Building muscle on keto

(Luke) #1

Hi guys. I’ve studied this subject of building muscle on keto woe for a little while now as I started training about 3 months into the diet. There is plenty of scientific evidence out there now saying you can build muscle eating keto or low carb , but I always find bits and pieces everywhere on social media or on google/tik tok / Facebook , where trainers or athletes are totally dead against not putting the carbs in while training. Can anyone on here say that they have done it or are doing it successfully? I don’t think I’m putting on any lean mass which could be a number of reasons , but just curious. TIA.
P.s. one thing I can vouch for is that it strips fat off ya. :wink:


It’s hard, you’ve gotta keep your protein way up, you’ll run on nearly no muscle glycogen and…it’s hard! Keto plays better with strength rather than hypertropy workouts, but any good program will incorporate both.

Reality is (standard) Keto isn’t great for lifting. I lost a good amount of muscle in the 4yrs I did it that way. TKD and CKD are the preferred methods of Keto for lifting, since it lets us have our cake and eat it too in the gym.

You’ll see tons of people claim that it’s the same after you’re fat adapted… sorry, no. I did strict keto for 4yrs, wasn’t getting anymore adapted! You’ll read that people have almost as much muscle glycogen OK! Whenever I’ve been fair and really tried to dig into it with people about how they were doing things when I was contemplating changing they say how their lifting was great, no issues putting on muscle etc, then getting some more details I’d learn something to the effect of me having more muscle mass than they had total mass so clearly we weren’t on the same page as far as what lifting without carbs was.

Really comes down to your goals, I like to be strong, I like to look strong. Those who lift weights technically but are just “exercising”, that’s great, but not what I’m doing, I’m training for gains.

Look into Targeted and Cyclic Keto, if you’re tracking your macros and your diet (need to do both if you want to move forward in the gym) you’ll see clear as day if you’re not progressing. If you’ve been like that for weeks, time to make a change.

I do a Hybrid of the both of those, I’d say gym performance is 85-90% what it was when I ate “normal”. Still better than when you’re dieting in a cut, so really not bad at all. Plus, I tweak when needed.

If you want some visuals to see, look up Thomas DeLauer, current and a couple years ago before he went keto, Danny Vega, same deal, you’ll see they both still look awesome, but half of their former selves. Robert Sikes and the only hardcore keto lifter, has his pro card, ripped to hell, but he’s a small dude! Most of the time he barely looks like he lifts, so your call there.

(Michael) #3

It is possible, but I find it a bit slower progress. 8 years ago I was lifting much more weight, but my max bench was around 140% of my body weight. I restarted working out within this past year. I started as a newb again ( could not bench bodyweight to start) and while I weigh less, I am again benching 140% of my body weight within a year. I weigh a lot less now, so not exactly equivalent, but the same percentage. My workouts feel less efficient and progress feels slower, but results still improve. FWIW I used to work out 3 to 5 days a week, now I lift 2 days a week. So less workouts could also explain what feels like slower progress. I have been zero carb for past 18 months.

(Luke) #4

Hi IFod14. Thanks so much for the reply , it is kind of what I’ve been hearing from the people who are actually in the gym or the trainers. So I’ll take it over something I read on the internet or see on YouTube. I follow Thomas , he was quite the advocate that I could make some serious gains on keto , but like you say he was jacked before he started. I don’t want to get huge , I’m a smaller guy 5’8 so I just wanted a really lean but cut look and although I’m having no trouble stripping fat , I need to grow a bit of muscle to get that look and definition in muscles I don’t really use in everyday life. I have put carbs in before a work out , but who know I might not be going enough or doing enough while I’m there. I run as well on different days which might take all my muscle nutrients away while they where trying to grow. :joy:Thank you for your info. I know what to do now , I just have to do it , and like you said it’s tracking everything , get my macros spot on ect. Maybe get a trainer for a bit to get me into the right program for what I was looking for. Like I said I don’t want to be bulky , it’s just a cut look. I thought keto and weights/ cardio would give me. Cheers.

(Luke) #5

Thank you Michael. Very interesting although many changes happen over 8 years. It’s great to hear your experience though. If you read above IFod has a method where you fuel your work out days with carbs and then obviously 0 carb on other days. Which may speed things up for you if that’s what you wanted. It is a very hard question I asked because every body is so different to how it reacts to a work out or what your eating ect. Thanks again.


Not a prob, just don’t overdo the running, sadly it’s the enemy of muscle growth, do it enough to not get bad at it. But the cut up athletic look is definitely doable.

Pretty much comes down to pre workout carbs fuel workouts, post workout carbs reload glycogen. That’s why I do a hybrid of the two. Just gotta find your tipping points. You want enough to get you through your workouts, and enough to keep glycogen nearly full but not spillover and start storing, other plus is out muscles don’t give it back, so you don’t have to worry about muscle glycogen backfeeding into fat storage. In that sense, the running will keep your liver glycogen in check. You’ll burn liver glycogen running, but minus sprinting, fat a a good fuel for running.

If you need a lifting program lemme know, I have no shortage of really good ones, all professionally written. I don’t do it as a full time job anymore, but used to be a trainer, still do some online stuff as well for a growing amount weirdly. But here, I’ll just give ya one if you need it.

