How is your strength when lifting vs when not on keto


I struggle with this and need some advice. i know it is hard to both gain muscles and loose fat.
within the last 1 year i have been working out fairly intensive / resistance training.

i’ve been going on and off keto (60% keto 40% non keto) and noticed massive drops in strength when on keto. for ex. a triceps pulldown on a machine, on non-keto I was able to hit 110 and on keto 80 or so only.
as you can imagine this is not encouraging. overall i made quite good muscle gains but only moderate fat loss (mostly around belly). my weight loss has been minimal, but this is ok for me, since my body comp changed for the better.
it is just that my energy when lifting on keto is about 30% less. everything else is worse on non-keto however; cravings, overall energy, carb crashes, water retention/puffiness in face, sleep etc and that is where I really miss being on keto.
I listened to a Peter Attia podcast (who is off keto now), and he said it took him 18 months to regain all his weight lifting strength when he was doing keto.
is there no way around this? as said, i miss pretty much every single aspect of being on keto, except the pure strength at the gym. I really need to loose my belly fat. should I just accept the reality, go back on keto, focus on fat reduction while pushing weights as good as I can and once I reach my desired body comp re-asses?

(May the blessing of bacon be always with you) #2

The weakness you feel when starting keto is perfectly normal and is temporary. You just have to wait it out, and your performance will return to previous levels, possibly even better. We enter ketosis almost immediately as soon as we cut our carb intake, but re-adapting to metabolising fatty acids in place of glucose takes quite a few weeks.

After an extended period on a high-carbohydrate diet, the skeletal muscle cells deactivate certain metabolic pathways involved with fatty-acid metabolism. Metabolising glucose causes damage to the mitochondria over time, as well. So when we return to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic diet, the muscles need to reactivate the deactivated pathways and heal their mitochondria (and even produce new ones).

This process of healing and re-adaptation normally takes something like six to eight weeks. While it is happening, the muscles limp along on the ketones produced by the liver, but what they really want is to use fatty acids as their main source of metabolic fuel (ketones are partially-metabolised fatty acids, much as charcoal is partially-combusted wood). Once they are fat-adapted (or keto-adapted, if you prefer), they actually will refuse glucose and ketones in favour of fats as their main energy source. And the advantage to this is that fatty acids metabolise cleanly, without causing damage from oxidation or glycation, the way glucose does.

So it is likely that your problem arises from never having waited out the adaptation period. During that time, go easy on your muscles, and don’t stress them too much. As they heal and re-adapt, your strength and endurance will return. Explosive power takes somewhat longer, but it also returns to pre-keto levels over time.

(Bob M) #3

That is why I stopped listening to Attia so long ago… Assuming he said this, that is one of the most ludicrous statements I’ve heard. First, this means he was lifting at some weight, let’s say benching 300 pounds for 8 reps. Then he went on keto (for years?) and I guess was no longer benching this? Then it took him 18 MONTHS to get back to 300 pounds for 8 reps?

It literally makes no sense.

Reminds me of a blog post of his, when he said his life insurance would drop him or raise his rates because he had some genetic aberration where his HbA1c was high. Then, literally a few paragraphs later, talked about how he loved to race cars. You don’t think your life insurance would care a heck of a lot more about that than HbA1c?

He’s on Twitter now saying that even though statins cause (“EVIL”) Lp(a) to increase, the increase in Lp(a) is somehow nullified by the decrease in LDL.

Anyway, there are techniques like TKD and CKD that can help with strength while at the same time remaining mainly keto. There’s a body building place (don’t remember the name) that goes into this. I’d think if you got good at this, you could time things and adjust the carbs so there wasn’t a huge hit on your mental health and energy, while giving you your desired weight lifting goals.


he said that while on keto (3 years), it took him 18 months to regain lifting strength, apologies if i expressed that wrongly. it in his podcasts, but no idea which one at this point.
but it seems rather long.
TKD is a bit problematic for me, as the insulin spikes do cause massive cravings for hours afterwards.
maybe i bit of MCT / exogenous ketones could provide a ‘keto friendly’ boost before a workout.

(Bob M) #5

You could try those. I had a bottle of exo ketones, and I’ve been trying them after a workout and also to extend my fasts. (I bought them for my mom, who had multiple problems that exo ketones might help, but she never took them.) My analysis: I’m not sure. They MIGHT help with extending a fast. I haven’t used them enough after a workout to know about that. I do know there is some evidence they help for certain activities.

For your TKD, what were you using? How many grams of carbs?

