Carbs, Exercise and the Keto Diet: what you need to know

A lot of people who are on a ketogenic diet wonder what the best types of food are when exercising. They are told not to eat carbs, but also that carbs can help with exercise. Keto and exercise is a confusing topic and one that I will try to demystify.

First of all, you body has different types of fuel. The most common type of fuel most people burn when exercising is carbs. This is because carbs provide a faster burn and are great for explosive exercise.

What does it mean to carb-load before exercise?

You might have heard of the term carb loading which is what a lot of athletes will do the day or evening before an event. It can provide the energy boost needed in that short period for better performance.

But here is the challenge of carbs: most people are not elite athletes. We exercise moderately, usually one to three days a week. So the majority of the time, our carbs are not being used for explosive energy.

Why is exercise harder on a keto diet?

When a person first takes on a ketogenic approach to eating, they can find it is hard to exercise. This is especially true in the first few weeks of a keto diet (link) because they feel a lack of energy.

Rest assured when you first start exercising on a keto diet, this is normal. Your body is becoming fat-adapted, meaning it is switching from burning carbs to burning fats.

Are you exercising with the wrong fuel?

To further fuel analogy: you can think of carbs and fat like gas and diesel. Both can power vehicle, but are used in different ways. Gas is more like carbs, in that it burns quickly. Diesel is a slower burn, more like fats in your body.

For years, experts have derided fats in our diets, but we are now seeing that humans are more like diesel vehicles, which perform well with a slow burn.

When you first start a keto diet, the exercise you do will trigger your body to burn carbs. But after a few weeks on a ketogenic diet when there is little carb fuel left, it will start to burn fat and ketones as fuel.

Here are some symptoms you feel when first exercising on a keto diet:

  • Lack of stamina compared to past performance
  • Lack of explosive power
  • Lack of muscle strength
  • Muscle cramps (usually due to low sodium or dehydration)
  • Need for more water
  • Need for more sleep


How often should you exercise per week on a keto diet?

As a rule, if you exercise less than 2 hours a week, then ketones (fat) are good fuel source. They will help you to lose weight, and your stamina and strength will increase if you persist.

If you exercise an hour or more per day, or you participate in activities like crossfit or cycling, then you may benefit from some additional carbs to give you additional fuel.

With around 80% of people above their ideal weight, the keto diet combined with moderate exercise can be an excellent combination to help you. If will give you slow burn and assist with long term weight loss. If you go a little easier on yourself during your first few of exercise weeks on the keto diet, you will soon see an improvement.

Jerry Hizon, MD is a ketogenic doctor based in Murietta, California. He assists people wanting to lose weight and improve their health through ketogenic diets. His keto coaching programs can help you to track your progress and improve your success. Visit his website today to learn more, or signup online for a keto coaching session via nudge coaching.

A guide to Dairy and the Ketogenic Diet

You might have noticed that there are mixed opinions from keto diet experts about dairy. Some feel it ok to include, others think that it is not.

Dairy has received both good and bad press over the years in regards to both weight loss and overall health.

Here is why it can be confusing to the eat dairy on a keto diet: milk, ice cream, and non-fat dairy products don’t belong in a keto diet. Yet butter, cheese, and other types of full-fat dairy can be a good fit.

Here are the basic types of dairy:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Buttermilk
  • Butter
  • Curd
  • Cream
  • Ice Cream
  • Whey
  • Evaporated Milk
  • Condensed Milk
  • Sour Cream
  • Yogurt

In this article, we will take a closer look at dairy’s positive and adverse health effects. We will also look at some of the healthiest keto-friendly dairy choices you might want to include in your diet.
Understanding the components of dairy

To make it very simple: a dairy product is any food or beverage made from the milk of mammals.

Dairy from cow milk is by far the most common type consumed, there are also goat and sheep dairy products that are popular in some parts of the world.

When you break it down, there are four main components of dairy:

Lactose

Lactose is a disaccharide, or two-unit sugar, consisting of one molecule each of the simple sugars glucose and galactose.

