Working Out While Doing Keto | What You Need to Know
What type of workouts, if any at all, are best while you’re adapting to, or in Keto?
This blog post will cover many of the frequently asked questions in the Power Foods Lifestyle 28-day Keto Challenge.
What is Keto?
The Ketogenic (keto for short) diet is a low-carb, high-fat, moderately low protein nutrition method. This approach to eating has steadily been gaining popularity and could easily be called ‘trendy.’
Yes, Keto has amazing results for the right person. It helps with accelerated weight loss, lowering inflammation and pain, reducing food sensitivities, reducing hunger and cravings, and cognitive dysfunction.
If you determine Keto is the right approach for you, and your primary goal is fat loss, understanding the way to approach your workouts is key for maximizing your results. If your primary goal is something other than fat loss, you will still benefit in perspective by reading this post.
You probably already know that working out helps with weight loss as the utilization of energy improves your caloric output. The calories-in-calories-out equation does, in fact, matter in any method of eating–even when following a Ketogenic Diet. Combining proper workouts and the right nutrition technique simultaneously will help accelerate your fat loss efforts.
It’s time to look closer at how your heart rate and energy systems make all the difference in your workout success:
- Anaerobic Exercise defined as “without oxygen.” This level of exercise happens when you push yourself to a high-intensity state, usually above 80% of your max heart rate (MHR)*.
- Aerobic Exercise is defined as “with oxygen.” This type of exercise happens when you keep your heart rate around 55-80% of your MHR.
- MHR can be found via many methods, but the most simple is to subtract your age from 220. For instance, if you are 35 years old, your MHR will be 185. For some sedentary populations, it is advised to subtract an additional 20 from this number. That means if I was sedentary (the only walking and moving I did was to go to work and home and the rest of the time I was sitting), my MHR would be 165.
- Best Practice: get a 3×5” card or post it note and record your MHR. Then calculate your heart rate zones for both anaerobic and aerobic exercise. This will help you watch your heart rate and benefit from the rest of the information in this post. (KJW are my initials below):
Do You HAVE to workout?
No, you do not have to work out when following a healthy Keto diet. It would be wise to move more, of course, like going for a 15-30 minute walk. But you do not need to schedule in regular workouts unless you would like to. If you do, please follow the guidelines below to ensure you do not sabotage your Keto efforts.
Focus on This Type of Workout
High-intensity, high-volume training is negligent and a poor idea and will not get you faster results. It may also impede your Keto results which can be frustrating.
To help balance energy and cravings, engage in weight lifting 2-4x/week. You may not lift as much while you were eating carbs and sugar. This doesn’t mean you’re getting weaker, or are losing muscle. This simply means your fuel source has changed, and glucose is a far more efficient fuel for lifting heavier things. I will address some frequent concerns about this in a few paragraphs. Keep your volume reasonable, meaning you’re not doing a ton of exercises with a ton of sets.
I would recommend completing my 4×4 program which focuses on 3-4 weight training days with 4 exercises per day and 4 sets of 15 per exercise. This fitness program comes free with the 28-day Keto Challenge registration.
Add in some lower intensity cardio, but not for too long (10-30 minutes is plenty). Lower intensity cardio includes walking, biking, or the elliptical–all within an aerobic heart rate threshold. Keeping your heart rate in the aerobic state means you are utilizing fat as fuel. Though this will produce less outcome in ‘caloric burn’ for your workout, do not use this as your target goal. This thinking may sabotage your efforts.
Instead, focus on creating and preserving the environment of depleting glucose in your body so it can effectively mobilize fat for fuel. If you continue dipping into glucose metabolism with a higher heart rate, your body will not be consistent in its energy utilization. Progress will be slowed.
Challenge your emotions and any fearful thoughts about ‘not doing enough’ to get the results you desire. Trust the process.
Working Out While Fasting
Absolutely, you can workout while fasting. In fact, this is actually most beneficial as your body can adapt more quickly to fat oxidation. Drink plenty of water and consider adding a little sea salt and lemon to your water.
Remember that the adaptation process may be a little tricky, so if you find yourself getting nauseous or dizzy during your workout, either
- Scale back the intensity of the workout
- Take exogenous ketones prior to the workout, or
- Fuel with a little fat from Brazil nuts, almonds, or a Fat Bomb before the workout and slowly work your way into a complete fasted workout state.
Still want to Sprint and Go HARD?
Keep your sprints to under 10 seconds. Allow for plenty of rest (at least 60 seconds in between) to replenish the phosphocreatine stores in your muscles. You won’t go as fast as usual, which you will certainly notice. But you may enjoy the rush that comes when you know you’re pushing and exerting your body. Just keep in mind the entire goal of Keto is to keep your body from dipping into glucose metabolization, so be wise with how much you push here.
When to Sit Out Your Workout
Keto Adaptation can be a volatile time for your energy and moods. It can be wise to sit out your workout in any of the following situations:
- Your energy is at a low and you feel very fatigued
- You feel nauseous (make sure you’re getting the right electrolyte help I recommend in the 28-day Keto program).
- If intervals or other high-intensity approaches are the main focus of the workout (controlled by a teacher or group class).
Be gentle and kind to yourself. Energy levels should begin to change toward the beginning or end of Week 2. Remind yourself repetitively that you do not need extra caloric deficit from workouts to still make significant, healing improvements in your body. Give it the time and space to adapt as needed.
Worries about Performance Decreases?
While adapting to Keto for 1-2 weeks, your performance will be impacted. You may feel sluggish, weak, and even flabby in the first few days and weeks. From anecdotal evidence on both self-studies and those of my clients, lifts in the weight room may not be as powerful. Do not let this deter you from making this journey into Keto for healing purposes.
My hope is that you are doing Keto as a means to an end–cleaning out your digestive system, resetting stubborn hormones, improving brain clarity and function, and dropping some of that stubborn body fat, etc. I also hope that you will phase out of it properly through my Phase 2 and Phase 3 28-day challenges.
If you do NOT have a plan like this, Keto may be a very big mistake to do for a short season without a post-adaptive plan. If you are have a plan, and this is for only a 3-6 month season of time for cleaning house and improving your systems, great!
No need to stress about losing those gains at all.
Stay consistent with good form, listen to your body, only push to the point you feel good, and do not overexert yourself. Ensure your caloric intake while in Keto meets your body composition and performance goals. Remember, the larger your caloric deficit, the more your performance will suffer. Do not expect yourself to over-perform in the gym or training when you’re under-feeding and in the process of adapting your system to burn fat for fuel. Be patient and kind to your body.
What should I do if I’m a long distance runner or biker?
If you are a long distance runner, it is best to avoid any run over 30 minutes during the adaptation period. Fuel sources will shift to that of Fat Bombs made with Butter or Ghee, natural nut butters, hard boiled Egg Yolks, and Coconut Butter. It is best to fuel every 30-45 minutes on long runs, once fully adapted to Keto, until you gain confidence in listening to your body and experimenting for yourself to fuel your mileage.
If you plan to do Keto only for 1-2 phases or months, it is best to complete in the off-season when you do not need to be logging training miles.
Proper fuel for energy depends on the way you are eating. You do not always need carbs for energy and you do not always need workouts to lose body fat and improve body composition. Both carbs and fats are energy sources of fuel. The goal is to get past Weeks 1 and 2 where your body is adapting so you can enjoy being in a fat-adapted state. This is where your body is fully burning fat and not sugar for energy. Ketones, produced by the liver, fuel the energy of the muscles. Keeping yourself in this fat-mobilization state by focusing on aerobic exercise will ensure you maximize your experience while in Keto before phasing out.
Love your bud,