As an aside, I’ve gained muscle mass while being keto and not doing a TKD. So, it’s possible. You might not get to win a body building contest, though. You need help pumping muscles, and I think carbs could help there.


for TKD i tried dextrose powder at various levels, anywhere from 2-5tsp, prob around 20-40g or so.
not looking to do any major body building. i’m fairly tall, with bones on the smaller side, so i think some muscles but definitely less belly fat are my main goals.
IMO its hard to keep being keto while doing some targeted carbs. i get crazy carb cravings, maybe there is some mental aspect to it, i know it works for people, i am just not one of them.

(B Creighton) #7

I specifically chose keto, because it seems it is the only legit way to lose fat while gaining muscle, and I found this to be true. I only “lost” about 11 pounds while doing keto, but when I stopped keto I gained 8 pounds right back - I just didn’t gain the 2 inches around my waist back… I figured overall I lost around 15 pounds of fat while gaining 10-12 pounds of muscle in 4 months. For me that is awesome! In fact I have never been able to gain that much muscle so quickly before. However, there was a period where I felt my strength gains stalled, and even went back down - a few less chin ups and pull up reps. I addressed it by adding back in a few more carbs, and my strength seemed to return - but my ketones did drop. Nevertheless, I was still in minimal ketosis, and didn’t gain back all the glycogen until I quit keto.

The other thing I did was to start eating a coconut fat bomb right before I worked out. This did seem to help. I mixed about a cup of coconut oil with a tblsp of natural peanut butter and a tblsp or 2 of unrefined cacao powder, soaked chia seeds and erythritol/monk fruit sweetener. I also mixed in 9 gr of GABA powder, because it will increase certain growth hormones about 30 minutes after consumption. After cooling, I would eat a third of this mixture to get about 3 gr of GABA. Anyway between this and a few extra carbs, my strength seemed to return and my progress continued. I had great success doing weight lifting on keto. The other thing I did was to fast on my workout days until after my evening workout(although I did eat the fat bomb immediately before my workout). This sounds counterintuitive, but the 24 hour fast stimulates more stem cell growth - and new satellite muscle cells come from stem cells - they don’t divide. Anyway, I was very pleased with my progress. Frank Zane also essentially did keto before his shows. He would cut his carbs to 50 gr per day to reduce subcutaneous fat. I am going to do it again this winter it worked so well. I don’t really care about the pump. I care more about the gains, and I have never been so successful before. If you are still looking to lose fat, there is no better way I have found because you don’t have to cut calories. Once you get fat adapted, you will be successful. The youtuber Thomas DeLauer does his workouts fasted as well - and I wouldn’t mind having a fraction of his gains.


It’s awesome for anyone not doing steroids I think. Gaining muscle naturally is never super quick and most people do it with carbs and gain more or less but usually a very noticeable amount of fat in the process. Didn’t hear much about the results of ketoers but if you really got this, wow.

(B Creighton) #9

When I graduated from college I wore a size 36 pant, and weighed about 169-173. Now, I wear a size 33-34 and weigh 175 right at 20% body fat, so I think my estimate of 12 pounds of muscle gain is right on or maybe even a tad low. Now I just need to do it again, and I will be where I want. TBH, I was supp’ing some test. I am now 59.

(Allie) #10

Stay keto, let your body adapt to it properly, keep protein on the higher end. Sure there’ll be a dip for a while, but you’ll come back out of it stronger. If you’re constantly jumping in and out you’re not giving your body a chance to adapt so won’t get anywhere.


interesting and encouraging info!
yeah, i did read about the benefits of GABA in lean muscle mass, but your dose of 9g is massive.
i have been taking capsule form of pharmaGaba, but this is so expensive, maybe there is no difference to regular synthetic GABA.
i also am on Testosterone 180mg/week, but this can be only a benefit overall.
maybe going into ketosis and then keeping carbs at 25-50g is the sweet spot for muscle building.
there is couple good ‘keto’ items, like zero carb yogurt, oikos, has 5g natural sugar (milk), stevia sweetened, and 15g whey. having like couple of those a day could be a nice protein boost.

(Allie) #12

You’ve heard about Keto Gains I assume?

(B Creighton) #13

Just to be clear I did not dose at 9 gr. I put that much in my mixture, which I then only ate a third of at a time. So my dose of GABA before my workout was about 3 gr. I do not advise more. There was a human study done at this rate which showed multiple times increases in growth hormones. I bought a powdered bulk form at purebulk: It is not tasty, but that is one reason I used the fat bomb to consume it. It hides the bitterness of the cacao and GABA powders. Raw Cacao is one of the richest natural sources of antioxidants in the world.