The enzymes in your small intestine break down lactose into these simple sugars, which are then transported into your bloodstream.

Casein

Casein accounts for 80% of the total protein in dairy, including all nine essential amino acids. When milk is treated with the enzyme rennet to make cheese, the casein coagulates into curds, and the liquid portion containing whey is removed. Compared to whey and other proteins, casein can take longer to digest.

Whey

Whey protein makes up the remaining 20% of the protein in milk.

Most of the whey is removed during the process of making cheese. Like casein, whey contains all the essential amino acids, although it is digested much more rapidly.

Fatty Acids

There are hundreds of different fatty acids in milk, and the vast majority are saturated:

Saturated: 70% of total dairy fat, including 11% as short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and caproic acid

Monounsaturated: 25% of total dairy fat

Polyunsaturated: 5% of total dairy fat, including 2.5% naturally occurring trans fatty acids. Dairy trans fats are very different from the industrial trans fats found in margarine and other processed foods. Dairy trans fatty acids seem to have neutral or potentially even beneficial effects on health.

How much dairy is too much for ketosis?

While one cup of whole milk wont harm you (or kick you out of ketosis), it is a bit higher in carbohydrate content than preferred for those on a low carb or ketogenic diet.

For this reason, milk can contribute to the hidden carbs that you may forget to factor into your keto macronutrient goals for the day.

Some examples of the types of dairy you can eat on keto are:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Spreadable cheeses including cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, mascarpone, creme fraiche.
  • Soft Cheese including mozzarella, brie, blue, colby, monterey jack.
  • Hard Cheese including aged cheddar, parmesan, feta, swiss.

Of course, remember that there is a calorie component to cheeses and creams and that consuming a significant amount may reduce your weight loss.

As with most foods, enjoy a reasonable amount of dairy (in moderation), and you will enjoy the benefits of staying in ketosis.

Whether youre looking to lose weight, manage a chronic medical condition, or simply want to overhaul your eating habits, changing your diet for the better is one of the best ways to improve your overall health.

Dr Jerry Hizon, MD strives to demystify the complex science of nutrition, giving his patients sound nutritional guidance designed to set them up for long-term dietary success, whatever their specific goals may be.

The Keto Diet and Intermittent Fasting

The keto diet and intermittent fasting are two popular diets for losing fat, gaining lean muscle mass, and boosting your energy levels.

Many people wonder whether combining intermittent fasting with keto can help you experience even greater results.

The short answer is yes. Intermittent fasting on the keto diet is a simple hack that can definitely accelerate the results and benefits.

What is Intermittent fasting?

If youve slept overnight and not eaten for 12 hours, then youve already experienced intermittent fasting! It simply means that you go for a specific period of time without eating. Some people choose 12 hours, 16 hours or even 24-48 hours. Whatever period of time you select is called your ‘fasting window.’ When you are outside the fasting window, you eat normally.

The key is to know when and for how long to fast. That way you arent tempted to snack during that time.

The difference with intermittent fasting is that usually when you eat throughout the day, youre in a fed state. This makes your body keep digesting and absorbing nutrients from your meals.

Most people who have breakfast, lunch, and dinner will remain in this state during the day, and into the night. The only time their digestive system gets a break is when theyre sleeping.

When your body to enter the fasted state (usually after about 8-12 hours), it means that accelerated fat burning can now take place. Essentially fasting kicks your body into the same ketosis state as being on the keto diet does.

Keto is accelerated with Intermittent Fasting

Since the keto diet is designed to force the body into running on ketones from a very low-carb intake, youre essentially fasting yourself of carbs. In a way, this mimics regular actual fasting that takes place with intermittent fasting.

When you restrict your bodys primary fuel source on the keto diet, adding fasting can kickstart your body into ketosis. Once youre there, you just need to stay on the keto diet to stay in ketosis.

Also, when on the keto diet, you may find it easier to fast for extended periods of time, since your body becomes adapted to the fat burning and you are less hungry.

