You might hear some weightlifters and bodybuilders insist that carbs are essential to build muscle. But this isn’t necessarily true. Although there is some argument in the scientific community about keto and weightlifting, evidence does suggest that as long as you stick to five core bodybuilding rules, then you’ll be fine whether you’re keto or not.
Five bodybuilding rules
There is so much information out there about the best way to pack on mass and improve your bodybuilding credentials. Stay away from all the strange supplements you see advertised and stick to the tried and tested.
Research shows that some tried and tested rules work best for bodybuilders:
- Train often and hard – your muscles must be encouraged to grow.
- Eat the right number of calories – count your macros and ensure you’re on track to reach your goal, whether that’s to cut fat or increase mass.
- Regulate your hormones – you need to include resistance training, decent nutrition, the right fatty acids and proper sleep to keep your hormones in check. If you stress your body too much, then you’ll end up going into a catabolic state that breaks down your muscles to gain energy.
- Drink enough water – if you’re sticking to a ketogenic diet and training hard then you will experience significant water loss. You have to replace these fluids to ensure your performance isn’t impaired.
- Eat enough protein – muscles need protein to grow.
How to train hard on a keto diet
Every workout should push your muscles a bit further. However, when you first take up a keto diet, you may find you can’t work out at the same intensity as before. This is because you’re adapting to restricting carbs.
This will likely mean that any sets that last between half a minute and two minutes will feel harder to start with. You will lose endurance at about eight reps, which could make you feel you want to give up workouts altogether.
However, the best thing to do in order to keep gaining muscle while eating keto, is to simply reduce your reps and increase sets and rests. While you’re adapting to keto, it’s important to adjust your workouts if possible. If you can’t, then stick to the old workouts but be aware your strength and endurance may be lower during the first few weeks.
How to get enough protein in your diet
For athletic bodies, including bodybuilders, the International Society of Sports Nutrition says that the intake of protein should be 0.6-9 grams per pound of the person’s bodyweight.
Bodybuilders who want to cut fat and keep muscle mass can increase protein more than this. Some benefit from upping protein intake to 1.3 grams per pound of bodyweight. The best ways to get the protein you need is to eat meat, fish, high fat dairy, eggs and find a low-carb protein powder.
How to eat enough calories and lose fat
Set your daily calorie intake at a level that results in losing 0.5% go 1% of bodyweight per week. This maximises muscle retention but is for competing bodybuilders only. To achieve this, they can cut down on fat and maintain protein at 1g per 1lb of bodyweight.
If you want to build muscle mass, work out a calorie surplus that will allow to gain about 1 pound a week. Simply increase or decrease how much fat you eat to meet your calorie needs.
Regulating hormones on keto
To regulate body fat and muscle mass, all kinds of hormones need to be in play. These include cortisol, testosterone and human growth hormone. The keto diet is great for bodybuilders because it ups human growth hormone levels because it mimics carbohydrate restriction fasting.
The best way to stay in balance is to follow a proper schedule that includes eating, exercising, sleeping and ideally, meditating. Make sure you have enough protein, that you’re working out at the right level of intensity, you’re sleeping enough and keeping stress levels low for the best results.
About Surya Gabriel Iacono
Surya G. Iacono is a fitness and wellness expert and blogger based in London, UK. Surya Iacono’s fitness blogs are aimed at keen gym-goers and exercise fans already well into their journey and looking for tips, tricks and ideas to take it to the next level.