I was a little over 50 gr of carbs when I finished. I increased over 50 gr because my strength seemed to stall for about 2 weeks. My ketones dropped, but I didn’t gain back the glycogen and water weight til I quit keto whereupon I gained back 8 pounds the first week. So, here are the other things I did. Protein synthesis is highest the first 90 min after working out. It is also highest right after eating, so you need to combine those two things. I did my training at home, so immediately upon finishing, I would make a protein smoothie. I started with just Orgain powder, but I noticed more gains after adding whey protein powder and leucine after my 2 week stall period. I was using either almond milk or coconut milk as the base, but I believe the latter is more ketogenic. The Orgain protein powder provided a good taste and sweetness to the whole thing. I also added fresh avocado. Don’t do the Stallone raw egg thing. Science has shown you only digest about 50% of the proteins in a raw egg. Cooking is less wasteful at a rate in the 90s.

While consuming my smoothie, I would prepare a high protein dinner with some kind of natural meat followed by cruciferous vegetables or a kale salad from Costco. I generally ate at least a half pound of the meat - lamb, wild shrimp in garlic butter sauce, 2 chicken thighs, or wild salmon were my main ones. Sometimes I did canned sardines in olive oil.

I really feel a large part of my success was the intermittent fasting I did on my exercise day. That was something totally new for me, and I didn’t have to exercise a ton. I only did a max of two sets of any particular reps 3 times a week. It just worked beautifully for me.

That Oikos sounds like it is their zero zero zero. Don’t do a non-fat yogurt. You want the MCTs in it. I switched to goat yogurt because it has twice the MCTs, and no A1 casein, which I’m sure Oikos has. MCTs are very ketogenic and will provide quick ketones for energy. Multiple studies show they contribute to fat loss. I sweeten mine with a tblsp of xylitol and a tblsp of erythritol/monk fruit, and some berries or tart cherries. When not doing keto I use other fruits. During the latter phase of my keto I increased carbs by adding in a red grapefruit afterwards. The longest lived people in the world on Sardinia and Ikaria eat goat and sheep dairy. Incidentally, in S. America too.

I’m sure TRT didn’t hurt, but one of the main benefits for me was the mental clarity. It made my mind really sharp - my memory and recall were excellent on TRT. Right now, I am supp’ing with DHEA and pregnenalone, and it’s just not the same, but I have retained my gains. BTW, I was using indole-3-carbinol and DIM as natural aromatase inhibitors, which you may not need at your dose, and cruciferous vegetables are a great natural source for both.


on your intermittent fasting days, did you go to the gym in a fasted state, followed by your meal, do I read this correct?
how long was your eating window?
I’ve heard so many info to not to go to the gym at a fasted state to prevent muscle loss, but yeah also heard about DeLauer doing the opposite.
i’ve been supplementing HMB, and found some good info about it preventing muscle breakdown, wondering if this would counterproductive to IM

(May the blessing of bacon be always with you) #15

Or you could simply eat more meat.

(Ohio ) #16

I have no strength out of ketosis. My ability to swim, walk, pull ups, yoga is severely hampered out of ketosis. This is further amplified in cold weather.


so 2 weeks or so into this. definitely in ketosis based on blood meter, between 0.5-1 or so, but then, I don’t remember being ever higher, even previously when doing 0 carb for months.
doing carbs ~25g or so max, mostly around workouts.
ramped up MCT, creatine, beta-alanine, taurine and couple NO boosters as pre workout.
this is strange, but I feel i am close to 100% energy levels as before. bench-press, biceps curls…all at the same levels as on carbs. maybe I did not require the entire 2 months to adjust back, since I was going out and into keto.
the ONLY difference i noticed, is I need a bit longer breaks between sets.

(B Creighton) #18

I have my own home equipment. I have a simple benchpress and a nautilus pullup station I bought used. So, immediately after I ate my fat bomb, I started my weight training, and then immediately upon finishing I would go into the kitchen and make a smoothie while starting dinner. There was basically no time inbetween these events. That meant I was giving my body a rush of protein immediately. I also used digestive enzymes to get the most out of this rush of protein. I live up north, so I kept the house in the 60s, and exercised in my skivvies to encourage production of brown fat.

On my IF days, I didn’t eat breakfast or lunch. I drank only water. So, I didn’t eat for roughly 23 hours from the prior night. This is about the minimum fast time to encourage more stem cell release. I did start eating my coconut oil fatbomb as I began my training. The MCTs in it are providing immediate ketones for fuel during exercise. That was one of the things I started doing when my gains stalled. It also had some minimal carbs. I’m sure that was enough to prevent muscle loss. I recently calculated it at around 2000 calories for the 10-12 ounces or so. Other than that I was fasted during the workout. I figured I was still getting the benefit of the fast I was looking for.

There is science to support gains for HMB - esp for untrained individuals just starting their training. I didn’t use it last year, but used creatine in my post workout smoothies along with leucine in the later stages. I also used collagen. Collagen will not grow muscle, but is basically the lattice on which new muscle grows, and I seem to have collagen issues. I have gotten some HMB to use this year, which I will start this next week. Just use the HMB post workout in your protein smoothie, and it won’t be counterproductive to IM.