The original Keto Diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet primarily used as a therapeutic treatment in pediatric epilepsy. It is focused on burning fat rather than carbohydrates, as carbohydrates found in food are regularly transformed into glucose – which is essential to fueling brain-functionality. But since this is a low carb diet, fat is converted into fatty acids and ketone bodies. These ketone bodies reach the brain and replace glucose in fueling the brain. A high level of ketone bodies in the blood is what puts your body in the state known as ‘ketosis’.
An even earlier account of the Keto Diet mentions it being used for fasting. And that’s exactly the reason why it is popular today among people who try to lose weight or want to do a detox. With this concept in mind, let’s see how the keto diet is used for bodybuilding.
So, if the carbohydrates are restricted enough that your body is forced to switch your metabolism and get used to burning fat and not carbs – you enter ketosis. But why should you go for it?
- Give up sugar – which is no different from a drug by how the cravings and sugar withdrawal manifest.
- Fat for energy instead of carbs – you know what this means? You won’t need a ‘cut diet’ because you’re going to be constantly shredding and reduce body fat.
- Switch your body’s craving to a healthier choice.
Now let’s take a look at how you should properly go into ketosis without self-sabotaging:
Patience & Commitment
You don’t lose weight overnight, you don’t build muscle overnight, and damn sure you won’t elevate the level of ketone bodies overnight – these ain’t Midi-chlorians, and the Force must be achieved, not ‘awakened’. You’ve been running on carbs for your entire life and now you’re asking your body to run on fat. Because of this, you will go through a withdrawal phase - commonly known as the ‘keto flu’. Once it passes you will be in ketosis and feel better than when you started.
Get Enough Fat
You need to understand that this is a high-fat diet. 75% of your calories must come from fat consumption. And it’s mentally challenging, of course. All your life you’ve been used to avoid fats and you’ve been taught that fat makes you…fat. But since fat is your new energy source, if you don’t get enough of it your energy levels will go down and you won’t be able to work out.
Here is where the keto diet becomes tricky. As a bodybuilder, you are tempted to go for protein, and with this diet it’s way easier to get fat & protein all at once. If you overload on protein your body will turn protein into glucose instead of fat and that will kick you out of ketosis. So, choose high-fat-low-protein foods. Make sure only 20% of your calories come from protein.
Without electrolytes, you will experience fatigue and lethargy – again, as a bodybuilder first, it will make you quit this diet unless you do it right.
- Salt your foods for Sodium.
- Eat your Greens for Potassium.
- Take Your Magnesium Supplements.
Only 5% of your calories must come from carbs. Eat good carbs like nuts and seeds. Not only are they rich in electrolytes, but in healthy fats as well.
For a bodybuilder, a crossover between Intermittent Fasting (IF) and the keto diet can result in pretty outstanding accomplishments at the gym. Since IF is not about starving and the keto diet is about burning fat, this will make it easier for you to know what to eat and when to it eat it. The catch with the keto diet is that there is no portion control (apart from diabetics), no schedule, and this makes it easier to enter fasting phases. So here are some tips on how to combine keto & IF:
- working out in your fasted phases – you will enhance your fat-burning process, muscle protein synthesis, and recovery after exercise.
- your post-workout meal should be the largest one
- your macronutrients must depend on your workout goals (fat loss, muscle gain, or body recomposition)
- eat more carbs on your workout days
- eat more fat in your resting days
- always have a balanced level of protein intake, on resting and active days
- keep your feeding window constant
Surely by now you’ve realized that this is a very tricky diet and favors those who eat meat, fish, and poultry. But what if you prefer veggies and fruit? Legends say that you can’t and won’t build muscle whether you’re on a vegan-keto diet or not. While most myths of ‘vegans can’t gain muscle’ were busted, let’s see if this one is true or not.
Eat… a lot!
There is no restriction on a keto-diet other than carbs. And if you do a crossover with IF, you can eat as much as you want in your eating window. Eat veggies, fruit, nuts & seeds. There are plenty of delicious recipes on how you can mix and match the perfect vegetarian proteins and fats into your meal. You may even consider going Lacto-Ovo-pescatarian and include cheese, milk, eggs and fish in your diet. Eat sufficient calories and there’s no way you won’t get big.
This is that one where people say ‘carb up!’, but we’re trying to fat up here, so fat up! Replace all the high carbs in your vegetarian diet with healthy fats. All fats are not created equal, and most fats are found in animal products. But there are plant-based healthy fats to help you out on this one:
- seeds: such as hemp, chia & sunflower seeds
- nuts: almonds, macadamia, hazelnuts & walnuts
- oils: the miraculous coconut & olive oils
- Avocado: raw or in recipes, avocado is a great source of healthy fats
- chocolate: organic, raw, dark Cacao chocolate is a delicious source of healthy fats
It must make up only 20% of your keto diet, but you cannot skip it. Some of the best plant-based protein sources come along with a bunch of other goodies, such as electrolytes and healthy fats.
- peas & beans: aduki beans, blackeye beans, lentils, soy foods (tofu, tempeh, soya mince, soy milk)
- nuts: cashews, almonds, peanuts, pistachios
- seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, sesame
One way to make sure you control your intake of protein is to do it by adding vegetarian protein powders to your food. Soy and hemp protein powders are some of the most popular on the market, topped only by the super-spirulina protein powder. If you are an ovo-lacto-vegetarian you can also try the egg and casein protein powders.
Aside from protein, you will need Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Iodine, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and essential to bodybuilders. Make sure you also have Alpha Lipoic Acid & Selenium in your daily diet.
Even though the Ketogenic Diet favors those who eat meat and animal fat, it can be done on a plant-based diet as well, as long as you make sure you don’t skip any of the necessary nutrients you need not just in the gym, but also in your daily life.
You could easily switch to a diet like this instead of a shredding diet ‘for summer’ because the fat-burning process will be the same, you benefit from ‘brain detox’ and you can finally enjoy foods you’ve been taught to avoid because they’re fat. And fat is not bad.
The Ketogenic Diet is a fast-growing trend – but it’s not something new. And while the trend is popular with health nerds and weight loss advocates, most don’t even know what ‘ketogenic’ means, and simply go for ketogenic products with ketones in them that’ll help put them in ketosis faster.