Here are other benefits that intermittent fasting with keto can give:

– Balancing blood sugar
– Improving nutrient absorption
– Detoxification
– Clearer mind, less brain fog
– Increased fat burn during exercise

On top of all this, intermittent fasting can help with unnecessary snacking and extra caloric intake throughout the day. And its as simple as setting a goal to not eat for as little as 8-12 hours. As you build your fasting window, you may find you can last 12-16 hours and then perhaps even 24 hours without too much worry.

If you are serious about kick-starting your keto journey, then intermittent fasting can give you that extra push you need. Once your there in the ketosis state, its much easier to stay on the keto path and achieve your goals.

Whether youre looking to lose weight, manage a chronic medical condition, or simply want to overhaul your eating habits, changing your diet for the better is one of the best ways to improve your overall health.

Dr Jerry Hizon, MD strives to demystify the complex science of nutrition, giving his patients sound nutritional guidance designed to set them up for long-term dietary success, whatever their specific goals may be.

What kind of exercise is best for the keto diet?

When starting to exercise on a keto diet, you may feel different than you have before. You may feel weaker, or not have the stamina that you had when eating a lot of carbs.

However, exercise, in general, will help you get into ketosis faster, so that is not a deterrent from embarking on exercise during this time frame. Instead, you should focus more on endurance and mobility.

Before the ketogenic adaptation phase is complete, your body is essentially weaning itself off the carbs as a food source. Carbs tend to be very good for exercise because they can make you feel like you have a lot of energy. But if you are wanting the full benefits of the keto diet, you must go through this phase.

The first few weeks, stick to light exercise

Before being keto-adapted, in the first 2-3 weeks of adopting the ketogenic diet, you should stick to low-intensity, aerobic exercise for a majority of the time so as to prevent sugar cravings and muscle catabolism during exercise.

Aerobic exercise, sometimes called cardio exercise, is anything that lasts over three minutes. It is ideal during this early phase. Lower intensity, steady-state cardio burns fat, making it very friendly for the keto dieter. You can also increase electrolyte and fluid intake by consuming water with a pinch of salt before working out.

Anaerobic exercise is characterized by shorter bursts of energy, such as from weight training or high-intensity interval training. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for anaerobic exercise, so fat alone cant provide enough energy for this type of workout.

Build up to high intensity over time

You should avoid doing high-intensity, anaerobic exercises until youre are keto-adapted. because it can be counterproductive to adaptation and you will definitely have decreased performance during this time period.

Other exercises you can do during the early phases of the keto-adaptive phase are:

Flexibility exercises: these are helpful for stretching out your muscles, supporting joints, and improving muscle range of motion. Increasing your flexibility can also help to prevent injuries caused by shortening of the muscles over time. Yoga and simple after-workout stretches are good examples of flexibility exercises to try.

Stability exercises: these include balance exercises and core training and will help improve your alignment, strength of muscles, and control of movement.

Will you lose muscle mass on keto?

Very often when considering the ketogenic diet, there is a concern about whether you will lose muscle mass. The keto diet is known for having great results for weight loss, however, there is a misconception that you may lose muscle as a part of the weight loss.

Really, it all comes down to what you eat.

Going keto means greatly reducing carbs, and since carbs are usually the bodys primary source of fuel, the diet requires using fat and protein as the main source of fuel.

If you still consume a good amount of healthy protein and fats when following the keto diet, your muscles will be fine.

The good news is that while there are some things to keep in mind, exercise is very possible and beneficial to the success of the ketogenic diet.

As you become keto-adapted, make sure to listen to your body, and go easy on heavy exercise for the first few weeks. Slowly, you will find that you can function just as well as before, perhaps even better on the keto diet when exercising.

Whether youre looking to lose weight, manage a chronic medical condition, or simply want to overhaul your eating habits, changing your diet for the better is one of the best ways to improve your overall health.

Dr Jerry Hizon, MD strives to demystify the complex science of nutrition, giving his patients sound nutritional guidance designed to set them up for long-term dietary success, whatever their specific goals may be.