keto + exercise

See those huge pumping biceps and that flexing core? Yes, that’s some gym enthusiast, who probably spends a lot a time in the gym working out. Apart from showing off their beefed-up body, others choose to exercise simply to achieve a better health goal. Their approach to this health goal stems from their desire to stay healthy with an ironclad build, and who wouldn’t want that? Before you select a keto diet, you might be questioning whether keto would interfere with your exercise or not; since keto means low carbs and high fats with moderate proteins, you’d be considering if other options are available to keep your fitness level while in ketosis.

It’s true that many myths and misconceptions are held against keto that confuse people. You’re taught that you need carbs for body strengthening or physical endurance to achieve the best outcomes. Well, just face it: it’s not at all true. It’s actually about the simple yet complex processes that run our body. Understand those, and you’d learn why you never chose keto before. Not only can you exercise on a keto diet, but also can get a boost in your health and energy level (1).

Working Out in Ketosis

You know, you’re going to drain yourself of energy and fluids if you keep long rounds of cardio, especially when you’re trying to lose weight on a diet. This traditional method is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ due to its unsustainability. However, in order to stay healthy, you must eat healthy. It’s like the maxim ‘you’re what you eat’ or ‘you become what you eat’. If you pay closer attention to what you’re eating, you can maintain your ketosis state; this is the first and foremost step you can take. Don’t worry if you’re exercising because it’s all cool if you’re doing it right!

The 4 Types of Exercises

Before starting your keto diet, you must make sure that the type of exercise you perform corresponds with your nutritional requirements. There are four types of exercises you can perform:

  1. Aerobic Exercise (cardio exercise)

Any exercise that lasts more than 3 minutes is an aerobic exercise. It is a low-intensity and a maintained cardio exercise that burns fat as the primary energy fuel and will become your best friend. On the contrary, high-intensity aerobic exercises use carbs as main energy source and becomes your nemeses (2).

  1. Anaerobic Exercise This type involves power lifting and high-intensity training, using carbs as main energy fuel. The fats you consume can’t handle the pressure alone and are unable to provide sufficient energy for anaerobic exercise. This could become a problem for keto dieters, but it can easily be overcome if keto dieters take it a step further. Eating 15-30 grams of healthy carbs (whole grains, fruits, beans etc.) 30 minutes before and after high-intensity exercise will provide the muscles enough strength and will help them recover. Such a use of carb resolves your worries for ketosis, doesn’t it?

  2. Flexibility Exercises As the name indicates, these exercises help you stretch your muscles, support your joints and improve muscle motion. Practicing these exercises increases your flexibility and prevents injuries. Just stretch yourself after yoga and workout, you’ll feel better.

  3. Stability Exercises Stability exercises are focused on core balancing and training. You can improve your muscle strength, core alignment, and movement control.

Benefits of Exercises in Ketosis

It’s a common misconception that doing some exercise makes you lose weight. But on the other hand, you don’t have to be hard on yourself on a keto diet. You can exercise on a keto diet because it:

  • Improves bone mineral density (3)

  • Boosts immunity, while over exercising has the exact opposite effect (4)

  • Improves diabetic condition by increasing insulin sensitivity (5)

  • Can reduce the risk of hypoglycemia in physically active diabetes type-1 patients (6)

  • Improves mental and cognitive decline related to old-age (7)

  • Helps prevent neurodegenerative diseases (8)

  • Helps prevent risks associated with cardiovascular diseases (9)

  • May increase life expectancy by decreasing mortality factors, such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, and type II diabetes (7)

If you want to exercise during keto, make sure you know what type of exercise you’re choosing. Take your time and make up your mind about what you want to do. Keeping that in mind, just remember that you can turn fat into fit – whenever you want, wherever you want.

Choose Wisely: Resistance Training and HIIT:

Weight training (aka strength/ resistance training) and high-intensity intermittent training are the most effective tools for long-term fat loss (10).

Weight training:

When you do weight training, focus on major muscle groups and don't forget about squats! The muscle-sparing effect of ketogenic diets will help you preserve and build lean mass.

Will I get bulky? Putting on muscles is not as easy as many people think, especially if you are a woman. One of the biggest misconceptions is that women grow big muscles when they lift heavy weights. It's a myth: women don't have the same hormone profile to bulk up just like men do (11). You will get more defined but not necessarily masculine. Also, the type of resistance training and nutrition play a crucial role. And after all, it depends what you perceive as "bulky."

Exercise regularly but don't overdo it.

Make sure to include rest days and get enough sleep. In general, exercise is good for you but be careful not to overdo it. Overexercising increases the risk of injury, negatively affects the immune system and increases stress-related hormones (12).

Lastly, set yourself a realistic goal. You should be aiming to lose no more than 1-2 pounds a week. If you need to use a keto calculator, don't go for large calorie deficits: Ideally no more than 500 kcal deficit and depending on your BMR and activity level, shoot for a reasonable energy intake of 1400-1800 kcal.

Remember, low-carb diets are satiating and you will naturally eat less (13). Reaching a weight loss plateau may be caused by several reasons and you don't necessarily have to be eating too much, in fact, you may discover that you haven't been eating enough.


(1) Chang, C.-K., Borer, K., & Lin, P.-J. (2017). Low-carbohydrate-high-fat diet: can it help exercise performance? Journal of Human Kinetics, 56, 81–92.

(2) Ng, N. (n.d.). Are carbohydrates, fats or proteins used during cardiovascular exercise? Retrieved September 14, 2018, from

(3) Hunter, G. R., Plaisance, E. P., & Fisher, G. (2014). Weight loss and bone mineral density. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity, 21(5), 358–362.

(4) Martin, S. A., Pence, B. D., & Woods, J. A. (2009). Exercise and respiratory tract viral infections. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 37(4), 157.

(5) Boden, G., Sargrad, K., Homko, C., Mozzoli, M., & Stein, T. P. (2005). Effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on appetite, blood glucose levels, and insulin resistance in obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Annals of Internal Medicine, 142(6), 403.

(6) Turton, J. L., Raab, R., & Rooney, K. B. (2018). Low-carbohydrate diets for type 1 diabetes mellitus: A systematic review. PLOS ONE, 13(3), e0194987.

(7) Ketogenic diet reduces midlife mortality and improves memory in aging mice. (2017). Cell Metabolism, 26(3), 547–557.e8.

(8) Paoli, A., Bianco, A., Damiani, E., & Bosco, G. (2014). Ketogenic diet in neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases. BioMed Research International, 2014, 1–10.

(9) Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J. S., & Grimaldi, K. A. (2013). Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (Ketogenic) diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(8), 789–796.

(10) Boutcher, S. H. (2011). High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. Journal of Obesity, 2011.

(11) Griggs, R. C., Kingston, W., Jozefowicz, R. F., Herr, B. E., Forbes, G., & Halliday, D. (1989). Effect of testosterone on muscle mass and muscle protein synthesis. Journal of Applied Physiology, 66(1), 498–503.

(12) Hodges, R. (2017, June 7). Too much exercise is bad for your gut – and the other dangers of over training. The Telegraph. Retrieved from

(13) Rizi, E. P., Loh, T. P., Baig, S., Chhay, V., Huang, S., Quek, J. C., … Khoo, C. M. (2018). A high carbohydrate, but not fat or protein meal attenuates postprandial ghrelin, PYY and GLP-1 responses in Chinese men. PLOS ONE, 13(1), e0191609.

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