To build muscles and generally positively grow your body on ketogenic diet sounds like a fairytale. Many people will tell you that such thing does not exist. They will claim that you need carbs and loads of protein to build muscles. The first thing you need to know when it comes to ketogenic diet is that you don’t need nearly as much protein as most fitness enthusiasts claim. Secondly, no, you don’t need loads of carbs either!
The majority of fitness enthusiasts are loyal to carbs when it comes to bodybuilding. They will claim that it’s not possible to train for muscle mass without consuming the carbs. Is that true or is it another misinformation of the fitness industry? While on the ketogenic diet, the plan is clear and simple. Fat is dominant, protein plays the middleman role and carbs are only the 5%, which comes from a selective variety of vegetables and very few fruits.
The obsession to build muscles
After the infamous carbohydrates, the second major role in bodybuilding mindset plays, of course, the protein. Protein is known as the key nutrient to build muscle tissue. Also, to maintain healthy bones, joints and other organs. When it comes to Keto diet and protein consumption the things are greatly different. With only 20% of protein, people are confused and mainly scared that they will lose their muscle mass. It is very common, though, for many athletes to consume a great amount of protein in order to maintain or grow their muscle mass. Interestingly, this is not necessary! The confirmation comes from several scientific studies.
In the first study, scientists found that there was no difference between subjects that consumed 0.64 grams of protein per pound of body weight and those that consumed 1.1 grams. Also, the protein oxidation increased dramatically, which means the excess protein was too much for the body to handle.
The second study showed no differences in body composition, strength or resting hormonal concentrations in strength athletes consuming either 0.77 grams per pound or less than 0.91 grams per pound. This was measured over a 3 month period. The scientific conclusion is that you don’t need nearly as much protein to build muscles, especially while on the ketogenic diet.
The strategy to really build muscles
The main question is what exercise plan to follow in order to really build muscles? The things are, again, straightforward but you need a strategy! Everyone knows if you want to build muscles you need to lift heavy weights. This rule cannot be bypassed by anyone and it’s the main principle of weightlifting.
When we are talking about weight training, in fact, we are talking about strength and hypertrophy. The foundations of training are always the same. People usually ignore the strength factor. The proof is that they are trying to lift more than they can. The result is usually a fail attempt. Or, in the worst case, an injury. Strength is a feature that all of us have and use daily! All the activities, getting up from the bed, walking, or lifting weight requires strength. But what is hypertrophy? Hypertrophy is the growth of body’s muscle cells. This muscular hypertrophy is a result of strength and well-planned training.
Strength + Training = Hypertrophy
The conclusion here is that a great training plan, which the majority of people don’t follow, is the key factor for a successful body development.
Keto rules & facts for muscle mass and strength
1. The BIG 4
It’s not a new McDonald’s burger, the “Big Four” stands for the fundamental strength exercises. No matter if you are a beginner or experienced athlete, you need to follow them. These exercises are the boundaries to build muscle mass and strength. The exercises you should follow and eventually increase your numbers are:
- Bench Press
- Military Press
Adding extra exercises in your plan is inevitable
Pull-ups, power clean, barbell row are essential. High intensity with heavy weight will bring you results. Of course, your program will have to change because the body is smart enough to adopt. Include supersets, tri-sets, or TUT (time under tension) in your program. This strategy has as an effect maximum strength and hypertrophy.
Have in mind that is necessary to work the opposite muscle groups. The body’s balance is our main goal! For example, if you squat, an exercise which dominates the quadriceps, make sure you exercise the hamstrings too. The same principle needs to be applied for the back shoulders, we have to train them with isolation exercises.
Another important factor is the technique. Whatever exercise you perform, you need to do it properly. By following this rule, you will have a minimum risk of injury and, of course, muscle imbalance. Don’t forget, by training that way you will ensure training progress and improve muscle strength and muscle mass. The higher amounts of weights with repetitions between 5 to 8 will give you the results that you want.
Of course, your technique should be more than average when we are talking about heavyweights. With this kind of training, we are traumatising the muscle tissue so that it gets bigger, this is called myofibrillar hypertrophy.
2. The mighty barbell
You can easily say that for a true success you would give a kingdom for a barbell! Machines look modern and advanced but they cannot match the pure iron! That’s the reason the barbell is in all BIG 4 exercises! On the barbell, you have the advantage to load more weight and lift really heavy.
The benefits do not stop here, but by training with barbells, you will increase your lean muscle mass and your power too! Dumbbells are coming second, and all the other auxiliary staff. A great equipment for the rest of your exercises.
3. Plateau – the hidden trap
Heavy training is great but it can come with some traps. The most common mistake, especially for the beginners, is that moment when they reach the plateau. After a very long period of heavy training, the body requires some rest. Here’s the opportunity to give our body a rest period by adding one or two de-load weeks. After the duration of a training program of 6 to 8 weeks, it’s crucial to give a rest period to the body. Mainly the program will be the same but the weights will be 50 or even 60% lighter. This will give our body the time to recover, stay active, and get ready for the next new program.
4. 3 types of the energy system
When we work out we have 3 different energy systems:
- Anaerobic A-Lactic Energy System
The anaerobic A-lactic energy system or creatine phosphate system gives us energy from the start. For example, the first three or four reps or, maybe, when you are starting a sprint.
- Anaerobic Lactic Energy System
Now, the anaerobic lactic energy system which is second in row utilises carbohydrates. This system provides us with energy from five up to 15 maybe 20 reps.
- Aerobic Energy System
The aerobic system is activated mostly during low or middle-intensity exercises. It is called aerobic because it needs oxygen to operate and produce ATP.
Now, when we are following the ketogenic diet, it’s important to understand that we don’t have a whole range. What does this mean? In the anaerobic lactic energy system, the presence of carbohydrates is essential. Which means that we don’t qualify to operate that pathway properly but there is plenty of energy from the anaerobic A-lactic energy system.
So, during the physical activity, all these 3 energy systems are supplying the body with the necessary energy. Of course, none of the systems can work independently but rather dominate at different times. It depends ralways under what conditions is the body.
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The most crucial role in all this, I would say, plays the recovery. Many athletes don’t have the necessary time to recover from the training and that can lead to injuries and other health problems. Recovery does not mean spending a day far away from the gym. The best recovery and the muscle growth is happening at night while we are sleeping!
During the sleep, your body releases most of the human growth hormone. A really quality sleep of 8 to 9 hours will be beneficial for the body to recover and build quality muscle mass. Also, the hormone which will be released is the growth hormone which plays a vital role in muscle building journey.