorders. One study shows that benefits in obese patients included decreased body mass index, total cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose.

The ketogenic diet differs from other low-carb diets, like Atkins, because it is not broken up into phases. Unlike Atkins, carbohydrates are not slowly reintroduced to the diet; practitioners just continue with the drastically reduced carb consumption. Unfortunately, a prolonged sense of deprivation can lead to significant overindulgence.

One feared consequence of maintaining ketosis for a prolonged period is ketoacidosis, a state in which the blood acidifies from high-levels of ketones. So far, the level of ketones necessary to reach ketoacidosis has not been possible in nutritive ketosis. There are several real side-effects to consider, however, including digestive issues, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and micronutrient deficiencies. When choosing the ketogenic diet, it’s important to discuss supplementation with your doctor or nutritionist to avoid these types of issues.

With trends shifting from low-fat to low-carb/high-fat, high-protein to moderate-protein, deciding what to eat is challenging. If you grew up during the low-fat craze of the 1990s, you may find it difficult to add healthy fats to your diet. One benefit of a short-term ketogenic diet or a “low-ketogenic” plan is that it allows a higher number of carbohydrates and can act as a reset for the sugar-filled Standard American Diet. Once the curve from high to low blood sugar is stabilized, it can be easier to make choices based on true, biological hunger instead of cravings.

Ultimately, a balance of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, and animal or plant protein provide an accessible middle ground for most. By eating a varied diet, you are more likely to get all of the necessary nutrients without supplementation, and you are less likely to binge on forbidden food categories. If you have been limiting caloric intake for weight loss, adding a slice of avocado can be profoundly satisfying.


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