Ketogenic Diets for Bulking / Elite FTS
In recent history, the ketogenic diet has been used by the bodybuilding and strength training community as one of the most popular and controversial ways to improve body composition. The diet was initially developed as an alternate means to fasting, which was found to induce the state of ketosis in the patient 1.
Early physicians found not only a decreased frequency of epileptic seizures in patients who were in ketosis but also accelerated fatty acid oxidation, which then led to the loss of body fat. Some benefits often associated with ketogenic diet include: Normally, ketone concentration in the blood is very low and is primarily regulated by insulin and glucagon 4.
It may reach high levels during periods of accelerated fatty acid oxidation combined with low carbohydrate intake or impaired carbohydrate use. Glucose is the preferred fuel source for various tissues in the body, including the brain. However, with very little glucose present and ketone body formation increased, most cells in the body can use utilize ketone bodies as an alternate energy source.
Whatever glucose requirements there are by the body can be easily met via gluconeogenesis where glucose is produced from amino acids or the glycerol backbone formerly attached to fatty acids as a triglyceride.
Extensive variations of the ketogenic diet have been branded and marketed primarily for weight loss for decades, some with more or less rigidity than others, but all with the same underlying concepts.
In recent years, ketogenic diets with a focus on mass gaining have been introduced, with mixed reviews. Alright, so we know keto diets help with epilepsy and cause accelerated fat loss, but what about muscle?
During the hormonal shift from burning glucose to ketone bodies, there is a reduction of circulating levels of insulin with a subsequent increase in circulating levels of glucagon.
This makes sense as insulin is the storage hormone responsible for removing glucose from the blood and depositing it in target tissues. The most well-known action of insulin as it pertains to skeletal muscle is the uptake of glucose and amino acids. Stimulation of anabolic processes such as protein, glycogen, and fat synthesis follows. While insulin can be thought of as anabolic in nature, glucagon is catabolic.
It is responsible for the release of glucose from stored glycogen and the stimulation of gluconeogenesis and fatty acid mobilization. Despite the fact that anabolic actions are decreased and catabolic actions are increased, muscle protein breakdown is not accelerated as one might guess, and preservation of muscle mass has been shown in more than one study examining the effects of a very low carbohydrate diet.
Muscle preservation is made possible through various mechanisms. Low blood sugar stimulates adrenaline, which has been shown to directly inhibit proteolysis protein breakdown of skeletal muscle.
Provided there is enough substrate present for oxidation fatty acids and ketone bodies , oxidation of muscle amino acids for fuel is decreased. It is also shown that certain ketone bodies can decrease leucine oxidation. We know leucine is key anabolic trigger for muscle protein synthesis, and an increase in its incorporation into skeletal muscle has been shown in subjects while on a very low carbohydrate diet.
Low blood sugar stimulates growth hormone GH , which we know to be a potent stimulator of muscle protein synthesis. Due to the preservation of amino acids, dietary protein availability has been shown to increase IGF-1 levels up to two-fold. Studies also report increases in skeletal muscle protein synthesis even though insulin levels are dramatically decreased.
These effects are shown primarily in a caloric deficit, and it can be inferred that increased protection against muscle loss would be seen in a caloric surplus.
One should also consider taking in enough dietary fat to ensure fatty acid and ketone body production is sufficient to offer these protective metabolic effects 7. What about strength training? Will a ketogenic diet hinder progress in the gym, thereby limiting my overall growth potential? It depends on how you train.
While a few studies utilizing submaximal exercise indicate no significant decrease in strength performance in athletic populations 5, 9, 10 , several others have shown that reduced muscle glycogen is been associated with muscle weakness 14 , decreased force production and reduced strength 6, Resistance training in a lower rep range reps for low total volume primarily utilizes the ATP-PC energy system and might not be as effected by ketogenic dieting and low muscle glycogen levels.
If you train with any sort of volume and intensity in the gym, the amount of available muscle glycogen during these types of workouts appears to be related to the total work produced and duration of the strength training sessions, and in the absence of adequate muscle glycogen, it is likely a decrease in work capacity will be seen.
