Although it is often thought that the keto diet restricts your ability to increase muscle mass, the evidence does not back this commonly held belief. Many studies have found that there appears to be little difference between keto and higher carb diets when it comes to bulking up. Keto fans were able to build muscle with resistance training, while eating low carb, without difficulty.
In 2017 a study investigated the difference between a keto diet and a standard western diet on changes in body composition, performance, blood lipids, and hormonal profiles in resistance-trained athletes.
Both groups were matched for protein consumption and training.
The final results concluded that there was no significant difference in the rate of muscle growth between the two groups.
Although the study did not find that keto gave an advantage when it came to resistance training, it showed that it did not slow down the athletes muscle gain either.
The authors concluded:
The KD can be used in combination with resistance training to cause favorable changes in body composition, performance and hormonal profiles in resistance-trained males.
A different study, conducted two years earlier, also drew the same conclusions. They studied both a keto group, and a standard group and their study proved that:
Hypoenergetic diets combined with RT led to significant increases in muscle strength and were capable of maintaining muscle thicknesses in the upper and lower limbs of overweight and obese participants, regardless of the carbohydrate content of the diets.
The main result of this study was that, irrespective of carbohydrate content, the low carb diets did not reduce strength gains, and the subjects were able to maintain muscle thickness during their resistance training.
There were significant similar reductions in body mass and body fat in both diet groups.
There is overwhelming evidence to support the idea that it is completely possible to benefit from resistance training while at the same time following a keto diet.
Why is resistance training important?
For many people, deciding to follow the keto diet ( or low carb diet) is as much about health as it is for weight loss.
People are looking at the evidence of the damaging effects of a high carb diet on health. They are deciding that eating low carb will reduce the chances of developing one of a growing number of diseases which are becoming ever more common.
By doing resistance based workouts you can increase your muscle mass, which becomes increasing important as we get older.
Unfortunately lean muscle mass naturally decreases with age. If you don’t do anything to counteract this the percentage of fat in your body will increase over time.
This is why we often notice a lack of strength as we get older even when we are taking care of our diet.
By resistance training two or three times each week you will increase the percentage of lean muscle in your body and decrease the percentage of fat.
The weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercises that are part of resistance training are important for building and maintaining bone density.
Our bones regrow and restructure themselves when they are subjected to resistance training.
It really is a case of use it or lose it when it comes to muscles and bones.
You’ll increase the percentage of fat in your body if you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose over time.
Resistance training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass at any age.
This study demonstrated some of the many health benefits of Resistance training:
Benefits of resistance training include improved physical performance, movement control, walking speed, functional independence, cognitive abilities, and self-esteem. Resistance training may assist prevention and management of type 2 diabetes by decreasing visceral fat, reducing HbA1c, increasing the density of glucose transporter type 4, and improving insulin sensitivity. Resistance training may enhance cardiovascular health, by reducing resting blood pressure, decreasing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides, and increasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Resistance training may promote bone development, with studies showing 1% to 3% increase in bone mineral density. Resistance training may be effective for reducing low back pain and easing discomfort associated with arthritis and fibromyalgia and has been shown to reverse specific aging factors in skeletal muscle.
Resistance training has become popular with keto dieters because it triggers an increase in muscle protein synthesis, which drives muscle growth.
Along with muscle growth, the training will also quickly reverse the natural age related decline in muscle and bone density. This improved muscle strength and tone makes injury from falls much less common, and protects joints from damage.
Resistance training also increases metabolism, which is a major plus for anyone who is using the keto diet to lose excess weight.
The fact that this method of working out tends to get quick results is one of the factors which makes it so appealing to a lot of people.
Resistance training can be adapted especially to meet your own ability level and fitness goals, no two people will need to follow exactly the same routine.
