Can I Exercise While on a Ketogenic Diet?

By Andrew Ly | Keto Lifestyle

Mar 10
Exercising on a Ketogenic Diet

One of the most common questions I’ve noticed, in regards to keto, is whether exercise is needed for results. Having done both, I wanted to share my experience with exercising while on a keto diet.

Do you need exercise to lose weight while in ketosis?

If you’re like me, chances are you haven’t worked up a good sweat in ages. At my heaviest, I could only dream about running around without having to instantly catch my breath. The thought of any form of exercise was intimidating.

Technically, weight loss is all about burning more calories than you consume. So to answer this question, no, you don’t need to exercise to lose weight. Keto can help you feel full longer (fat being more satiating than carbohydrates, it can help you manage your cravings and stick to a more strict caloric deficit.

While the majority of weight loss comes from sticking to a solid diet, exercise can aid in the journey. Not only will it help speed up the process, but you will notice tons of other benefits.

Why should you exercise on Keto?

Enter ketosis faster

One of the questions I get asked a lot is:

Will working out help me get into ketosis faster?

Being in ketosis means your body enters a state in which your body does not have enough glucose (glycogen) to burn for fuel and begins using fat as a source of energy. By exercising, you expend more energy and burn through your glycogen stores at a faster rate, allowing your body to achieve ketosis at a faster pace.

Fill out and tighten loose skin

If you have a ton of weight to lose (50lb+), chances are your skin has stretched out while putting on those pounds. It will take some time for your skin to readjust, but you can help reduce the loose skin issue by filling out your body with muscle mass.

Increase your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE)

When you have a ton of weight to lose, you can easily see results without tracking your food while on a Keto diet. As you lean out and approach your goal weight, you may experience some plateaus with your fat loss. At this point, you can either drop your caloric intake, or increase your energy expenditure through physical activity.

The foundation of weight loss is calories in versus calories out. By increasing your calories burned throughout the day, you can continue dropping weight without having to restrict yourself further.

Improve your cardiovascular health

Getting up and moving about will help with your cardiovascular system. Your heart is a muscular organ so by training it, you not only improve your blood circulation but also strengthen it as well!

Improve mental state and overall mood

Not only will working out help get you into shape, but your body also releases chemicals or endorphins that can clear up your mood post workout. Your self-confidence will rise as you feel more confident in your personal appearance.

From personal experience, self confidence can definitely be an issue for overweight people. Even after losing the weight, your mind may not adapt like your body has and you still see yourself as the overweight person that you once were. Exercise can definitely help you improve your confidence as you begin seeing more results and looking even better!

Beginner Exercises While on a Keto Diet

Keto Exercise

Light cardio is a great place to start

If you haven’t stepped foot near a gym in years, then you’re probably at a loss of where to begin. I know I was afraid to even begin exercising due to fear of being judged by others. That was definitely one of my biggest regrets since working out has become such a major part of my life. Once I got started and noticed progress in my physical performance, I was hooked.

Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t worry if you’re completely winded from just bending over to pick something up.

To begin, all you need is to begin incorporating some form of light exercise into your daily routine. Whether it’s going for a walk outdoors, hopping on the treadmill, going for a swim or really anything that gets you off your butt is a great place to start. If you’re starting from a heavier weight (250lb+), intense cardio workouts can be difficult due to joint pains and being out of shape (consult with a physician if you’re prone to any physical ailments).

When you’re first switching to a keto diet, I recommend choosing a form of light exercise while your body adjusts to the changes and deals with the keto flu. While being inflicted with the flu, it may be difficult to exercise at all. If that’s the case then wait until you have overcome the flu before trying any sort of workout.

As you become more comfortable with your routine, begin increasing the duration or intensity of your workouts.

Intermediate Exercises While on a Keto Diet

Once you’re comfortable with performing light exercises, you can kick it up a notch by trying high intensity interval training (HIIT) and weightlifting.

High Intensity Interval Training on Keto

HIIT Cardio Keto

I’m a huge fan of HIIT since you only exercise at high intensity for short bursts of time. Even after years of never running, I could at least manage a 20-30 second sprint, cooldown for a minute before sprinting once again. The rest periods made the exercise bearable for me as opposed to jogging/running at a constant speed for the entire duration. On top of that, HIIT has a ton of other benefits including increasing your metabolism and being time efficient.

Weightlifting on Keto

weightlifting on keto

One of the most common misconceptions people have against weightlifting, is that they’re afraid that they’ll become big and bulky from picking up a few weights. This is definitely not true for the majority of people. Seeing professional bodybuilders has resulted in misconceptions between lifting weights and physical appearance. Chances are, you’ll never be as big as the she-hulk or Arnold without the use of performance enhancing drugs or going through multiple bulking phases.

If you’re a beginner to weightlifting, I highly recommend a program like 5×5 Stronglifts. Using big compound movements, you can train your nervous system to handle the movement and the weights. Afterwards, you can attempt more advanced training styles such as isolated movements to target and strengthen specific muscles.

For those who find it difficult to workout without carbs, you may want to consider a targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) or a cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD). You can read a more in-depth explanation over on r/ketogains.

TKD is where you consume a small amount of carbs a bit before working out. Carbs can be burned quickly for energy and help fuel your workout. Generally, the carbs you’ve consumed will be used for the duration of the workout and your body will return to a ketogenic state post-workout.

CKD is where you’ll have one or two refeed days every week to replenish your muscles’ glycogen stores. During those refeed days, you typically consume a large amount of carbs which your body will store. Throughout the week, you resume your low carb diet while working out to deplete the stores before carb loading back up.

The Bottom Line

working out on ketoKeto isn’t a simple fad diet where you burn weight off and then go back to binging on pizza, it’s a lifestyle change. You put on the weight because of your old habits and keto is an opportunity for you to fix those lazy habits. Losing weight, physical activity won’t feel like such a daunting task anymore! Take advantage of your new body and mindset to do all of the physical things that you weren’t able to at your heaviest.

Don’t be afraid to pick up a few weights either! No one “accidentally” bulks into the Hulk.

Like your diet, find something that works for you and stick to it. Results and improvement will come with time, as long as you stay focused and continue to push your limits.


About the Author

I started my Keto adventure back in July 2013 where I lost nearly 100lbs over the course of the year. While losing the weight is great, my journey is far from over as I continue to strive towards a healthier me!

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