Can I take advantage of a ketogenic diet while incorporating enough dietary carbohydrates to fuel my intense training sessions and take advantage of the crucial hormonal response to carbohydrates around the training time? In recent years, cycling dietary carbohydrate in and out of your otherwise low carbohydrate ketogenic diet have become popular as a way of achieving the benefits of the ketogenic diet along with the ability to maximize your training efforts and muscle hypertrophy response.
These glycogen stores can later be used during strength training sessions to ensure adequate stimulation and performance 8. While this might seem like an ideal way to have your cake and eat it, too bad pun intended , this offers a few drawbacks. Refilling muscle and liver glycogen to maximum capacity may take 24 or more hours, and will probably take the athlete out of ketosis at least during the period when carbohydrates are consumed.
To enter back into a ketogenic state, the athlete must then burn through said glycogen stores over a period of days, thereby negating the beneficial effect of being in ketosis.
If an athlete refeeds once every days, the athlete will almost never get back into a state of ketosis, largely losing the potential benefits of the diet. The refeed process may also hinder fat oxidation and may even contribute to fat accumulation if overdone or combined with too much dietary fat during the time of the increased carbohydrate ingestion, especially if done during a period of caloric surplus such as the offseason for a bodybuilder.
It would be prudent for an athlete partaking in this practice to refeed judiciously and strive to balance out the quantity and duration of the refeed with the time it takes to enter back into ketosis. While the research on this topic is sparse at best with regards to resistance trained athletes, it is hypothesized that one can stay in and experience the benefits of being in ketosis while still taking advantage of the hormonal milieu from consuming carbohydrates and possibly proteins and amino acids around a workout.
Currently there are researchers looking into this phenomenon, and the secret may lie in the amount and timing of carbohydrates consumed. In this version, select quantities and possibly types of carbohydrates are consumed during regular ketogenic dieting periods to help provide a glucose source during training, as well as enhance recovery and stimulate muscle protein synthesis around workouts.
It is well known that the ingestion of liquid carbohydrate around training may serve to promote faster recovery, which may enhance subsequent exercise and training session performance 3. In ketogenic diets, it is common for the dietary carbohydrate amount to not exceed 50g per day often excluding dietary fiber , or up to percent of total calories. A good starting point would be to consume 25g usable carbohydrates along with 25g fiber in the non-workout time period primarily from vegetables, some nuts and seeds and include 25g of easily digestible liquid carbohydrate during the training period.
Dietary protein and fat can vary, but may look like this for a pound athlete in a caloric surplus: In the world of strength and physique sports, there are rarely any black and white, hard and fast answers on most topics. Those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle outside the gym such as office work may very well be able to train intensely on a carbohydrate-controlled ketogenic diet. The only way to find out what works best for your situation is to give it a try. Carbohydrate supplementation and resistance training.
J Strength Cond Res, Feb;17 1: Johnson DG, et al. Some hormonal influences on glucose and ketone body metabolism in normal human subjects. MacDougal, JD, et al. Muscle substrate utilization and lactate production during weightlifting. Very-low-carbohydrate diets and preservation of muscle mass. A complete guide for the dieter and practitioner. Phinney SD, et al. The human metabolic response to chronic ketosis without caloric restriction: Preservation of submaximal exercise capability with reduced carbohydrate oxidation.
Robergs RA, et al. Muscle glycogenolysis during differing intensities of weight resistance exercise. Tesch, PA, et al. Muscle metabolism during intense, heavy-resistance exercise.
Skeletal muscle glycogen loss evoked by resistance exercise. Yaspelkis, BBD, et al. Carbohydrate supplementation spares muscle glycogen during variable-intensity exercise. Your Cart You have no items in your shopping cart. New Items Strength Equipment. Ben Hartman Aug 22, Sign up for the Latest News and Offers. Order Online or Call or We are not EliteFitness.