You’ve probably heard of the term ketogenic diet being thrown around in the bodybuilding industry over the past few years. Your initial response was maybe that it’s something akin to a vegetarian diet, or something that inevitably wouldn’t help you gain muscle as much as an omnivorous diet.
That’s probably because you didn’t have as much information about the benefits of a ketogenic diet for cutting. Then you find out that athletes on a ketogenic diet look absolutely shredded, vascular, and seem to have more energy than the average bodybuilder on an energy drink!
That’s why you’ve decided that you need to at least figure out what a ketogenic diet is and how you can implement that lifestyle in order to make you look great on stage, while still gaining muscle just like those athletes.
We’d like to welcome you here, where you’ll learn all about the ketogenic diet and its benefits to your bodybuilding career, starting with the first question you’d ask out of the gate.
What Is a Ketogenic Diet?
The all-encompassing definition we would give is that a ketogenic diet is any diet that gets you into, and keeps you in, a state of ketosis, which is the primary metabolic state these bodybuilders rely on in order to get this shredded.
So now let’s move on to your next question.
What Is Ketosis?
That’s easy! The ketosis state is where your body would primarily utilize fat and ketones as its fuel source. By deliberately entering the ketosis state through a ketogenic diet, you’ll be guiding your body into preferentially utilizing fat and ketones as its primary fuel source. Previously, when you weren’t in a ketosis state, you had to rely on glucose, which you got from carbohydrates in order to gain your energy.
Your brain while you’re in a fully ketosis state actually has better concentration, and would be operating on 70% ketones as its main fuel source. So now let’s talk a little more about ketones.
The Fourth Macronutrient
We’ve probably all taken at school that there are 3 main macronutrients that our body needs. There are carbohydrates, which gets converted into blood glucose; there’s fat, which is kind of like your body’s emergency food source; and there’s protein, which we use to build our muscles.
The two energy sources in the 3 main macronutrients are fats and carbohydrates, now a lot of new-age scientists have started to call ketones the fourth macronutrient, as it’s been proven to be more efficient than carbohydrates as a fuel source, by 30% to be exact.
Typically, when you’re not in a ketosis state, your body would burn fuel such as carbohydrates in order to produce energy. When you run out of breath, or you feel tired and groggy, that usually means that your carbohydrate stores are depleting.
However, ketones, or as it’s scientifically referred to, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), would circulate around your blood, allowing your body to use it as a highly efficient energy source.
Original Ketogenic Studies
The early studies that were primarily looking at the utilization of ketones had their individuals go on a hardcore fasting spree, sometimes having them stay fasted for over a month. If you’ve only had 2-6 pieces of broccoli a day, of course you’re going to enter into that ketosis state. However, you’ll also absolutely lose muscle, and at an accelerated rate at that.
Our bodies look at ketones as a sort of emergency food source, something like a crisis management resource. Back when food wasn’t always readily available, hunters and gatherers needed to be able to stay focused while hunting or growing food, even if they hadn’t had anything to eat in a while.
That’s why ketones have been proven to help you stay alert, as well as spare your muscles from being broken down–not to mention helping you stay more efficient in all your energy-consuming activities.
The original therapeutic ketogenic studies were designed to help people who had epilepsy, and by having them undergo a similarly hardcore formula of 90% fat, 2% carbohydrates and 8% protein, they were actually able to prevent seizures!
The Problem with Therapeutic Diets
While these therapeutic diets were able to prevent epileptic seizures, they had a huge downside. It’s that these individuals would have an accelerated muscle loss. That’s because, while ketones are a muscle-sparing macronutrient, when you’re protein malnourished, you’re going to lose muscles regardless.
In fact, your hair, skin, and nails aren’t going to be as good looking, either, and since bodybuilding is an aesthetic sport, your skin is just as important as your muscles.
Our Recommendations Regarding the Ketogenic Diet
Studies have shown that you should consume anywhere from 0.8-1.2g of protein/lb of bodyweight if you’re looking to build muscle on a ketogenic diet. That should help you maximize your muscle gain and still stay in the state of ketosis.
In order to avoid losing any muscle, we recommend on average anywhere between 20%-30% of your diet be protein–it’s extremely important not to exceed that 40% protein threshold.
Combine that with 60%-70% fats, and probably only 5% carbohydrates, and make sure that your carbohydrates come from bulky food sources such as leafy green vegetables or salads; these food sources help keep you full.
We hope this article helped shed some light on a ketogenic diet’s impact on a bodybuilder! We’re looking forward to seeing you in the next article.