It seems that nearly everyone is curious
about the benefits of the ketogenic diet; yet,
few people really know how to do it well.
Many people often fail to see the true benefit because they never really nail down all the necessary components.
It can be confusing if you don’t have an understanding of a few basic points.
We decided it would be useful to begin by answering some of the most important questions about the ketogenic diet, how it impacts the body and mind, and determine whether this is the best diet for you and your goals.
- Improved cognitive function and decreased brain fog.
– More consistent energy. Less up and downs.
– Decreased inflammation.
– Decreased hunger and cravings.
– Improved insulin sensitivity.
Being in ketosis is a completely safe and natural state. In fact, when we are born, we are in and out of ketosis. This has not only been studied extensively, but it seems that neonates who are breastfed are more likely to be in ketosis, indicating that when nourished using biologically appropriate food (i.e. breastmilk vs. formula) we begin to produce ketones, even in the presence of sugar in the breast milk!
1. Not enough sodium.
You have likely heard of the “keto flu.” This is a common side effect in the first month of switching to ketogenic diet. As we remove carbohydrates from our diets, our insulin levels drop significantly. This is a crucial part of ketosis, as insulin and ketones generally have an inverse relationship – meaning that as insulin levels drop, ketones tend to rise.
2. Too many of the wrong types of fats.
There are several ways to do keto. It is possible to improve health and body composition by incorporating dairy fat, depending on how well you tolerate dairy. However, dairy has been linked to certain types of kidney stones due to its oxalate content, as well as certain tumors. In addition, much of the dairy we consume is of poor quality. Cattle fed a diet that is non-organic (for example, grains that have been sprayed with pesticides and harmful, hormonally disruptive chemicals such as glyphosate) are unhealthy and produce less than desirable meat and dairy. Because of this, we recommend limiting dairy fat.
3. Not enough exercise.
We see a lot of people in the ketogenic community who like to rely on fasting. But did you know, exercise can cause similar effects to fasting? Exercise is not only extremely helpful to the fat adaptation process (especially high-intensity exercise at the beginning to burn through your sugar stores), but it is a very effective tool at enhancing our level of ketosis, improving blood sugar control, and taking full advantage of our ketone production. A lot of people who are not comfortable exercising are doing themselves a disservice (essentially tying one hand behind their backs) by not exercising.
4. Incorrect type of exercise.
Incorrect exercise can also be very damaging to our level of ketosis and our metabolic state. If you are constantly red lining it in the gym, not only are you telling your body to burn sugar and not fat, you are likely driving up cortisol and decreasing your heart rate variability due to an overly active sympathetic nervous system. If you push too hard for too long, your glycogen stores will deplete, forcing your body into a catabolic muscle burning state. Think of this like trying to cook something with luke warm water. Its simply not going to work.
5. Protein & Energy Intake
Dietary protein intake is still one of the most important elements in preserving and building muscle, especially when first transitioning to a ketogenic diet.
This is by far the question we are asked most often. It is a fairly simple question, with a more nuanced answer
– but yes, you can build muscle while following a ketogenic diet.
The 3 primary things you MUST be considering to build muscle on a ketogenic diet:
1) Type of training.
3) Hydration and Sodium.
There are a number of potential reasons why you might be having a hard time building muscle on a ketogenic diet. (this is in order of likelihood):
You’re just not getting it done in the gym.
Most people simply aren’t. This has much less to do with how hard you work, and much more to do with how focused you are, and how smart you work.
You’re not eating enough.
Total calories and the right calories matter when it comes to building a great physique. Certain amino acids, micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals will determine whether you’re able to grow. Make sure you’re doing all the right things to build a great physique.
Your stress is killing the progress.
Stress will kill progress. High sympathetic stress and chronic elevated cortisol are the kill switch for muscle building. Getting your stress in order is imperative and non-negotiable. Remember, stress is not a result of the event itself, but from your interpretation of it.
You’re doing too much work and not enough “good work.”
If you’re training smart, you’re going to be very fatigued, very quickly. The idea of doing more work will be near impossible for most people when you’re doing things right. It’s just more challenging to the muscles when you learn how to train with intelligence.
If you’re highly stressed or not sleeping, getting those two things in order before starting a ketogenic diet is recommended. Even though keto could work to help, chances are that your body is reliant on carbohydrates for managing stress and modulating cortisol and serotonin. Taking that away as a coping strategy could make it challenging in the short term when trying to transition to keto.
