“Is working out on keto possible?” is a question that gets asked a lot by people thinking of starting the diet because of the lack of carbohydrates. We’ve been told many times that the key to losing weight is to follow a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
But, if you’re following the ketogenic lifestyle, your workout routine might have to change a bit. This is because your body will now be using fat for fuel, and this will not give you a quick energy burst, unlike energy-boosting carbs.
While it’s good to be working out on keto, it may not be the same as before. So, here’s everything you need to know.
What To Expect When Working Out On Keto
Working out on keto could make you feel exhausted during the initial stages of your diet. This is due to the effects of what’s known as keto flu.
Once your body switches from burning carbs to burning fats for energy, you will feel tired and weak even without doing anything. According to Kelli McGrane, RD, for Lose It!,
“It’s not uncommon to feel foggy, nauseous, and fatigued the first two to four weeks on the keto diet. You might also get headaches.”
On a typical diet that does not restrict carbs, the glucose that comes from carbs, if not used for immediate energy, gets stored in your muscle and liver cells as glycogen. This gets converted back to glucose to provide you with quick energy when needed.
Once you start following a low carb diet like keto, your glycogen stores will become depleted unless you have some carb-refeed days. This is known as Cyclical Keto Diet which boosts strength and muscle. You can try this if you want to do more intensive exercise.
Related reading: How Does The Keto Diet Work?
Once you reduce carbs low enough it leaves your body with no choice but to burn fats since there is not any available carbs. It is for this reason that some followers of the keto diet avoid the gym. Even if you’re a gym regular, working out could feel like a total drag.
Thankfully, these symptoms are only present at the start. Once your body gets used to the keto diet, the keto flu symptoms will slowly go away, allowing you to work out regularly.
Should You Exercise While On Keto?
Following the keto diet alone can help you to lose weight. Because of this, some people don’t see the need to work out while on keto. But as we all know, exercising regularly is important for optimal health.
Related reading: 3 Best Exercises for Losing Weight on a Low Carb Diet
In fact, regular exercise plays a vital role in your keto lifestyle. It can help to improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen your bones, and build lean body mass. Above all, working out can have a positive impact on your mental health. Several studies show that exercise can help improve mental health by reducing depression, anxiety, and negative mood.
So, even if you are feeling sluggish while starting the keto diet, you should try to perform a few exercises. Another benefit of working out on keto is that it could help boost your body’s fat-burning ability.
In a small study done among competitive race walkers, it was found that a low-carb diet helped to increase their bodies’ ability to burn fats while working out even if they performed exercises of different intensities.
What’s the Best Workout for Keto?
Working out on keto is good for you. You just need to know the type of exercise that’s right for you. High-intensity workouts like weightlifting, HIIT, and sprinting may not be the best exercises to perform while on the keto diet unless you have some re-feed days as mentioned above.
Related reading: Can You Really Lose Weight On Keto Without Exercise?
These exercises require a quick burst of energy, which could feel very strenuous if your body is transitioning to the ketosis state. Again, this is due to the fact that your body has been used to burning carbs for energy.
When working out on keto, another thing that you will notice is that you may easily get tired more than usual. According to Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet,
“You may find you have less endurance during exercise and ‘hit a wall’ earlier in your workout.”
Below are the most recommended exercises for those following the keto diet.
• Aerobic Exercise – more commonly known as cardio, aerobic exercises refer to any type of cardiovascular conditioning exercises. Some examples include brisk walking, running, swimming, or cycling.
• Anaerobic Exercise – this refers to any activity that could break down glucose for energy without the use of oxygen. On the keto diet, however, these exercises must be performed less since they require lots of energy. Examples include weight lifting, calisthenics, and sprinting.
• Flexibility Exercises – these refer to activities that help to improve the ability of the joint to maintain movement that’s necessary to carry out daily tasks and perform physical activities. The most popular type of flexibility exercise is yoga.
• Stability Exercises – stability training refers to the act of performing exercise while on an unstable surface. The goal is to activate the stabilizers and trunk muscles that could get neglected when performing other forms of exercises.
Related reading: Burn Some Body Fat With Bodyweight Exercises
Consider Tweaking Your Diet
If you have started following the keto diet and have a passion for high-intensity exercises, you may want to tweak your diet a little bit. Working out on keto comes with many benefits, but if you’re feeling pretty drained, which prevents you from performing high-intensity exercises, you can try other versions of the diet.
For instance, you can follow a targeted ketogenic diet, which enables you to eat your daily net carbs right before you start working out.
Another option is to go for a cyclical ketogenic diet, also known as keto carb up. This diet requires following the standard keto diet for most of the week and then dedicating a couple of days to eating high carb meals to restore your energy.
You can use these days to perform high-intensity exercises. But keep in mind that if you’re going to follow cyclical keto, there’s a tendency that you will be kicked out of ketosis on those days when you eat more carbs.
Overall, working out on keto is definitely possible. In fact, it can benefit you in many ways. However, the experience may no longer be the same during your pre-ketosis days.
In the beginning, when your body is trying to get used to burning fats for energy, you could suffer from fatigue and other symptoms of keto flu. This could initially prevent you from performing well at the gym but will improve given time.