Will the Keto Diet Hurt or Help Your Exercise Regimen? It’s Complicated.

Have you been exercising, but finding that those extra pounds are still hanging on? With purported amazing weight loss results, it’s only natural to consider the keto diet plus your exercise regimen to take those extra pounds off. Reaching ketosis in the keto diet promises to use stored body fat as fuel for energy. This requires you to reduce carb intake to 10% of calories. However, as you probably already know, the primary source of your energy needed to lift those heavy weights, run those extra miles, or stretch those muscles are carbohydrates. So how does the keto diet affect exercise if your body needs those carbohydrates to perform?

Let’s Take a Step Back – What are Carbs?

Not all carbohydrates are made the same. Complex and refined carbohydrates are two different carbs that can either boost or ruin your workout. Refined carbs typically go straight to the gut while complex carbs contain nutrients to help workout recovery and build muscles. Fiber and protein embodies complex carbs such as whole grains and legumes to help you feel fuller for longer. Refined carbohydrates, such as desserts, white bread and packaged snack foods, remove fiber and protein by stripping the outside grain. Sugar in refined carbs is used as energy quicker and more easily distributed as body fat. The type of carb you eat can make or break your weight loss efforts.

How Do We Use Carbs in the Body?

The primary source for energy in our bodies is, you guessed it, carbs. Carbohydrates break down to simple sugar molecules called glucose, then stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. Some glucose immediately expends as energy by cells such as in our brain or muscles. As carbs enter our body, the pancreas secretes the perfect amount of insulin to direct glucose to needed cells while keeping blood sugar levels even. Although, only a small amount of carbs consumes as energy and replenishes glycogen. Excess glucose stores in fat cells as body fat, which is why diets ban carbohydrates first to promote weight loss.

Is High-Intensity Exercises and Keto Diet More Effective?

So how does the keto diet’s removal of carbs affect your energy during exercise? With high-intensity workouts—H.I.I.T., sprinting and weight lifting—the body uses quick bursts of energy that use glycogen in the muscles as fuel, even if you eat a high-fat diet to use fat as energy. After 10 to 20 minutes of exercise, as energy burns, the body already depletes glycogen levels. A low-carb diet basically runs these glucose and glycogen stores to empty, leaving your body with just fat to burn. Not a bad idea, except that fat isn’t as easy for your body to burn as carbs. So, the keto diet is not completely incompatible with high-intensity workouts, but be prepared for quicker exhaustion, decreased performance and lack of energy.

Ok, So What about Low-Intensity Workouts?

Unlike high-intensity workouts, low-intensity exercise such as jogging, yoga and bike rides are more effective on the keto diet because they both primarily burn fat. In order to lose weight with the keto diet, though, you still need a calorie deficiency because burning fat does not mean fat loss. Whatever energy used, no matter what source–carbs or fat–your body replenishes it.  So, unless you’re running with a calorie deficiency, as your body is burning more fat on the keto diet, you are also storing more fat for energy. Therefore, the keto diet paired with low-intensity exercises may increase fat oxidation, spare glycogen use, and use less oxygen. But if you’re looking to enhance performance, the keto diet may not show you the results you’re looking for.

At the End of the Day

The perfect diet is the one you can stick to and gives you results. Your natural body processes know exactly how many carbs your body needs for energy, just like it knows the precise amount of insulin to direct the glucose to the needed cells. Our advice – if you decide to try the keto diet while on an exercise regimen, have a chat with your doctor first, and always be sure to listen to what your body is telling you.

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