With the ketogenic diet most know that it is important that the body relies on the ketones to fuel the body. When it comes to working out though, that is where the protein in the ketogenic diet plays an important role. To avoid muscle break down one must have proper protein intake as the muscles in the body due to feed on ketones alone. The muscles in our bodies need protein to stay fueled.
Most post workout foods on the market such as protein bars and shakes contain a lot of carbs, sugars, and other additives. These can through the state of ketosis out the window and cause the body to go back to using glucose as an energy source. This also needs to be avoided when using the ketogenic diet.
Protein and Muscle
Muscles need leucine which is one of many amino acids found in complete proteins. Leucine is for promoting muscle growth. When eating adequate amounts of leucine your muscles will grow back after training creates microscopic tears in muscle tissue known as break down. This process is how muscles grow, breaking down and building up again. This process happens with resistance training and maintaining positive net protein balance.
Our bodies do not create leucine, it comes from high protein sources and if you are not consuming enough the muscle tissues stay broken down and you can lose muscle. The amount of leucine that one should get depends on how much activity one has. With heavy exercise one should have 1.6g of protein per kg of body weight. Moderate activity levels should have 1.3 per kg of body weight and light activity should consume 1g of protein per kg of body weight.
Most people keep protein within a 30% intake of caloric consumption. For a 180lb person up to 2g of protein per body weight is safe depending on activity levels this would be around 160g of protein per day. Using a keto calculator to track macros and adjust as needed to activity levels and goals is the best way to measure the amount you may need.
Keto Diet Preserving Muscle
A low carbohydrate high fat ketogenic diet burns body fat and helps preserve lean tissue. This process happens in a 3 step process. First by eating a low carb diet the body starts using ketones as energy source due to carbs being a lower source. The ketones enter the blood stream and the body starts to burn fat as it is now the best source for energy and is preserve muscle. Beta Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) interacts with amino acids in muscles to promote muscle growth and repair known as protein synthesis.
The second step is that keto boosts adrenaline and growth factors. When the body using ketones as a fuel source it lowers blood sugars and this stimulates adrenaline production. Adrenaline will then increase fat loss and muscle preservation. Low blood sugar also signals the body’s release of growth hormone and insulin- like growth factor (GH and IGH-1). These two hormones tell your muscles to grow and repair.
The third is improving body composition. It is easy to see the difference of body composition of overweight users of the ketogenic by seeing how they shed fat. In those who are of a normal body composition though the body builds more muscle. Therefore the body composition for someone who is not trying to lose weight will be seen as gaining muscle.
People used to think that carbs were the way to go to build and repair muscles. This was the thought as carbs produce insulin, however this information is outdated. When you get the proper amount of leucine from protein you need less insulin to repair those muscles. For muscle repair in growth the best route with the ketogenic diet is getting plenty of protein and healthy fats.
Top Ten ketogenic Workout foods
As we have talked about the best foods are complete protein for the leucine that will help repair and build muscle. The following foods help promote that repair and building of muscle so that the muscles don’t just break down during activity.
The first food is whey protein which is a huge source of leucine necessary for muscle growth and repair. Whey Protein is a complete protein containing all nine amino acids essential for the growth and repair. These proteins can’t be synthesized; they can only be given from foods and supplements.
Whey protein is full of flavor and ranks high for digestibility and efficiency. Post workout whey protein is great for recovery. Whey protein helps with muscle recovery strength and power. Whey helps with age related muscle decline. One study showed that whey protein with the keto diet induces weight loss by preserving muscle and blasting fat cells.
When using whey protein use around 20-30 grams for smoothies and as it is a powder in smoothies you can add some of the following on the list to the smoothie for added micronutrients and textures.
Meat and Fish
The second best food for keto workouts is meat and fish. Meat and fish are both are excellent sources of fat and protein. Like whey protein they are considered complete proteins, and you can only get leucine from the complete proteins. Meat and fish are both very keto friendly more so the fattier choices that are wild caught fish and grass fed.
The keto diet is higher fats at 60% and protein at 30% and then the remaining for carbs. Salmon fillets are fatty and protein-rich making it a perfect workout meal not adding to the smaller amount of carbs. Salmon also contains omega-3 fats, DHA, and EPA. Omega-3 is an anti inflammatory and helps minimize soreness that may usually happen after working out.
Meat and fish are hypoallergenic and people with dairy and soy allergens may be able to handle this more as a meal for workout than some protein types. Another hypoallergenic and gut friendly choice is Collagen powder.
Collagen powder is the third on the list of top ten foods for keto work outs. When working out the body breaks down muscle and connective tissue. We know that leucine helps rebuild muscle but that connective tissue needs rebuilt as well. The connective tissue helps hold your bones together and determines the force output and range of motion. This connective tissue is made of collagen therefore after a workout collagen is important for proper recovery.
Although collagen powder doesn’t contain much leucine is does contain high amounts of amino acids, glycine, and proline. These all help with collagen production making collagen powder the best way to produce collagen.
Collagen is a perfect keto food as it doesn’t add to your carb intake and helps with blood sugar levels. Which we know low blood sugar is how the body knows to stay in the state of ketosis.
The forth food is eggs which are natures miracle for ketogenic they are high fat very low on carbohydrates and moderate protein. Eggs are the closest comparison to whey protein that one can get with efficiency, digestibility, and bioavailability.
High in choline which is a nutrient that powers mitochondria in muscle cells. Egg yolks are essential as no choline no power. Mitochondria are the powerhouse of our cells which boosts strength and recovery. Eggs much like salmon have anti inflammatory omega 3s which helps with body aches after workouts. Eggs are a great post workout food however many have allergens to them which could take them off the list for some.
Number five of post workout foods is the protein bar. Earlier we mentioned how protein bars are often loaded with sugars and high carbs as well as many other additives. These things make it harder to find a decent keto friendly protein bar, and if you are not careful when reading the nutrient information this could consume your daily intake depending on how much carbs and sugars are in them.
Too many carbs can raise blood glucose levels which raise insulin levels and can kick your body out of the state of ketosis. With higher insulin levels your body won’t be able to lose the fat as higher insulin levels means fat storage.
The goal of the keto diet is to keep blood sugars low to stay in ketosis as it will burn fat and preserve muscle. This should always be in your mind when deciding which foods to consume as you want to stay in ketosis.
You need something after working out though to help repair muscle and tissue break down and growth. Therefore all post work out foods should be high in protein and no artificial flavors colors or sugars. There are some protein bars that are keto friendly, though they may be pricy if that is the method of post workout food you choose.
Exogenous ketones are the sixth food for post workout on the keto diet. This is great for the ketogenic diet as it lowers blood sugar and preserves muscle. These ketones come in two different forms one is salts the other is esters. Esters are more potent but are short lived as compared to salts and have been known to not taste great.
Exogenous ketones can boost exercise performance with increased fat burning, improved glycogen conservation, lower muscle lactate levels which indicate better muscle endurance, and higher BHB levels.
Exogenous ketones move sugar out of the blood and into lean body mass. This process enhances athletic performance and lowers blood sugar. Blood sugar is linking to obesity and other chronic diseases so it is better to keep it lowered.
Exogenous ketones are also great when fasting as it helps boost the process of ketosis; this is a great way to start out on the ketogenic diet. The process would be not eating for several hours and to use exogenous ketones post workout to boost muscle repair and building as well as helping the body get into ketosis faster with the production of BHB.
MCT oil is the seventh food of post workout to build muscles. MCT oil is a medium chain triglyceride a fat derived from coconut oil. MCT oil can be added to drinks or foods to help the body get to a state of ketosis quickly. It works quickly because it goes directly to the liver for ketone conversion. This is one of the ketone short cuts just like exogenous ketones it raises BHB levels. BHB levels works with leucine to preserve and repair muscles.
Micronutrients are important for the entire body. To get these the best way is to eat green vegetables. Micronutrients help with workout recovery. You need quite a bit of help getting all of these micronutrients such as around four cups of spinach just to reach the required amount of magnesium the body needs.
Magnesium is needed to help the nervous system as well as build muscles, without it you won’t be able to perform. This is why you see a lot of greens in peoples post workout shakes. It is hard to get eat all that is needed and mixing these in shakes makes it easier to consume. These help with macro and micro all at once.
When it comes to leafy greens, the most common thing you want to shop for are spinach, kale, certain lettuces (lose leaf lettuce is the best), and avocados, which we’ll provide plenty of info for below. Aside from avocadoes, you can generally eat as much spinach or leafy vegetables as you want, and base your meals around them (in the form of salads or as an addition). Avoid using high carb dressings, such as ranch dressing, French dressing, and some others that are advertised as “creamy”. Make sure that there are very little carbs per serving, as most of us generally put more than one serving on our salads.
Avocados contain 22 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein and 13 grams of carbohydrates as well as many other nutrients the body needs per cup. Now you may be worried about the 13g of carbs in the avocado but this is dietary fiber and it offsets the carb load by limiting the blood sugar response. Looking at the math it is easy to find the grams of net carbs 13 grams of carbs minus 10 grams of fiber equals 3 grams of net carbs. This means for the purpose of keto you would only need to count the 3 grams of net carbs.