Yes, stress does affect ketosis. When the body perceives stress, it releases cortisol. Elevated cortisol releases glucose into the bloodstream which in turn elevates our insulin levels. Elevated insulin reduces our ability to burn fat. Likewise, elevated glucose results in a decrease in ketones. In addition to external stressors, i.e., jobs, relationships, life, etc. the body also perceives exercise as a stressor, which is why it is important to train correctly when applying a ketogenic diet; i.e., match your nutrition and your training stimulus for the greatest positive impact. Getting your stress-levels in order is imperative and non-negotiable.
Many people struggle when it comes to building muscle on low carb diets because they miss a few key components. Often, people complain about lack of energy, lack of pumps, or poor recovery. Rather than writing it off as difficult or “impossible,” try to focus on the immediate solutions to these circumstances.
1. Lacking energy or overall sense of fatigue?
Chances are you’re not getting in enough sodium and water. Try adding 300-600mg of alpha GPC and 10g of MCT oil or powder in your pre workout drink.
2. Lack of pumps?
Sodium and water will affect these as well. But, try adding 5g of creatine and some methylated B vitamins, and pumps will increase.
3. Poor recovery?
Creatine, glutamine, glycine/collagen, magnesium, zinc, and methylated B vitamins are top of the list for enhanced recovery.
There is a phrase that our friend Ali Miller, RD uses often, ”Doctrine creates disconnect.”
What this means is that many of us become myopic and closed minded when trying a new dietary or training approach, and this can shortchange our results. The ability to know your body and make adjustments based on how you feel and perform is key–especially when following a particular approach blindly which can be extremely limiting under certain circumstances. We are always learning and applying new ideas to see how they can enhance what we are doing and address issues with our current approach, and no approach is without its drawbacks.
Your coach, Danny Vega, is by far the most jacked and ripped keto coach in the world.
He is able to build muscle, stay under 8% body fat year around, run a business, and maintain a happy and fulfilling family life with a wife and two amazing children.
Danny is not “genetically blessed” or superhuman, although some days we wonder.
What Danny does better than anyone else I know, is follow through. He’s consistent, committed, and disciplined with everything he does. A phrase that comes to mind is “the way you do anything, is the way you do everything.”
Danny gets this through a number of key attributes that everyone can learn from him:
1. Set a goal. Even short term goals, and always follow through. You can always change direction when it’s done.
2. Know your values. (family, fitness, finances).
3. Be disciplined and build your belief in yourself.
4. Never choose short-term gratification over long-term results.
5. Create an attitude of gratitude toward every aspect of life.
Coach Danny has followed a Ketogenic and/or Paleo diet for 10 years. He knows the immense benefits of using a ketogenic diet as a tool, but is not attached to the process if it isn’t most effectively serving his goal. He is willing to use carbohydrates as necessary to suit his goals (as he discusses in the Ketogenic Muscle Building Program).
If he is training really hard and notices that he is feeling depleted, a general sense of malaise, not recovering, or notices a drop in his HRV, he consumes small amounts of carbs to help offset this.
I’ve been using a ketogenic diet for the most part since retiring from professional bodybuilding. I don’t often come out and share that, because people seem to get offended when you eat a blueberry.
I like to point out that I don’t do a ketogenic diet to be able to tell people that I’m “in ketosis.” I do it for the health and cognitive benefits. So, if I decide that eating sweet potatoes or berries is a good idea, I do so. I’m not attached to the name of the diet I follow, I’m attached to the results I achieve and the way I feel.
I decided to give keto a try during an intense training phase. It’s important to point out though that my ability to produce effort and intensity during a training session will far outweigh most people, so by deductive reasoning I have an increased need for all nutrients.
During this training phase, I really focused on decreasing the total amount of work, and ramping up my intensity of contraction with each rep, to do everything better!
I started off strict keto for the first 3 weeks with increased protein (260 grams of protein and about 260 grams of fat). After 3 weeks, my ketones were consistently around 0.5 to 0.6 mmol/L every morning.
I then shifted my protein down a little to 200 grams and kept fat at 260 grams. My primary sources of fat were fatty meats, olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, bacon, and macadamia nuts.
My biggest challenge came when I had a hard time getting enough fat and started seeking other sources of fat that I could eat to meet my fat requirements. I often ended up “chasing” fat intake, even when I wasn’t hungry. This lead to overeating fats that weren’t ideal, like nuts and nut butters. If I consumed too much fat from these sources, I didn’t feel very good and it was kicking me out of ketosis.
The lesson I learned was that you will not be as hungry on a ketogenic diet once your body actually starts using ketones for fuel. That being said, be patient and don’t chase the fat intake with sources that aren’t ideal.