Did you know that the ketogenic diet has been around since the 1920s? It wasn’t a diet fad, like how many people see it today. Rather, it came into being as a treatment option for epileptic patients. It’s successful in curbing seizures even today. Many people saw the benefits it can provide outside its primary purpose, though. And now, we have regular people adopting this diet, as well. Whatever purpose you may have for doing a keto diet, you can get more results by exercising. However, creating a keto workout plan isn’t as easy as it seems because of the effects of a low-carb diet. Keep on reading to know how you can combine keto and exercise safely.
How Does Keto Work?
To better understand how a keto diet impacts exercising, let’s take a closer look at how it works.
Adopting a ketogenic diet forces your body to go into ketosis. This is the process of burning fat when it doesn’t have enough carbohydrates for energy. This process creates ketones, an alternative fuel made by the liver.
This transition takes time, however, and you may experience several symptoms during. These symptoms can affect the way you exercise, which we’ll explain more of later.
You may also get deficiencies by removing the foods you used to get nutrients from. That’s why you should watch what you’re eating and take greater care in picking foods when on a keto diet, so you’ll still get electrolytes and other nutrients from alternative sources.
Some people experience carb withdrawal, as well, which presents similar symptoms as in caffeine withdrawal. As such, you’re going to feel under the weather for several days (or weeks) before your body adjusts to your new diet.
Take It Easy When Starting a Keto Diet
One of the earliest signs you’re on ketosis is lethargy. You’re going to have low energy and you’re going to feel tired all the time.
This is because you’re reducing your body’s primary source of fuel — carbohydrates. It will take time for your body to use up your fat reserves for energy production.
During the early stages of your keto diet, you might also experience what we call the keto flu. Aside from tiredness, you might also get brain fog, headaches, and such. You might even get sleep issues, irritability, and other side effects.
On average, it takes a week or two before you feel normal again. Some cases take even longer, and sometimes, you won’t get over the adjustment period. The latter case means keto isn’t for you (don’t worry, keto isn’t for everyone; try another diet).
That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t do some physical activities during the transition. You can even speed up the process by exercising, forcing your body to burn fat rather than carbs sooner.
Remember, though, that you won’t have much energy. Not only does it mean that it will be hard to exercise, but it also means that you can’t exercise too hard.
Step back from your regular regimen and stick to low-intensity workouts. A light jog and brisk walking are great exercises during the transition period.
Don’t Do Anything New
Starting a new diet can be exciting, but make sure it’s the only thing new you’re going to be doing. Some people take it too far by starting a new workout or joining a new class to go with their new diet.
Avoid doing this at all costs, especially if you’re still experiencing the early symptoms. Brain fog and tiredness are only some of the initial side effects of keto. Some include digestive issues, and you don’t want to have to rush to the bathroom in the middle of your Pilates class.
That aside, you don’t want to push your body when it’s low on energy. It won’t make you lose weight faster; it can even be dangerous.
What Exercises Can You Do on Keto?
That said, you can be safe combining keto and exercise by watching the number of activities you do. You can stick to low-intensity movements or exercise less often — around three times or fewer a week.
See below what types of exercises you can do and create a keto workout plan accordingly.
Aerobic exercises, or better known as cardio, refer to any activity that lasts over 30 minutes. You can do hiking, brisk walking, biking, swimming, and other low-intensity cardiovascular exercises. You can also use the cardio machines at the gym, albeit in a low setting.
Keep the intensity at 40 to 50% of your max heart rate to keep it safe.
2. Balance and Flexibility
Exercises for improving your balance and flexibility are still okay for keto beginners. These are great for improving your range of motion and activating your core. Its best benefit, though, is minimizing the risks of injuries.
Stretching, tai chi, and yoga are great examples. You can do Pilates and such, but don’t push your body too much.
Unlike aerobic, anaerobic exercise is short-lasting yet intense. It can last between two seconds and two minutes. This is why it’s not an ideal choice when you’re on keto.
Some experts would even suggest you avoid it altogether, especially in the beginning. We’ll explain more below.
Avoid HIIT and Bodybuilding at First
Did you know that your body relies more on carbs for high-intensity workouts? Fat isn’t enough to sustain your body through such workouts, which is why you should avoid it when you’re on keto.
As keto is a fat-based diet, you won’t be consuming enough carbs to last you through vigorous exercise. They burn more sugar as fuel, while cardio burns more fat.
HIIT, circuit training, and similar exercises require short bursts of energy. Your body can’t produce this when your diet is low on carbs. Any workout with sprinting and jumping are the same.
Powerlifting regimens like bodybuilding also rely on carbs. That’s because lifting and such use up your glycogen reserves in the muscles. It uses creatine at first, and then it will turn to glucose for sustenance.
