FFC Oak Park personal trainer and former bodybuilder Justin Casipit shares insights and tips for keto bodybuilding – what the keto diet is, a keto bodybuilding diet plan and possible benefits/drawbacks of following such a program.
*Please note: this is not meant to substitute as medical advice and you should always consult your medical practitioner/nutrition professional before starting any program.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet is a diet that essentially is high in fats, low to moderate in protein and little to no carbs (the ratio usually follows a 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carb model, which was initially what was used when it was first utilized to treat epilepsy in medicine). The body goes into something called ‘ketosis’, predominantly using fat as fuel as opposed to carbs. The body produces ketones in the liver (through fatty acids) that the body can use when glucose (sugar) is low.
Bodybuilding mostly involves high protein, moderate carbs and low fat. This diet causes the body to primarily use glucose for energy. The difference between the two is related to the ratios of carbs and fats – so it’s heavily influenced by meals/food choices.
What are some eating guidelines for a keto bodybuilding diet?
Various adaptations of keto diets have appeared related to practical usage of the diet for the general public (esp. for athletes, etc.). Below are a few possible variations:
- Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): commonly used for fat loss long before it was classified by ‘keto’ – it’s also known as carb cycling. It entails low carb days (keto days) followed by high carb/low fat days (refeed days). The ‘refeed days’ restore glycogen levels so intense training can be sustained, while still incorporating fat loss days through low carb keto days.
- Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): predominantly ketogenic with carbs ‘delivered’ in structured timing increments around training sessions.
- High-protein/modified keto diet: similar to the standard keto diet, but with added protein due to the increased demands for training.
Ketogenic diet bodybuilding cutting: calories definitely still do matter when it comes to keto bodybuilding.
Calories can be calculated based on standard formulas or estimated based on your lean body mass – or you can get your basal metabolic rate tested (aka do an RMR test like this one). Based on your needs, your keto diet would have to be adjusted for deficit/surplus needs based on your goals – macros would fall within the confines of keto ranges. Keto bodybuilding is typically used for fat loss – not typically for bulking. It has been done, though!
Related: member stories – how FFC helped me win my first bodybuilding competition.
Are there any benefits of keto bodybuilding?
The most overall and well-known benefit to keto bodybuilding is weight loss. A diet like this one, low on carbs, is also helpful for reducing water retention. The keto diet as is great for satiety due to all the fats and protein – which is helpful for sustaining a ‘cut’. The regulatory nature of the diet may also be helpful for reducing sugar cravings. Some report feelings of increase mental clarity and focus when the body is ‘keto-adapted’. Finally, some followers of the diet have reported a keto diet has a ‘protein sparing’ effect, which is great for those trying to maintain as much muscle as possible.
Are there any downsides to keto bodybuilding?
Since carbs play a crucial role in recovery and anaerobic performance, you may want to consider keeping cabs as a major player in your diet if your main goal is strength or muscle gain.
It’s also very important to keep an eye on your ‘keto adaptation’ – during that phase, the body loses a LOT of fluid and electrolytes, which would have an impact on training. Common signs of electrolyte imbalance include fatigue, nausea and more. Losing performance and energy during this phase is common – be sure to remain aware and replace fluids and electrolytes consistently during this period.
Related: nutrition 101 – how to balance macros.
What are some sample meals when it comes to keto bodybuilding?
High-fat and high-protein foods are commonly used in this diet – eggs, avocado, bacon, beef, poultry, salmon, cheese and nuts are typically utilized (also olive and coconut oils and butter). Leafy greens are great – most fruit is too high in carbs, but some berries can be included.
- Breakfast – bulletproof coffee, bacon and eggs
- Lunch – chicken salad over leafy greens, bacon, egg, avocado – with vinegar/oil
- Dinner – steak/salmon cooked in oil with leafy greens or asparagus
Post written by FFC Oak Park personal trainer Justin Casipit.
Justin is a NASM-certified personal trainer and is also level-1 certified as a USA Weightlifting Coach (and a former competitive body builder). He has a degree in kinesiology, concentration in health and wellness promotion from University of Illinois at Chicago and is currently pursuing a masters in applied exercise science with a concentration in strength and conditioning through Concordia University. He is a proponent of functional movement and integrating mobility and strength with intentional human movement. Want to set up a complimentary consultation with Justin? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org!!