I want a ketogenic diet for weight loss or I want a ketogenic diet for bodybuilding. Those are usually two of the phrases that I hear when someone comes to me and is looking to start a ketogenic diet. They have read about them online and really want to try it since people claim they are the fastest ways to lose fat but are they?
Some Background Please
In order to prevent you from falling asleep while reading this and for the sake of providing useable information, I’m going to give you a very quick overview of what a ketogenic diet is. A ketogenic diet is a high protein, moderate to high fat, very low carbohydrate diet. The diet forces the body to burn fat instead of ingested carbohydrates. Since there are no incoming carbohydrates, the body changes its primary fuel source to fats and the liver converts fats into ketone bodies. The ketone bodies then pass into the brain and replace glucose as the primary energy source.
For the average individual (not someone with a decent amount of muscle mass), this diet provides more than enough nutrients to grow and repair and is also used in epilepsy cases since ketosis exerts a very powerful anticonvulsant effect. What happens when you have a good amount of muscle mass?
So a ketogenic diet for weight loss or a ketogenic diet for bodybuilding should be good right?
So far a ketogenic diet seems like it would be fantastic for natural bodybuilders and physique enthusiasts, but we can see how we would burn fat fast, right? The basic thought process behind it is that since a ketogenic diet keeps insulin low, then it must be good. While insulin isn’t as evil as people make it out to be, it does need to be controlled and a ketogenic diet does it very well, provided that you eat enough protein and health fat and eat your meals on schedule. A missed meal can wreck havoc on your blood sugar during a keto diet. So before we can look deeper, we need to compare a ketogenic diet head to head with a low carb diet.
Benefits Of A Keto Diet For Naturals
-Increased Fat Loss
-Better hormone control, especially cortisol
-Improved appetite suppression
-Lower cardiovascular disease markers
Benefits Of A Low Carb Diet For Naturals
-Small amount of insulin is available
-Lower blood ph
-Improved intensity during anaerobic training
So as we can see, both diets do have their advantages and both will offer fat loss, at a different rate, however. One reason why many lifters say that they can’t stay on a ketogenic diet is a lack of energy. While this may be true for a select few, it is a ludicrous statement for many to make, especially at the beginning of the diet. Those that make it generally don’t have the discipline or drive needed to get to low levels of bodyfat. You’re replacing carbohydrates with a more calorie dense energy source, fat, and adding in fibrous vegetables.
Yes, the first three to five can be hard, but that is a physiological process that has to happen. You may experience headaches (many do not) and lack of energy, but that is only until your body switches from using carbs for energy to using fat for energy and that generally occurs in a few days.
Akt, AMPK, Intensity And Geeky Science
The real analysis of a ketogenic diet for weight loss or a ketogenic diet for bodybuilding begins when you look at certain vital process for growth and recovery and how they are affected, like a ketogenic diet. Akt is a muscle protein molecule that plays an important role cellular signaling. Basically, Akt activates various protein synthesis pathways like the mTOR pathway (we’ll come back to that) and is a very critical signaling protein that leads to general growth, repair and most important to us, muscle gain.Now the control of Akt is what is questioned here. While there are numerous factors that can kick it into gear, insulin and good old-fashioned exercise are two of the big ones. What recent research has discovered is that glycogen depletion actually shuts off the Akt molecule and just from what we know about it from above, we can see that doing that is about as cool as wearing the early 90’s spandex outfits to the gym today.
What’s also interesting is that resting levels of myogenin and IGF-1, two important genes for muscle growth, are also lower in a glycogen-depleted state.More bad news for keto fans comes when we look at AMPK, a protein molecule that plays a very important role in cellular energy homeostasis and is found in such important tissues as the liver, brain and skeletal muscle. While always present, AMPK is activated in severe cases of energy stress, such as glucose starvation (a ketogenic diet), and it actually will inhibit protein synthesis and governs the fuel status of contracting muscles.
So next time the juiced up guy at your gym comes up to give you advice and says “Bro, I need my carbs or else I can’t train after half my workout”, you might not want to look at him so weird. He’s wrong by the way, but that’s a different story.Lastly, one needs to look at the intensity of exercise while on a ketogenic diet. Most people make the mistake of keeping their training intensity high and that, my friends, is a cardinal sin. Research will tell us that low muscle glycogen is related to muscle weakness and most ketogenic advocates will counter and tell us that keto diets are protein sparing because ketone bodies reduce the conversion of amino acids to glucose. The problem is that ketones can only be used during aerobic training and weightlifting in of itself is anaerobic.
Now, I’ve dieted numerous competitors on a ketogenic diet and they have all gotten stronger, so what gives? First, their volume was lower. You can still train using a bodypart split, but you must reduce your way by a third or a half of your normal training. So that means one of the two variations off side raises gets canned and you stop doing the rope pushdowns at the end of your triceps training to “feel” them. Second, they trained at least one exercise in their session using reps of two of five and therefore relying on creatine phosphate as the energy source. Now depending on your personal level of conditioning and how serious you are about dieting, you shouldn’t train this way for the whole time and you certainly shouldn’t be doing movement that requires a great deal of coordination, like deadlifts or front squats.
You can get away with more joint friendly movements, however.Since most people don’t monitor their own training volume, we’re going to give ketogenic diets two strikes and one foul tip.
MTOR, Hydration, And Leucine
Now let’s look at the effect of hydration on a ketogenic diet for weight loss and a ketogenic diet for bodybuilding. The simplest and cheapest way to build muscle is often the most overlooked and that simply is to be hydrated. When you look at the research on ketogenic diets, they all mention dehydration as a side effect and we know that dehydrated cells are catabolic. It’s also important to note that hydration of cells governs protein turnover as well. Basically if a cell gets swollen (hydrated), it becomes anabolic and if it shrinks (dehydrated), it becomes catabolic. Testosterone is also decreased when we train while we’re dehydrated, so when you combine a ketogenic diet with dehydration, you have a recipe for disaster.
As I said earlier, it’s very simple and very cheap to make sure that a cell is hydrated. We all know we should drink water and most bodybuilders in the crowd force themselves to drink water during the course of the day. Add in creatine monohydrate and possibly some celtic sea salt and you shouldn’t have a hydration problem, regardless of what type of diet you’re on.
Here’s the big thing, the saving grace for the fans of ketogenic diets. The branch chain amino acid leucine has been proven to stimulate muscle protein synthesis independently of incoming insulin via the mTOR pathway. The mTOR pathway has been shown to be the most important signaling molecule for protein synthesis and leucine is the most important amino acid for that. Researchers compared seven grams of leucine or seven grams of leucine with thirty-five grams of pure glucose and found that leucine by itself only caused a moderate increase in insulin. The overall spike was smaller. That is important to us while on a keto diet, since the spike is what causes fat storage.
So before you jump on a ketogenic diet for weight loss or a ketogenic diet for bodybuilding, take everything into account and decide for yourself.
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