(Jenna Ericson) #7

So do you think the goal is to keep muscle glycogen storage consistently high with depleted liver glycogen? It seems like it’s balancing this that makes it difficult to lift and do keto. Eat too much glucose at the wrong time and you’ll no longer be in ketosis or don’t eat enough and I wonder if your muscles start storing fat rather than glycogen. It would be great to be able to know exactly where fuel was going, not just from a biohacking perspective, but also a medical perspective. Figuring this out as a keto athlete might help to inform the other perspective. I always wish I was better at making myself an n=1.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #8

It’s eating carbohydrate that causes muscle to be marbled with fat, or so I understand (that’s how we get marbled beef, anyway). Muscles don’t store fat, they get their fat from adipose tissue. Intra-muscular fat, when present, is a sign of metabolic dysfunction (insulin-resistance). The glycogen they store is for ready access to power explosive effort; on a high-carb diet, the problem is that they can accumulate too much glycogen, which can’t be shared but must be used by the muscle that stored it. (Unlike the liver, which can share its glycogen.)

Initially, on a ketogenic diet, muscle glycogen gets depleted, but it eventually builds back up to a level indistinguishable from the level in carb-burning athletes. Endurance returns first, explosive power takes a bit longer. I think people just assume that it never returns, but that has been shown to be untrue.

(Luke) #9

Thanks so much. I will keep in touch.

(Bob M) #10

If you have time for a podcast, here are two body builders giving advice. One eats very few carbs, the other eats carbs.

I thought it was an interesting discussion, though less of a debate than I hoped for.


Keep muscle glycogen as full as possible, the liver has to load up for that, but that takes care of itself as you go and workout. I don’t bother with whether I’m in Ketosis or not because I know in a couple of hours after I will be again. I (think) the only time we can get fatty muscles would be with severe abuse and constant insulin load, I’m more insulin sensitive now than ever before, and having more muscle mass only adds to that since they’re carb/sugar sponges. My A1C’s are staying lower now than they were doing standard keto, which actually surprised me at first, but it also makes sense as I definitely lost the flexibility to deal with carbs from having them nearly completely out for so long. For me I’ve found the balance. Just takes playing around and not being affriad to push it slowly.


Hi Luke,

What muscles mass do you want? Bodybuilding or weightlifting? They are similar yes but not the same. What are your goals?

I’m a climber and keto is great for weight contrand fasted performance but I can put weight on by eating enough even when eating 1 meal day.

Are you able to gain weight?

Are you’re happy to cycle through weight gain and stripping or do you want to look ripped all the time?


#weight control

(Luke) #14

Hi , I did want the not to muscular, stripped out look all the time which keto was perfect for I think. But I think I need to do more in the gym first then dial it in with keto. I think once I reached that point I could possibly hold on to what I had for quite a while instead of bulking and cutting all the time. I don’t like bulk I like to look lean. You probably have the look I want , being a climber yourself.


Yep LPT I like to look good like everybody. My climbing stamina was never great being like that though. Put on a healthy waistline this year and it’s improving. I think for climbing ideally you have to cycle and time training and nutrition very well. I’m experimenting and finding the way.

Perhaps if you want the climber look start climbing?

(Robert) #16

Over the years I’ve noticed that there is much less build up of lactic acid after hard activity, so it feels like I can recover and repeat with more frequency. I had no progress until recently, when I started doing supersets ( to failure) with little or no breaks, effectively just one massive set using stepped, decreasing weights. Just an observation, but legs and upper body finally showing some muscle growth. Still lots of questions, such as will it continue, and should I work out more often? Cardio and endurance effects too? Note, all fat fuelled!

(Luke) #17

Hi Rob. I found this interesting about the lactic acid build up. I don’t get very sore after a work out when in Ketosis. I’m not sure if it’s from the same cause. I’ve been experimenting with carb fuelled work outs Vs Keto work outs. I realise this could just be coincidental or something else at this stage , but interesting.

(Denise) #18

I wondered about this as well but I’ve realized a couple, or more, things that are now building muscle, slowly and steady. I’m sort of a skinny, mini but the deal really is, I’m small-boned, always had muscle but still look thin when the fat is gone, most of except tummy still have a bit.

Now I am eating more protein and but still higher fat, and carbs at 23. Pie Chart from my fitness pal, but I just plugged in my foods really fast, including EVO. I also push a bit harder as I was doing the same routine and the same weights for over a year (2.5 years on Keto) I feel way strong just in the last month but I sort of laugh when I see my arm muscle, though they are growing, they still look so teenie, :rofl: I no longer compare myself to others because we are all built different and most gals I see are much stockier than I :wink:

I think slow and steady wins the race, only competing with me that is :wink: Afterall, I am 70 so just a few limitations there that are not discouraging me. I feel so strong when I get up in the a.m. and none of my friends believe I am 70 except the ones that graduated with me :wink:

I think building muscle takes awhile, for me, maybe if I’d tried a bit harder, without just coasting with the lighter weight, I’d be further ahead but I’m careful, work on my form first, then when I get to where I can do my routine and still know I’ve actually had to work, I’ve sort of rested on my laurels, but now for 2 months, I’m putting in more effort.

Just don’t give up, and keep going, you’re doing great! Denise:grinning::+1: