The ketogenic diet has seen a rise in popularity during recent years due to its effectiveness as a weight loss diet.
But what if your fitness goal is to build and tone muscle? Is it possible to accomplish this while eating a very low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet?
That’s the question I’ll explore today as I weigh in on the ability of the keto diet to support lean muscle building and toning.
HOW TO BUILD MUSCLE
Your body is the ultimate adaptation machine, meaning it reacts to the stresses placed upon it and adapts by making changes to become more efficient at completing those tasks.
For example, when you run a mile, a certain amount of stress is placed on particular parts of your body, such as your heart, lungs, and the muscles in your legs. In response to these stresses, your body literally alters it’s physical makeup so that you’ll be better equipped to handle them next time.
And the opposite is also true. If you spend a great deal of time in a state of inactivity, your body will adapt accordingly. You will grow weaker and become less efficient at dealing with increased activity.
This ability to adapt is the principle on display when it comes to building muscle. Every time you lift weights, you put stress on the muscles being used. Your body responds to this stress by becoming bigger, stronger, and more capable of handling the load placed on your muscles.
Although these changes are very small, they add up over time. With consistency, they can result in noticeable differences as you’ve probably seen in yourself or someone you know.
But working out is only one part of the process. Your body needs certain materials with which to build new muscle, which is where nutrition comes into play.
TRADITIONAL MUSCLE BUILDING DIET VS. KETO
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “protein is the building block of muscle.” While this statement has become somewhat of a cliché in the fitness world, it’s true.
One of the jobs of protein is to help rebuild and repair muscle tissue that’s broken down during strenuous exercise. That’s because protein is made up of amino acids, which promote protein synthesis within your muscle and help to stimulate muscle growth.
And in order to add a good amount of new muscle mass, which is what many serious weightlifters set out to do, you need to put a great deal of stress on your muscles. This means that you need to put in a lot of work at the gym.
To deliver the energy your body needs to power through these tough training sessions day after day, most lifters consume a high-carb diet. That’s because carbs are the body’s primary energy source under normal conditions.
Hence the traditional “muscle building diet” which calls for a lot of carbs and a ton of protein, and which is the recommendation you’re likely to get from most bodybuilding magazines and websites.
As you know, the keto diet is very low-carb, which makes it fundamentally different than what a typical muscle building diet looks like. Keto is also lower in protein as well and is much higher in fat.
But although it’s different than what most traditionalists would consider the optimal muscle building diet, that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t effective for building and toning muscle.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO TONE MUSCLE
Muscle tone is the natural contraction of your resting muscle, or basically just how tight and firm your muscles look. Greater muscle tone means a firmer, leaner, more solid looking muscle.
So when people say that they want to get toned, they usually mean that they want a lean, muscular look that doesn’t include bulking up or putting on a significant amount of mass.
Achieving this lean, toned look is accomplished by building and strengthening muscle while burning enough fat to expose the underlying muscle.
Reaching these goals takes a dedicated weight training regimen in conjunction with an effective fat-burning cardio program and solid nutrition.
BUILDING MUSCLE ON KETO
While on keto, your carbs are severely restricted and protein consumption is limited. But if you think that means you can’t build muscle, think again.
Studies show that increasing fat-free muscle mass while adhering to a keto diet is, in fact, quite possible, all while burning fat.
Achieving these results depends in large part on how you train though. In order to strengthen and build muscle, you’ll need to follow a consistent resistance training protocol.
And while fat will still make up a large majority of your daily calories, it’s important to get enough protein in your diet to facilitate effective muscle building.
BURNING FAT ON KETO
The biggest reason that otherwise healthy individuals adopt a keto lifestyle is for the purpose of burning fat. Once your body enters ketosis, fat becomes the primary fuel source your body will turn to for the energy it needs on a day-to-day basis.
Implementing a cardio program into your training regimen can help your body burn even more fat as you work on building your lean, toned physique.
Since you may experience a lack of energy early on in your keto journey, it’s okay to wait until you’ve entered ketosis before doing too much cardio. Once your body has flipped the fat-burning switch, your energy levels should increase to the point where you can pump out your cardio without feeling exhausted.
SO CAN YOU TONE MUSCLE ON KETO?
The simple answer to this question is yes, you can tone muscle on keto!
If you’re trying to achieve a leaner, more defined muscular look, it’s totally possible to achieve this while adhering to the keto diet.
Research, as well as anecdotal evidence, show that reaching these results is well within your means, as long as you’re consistent with your fitness and nutrition regimen.
Whether your fitness goal is to burn fat, build lean muscle, or both, a keto diet can help you accomplish your goal.
The most important thing to remember is that consistency is key when it comes to seeing results from any fitness or nutrition program, regardless of the desired outcome.
If you aren’t committed to the process, you won’t experience the results you hope for!