Question about strength gains and caloric defecit


I have been doing keto for a long time, but since 2020 I’ve been doing it very very badly. Overeating protein, and carbs creeping up. A friend of mine has been slowly working towards becoming a Starting Strength coach and encouraged me to get in the gym.

So I started lifting a couple of weeks ago and also started drinking the starting strength Kool-Aid, listening to Mark Rippetoe’s book “starting strength” and following his podcasts. I’m on a novice linear progression, and all of this has encouraged me to tighten up my keto game, along with some Intermittent fasting. Im definitely back in ketosis, and feeling awesome about it.

It is amazing how quickly my body has started feeling better, the nagging everyday lower back pain is fading fast, and I’m full of energy.

So here is my question, (I have posted this same thing to a couple of other places because I’m really wanting to collect a lot of opinions about it.)

My coach says that my novice linear progression (strength gains for the uninitiated) may slow sooner than some because I’ll be eating at a caloric deficit. This might be true, but my theory is that it won’t because my body will remain fueled as I have PLENTY of body fat to convert to ketones/fuel. So even if I’m eating at a caloric deficit, my body will have plenty of caloric fuel to use.

FWIW, I’m a 48-year-old male, Very overweight. Been checking my ketones and blood glucose frequently with a keto mojo meter. Ketones are currently at .8 and they have been steadily increasing.

(KM) #2

You won’t necessarily be in a calorie deficit just because you’re eating keto. Are you intentionally limiting calories?


Not necessarily, but I will be reducing my caloric intake by cutting out snacking, and intermittent fasting. The way I have been eating has definitley helped me keep my insulin high. My blood glucose has been up latley too. I have had too many cheat type items, like low carb tortillas, and rebel creamery ice cream. Also I’ve had a tendancy to overeat protein. I suspect by shortening my feeding window and cutting out the constant snacking I may be at a caloric deficit. That is not my focus however.

I am curious about the concept though, To my mind, even if I were eating a caloric defecit, my body has plenty of fuel. Which means I would not really be at a caloric deficit. Im curious to find out if there’s an answer to that.

(KM) #4

Got it. I just felt that your coach making the assumption that you would be in a calorie deficit implies he doesn’t really understand keto. I’m not an expert about weight lifting but plenty here are, I’m sure they’ll chime in. I’m also pretty sure they’re not struggling very hard with progression, they seem like an awesomely fit bunch!


Absolutley correct. My coach actually has followed a ketogenic diet in the past, and he freely admits that he doesn’t have a very deep knowledge about it. He is attempting to compete at powerlifting, and he feels like he needs to eat more to put on more muscle.

I am not super concerened with my own personal strength gains. I mean, of course I want to gain strength and muscle. But the focus is feeling better and becoming more insulin sensitive.


It’s probably not that simple and I leave the answer to the more knowledgeable ones…
But if you SERIOUSLY undereat, that definitely won’t help. A smaller deficit? Maybe you will be lucky and your body realizes the situation. It’s logical to use the energy you have in your fat reserves to build muscle you apparently need due to your workout but your body must see that too… Sometimes the human body works in strange ways.

And you eat enough protein, right?


I highly doubt I will undereat. I have a hard time limiting my protein.

(KM) #8

The standard advice here is to avoid the carbs, get adequate protein (somewhere between 1 and 2 g per kilogram of lean body mass), and then fat to satiety. If you are burning more fuel, you will probably be hungrier. And it’s okay to eat. You just have to keep avoiding the carbs. I think if you’re looking for muscle gains, you do need to make sure your protein isn’t too low. Good luck, I’m glad keto is working for you so far!


I am the same. But I don’t do hard (and eat when feel the need and track later) so I simply tend to overeat protein. But I do my best not to eat until about 4-5pm (that almost ensures OMAD) and that should help a bit.
It’s fine, it’s merely costlier and wasteful and I dislike that but my body feels very good even when I eat unnecessarily much protein. And I can avoid eating an unhealthy amount, it’s actually automatic, I just stop eating soon after 200g (I am a short, moderately active woman so that is very much for me).

(Pete A) #10

may slow sooner than some because I’ll be eating at a caloric deficit. This might be true, but my theory is that it won’t because my body will remain fueled as I have PLENTY of body fat to convert to ketones/fuel. So even if I’m eating at a caloric deficit, my body will have plenty of caloric fuel to use.

–> my sentiments exactly

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #11

This depends on how much insulin your pancreas has to put out in response to your carb intake. The greater our insulin-resistance, the more insulin it takes. So those of us who are more insulin-resistant need to eat less carbohydrate than other people, in order to keep our insulin low.

But don’t eat at an intentional caloric deficit. That way lies potential metabolic damage. Eat enough food to satisfy your hunger. If you are in ketosis, then your body will adjust your appetite hormones to tell you when you’ve eaten enough. It will be more willing to shed excess fat if you are eating enough calories.

In any case, there is a limit to how much energy we can draw from our fat stores in a day, so you want to be providing enough dietary fat to allow both it and excess stored fat to be metabolised. And the rate of fatty acid metabolism actually goes up, when we switch from getting our energy from carbs to getting it from fats.

(Bob M) #12

I postulate these are the same. If you gain strength and muscle, you become more insulin sensitive.


That’s not a maybe, that’s a certainty. Newbie gains are real, and the ability to have gains while losing is possible for a short time when new, but will dead end. Nobody puts on any real mass at a deficit, that’s why people bulk and cut.

Lifting becomes glycolitic when you start pushing it, you don’t convert fat fast enough to keep up and you’ll be running with little to know glycogen reserves to continue to push. That’s why many that take lifting seriously do TKD or CKD.

With programs like Starting Strength you do get away with it better than typical bodybuilding programs being on Standard keto, but make sure you’re tracking your lifts and paying attention to what you’re progression is telling you.

Figure your calories by what you eat, not by what you think your body is utilizing from fat stores. Lifting and lifting heavy consistently will correct your blood sugar issues, there is no better glucose disposal agent than muscle mass.