Shorter post this time…
Does athletic performance suffer during keto?
Yes and no.
When you start keto, you are draining your body of your glycogen stores. Mostly, your liver glycogen. When that is depleted, your body starts turning your fats into ketones. Most of the people reading this know this already.
But I wanted to feel the pain. I wanted to understand this from the ground up. I continued my workouts from the very start of keto. Some observations.
- You lose a LOT of strength. Sets you normally do 10 of, you might have problems around rep 3 or 4. You have virtually no endurance with lifting.
- HIIT type of workouts gas you quickly. You might get lightheaded. It’s HARD.
- You need to remember your salts/electrolytes prior to exercise or you will not get very far.
After 1 month
- Your body starts to adapt better. HIIT training is much easier
- Weight strength comes back, a little, but endurance with lifting is hurting.
After 2 months
- HIIT is 100%
- Endurance training like running/biking – you can do with ease, but your times aren’t that great. Your body is just now learning to spare glycogen stores and burn fat
- Weight training is 75%
After 3 months
- Endurance training now has better times than before and you can go forever.
- Weight training at 90%.
- Your body is getting much better at using fat for endurance training.
After 6 months
I’m not there yet, but according to Phinney and Volek, the longer you are on keto, the better adapted you become, and the better your endurance performance gets. Don’t take my word for it. A master Sgt named Mike Morton ran 172 miles in 24 hours. Yes…you read that right. He is on a high fat ketogenic diet.
Yesterday, I got home at 3:30 and ate an early dinner. Had my bacon cheeseburger over 7 cups of romaine. Tons of salt. Had 2 strawberries to give me a kick.
This was 12 miles of hills. About 10 minutes of this was sitting in traffic waiting to cross. Meaning, I did 12 miles of some brutal hills in just a smidge over 1 hour. I’m able to consistently pipe out high volume of energy now for LONG periods of time. I want you to go hard on your bike for an hour. It’s not easy.
I got home and within 10 minutes took my dog for a nice long walk.
Between everything I did, here was my daily summary…
I’m a 268 pound man that – on a Friday – after 15 hours of commuting and 40+ hours of work, decided to bust my ass on a gorgeous Friday afternoon. I fed my body the electrolytes it needed, ate the below, and busted out some decent exercise. I woke up this morning feeling amazing after glorious sleep. Have sleep issues? Go keto and exercise your face off, that will sufficiently end any sleep problems you have.
Here are the tips for peak athletic performance on keto:
- Your strength training will suffer. Rather than focus on the heaviest weights, work with time under tension. Challenge the muscles to failure.
- Let your body get truly “fat adapted”. Exercise will come back. Give it time, and keep pressing forward. While your times may not be the best right away, you may find your effort to do them is less and you can go longer. Don’t sweat your times at first. You are training your body to use fat as a fuel.
- Ensure you have enough magnesium, potassium, and sodium. I usually supplement with 500mg of magnesium every night 1-2 hours before bed. It’s a calming agent. The meal you see above has a ton of nutrients and the lettuce has a lot of potassium. I ensure I have a lot of pink salt on it.
- Don’t over train. Let your body rest. This is a process.
- When you plan on doing long endurance work, drink water PRIOR to doing it as well. Hydration is important, and now that you’re not running off of glycogen, you need your water even more.
When I hit 6 months of keto, that’s when I plan to have my first carb cheat meal. I have followed where Mark Sisson (paleo guy) talks about “metabolic flexibility”. After 6 months or so, you’re supposedly a fine-tuned machine with burning fat and you might be able to have 100-200g of carbs one day with zero side effects. This is the goal for me. So maybe once every 2-3 weeks I can have a 150g carb day with no side effects. Longer term, I might then transition to a paleo type of ratio, but I think as long as I want to cut, I will follow keto. Over the last month, I’ve only taken off 2 pounds. However, I’m also finding clothing continuing to get bigger on me. I have even lost a “notch” on my fitbit. When I first bought it in Oct 2016, I was on notch 3. I’m now on notch 9. I never knew I could lose an inch and a half from my wrist. That was mind-blowing! I have also been trying to hydrate more recently and keep my protein up, so I feel the 2 pounds this month may have been 1-2 pounds of muscle, 2-4 pounds of water, an 6-8 pounds of fat lost. I think I have my official weigh in next week, so I’ll be able to check it then. March had a lot of snow/rain/cold here. I’m looking forward to nicer days when I’m doing lots of work 5-6 days a week outside with walking the dog, running, biking! The good news is my athletic performance continues to grow!
On a side note, also wanted to give you a glimpse at one of my other meals I’m loving a lot. This is a 14oz NY strip steak, green beans fried in butter, and cauliflower mash (from a box). I don’t do a lot of processed foods these days, but while I love my cauliflower mash, it’s a pain in the ass to cook and time consuming. This I might be able to do from a box from time to time.
Additionally, there’s also something I like to get out at work once every month or so. I have now completed 10 weeks of no breakfast/lunch during the week. It really cuts back on having to worry about that shit, I’ll tell you. I start to get hungry a little around 11 or so, and I usually have a hot tea, unsweetened. That caffeine puts off my hunger until around 4. I try to drink 2-3 quarts of water during the day, and driving home I have some decent hunger. But, it’s controllable. I get home and cook or have some prepped food. In the second picture is a chicken Caesar salad out where I get double chicken breast.
If you’re ever considering keto, those pictures are very much like what I eat daily. Lots of greens…LOTS of greens. Add some meats, LOTS of veggies. Don’t forget the cream and butter, as it makes all of this taste AMAZING.