Like the leafy greens avocado is loaded with micronutrients. One cup of avocado contains 42% of the daily vitamin B5 which is used for energy production. It has 35% of daily vitamin K used for blood clotting. One cup has 30% of daily folate used for energy, DNA repair, and metabolism. It also has 21% of daily vitamin E which is antioxidant.
Mixing this into a protein shake adds texture making it thicker and more filling, however if hungry a snack of nuts is a great addition.
Nuts are a great way to add more healthy fats to your diet without consuming too many calories. Almonds, cashews, pistachios, macadamia, and walnuts are high fat low carb making for a great keto friendly snack
Nuts are great sources of macronutrients but also contain several micronutrients. A forth of a cup contains 53% of daily copper 44% of daily magnesium, and 20% molybdenum. Copper is needed for collagen synthesis which again helps with rebuilding tissue from workouts.
Nuts provide many micronutrients that are hard to otherwise come by making them a staple snack for the ketogenic diet.
When it comes to nuts, you want to avoid overuse of cashews, and be sure to not include peanuts, as they generally have more carbohydrates than most forms of nuts. You can eat them in moderation, but in general, you don’t want to base any of your meals around peanuts, as this can cause you to get too many carbohydrates per day.
Other keto friendly work out tips
Limit carbs which is essential to the keto diet but also helps with building muscle with the keto diet. Carbohydrate consumption while on a keto diet will impact your workout results. This needs to stay in the mindset with calculation carb intake. Use a calculator specified for keto dieting to find out how many carbs should be consumed, and write the amount down. The goal is to remain under 10-15% of total caloric intake to stay in ketosis.
To keep carb intake low make swaps for healthier choices such as avocados instead of bananas. If you are just starting out this mind set and swapping foods to healthier choices will become easier as you get into the process more.
Blend smoothies for post workouts. You can use almost all the items on the list of top ten foods for post workout on keto dieting for a smoothie. A smoothie from this list may look similar to:
- 20-30 grams of whey protein isolate – Make sure that you don’t use soy protein.
- 1-2 tablespoons of MCT oil – This is optional, but it’s a great way to increase your MCTs.
- ½ cup of coconut milk – Coconut milk is mostly water, but is super healthy.
- 1 scoop of greens (powder) – For extra antioxidants, vitamins, macros, and other benefits.
- 2-3 scoops of collagen powder – This aids helping your digestive system.
- 1 medium avocado or 1 cup – high in natural fats, fiber, vitamin K, macros, and potassium.
- 1 scoop of exogenous powder – for extra BHB.
The smoothie listed is high in healthy fat and high protein for muscles and many micronutrients for the body to use throughout the day. A smoothie is a great way to stay on the go and get all of the macro and micro nutrients needed post workout.
Smart snacking is another tip, even with cutting cravings using the keto diet you will still want a snack from time to time. This is perfectly acceptable, the thing is smart snacking. You don’t want to snack on ice cream or potato chips as those are not keto friendly snacks and can cause your body to go out of the state of ketosis. Once you are in ketosis the goal is to remain in ketosis. So smart snacking is learning what snacks you can have this is also part of the process of food swapping. You need snacks that are full of health fats such as keto bars, nuts, coconut chips and nut butters. These help the body stay full longer and create fuel for daily activity as well as keep your body in a fat burning mode.
Exercise the correct way, this means body weight exercising like squats, planks, pushups and pull ups. Heavy lifts such as back squats, bench press, kettle bell swings and dead lifts. High intensity interval training also known as HIIT has been known to boost hormones associated with muscle growth. Yoga is great for strength, flexibility, and mobility as well as mental clarity.
Conclusion: Why These Super Foods are Important
You have read numerous details about various types of foods that are the top choices for a keto diet. Every food was described as to why and how they are important. Many of the foods that are described, and many that are consumed in a keto diet, have been linked to many other diets and have been considered what is called a “super food”. This is because they have so many nutrients that can actually impact our lives on a daily basis, as well as a long-term basis so we can better function, have healthier lives, and some of these foods have even been linked to longer life spans in some other individuals following keto and other diets (such as the “Mediterranean diet”). When it comes to your post-workout foods, you want to assist your body, not hurt it. Remember, there are plenty of extra steps to take when doing a keto diet, especially when you get to the point of continuing or exercising heavily. When you exercise vigorously, you’ll need to eat more calories proportionally to your needs as compared to when you’re not exercising. This will help you build lean muscle along with eating all of these protein packed foods.