Skip to main content

Working out on keto: Maximize your fitness plan with this handy guide

Here are the best exercises to maximize your potential on keto

a close up of a shirtless man running outside
Savvas Stavrinos / Pexels

There’s a known synergy between exercise and a healthy diet, and the same applies to the ketogenic diet. If you’ve taken the low-carb leap or you’re considering it, keeping up with your fitness is beneficial. Certain types of exercises maximize the positive effects of ketosis. Research has also shown that going keto can improve athletic performance. Here’s what you need to know about working out on keto.

Why is it a good idea to exercise on keto?

burn fat words on blue plate grey background
Total Shape / Unsplash

Of course, exercise is always a good idea to complement your healthy diet. A ketogenic diet involves eating high-fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates. People who aren’t following the ketogenic diet are primarily burning carbohydrates to fuel their workouts, but when you switch over to keto, your body turns to fat as your main fuel source instead. Dietary fat gives you more calories per gram compared to protein and carbohydrates, so it can keep you satiated for longer. Eating more dietary fat while in the metabolic state of ketosis could help fuel you for a longer workout.

When you reduce your carb and sugar intake and enter ketosis, your body begins producing advantageous molecules called ketones. Some studies show that exogenous ketones can improve athletic performance. Interestingly, research reveals that a ketogenic diet can enhance performance for endurance athletes. 

A ketogenic diet has also been shown to ramp up fat burning during exercise, which is excellent news for those wanting to trim body fat. Impressively, several studies concluded that the ketogenic diet could speed up muscle recovery after workouts and lower inflammation.

Can you build muscle on keto?

Shaped and healthy body building man holding a fresh salad bowl,shaped abdominal
FS Stock / Shutterstock

With the popularity of carb-loading, some people wonder if you can build muscle on a ketogenic diet. It turns out you don’t need lots of carbs to build muscle, and research concluded that ketogenic diets are effective for muscle growth, likely thanks to protein and fat.

What are the best exercises for the ketogenic diet?

keto diet picture knife and fork word block
Total Shape / Unsplash

Ultimately, the best exercises to optimize your ketogenic diet depend on a multitude of factors, including your general health, physical activity levels, metabolism, and age. The results of plenty of studies highlight that keto is optimal for lower-intensity exercises like restorative yoga and swimming, as well as endurance exercises, such as marathons and long-distance running. Even so, you might feel you have lasting energy on keto that enables you to better perform high-intensity workouts that were more difficult when you were on the sugar and carb-loaded American diet.

Endurance training

man distance running
Chander R / Unsplash

Any exercise that hikes up your heart rate for a prolonged period is called an endurance exercise. As the studies suggest, if you’re consuming a healthy ketogenic diet and burning fat for fuel, you might be able to run or cycle longer distances. It’s known that eating too many carbs can make you tired. Most of us know the feeling after gorging on pizza or a carb-heavy meal. You might be surprised by your athletic potential when you aren’t dealing with carb crashes and grogginess, and you’re feeling satiated with healthy fats, protein, and fiber. 

Resistance training 

man wearing red shirt and shorts in gym weight lifting dead lift man with tattoos
Alora Griffiths / Unsplash

Resistance training involves exercising muscles using some type of resistance, such as bands, weights, or your own body weight. Resistance training is also commonly referred to as strength training or weight training. Exercise enthusiasts often start resistance training to increase muscular strength and endurance. 

A study on athletes reported that the metabolic state of ketosis improved physical endurance thanks to the body’s ability to use fat as an alternative fuel source. Another study showed that going keto for just 12 weeks improved performance, body composition, and fat-burning during exercise and resistance training.

Lower-intensity exercises

Man swimming in a pool.
Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Jogging, walking, rowing, swimming, and restorative yoga are examples of lower-intensity activities. Especially while your metabolism adapts to burning fat for fuel instead of sugar, you might want to start with lower-intensity workouts. Some people experience the keto flu and flu-like symptoms while their bodies transition into ketosis. You might need to experiment to find the best type of exercise for you, which could change over time as you become more metabolically adapted.

Switching your metabolism takes time

A man in gray sleeveless top eating a vegetable salad in the gym.
Getty Images

Remember that it takes time for your body and metabolism to get used to being in ketosis, producing ketones, and burning fat for fuel. This is especially true if you’re coming from a high-carbohydrate diet. You could find that while following a ketogenic diet, your exercise performance improves over time.

Top tips:

Gradually work your way into ketosis and try scheduling the carbs you are eating around your resistance training and higher-intensity workouts. Another option is to start with a cyclical ketogenic diet where you eat low-carb keto for five or six days of the week, followed by one or two days of a high-carb diet. Make sure you’re getting enough protein to promote tissue repair and muscle synthesis.

Editors' Recommendations

Steph Green
Steph Green is a content writer specializing in healthcare, wellness, and nutrition. With over ten years of experience, she…
The essential rowing machine workouts guide: Tips, workout plan, and more
How to build muscle and burn fat with a rowing machine
Concept 2 erg rowing machine.

Sometimes, exercise routines can become repetitive and dull. Therefore, it is important to keep things interesting by varying the activities included in a regular fitness program. By doing so, individuals are highly likely to stick to a fitness schedule and get the results they want from their exercise plan.  

If you want to add a new element to your fitness program, rowing machine workouts might be for you. Rowing machines, also known as ergometers, provide a full-body workout that helps burn calories, improve cardiovascular health, and build muscle.

Read more
Are you doing hammer curls the right way? Your complete guide
Perfect your hammer curl form
Person standing on asphalt holding a dumbbell in each hand.

A hammer curl is one of the most common isolated gym exercises targeted toward growing the bicep muscle. Performing isolated movements that work a specific area of the body can help you achieve the toned, muscular look you're going for. Although a hammer curl is a simple exercise, ensuring proper form is key to seeing the gains you want. Once you perfect your hammer curl form, this exercise is perfect to add to your upper body routine -- and easy to perform in nearly any gym. Here's how you can achieve the perfect hammer curl form in no time.
Why you should try hammer curls

The most important part of perfecting the form of any gym exercise is to understand the specific muscle group it targets. In the case of a hammer curl, this isolation exercise targets the bicep brachii. The bicep brachii is the part of your bicep that is visible on the front of the body, which means it is outward-facing. If you're looking to achieve a sculpted, toned look, building up the bicep brachii muscle can help you achieve this look.

Read more
3 amazing steady-state cardio exercises to work into your fitness routine
man on treadmill

The endless rows and rows of cardio equipment at the gym are pretty standard -- from treadmills to exercise bikes. Although you're likely to see the same equipment at nearly any gym, there are endless types of cardio you can do on each machine. From high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to steady-state cardio, changing up your cardio workouts helps to keep things interesting while also maximizing your fitness. Below, learn why you should incorporate steady-state cardio into your routine and which exercises to try.

What is steady-state cardio?

Read more