Can I Still Work-out While Beginning the Keto Diet?

Let’s assume this question is from someone new to keto.

Most folks in the Western world are ‘sugar-burners’ relying predominately on glucose (carbohydrates/sugar) as their primary fuel source. As I’ve mentioned previously , there are particular circumstances for someone to be in ketosis. In a nutshell, it occurs when carbohydrates are restricted (10% of total daily calories) and/or total calorie restriction. This is a paradigm rarely experienced in the western world.

So with this in mind, we need to flesh-out what happens when a classic ‘sugar burner’ transitions to a keto diet and is it safe to train?

Whichever path is chosen to elicit ketosis (an elevation of ketones in the blood to around 0.5mmol) there should be a degree of caution. Not being alarmist, but the transition can sometimes be a little bumpy, particularly for someone unaccustomed to a high-fat protocol. The bumpy transition is defined as ‘keto flu’ and whilst not experienced by everyone, it’s certainly a real thing.

Understanding it exists is an important part of the process and without that knowledge, you can get bucked off the horse before it’s left the stable. A feeling of lethargy, nausea, headaches, dizziness aren’t exactly the symptoms of a ‘healthier’ diet so newcomers quickly pull the pin – but if you can push past this phase (again only experienced by some, not all) there are benefits on the other side.

Before I share some of the tricks to mitigate the symptoms of ‘keto-flu’ I’ll touch on the question around exercising. It largely depends on the nature of your exercise/training as to whether you should dial back or even pause. If your version of exercise is a walk the implications of you transitioning from carbs to fats as a primary fuel source is insignificant, however, if you engage in glycolytic (carb-burning) activities such as soccer, HIIT, CrossFit, hockey, basketball etc then it is possibly wise to dial back whilst you transition to keto.

As a newcomer to keto, it takes a little while for your machinery to crank-up to speed and burn fat efficiently. Your body will need to up-regulate fat-burning enzymes and mitochondria to function and function well on fat – we all have the machinery and the capability but years or decades as a ‘sugar burner’ can render that machinery somewhat in need of oil.

With no carbs in the system, performing glycolytic activity will feel like walking through wet cement in oversized gumboots so it’s advisable to pull back on the intensity/duration until such time that your physiology has ‘caught-up’ with the adaptation in your diet. For some, this is only a matter of days to become ketogenic but when comparing performance it may take weeks before comparable results are seen in performance.

Keto flu typically lasts 3-5 days but can last 3 weeks in rare cases and is the product of short term loss of water, sodium and potassium. The symptoms are also due to the short-term reductions in fuel availability to the brain and nervous system.

Steps to Mitigate ‘Keto-flu’

Drink Plenty of Water

The restriction of carbohydrates means your ability to retain fluid is somewhat diminished so ensure you’re keeping yourself hydrated. Drink at least 2 litres per day.

Drink Apple Cider Vinegar

Add 1 tbs of apple cider vinegar to your morning glass of water. The acetic acid is ketogenic and so will help you produce more ketones and transition quicker

Add Some Electrolytes

With the loss of fluid retention, ability comes a depletion in electrolytes so keep on top of this by seasoning your food. With quality sea salt, eating plenty of leafy greens or taking supplements.

Add MCT Oil

Adding some MCT oil (found in health food store and some supermarkets) will help you transition quicker to keto. MCT’s are metabolised in the liver and pumped out as ketones. If you’re new to MCT try 1 tsp a day, increase incrementally to tolerance. If you can tolerate 2 tsp per day increase to 1 tbs (2 tbs or 3 tbs) per day.

Add More Fat

Upping your fat intake will help tip the balance into ketosis quickly and reduce the effects of keto-flu.

  • Reduce Carbs Further
  • Further restricting carbs will help with keto flu.
  • Drink Coffee

I’m sure you don’t need much persuasion to drink coffee so that’s a win. Adding caffeine helps to promote ketone production

Avoid Snacking

If you can stick to keto-friendly complete meals once, twice to three times a day.
Snacking can increase the risk of poor food choices and more calories consumed across the day. It’s also better for general health allowing our digestive system to rest and restore between meals.

Cold Emersion

Exposure to cold temperature is ketogenic. Try some hot-cold showers and finish on a cold blast or submerge yourself in a cold pool or ice bath.

For more help, please join me on a health coach session or conisder buying my book The Keto Diet.

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