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Determining If The Ketogenic Diet Is Right For You

If you are someone who has been interested in jumping on the low carb diet bandwagon, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of a program before called the Ketogenic Diet.  This diet program is for those who want to take low carb to a whole new level, going so low with their intake that they actually alter the type of fuel their body is going to utilize for energy; namely, going from glucose use to ketone (fat) use.

Before starting up on this diet there are some important things to think about first so you can determine whether or not this type of diet set-up is going to be most beneficial for you.

Assessing Your Goals

The very first thing you need to think about is what your primary goal is. Most people who are considering a ketogenic diet will be those who are looking for fat loss, but you will always get a few people who are considering using the ketogenic diet set-up for muscle building purposes.

In doing so, they will keep the macronutrient ratios the same, thus still accomplishing that ketogenic state that the diet offers, but will take calories above maintenance, hoping to see muscle gains rather than fat loss.
The big issue with bulking on a ketogenic diet is that by nature, being in ketosis will not promote an anabolic environment, so you’re going to make muscle building even harder than it already is.

Some individuals feel that by using the low carb approach to bulking they can control insulin levels better, thus add muscle without any additional fat gain, but the important thing to remember is that it’s total calories that determine fat gain, not insulin levels.

If you are taking in too many calories, even while using ketogenic nutrient ratios, you are still going to be adding body fat.

The only people who maybe should consider using a ketogenic diet for bulking purposes are those who are extremely insulin resistance and feel very poorly eating carbohydrates. 
All other individuals would be advised, when trying to add muscle, to keep their carbohydrate intake at least at a minimum 100 grams per day in addition to those taken in to support training.  This will keep the body out of ketosis and in a more anabolic environment conducive to building muscle mass.

On the other hand, if your goal is fat loss, then the ketogenic diet might be more appropriate for you.

Since being in ketosis does tend to have a strong hunger-blunting effect, this definitely helps many people out when it comes to sticking with their lower calorie intake.
Even still though, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, how much high intensity exercise are you looking to perform?  If you’re a high level athlete or someone who is training for a bodybuilding or fitness competition, you might find that being on a ketogenic diet when coupled with all the training you are doing leaves you feeling extremely burnt out, weak, and always fatigued.
This is due to the very low carb nature of the diet – not a whole lot of higher intensity exercise can be performed while on it.
If you are someone who isn’t involved in high level athletics or bodybuilding competitions though and are just using a more moderate exercise program, you might not see this factor coming into play quite as much and potentially becoming a problem.

Next, also keep in mind that while some people do respond very well to ketogenic nutrient ratios, many other people do not.  If you’re someone who tends to feel energized and tight on a more carb-based diet, going to a ketogenic diet might do you more harm than good.

It’s important to assess how you feel on different types of macronutrient ratios (low carb, moderate carb, high carb) before you dive right into this diet approach.

There really isn’t anything ‘magical’ about being in ketosis as far as making you burn body fat off at a higher rate directly speaking, therefore don’t think that this diet is necessarily going to deliver better results than a more carb based diet would (assuming equal calorie intake on both types of diets).

Overcoming The Exercise Obstacle Of Ketogenic Diets

Now, as discussed above, one of the biggest issues with ketogenic diets is the limit they place on performing intense exercise sessions. This is due to the fact that intense exercise is only going to be able to run off glucose as fuel and with no carbohydrates coming in from the diet, no glucose will be available to the body once muscle glycogen stores are depleted.

Furthermore, since muscle glycogen stores are going to be getting lower and lower as time goes on, during the early parts of the diet you might find yourself feeling weaker and weaker by the day while trying to keep up with your usual workout programs.

Therefore, you need to find a way to work around this fact to help ensure that you can keep up with your workout programs while still being able to follow the diet.

The Targeted Ketogenic Approach

The first way to overcome this issue is by using the targeted ketogenic approach.  This is where you will eat carbohydrates both before and after the workout, providing your body with the glucose it needs to perform the more intense activity.

Typically users will have between 25-50 grams of carbs before and after the exercise session is completed.  Note that this will generally not disrupt them from being able to enter into ketosis later on in the day as they would if they were using a standard ketogenic diet.
One important point with this type of set-up though is that you should be avoiding using fruit as a carb source since it will contain more fructose sugars, which will go to the liver and make it harder to get back into ketosis.

The Cyclical Ketogenic Approach
The second approach you can use to overcome this obstacle is placing a large weekly carb-up on the weekends to restore your muscle glycogen levels. This will then be used to fuel you through the weekly exercise sessions you are doing.

Users choosing this route should aim to eat around 4-5 grams per pound of body weight of carbs on the first day of the carb-up and then 2-3 grams per pound on the second day. Note that during this time fat should be kept to a minimum (20-40 grams) to ensure that fat gain doesn’t result.

It is helpful to perform a depletion workout before this carb up takes place (a full body circuit style workout where you will be using lighter weights and higher rep ranges) to fully empty the muscle glycogen from the body so the muscles are better able to saturate themselves with the incoming carbs that will be eaten.

Since this approach does require a higher amount of carbohydrates eaten within a shortened time span of two days, it’s going to be much better suited to those individuals who can tolerate carbohydrates a bit better. 

Many people do find that the weekend carb-ups really do a number on them and dislike the way they are left feeling, therefore opt to go with the targeted approach instead where they are consuming just a moderate amount of carbohydrates around the workout period.
Also, with this method you will still have to watch the total volume of the workouts you are going to perform as even with the weekly carb-up, you can still run into issues in terms of maintaining muscle glycogen stores.

If you are someone who likes to do a lot of high volume work, you might find that you are not able to make it to the workout at the end of the week while keeping that intensity where it needs to be.

This is slightly easier using the TKD approach described above due to the fact that you would then just need to add more carbohydrate around the workout period to compensate for the increase in volume that’s used.

So, keep these points in mind when assessing whether the ketogenic diet is going to be right for you.  One of the first questions you should be asking yourself before even starting on the diet to begin with is how you feel after eating a meal containing more carbohydrates. 

If such a meal leaves you feeling energized, you are someone who will likely be miserable on a ketogenic diet.  If that type of meal leaves you feeling sluggish and tired though, then the ketogenic diet might be something that you should strongly consider using.

Whatever you choose, being sure you are assessing your exercise levels in combination with your diet program will be vital to your success.  Far too often this is one mistake people make and they end up doing far too much exercise, leading to trouble down the road.

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