Many keto dieters are looking to improve their health even if they are at normal weight
Many on the keto diet don’t have weight to lose, but are concerned with becoming as healthy as they can be. Resistance training has many health benefits including the ability to:
- Build muscle strength and tone
- Build muscle size
- Improve bone density and strength – reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Improve joints
- Improve flexibility
- Improved mobility and balance
- Weight management – as your muscle to fat ratio improves, your metabolic health will increase.
After the age of 50 people on average loose 1% of their muscle mass per year – the process is known as sarcopenia.
In order to maximize your chances of not becoming ill as you age, it is important to retain muscle mass. Resistance training becomes more a necessity than a luxury for the over 50s.
That is not to say that you are going to need to spend every spare moment training. A few hours twice or three times a week is going to have you reaping all the health benefits.
These benefits will not just help you to be healthy now. They will help to guard you against the growing risk of becoming ill or suffering a fall related injury as you get older.
Resistance training and cognitive function
This study looked at the effect of resistance training on the cognitive function of older adults.
The results were as they expected and the study states:
Resistance training had positive effects on the executive cognitive ability and global cognitive function among the elderly.
Importantly the study also found that resistance training three times a week showed greater positive effects than training for twice a week.
In younger people too, resistance training has been linked to numerous improvements in cognitive function.
This study demonstrated that a combination of aerobic and strength training had a greater benefit than aerobic exercise exclusively.
Scientists and neuropsychologists have demonstrated numerous times that strength training is a potential enhancer of cognitive functioning.
The evidence that resistance training boosts cognitive function is found in numerous studies.
There is no doubt that if you’re looking to improve your long term health (including cognitive health) there is no better exercise than resistance training.
In all age groups resistance training has been shown to help:
- Improved sleep
- Decrease anxiety
Resistance training can be done in a gym or at home
This is a big plus for many people who either are not fans of the gym or don’t have the time to visit one.
If your nearest gym is a few miles away, that time could be put to better use by training at home with the help of resistance bands.
It is even possible to train outside, or when you’re on holiday.
A strong hotel room door to anchor your bands, and you can run through your normal training routine without worrying about how far it is to the nearest gym.
Home based training also gives you the opportunity to make the most of a spare hour or two without having to plan ahead.
Getting started with your training
if you have a health condition, or if you’re an older person who has not exercised before, check with your health provider before beginning your resistance training program.
Always warm up with brisk walking for five or 10 minutes. Cold muscles are much more likely to be injured compared to the same muscles after a warm up.
Choose a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 repetitions. When you can easily do more repetitions of a certain exercise, slowly increase the resistance.
Research shows that a single set of 12 to 15 repetitions at the right resistance level will build your muscles efficiently and can be as effective as three sets of the same exercise.
To give your muscles time to recover, rest one full day before working on the same muscle group again.
Many resistance bands come with exercise videos or charts. Consider using these to guide your training sessions.
Be careful to listen to your body. If a strength training exercise causes pain or is too difficult, stop the exercise. Return to your previous level until you can do it easily.
It’s important to use proper technique in strength training to avoid injuries.
Either follow your training videos or consider working with a trainer until you are familiar with the training methods.
How long does it take to see results?
There is no need to spend every spare moment working out. You will see quick improvements in your strength and stamina with just two or three 20- or 30-minute weight training sessions a week.
You will soon be able to feel that you are stronger and less tired.
If weight loss is one of your goals, you will also see the positive effects of the increase in your metabolism that exercising will bring you.
There is solid evidence that by eating too many carbs, people are causing chronic inflammation.
This inflammation is responsible for many serious diseases, and your risk increases as you get older.
It stands to reason that once you are improving your health with diet, you will be looking to take your healthy lifestyle to the next level.
There are several things that improve long term health in conjunction with a healthy low carb diet:
- Exercise, especially resistance training
By making sure that you are including diet, exercise, sleep and social contact into your life you will be improving your physical and mental health.
Resistance training three times a week, will mean that you’re maximizing your chances of remaining healthy both now and into your senior years.