However, you won’t have enough glucose if you’re low on carbs. It’s the nutrient that refills the glycogen reserves in the muscles, after all.
To sum it up, avoid activities that make you exert short bursts of energy. Try and wait until your body has adjusted to see how you can incorporate such exercises while on a keto diet.
Try a Targeted Keto Diet
The standard keto diet limits you to around 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day. Like we’ve said above, this isn’t enough for high-intensity workouts.
If you prefer such exercises and working out more times a week, you’ll need to make some changes to your diet. Try a targeted keto diet (TKD).
With TKD, you consume the carbohydrates before and after the workout. For instance, you can eat around 15 to 30 grams of fast-acting carbs 30 minutes before your workout. This replenishes your muscles’ glycogen stores, providing enough fuel for intense activities.
Within 30 minutes after your workout, consume the same amount of carbs. This will then allow your body to have enough for recovery.
Doing this, you lower the risks of getting kicked out of ketosis.
Increase Your Carb Intake
Other people experiment with more carbs while making sure they stay on ketosis. You can do the same if you like doing high-intensity exercises or if you’re an athlete.
Increase your carb intake on the days you need to work out little by little. Don’t forget to measure the ketone levels in your body to see if you’re still in ketosis. If the increase kicks you out of ketosis, then you can go back to the previous level.
The amount of carbs you need to add for supplementation varies per person. Only you will be able to define how much your body needs.
Make Sure to Eat Enough
This might be counterintuitive if you want to lose weight. But, you have to make sure you’re consuming enough to get the best results.
The beauty of the keto diet is that you don’t need to count calories to make sure you don’t go above the recommended limit. You only need to count it to make sure you’re getting enough and you’re not starving yourself.
When you want to exercise on a keto diet, you want to consume enough calories. You need to be consuming enough healthy fat, as well.
The higher the intensity of the keto exercise you want to do, the more calories and healthy fat you need to be consuming.
Get Your Diet in Order
Aside from consuming more, you need to get all the other areas of healthy eating checked, as well. One example: the proteins.
Protein helps build muscles and retain them, which is a must when you want to do bodybuilding. Make sure to incorporate a lot of protein in your diet, as well. A plus is that they can add to your calorie intake.
You need to keep hydrated at all times, as well. On a keto diet, people often get dehydration as a symptom. This will cause their performance to dip, and it’s not a good idea to exercise in this state.
Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. You can even drink water with electrolytes, as a keto diet also causes an imbalance in the electrolytes in your body.
Listen to Your Body
As we’ve said earlier, keto isn’t for everyone. Our bodies have different needs, and it doesn’t mean anything bad if a diet doesn’t work for you. Your body might not like a low-carb diet at all.
In the same vein, keto plus exercising might not be a good combination for you. If you’re having ongoing feelings of dizziness and fatigue, there’s something wrong with either your diet or your exercise routine. Stop and assess what you need to change.
For one, you might not be consuming enough calories for your body weight. If this is the case, then you’re not consuming enough for exercises, as well.
Eating more can be difficult when in a fat-based diet because fat is filling. You may find yourself struggling to eat more to fulfill your calorie requirements, which means you would be starving your body. This can lead to an energy shortage and muscle breakdown.
Something in your diet might also not be agreeing with your body. Did you try something new that you haven’t eaten before? Try sticking to what you’re used to (aside from the carbs) and see if that solves the issue.
Second, you might be working your body too hard. Try something with less intensity or stop working out at all.
It’s okay to take a rest to let your body adjust to your new lifestyle. It should soon pass, and when it does, you’ll experience more energy and all the other benefits of a keto lifestyle.
Wait until your body adjusts to the keto diet before picking up where you left off. Once you do, keep it slow and steady at first.
Still curious and filled with questions? We have a few additional things for you to discover below:
Can I Go Back to My Normal Routine After Starting Keto?
In the early stages of beginning a keto diet, it’s best to keep to low-intensity movements first. After your body has adjusted to the new diet, you can ease back into your normal workout routine. Depending on your body’s response, you may be able to get back completely.
Do I Have to Exercise More After Adjusting to Keto?
Exercising is a great way to stay fit and healthy. The amount you need to do, though, depends on you and your goals. When you’ve reached a good balance of keto and exercise, you can stick to that until you think you need to do more.
Create a Healthy Keto Workout Plan That Works for You
Keto isn’t a one-size-fits-all model; it’s adjustable, so you can tweak it to suit your dietary needs. This is what makes it sustainable — when you find the right combination of keto diet and exercise, you’ll be hitting your goals.
Take this time to study all you can about keto before going on a new diet and workout regimen. Consider our tips above and see what works with your body to create the best keto workout plan for you. If you need more tips, feel free to check out our other guides, like this one tackling the myths and facts about keto!