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Keto for Lifters: Building Muscle on the Ketogenic Diet

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By Erick Avila

Low carbohydrate dieting isn’t a new concept. Many physique athletes will do a brief low carb phase in the buildup to a photoshoot or competition to achieve a dry and shredded look. Combat sports athletes are also known to cut carbs during the week of a weigh-in to drop a few extra pounds of water weight.

Over the years, different low carb diets of varying strictness have gained popularity from Atkins to South Beach. But among low carb diets, the ketogenic diet is known for being the most restrictive of carbohydrates.

The ketogenic diet was originally developed in the 1920s by Dr. Wilder from the Mayo Clinic for medical purposes.[1] Over the years keto has experienced a resurgence as a dietary strategy for weight loss. Some people find the restriction of carbohydrates to be an effective tool for reducing hunger and lowering overall caloric intake.

What is a Ketogenic Diet? 4 Types of Keto Diets

Originally the ketogenic diet had a fat to carbohydrate/protein ratio of 4:1, where fat provided upwards of 90% of the calories.[2]

Over time, the definition of a ketogenic diet has expanded, and different variations now exist. The most common ketogenic diets include

  • Standard Ketogenic Diet: 70% fat, 20% protein, 10% carbohydrate
  • High Protein Ketogenic Diet: 60% fat, 35% protein, 5% carbohydrate
  • Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: includes intervals of high carbohydrate days and ketogenic days. A common cycle includes 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high carbohydrate days.
  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet: allows for the inclusion of additional carbohydrates around the time of intense physical activity (usually before, during, or after a workout).

Standard and high protein ketogenic diets have a long history of use, with the standard ketogenic diet being the most clinically researched version of any of these keto diets. While the cyclical and targeted versions are relatively new variations used by some bodybuilders and athletes.[3]


What Are Ketones? What is Ketosis?

Ketones are produced by the liver from the breakdown of fat. Acetone, Acetoacetate, and Beta-Hydroxybutyrate are known as ketones or ketone bodies.

Ketosis occurs when the body begins to use ketones as an alternative fuel source when our glucose supply becomes depleted from extended carbohydrate restriction.[3]

As the levels of ketone bodies in our system rise, physiologic ketosis can occur when blood ketone levels reach 7-8 mmol/L with no drop in blood ph. [3]

How Do I Stay in Ketosis?

Getting into ketosis will vary among individuals with some people requiring a few weeks for keto-adaptation to occur. As long as the body is deprived of carbohydrates and small amounts of ketone bodies are produced with no change in ph, it’s possible to stay in nutritional ketosis.[4]

Entering and staying in ketosis both require strict adherence to appropriate ketogenic macronutrient intake ratios. Especially during the first few days of the diet when some people experience a “keto flu”. The keto flu refers to the flu-like symptoms of nausea, headaches, and fatigue that some people experience as their body transitions from utilizing glucose to ketones as their primary fuel source.

One way to test whether you’re in a state of ketosis is to use ketone strips to monitor your levels. True ketosis requires blood ketone levels of 7-8 mmol/L with no drop in blood ph.

Keto and Body Composition

If you’re like most lifters, you probably have performance and body composition goals. Most body composition goals fall under two categories: building muscle or losing body fat.

Clinical studies comparing the effects of the ketogenic diet to traditional bodybuilding diets has consistently shown inferior results in muscle mass gains among the ketogenic diet groups.[5] Researchers in several different studies have concluded that the ketogenic diet can be effective for reducing body fat levels and maintaining muscle mass but suboptimal for promoting muscle growth. [6,7,8]

In the International Society of Sports Nutrition’s position stand on diets, the researchers state that a ketogenic diet can be effective for improving body composition. The researchers note that when caloric intake and protein are matched across diets, ketogenic diets have failed to show any fat loss advantage over other types of diets. In studies where researchers don’t restrict the subject’s daily caloric intake, ketogenic dieters have been able to consistently reduce body fat levels due to spontaneous reductions in energy intake.[9] This could be a potential benefit for people looking to start a diet that aren’t interested in tracking their daily caloric intake.

Overall, the research shows that the ketogenic diet isn’t ideal for building muscle, but it can be effective for reducing body fat and maintaining muscle mass.

Keto and Electrolytes

Ketogenic dieters often use electrolyte supplements or seek out foods that are high in electrolytes to make up for sodium and water losses that are associated with going keto.

One refreshing way to increase your intake of electrolytes is by adding XTEND Original to your routine. XTEND Original features an essential blend of electrolytes and 7g of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).

XTEND Original: Formulated to support muscle recovery and hydration, XTEND Original is the BCAA that started it all. With 7G of BCAAs, hydrating electrolytes and performance ingredients in every serving, and zero sugar, calories, or carbs in every scoop - it's no wonder that XTEND Original has been fueling champions in every sport for over a decade.



References

[1] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01821.x
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7480775/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6251269/
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6680710/
[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33530512/
[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29986720/
[8] https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-020-00348-7
[9] https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0174-y#Abs1

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