Uppdaterad: 10 aug 2018
In my last post I talked about the therapeutic effects of traceable blood ketones, for inflammatory diseases and cognitive disorders. Medicinal ketosis is well researched for a wide variety of conditions, but not so much when it comes to physical performance.
Even dedicated low carb enthusiasts are sometimes doubtful about combining endurance training or heavy weight lifting with limited carb intake. Contrary to common beliefs fat is not a slow energy source at all, and it’s never the only energy source. Even if you don’t eat a single carb you still have glycogen stored in your muscles and liver, because the liver makes glycogen out of both proteins and fat, through the process of gluconeogenesis. The difference between a carb burner and a fat burner is that the fat burner can use both fat and glycogen, while the carb burner is limited to his or her glycogen storage. Body fat is not completely inaccessible for a carb burner, but not as readily used as if you have trained your body to use it. This is done by performing aerobic and anaerobic exercise on a strict low carb diet, for a period of 4-6 month.
It takes quite some time because we have trained our bodies to be heavily glucose dependent since birth, but after 4-6 month you will be hitting new personal records in the gym and/or running track.
Less lactic acid in ketosis
During endurance training the brain detects dropping oxygen levels and forces us to breathe harder. More oxygen is coming into our lungs but so does carbon dioxide, which in turn releases more lactic acid.
Harder breathing - more carbon dioxide - more lactic acid.
The cool thing here is that ketosis increase the respiratory quotient, which means we get more oxygen and less carbon dioxide per consumed calorie. Another benefit is a 25% increase in heart efficiency when fat fueled. Many people are quite amazed about this difference when they try ketogenic endurance training, and many professional triathletes experiment with this as well. The Swedish triathlete Jonas Colting is a great example of a fat fueled Ultraman World Champion.
Ketones for your muscles
Carbs and bodybuilding go hand in hand because without carbs it’s difficult to get really big. Every gram of carbohydrates binds 4 grams of water so carb loading and heavy gym training can really create that bulky look.
Despite this, there’s no difference in either explosivity or strength when it comes to fuel choice. Glycogen will be present in both scenarios made by either carbs or proteins and fat. Bodybuilding is mostly about cell signaling, to make sure that the muscle cells get a strong and clear signal of growth. This is done by time under tension combined with correct nutrients. Time under tension means to lift weights that are heavy enough under enough time for the body to produce new muscle cells. A rule of thumb is 5 repetitions per set, in 5 sets. If you can do more than 5 repetitions in one set the weight is not heavy enough. Correct nutrients are leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, animal protein and saturated fats. This is all you need. Protein bars and powders are almost always a waste of money.
If you are carb sensitive like me, carb loading can be quite uncomfortable. It’s not pleasant to work out during a blood sugar spike, it feels like a crash even before the workout has begun. Aim for real food (fats and protein) a couple of hours before the gym, to make sure you have stable blood sugar during the training session. This was the common regimen for professional power lifters during the 30’s and 40’s and it worked very well.
Ketones imitate amino acids
Another cool benefit about cell signaling is that branched amino acids (from meat, fish, eggs or BCAA supplements) have similar molecular structure as ketone bodies. This means that they stay in the blood a lot longer during ketosis. This is great for athletes that wish to increase in muscle mass, as they get this anabolic signal during longer periods of time.
Ketosis and limited protein intake
The last thing that is diametrically opposing in the world of fitness compared to the world of ketones is the amount of protein needed per day. The fitness industry tells us that there’s no end to our protein needs, and we can see evidence of this in almost any grocery store today. There are protein shakes, protein pudding, protein snacks, powders and bars everywhere. To stay in ketosis we limit protein intake to about 50 grams per day to make sure ketone production and fat metabolism isn’t hampered. It still works very well for body building because with little protein, we don’t get protein tolerance and need a lot less protein for the same effect.
Cell communication and cell signaling is of utter importance in both fat loss and body building!
I hope this article has inspired you to experiment a bit with fat fueled workouts.