Muscle hypertrophy is a byproduct of good workout recovery, you can’t really achieve hypertrophy and strength in the absence of good recovery. Many people believe that optimum Muscle recovery is not possible on the ketogenic diet because of the absence of carbohydrates but that’s certainly not very true.
There are numerous studies are being conducted on the effectiveness of the keto diet pattern, many clinical studies have voted in favor of keto diet pattern.
Ahead in this article, we will debunk all the myths and will talk about the facts and practical effects of the keto diet on the workout recovery and muscle building process.
Can you build muscle on the ketogenic diet?
Carbs are an absolute essential for speedier recovery is one of the biggest myths that has been prevailing in the fitness industry for a while.
The importance of carbohydrates might be true with the low carb diet, but the ketogenic diet is a totally different scenario.
Myth: Ketogenic diet hinders the muscle-building process.
For keto dieters, Fats have always been the primary source of fuel and keto diet patterns retrain your body to employ stored fats as a primary energy source.
The truth is, it is possible to experience improved body composition, increase in muscle mass, and enhanced exercise performance at the same time. No carbs required.
With the presence of conflicting information about ketosis and muscle protein synthesis, it’s really easy to get discouraged with the process.
Not anymore, we are going to discuss the detailed mechanism of the keto diet and how it affects your workout recovery and protein synthesis.
Why carbohydrates aren’t required?
Before the introduction of the keto diet pattern, we were taught about the significance of carbohydrates during muscle recovery and optimum energy.
Tough workouts have a direct impact on the glycogen (carbohydrates) reserves, our body uses glycogen reserves for the instant source of energy.
What is glycogen: A Wikipedia article explained it well to the point.
Glycogen is a carbohydrate stored in the sell of liver and muscle tissues, it works as a secondary source of long-term energy source.
So what is the primary source? It’s your body’s stored fat in adipose tissues.
Primal human beings didn’t had access to a lot of carbohydrates because of the absence of os farming. At that time, our ancestors used to depend on hunting. As we developed into a smarter being, we started farming and started relying on carbohydrates as a primary source of energy.
Clearly, Our body is developed to use fats as a source of fuel and when you push your body into the state of ketosis it starts using fats as fuel while keeping the body’s glycogen reserves untouched.
But carbs aren’t important for anabolic effects?
Previously, many theories have stated that carbohydrates work as a catalyst for muscle building.
How carbohydrates aid muscle development:
- Replenish muscle glycogen
- Spike insulin which is an important anabolic hormone
- Increase water content within muscle tissue
- Lower levels of cortisol, a catabolic hormone
Why carbs are not required in Keto?
Studies have found that protein, especially the amino acid leucine, spike insulin just as much as carbohydrates. So, instead of relying on the carbs for the insulin spike you can supplement with some BCAA high in leucine.
Other studies also found no difference in protein synthesis when carbs were taken with protein and placebo groups.
I believe we have given too much emphasis to the carbohydrates, a post-workout shake or meal high in essential and non-essential amino can deliver sufficient strength and recovery.
If you are in professional bodybuilding then you might require an extensive amount of carbs for active recovery. A regular fitness enthusiast can experience sufficient recovery speed.
Slow muscle recovery on keto, Is that true?
Carbohydrates are not the only deciding factor of accelerated post-workout recovery, the most important elements of accelerated recovery are as follows:
- Protein – for muscle repair
- Carbohydrates – To regulate glycogen levels
- Sleep – For the production of Growth Hormone
- Stretching and foam rolling – to relieve muscle stiffness and reduce lactic buildup.
There are some other factors to improve the speed of recovery but they are not truly essential.
Keto diet prevents only carbohydrates out of all the important factors.
Let’s see the impact of the keto diet on the glycogen levels. The fact is, the human body has a very complex mechanism and it adapts to the challenges way better than our imaginations.
Dr. Jeff Volek, a renowned low-carb researcher led research on “Metabolic characteristics of keto-adapted ultra-endurance runners” and found some incredible facts about the keto diet and its glycogen utilization.
He conducted a study on 10 ultra-marathon runners who have been following a keto diet for more than 6 months. Runners’ bodies were found to adapt to the high-fat and low-carb diet pattern. These runners were found to have higher fat oxidation and lower carbohydrate oxidation which allowed their body to preserve the glycogen reserves and actively used fats as a primary fuel.
It’s incredible to discover that the athlete’s body had adapted to use stored fats as the primary source of fuel, and there were negligible changes in glycogen levels.
This study concluded that endurance athletes could maintain normal muscle glycogen content, utilization, and recovery after long-term adaptation to a ketogenic diet.
Keto and Muscle gain:
Keto diet has some direct impacts on muscle protein synthesis, let’s understand them.
#1 Keto Spares Muscle
Using stored fats for the primary source of energy is not a new thing. Our body was developed to use fats as a primary source of energy.
Our primal ancestors were not dependent on the stored glycogen for energy, they were dependent on the stored fats. When your body in ketosis, your body gets into the primal state where your brain send signals: carbs are scarce — time to burn fat and preserve muscle. It’s not just a theory, its been proven by clinical research (4).
This adaptation helped hunter-gatherers stay strong in times of famine.
The state of ketosis brings your body into “fight mode” where it feels more alert and preserves muscle mass for better performance.
2# Keto helps in production of Growth hormone
Keto diet not only helps in fat burning but also boost up adrenaline and lower down the blood sugar levels which signals the pituitary gland to produce growth hormone to protect and repair muscle tissues.
Study  published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition conducted on 26 healthy men, they were divided into two groups: High-carb conventional diet and low-carb keto diet. 11 weeks of observation gave some astonishing results, individuals on the ketogenic diet were found to have better body composition, more muscle, and less fat.
Muscle recovery while on keto
So, ketogenic diet naturally helps in muscle synthesis and prevents muscle breakdown but few tips can help you pack new muscle fibers fast.
here is a key takeaway, how to accelerate the strength development and muscle recovery while on the keto diet.
Eat enough protein
Keto diet is more focused on fat loss and improved body composition which makes is a little difficult to pack on muscle.
Eat enough protein to develop new lean muscle mass but consume it in the fat and protein ratio of 2:1.
Use this Keto Calculator to find out the body’s macro-nutrient requirements.
Distribute it evenly
You can’t eat too much protein in one serving, it might kick you our of ketosis. Distributing it wisely throughout the day can be a better alternative.
Include the right amount of calories
The only problem with building muscle while in ketosis is you need to eat a double amount of fats. Having more MCT oil, Avocado, and other good fat sources can be a great way to develop muscle mass.
With every 20 grams of protein, you are required to consume 40 grams of fats through different sources.
You can’t skip the proper supplementation to achieve greater muscle development while cutting down stored fats.
We have covered a separate article on the supplementation requirements and precautions of the keto diet.
Please check the article: