T Nation

Tip: Keto and Bodybuilding Don't Mix

TC Luoma

TC Luoma is one of my favorites. Most of the information he provides is good. However, his information on the Ketogenic Diet is biased and skewed.

With that said, let breakdown some of his information in this article.

Hard To Maintain the Ketogenic Diet

" … if you’re a regular Joe who isn’t in total command of his food chain – …you’re liable to slip up sooner or later."

Yes, the Ketogenic Diet, due to it’s restrictiveness is hard to maintain for most.

That is true of any diet or training program. Individual who are less committed have less success.

As some said, “Successful people are willing to do what less successful people won’t.”

People who are truly in ketosis need to get 80 to 90 percent of their calories from fat, …

That percentage range is incorrect. Research has demonstrated that a “Modified Atkins Diet, MAD”, with around 65% plus fat intake will get you and keep you in ketosis.

My fat percentage of fat intake on the Ketogenic Diet averages about 70%. My blood ketones range from .06 to 1.2. A reading of 0.5 or higher means you are in ketosis.

I have a Mojo Ketone Meter that allows me to check my ketone level.

My fluctuation in my ketone levels is generally driven by consuming too much protein. A protein intake that is too high take you out of ketosis, via gluconeogenesis.

20 percent of total calories – will take you out of ketosis.

Research by individual such as Dr Jack Wilson have indicated that up to 25% of total calorie can be consume before it takes you out of ketosis. That providing your fat intake percentage is 65% or more of your daily caloric intake.

…eating such a relatively small amount of protein every day would cause the muscles of most bodybuilders and lifters to start to shrink.

That applies to individual on the Standard American Diet (high carbohydrate diet), not the Ketogenic Diet.

Approximately, 1.4 to 1.6 gram of protein per kilo of body weight are sufficient.

Research indicate the less protein is needed on a Ketogenic Diet. A higher elevation of Leucine (the anabolic amino acid) is maintained when you are in ketosis. Ketone provide a protein sparing effect.

If you don’t give your body sugar, the body will break down protein to get it, and that protein will come mostly from muscle.

Yes, the body does need some glucose on a Ketogenic Diet.

Research shows that Keto Adapted individual replenish glucose storage in the body to essentially the same level as those on a Standard American Diet.

However, the Keto Adapted individual primary source of fuel is ketones/body fat. Keto Adapted individual tend to preserve glucose store, only using them as a last resort.

As an example…

The Brain

Individual on the Standard American Diet uses a lot of glucose for the brain; the brain is termed as a “Glucose Hog”.

That is one of the reason when you initially go on a Keto Diet that you have headaches. Your brain’s energy source has been cut off.

However, once Keto Adapted, 80% of your brain’s energy come from ketones.

…people who worship at the keto altar are low-carb waffling on this protein speed limit.

I am more pragmatic in my approach regarding the Ketogenic Diet and everything else.

My reason for the Ketogenic Diet is due to a Metabolic Condition. As with anything new, it took me some time to understand the caveats of the Ketogenic Diet and how to train in it. A different training protocol is needed for optimal training results.

What matters is whether the amount of protein a bodybuilder or lifter needs to grow muscle – or even maintain it – is enough to take you out of ketosis, and I think it is, as do a lot of other biohackers, nutritionists, and keto autodidacts.

The facts matter more than what you think. Research has demonstrated that maintaining muscle mass, increasing muscle mass and strength can be achieved on a Ketogenic Diet; as noted Leucine (the anabolic amino acid) is elevated and remain so on a Kegogenic Diet.

On a personal noted, I gained 17 lbs on the Ketogenic Diet by increasing my caloric intake; keeping my fat intake around 70%, protein around 20 - 25% and carbohydrate at 50 gram or less.

But those who have financial interests in promoting a ketogenic diet disagree

I am am not selling anything here. I have NO “financial interesting in promoting a ketogenic diet.”

My issue is when information is twisted and incorrectly presented.

With that said, I am not an advocate of the Ketogenic Diet due to the fact that it is so restrictive and hard to maintain, as TC stated at the beginning of his article.

The harder you make something for someone, the less likely they will maintain it.

*If lifters or bodybuilders want to lose fat, they’d best do it the old-fashioned way: reduce caloric intake…

Calories in, calories out is the foundation of all diets, even the Ketogenic Diet.

The Twinkie Diet

Mark Haub, MS Nutritrion at Kansas State proved you can lose weight on a junk food diet if you decreased you caloric intake. Haub lost 27 lbs in 3 months.

Haub went on the Twinkie Diet to prove a point to his class. Haub doen’t recommend the diet for obvious reasons.

Do Your Own Research

Don’t take my word nor TC’s.

Do your own research and experimentation and come to your own conclusions.

Kenny Croxdale

Admittedly, a lot of things that we strength training and bodybuilding hobbyists and enthusiasts base our diets and training philosophies on are anecdotal “bro-science.” It worked for him, so it will work for me. Respected giant coach dude said it, so it must be true.

I understand the skepticism. I get it. I’m a scientist at my core.

I’ve done keto in the past, years ago, and I experienced rapid weight loss. And it was soooo easy. Bacon and eggs, steak and a small salad. I was never hungry, and the weight just fell off.

And then I tried to lift weights. I was weak. I would fail at ridiculously light weights after just a few reps. Pushing and pulling heavy weights would leave me gasping for breath.

Yes, sir, I did my own experimentation and came to my own conclusion.

Just one more bro’s anecdotal personal opinion. Strength training and keto just don’t mix.

Practical Experience

Well, at least you have some practical experience.

Decrease In Body Weight

A decrease in body weight usually means there will be a decrease in strength, as you know.

Ketogenic Diet and Strength Training (Limit Strength, Power, Speed,and Hypertrophy)

Here what I have found after being on the Ketogenic Diet for close to 4 years.

  1. Initial Decrease In Strength: It take some time to become acclimated to the diet. which means there is usually a drop off in strength.

  2. Ketogenic Diet Training: The Ketogenic Diet require a modification in your training protocol.

  3. For Limit Strength, Power and Speed, training needs to be maintained in the Phosphagen Energy System. Sets of 1 - 3 Repetitions.

  4. For Hypertrophy Training, Sets of 1 - 6 Repetition performed in Cluster Sets allow ATP restoration, which allows you to remain in the Phosphagen Energy System.

Dr Jonathan Oliver research on Hypertrophy Cluster Set Training was based on how to increase muscle mass in athlete while maintaining and/or increasing Power and Strength.

With Traditional Bodybuilding Hypertrophy Training, a drop in Power and Strength occur. Oliver’s Hypertrophy Cluster Set Training negated that issue.

Repetition in the Phosphagen Energy System enable athlete to preform them explosively, Compensatory Acceleration Training/Hatfield.

Oliver Hypertrophy Cluster Set Training is an effective method for individual on the Ketogenic Diet; training is maintained in the Phosphagen Energy System.

Following that caveat, my Limit Strength and Power is back to where it was when I was on the Standard American High Carbohydrate Diet.

Research has demonstrated that Limit Strength and Power can be maintained and increase on a Ketogenic Diet.

It just take a little time to figure it out.

Kenny Croxdale

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I’m confident it’s per kg of lean body mass.

Same here.

I started keto because I was fat, lost 14kg in a few months painlessly. When I got back to working out (on break since 2012), I switched to a traditional diet because there is allegedly a laundry list why keto is not suited to strength sports. Then I felt like shit and when back to keto because I was more comfortable. 8 months later I squat and dl more than 2.5BW.

I think it’s true that it’s socially hard to maintain, is that harder than people who eat their same brown rice / broccoli / chicken combo every single day?

I too am not an advocate, simply because I know people don’t have the dedication for it. It has many beneficial effects, but a cheat meal on keto is incredibly more harmful than on traditional diet. Also there is a study released recently suggesting that the blood vessels of ketoers after a cheating day are much more damaged than normal.

Bodybuilding for bulk- high calorie and carb works with massive proteins but you’ll put on the fat as well depending on good vs bad carbs.

Leaning out for a fat loss Keto is the way. However you must do it to a T to get the results or to get into the 10-13%BF range…for ME.

After years of trying the bulk I got fat. Looked like shit. Once I did Keto, all that muscle and abs came to the surface. Who knew? Lol. Keto is great for the cut, and the muscle loss myth isn’t as severe as people think it would be.

TC is a very entertaining writer but he probably thinks there’s a special barbell for lefthanders.

Without banging the keto drum, again, it should be patently obvious folks manipulate low carb diets to their needs and call it ‘keto’. You can consume more protein than someone on a typical bro diet and still produce ketones. Yes, it’s true! So the notion you can only eat modest protein to adhere to a keto diet is completely false. TC should interview Jon Andersen and ask why he is so small and weak doing keto. Should be an interesting conversation!

EDIT: it is worth adding that much of the hysterical crap that surrounds keto dieting originates with the keto zealots themselves, e.g. “Unless you are showing +1.5mmol on the ketone blood monitor you’re not keto-adapted.” Or, any more than 120g PRO a day you’re not in keto." All total nonsense.

Similarly, and rather sadly, some people who write articles on this site are spectators: they talk a good game and are quick to hitch on to the latest ‘study’ or whatever and have little interest in ascertaining a level of truth, or certainty, for themselves.


Hmm, no

10 snickers or 20 yams? Bad vs good.

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Yams : 2600 50/600/1.5
Snickers: 2700 40/360/140

If it fits your macros there is no problem. Physique wise, body does not care and as long as you are eating below maintenance you will lose fat.

lol quality of food definitely makes a difference when talking about aesthetics and performance

Quality of foods indeed make or break someone. If one isn’t too short sighted it’s obvious that more vitamins, minerals, omegas, amino acids will be crucial for long term health and decreased inflammation meaning better metabolism of all macros. It’s not rocket science.

I was also disappointed like always when it comes to keto rebuttal. Authors should talk about insulin resistance, elevated circulating free fatty acids, increased Cortisol to keep glucose up, SHBG, reverse t3, reverse Warburg effect the list goes on.

It’s no surprise that Inuits have a specific mutation that prevents them to ever enter ketosis. Long term ketosis is masochistic.

I’d also argue that Kempner, Swank, Prilikin Esselstyn and many other over the last century have shown that very low fat diets did melt body fat extremely well. As Paul Carter’s recent article quoted (from the ISSN) you control protein and calories and the rest is irrelevant for fat loss. Now considering the impaired blood flow following a high fat meal I am obviously leaning towards “bro diets”.

Populations who never ate low fat in the first place and out of all things avoid sugar like the plague (but eating out and mostly fried shit, is the norm) are being told that fat is good. Fantastic - let the obesity pandemics roll on ever further.

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The biggest difference is that the snickers have 150+ grams of net fructose while the Yams have almost none. In excess, fructose raises triglycerides in the blood and the liver which cause progressive insulin resistance. Glucose does not have to get turned into triglycerides (to prevent fructo-toxicity in the blood). There are other differences too, some of which make fructose worse and some that make it better than glucose. Point is, glucose and fructose impact hormones and the liver differently.

Second, the Snickers have 140 grams of fat, which isn’t necessarily bad, but in this case, coming from peanuts, it is over 100 grams of omega-6s with no omega-3s. That is very high, at least 10x the level shown to raise inflammation, and 3-5 x the average of the American diet which is already high in omega-6s.

Some of the problems of high fructose and omega-6s gets abated by being in a calorie deficit since they will tend to get burned instead of stored.


How long have you been on a ketogenic diet and how much have you improved in body composition or performance over that period and over the last 3-6 months.

I agree with some of your points but based on readings in the .6 to 1.2 range I question whether you are keto adapted. Is sounds to me like someone who is making ketones but also running on glucose. My understanding and experience (I have been on a ketogenic diet for a few stretches of 2-4 weeks) that ketones get up to that level in the early stages of ketosis when the brain is still running on glucose made from protein. Since the brain is still running on glucose, and the liver is still turning a lot of protein into glucose, ketones run higher (.6-1.2) because the brain is not disposing of them as a primary fuel source. When the brain adapts to run on ketones, gluconeogenesis decreases and ketone levels can drop to 0.2 to 0.6 because the brain is using them up. Protein has only 1 metabolic destination.

People making ketones but also making glucose from protein may actually have high insulin levels since ketones make insulin less effective, and make glucose disposal more difficult. So does circulating fatty acids and triglycerides and blood amino acids. They all add up. Ketones cause cellular damage the same way that glucose does. Personally I think that many, or most people who see ketones in the 0.6-1.2 range but are eating 100 grams of protein a day are making ketones but still using glucose for the brain and making it from protein. That keeps insulin levels up too. Over the course of 24 hours a gram of protein stimulates almost the same release of insulin as a gram of carbohydrate, but its spread out. Leucine stimulates MORE insulin per gram than glucose.

I did say for physique goals. What is best for health is another discussion.

Short term, and especially if you are in a calorie deficit you may be more or less right. Calorie deficits tend to negate a lot of harms from nutrients that can have negative effects because you are going to burn them up faster than you are consuming them, but still, in the long run, having a degree of insulin resistance in the liver, and inflammatory fatty acids incorporated into cell membranes and adipose is going to have physique consequences.

I would actually define a “dirty” diet as one that is high in omega-6s and fructose, and any food item that you may be sensitive too such as wheat or dairy (on an individual basis).

Another way to look at it is that macros should be described as protein, glucose-netting carbs, fructose netting carbs, and fats divided at least into Omega-6s and “all others” (since monounsaturated and saturated are fairly similar in the body and omega-3s are not going to make up a huge bulk of calories).

I assume this reply is addressing my post… If so…

Ketogenic Diet

I’ve been on the diet for coming up in 3 years.

It took me some time to adjust my training to the diet. There was an initial drop until I found how to structure my training for the diet. My performance bounce back and inching up.

Keto Adapted

I use a Glucometer to monitor my blood sugar and the Ketometer to monitor my ketones. Based on those reading, it appears that I am Keto Adapted.

While gluconeogenesis converts some protein to glucose that is used by the body, it doesn’t appear that I am running on glucose.

Low Glucometer Levels

My Glucometer reading is around 71 in a fasted state.

My 2 hour post meal Glucometer reading ranges between 85 to 109, dependent on what I consume.

Kenny Croxdale

Macros our highly overrated. As long as 15% of your calories comes from Protein (yes only 15%), there are no studies to support one type of calorie is more magical than another type of calorie.

Whether bulking or cutting, your diet will come down to calories in vs calories out, and getting the minimum amount of protein in.