• Gaining Muscle On Ketogenic Diet



      by Mike Roussell, Ph.D. Bodybuilding . com

      The other day, I was on a phone call with a good friend and fellow strength coach, Joe Dowdell, CSCS, of Peak Performance in New York City. I told him my current deadlift personal record stood at a respectable 420 pounds but that I aspired to pull a 500.

      He told me it was "doable."

      Great. Then I threw him a curveball worthy of Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw.

      I wanted to add 80 pounds to my deadlift … while following a ketogenic diet. Joe let out a big sigh. Staying on a ketogenic diet means eating so few carbohydrates that when your glycogen stores empty, your body cashes-in on a process called 'ketosis' for energy. The carbohydrate threshold to stay in ketosis will vary by individual, but the guideline for most folks is fewer than 50 grams of carbs.

      I was dead-set on eating fewer than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. How low is that? One medium banana would place you over your daily limit!

      Wait, don't carbs stimulate muscle growth? How could this work in the long term? More important, can I add 80 pounds to my deadlift without eating much carbs? These questions and more piqued the scientist in me.

      So I set out to find the answers not only by poring over the scientific literature but through real-world application on the gym floor as well.

      Now before you rush down to the bottom of the article to see if I did it, I want to preface the grand finale by explaining the anabolic capacity of carbohydrates. Let me walk you through several key areas of anabolism in which carbohydrates and insulin play a role.

      CARBOHYDRATES, PROTEIN, AND INSULIN
      Carbohydrates create anabolism largely by setting off a cascade of hormone-driven events. (Just so we're clear, you also get an insulin response from protein as well.) Chief among these events is secretion of a hormone called insulin from the pancreas. Many people realize that insulin regulates blood glucose levels, but insulin is not a one-trick pony.


      CARBOHYDRATES AND THE ENSUING INSULIN RESPONSE HAVE A GREAT DEAL TO DO WITH MUSCLE GROWTH.
      It is so multifunctional that many experts believe it to be absolutely integral to muscle synthesis—among other things. For example, one of insulin's many roles is driving amino acid uptake; in other words, it gets amino acids out of your bloodstream and into your muscles.

      Thus, carbohydrates and the ensuing insulin response obviously have a great deal to do with muscle growth.

      CARBOHYDRATES AND PROTEIN SYNTHESIS

      LEUCINE—FOUND IN EGG YOLKS, IS AN ESSENTIAL AMINO ACID AND IS THE PRIMARY DRIVER OF PROTEIN SYNTHESIS.

      When looking specifically at protein synthesis, carbohydrates are not required. Leucine—found in egg yolks, for example—is an essential amino acid and is the primary driver of protein synthesis. That means protein synthesis can occur in the absence of carbohydrates1-3.

      So back to the pressing questions at hand: Is insulin anabolic? Does it help build muscle?

      First off, anabolism is often incorrectly used as a synonym for muscle protein synthesis. I encourage you to take a broader view of anabolism beyond the mere combination of amino acids for building muscular tissue.

      Anabolism encompasses the entire physiological process that supports muscle building! In that sense, yes, insulin is most definitely anabolic.

      CARBOHYDRATES, INSULIN, AND RECOVERY
      Recovery from muscle breakdown is an oft-overlooked cog in this muscle-building machine. After all, the better you can recover from workouts, the more frequently you can train. Training frequency is a major key player for hypertrophy. Carbohydrates enhance recovery and thus your muscle-building capacity.

      While the carbohydrate-mediated stimulation of insulin does not lead to protein synthesis per se, it does reduce muscle breakdown4. In essence, the anti-catabolic nature of carbohydrates in turn makes them anabolic. Whaaaat? Remember, you're working to divorce your association of anabolism from protein synthesis.

      In that light, carbohydrate indeed is anabolic; it contributes to the whole muscle-building process. The addition of insulin exerts beneficial effects on the dance between protein synthesis and breakdown, called nitrogen balance5,6.

      TO MAKE STRENGTH INCREASES TO EXERCISES LIKE THE DEADLIFT, YOU TYPICALLY NEED TO EAT LIKE A POWERLIFTER, BUT WITH HARD WORK, GAINS ARE POSSIBLE ON A KETOGENIC DIET.

      Carbohydrates also enhance the speed of recovery. During intense exercise, the strength of your immune system is temporarily compromised, but carbohydrates reduce the impact of this immunosuppressive effect7 and help restore depleted glycogen stores. Whether you should immediately shove a sweet potato down your gullet after training depends on the type of training you're doing, training frequency, and your overall goals.

      If you train only three days per week, cramming carbohydrates into your muscles immediately following a workout isn't a priority; your regular carbohydrate consumption throughout the day will help with glycogen replenishment. If you're trying to gain a ton of muscle mass, it probably doesn't hurt to inhale a couple of bananas post-training, independent of nutrient timing.

      CREATINE TRANSPORT

      In my opinion, creatine is a must-use supplement. Whether it is due to its well-known ability to increase strength9 or its lesser-known ability to potentially improve cognitive function10 and insulin sensitivity11, I recommend you use it every day.

      It's known that taking creatine along with carbohydrates increases intramuscular creatine levels due to insulin's effects on creatine transport12,13 and enhances muscle's creatine storage capacity13.

      In addition, insulin can enhance electrolyte build-up in cells which, like over-packing the muscle's creatine stores, increases cell volume14. Increased cellular hydration and volume both facilitate the kickstart of anabolism15.

      ANABOLISM WITHOUT CARBOHYDRATES?
      After all I've discussed here, it's clear that carbohydrates are anabolic. It's time to circle back to my original deadlift conquest. Was building strength and muscle possible while on a ketogenic diet? Dowdell's sigh notwithstanding, I found that the answer is an emphatic yes!

      Don't get me wrong, being ketogenic while training hard was no cakewalk. In three and a half months, I packed 80 pounds into my deadlift and pulled a new PR of 500 pounds on my first attempt.

      It turns out that while carbohydrates are anabolic, I am still able to achieve an anabolic feat in the nearly complete absence of carbohydrates. The human body is an amazing machine, possessing the ability to make intelligent adaptations to a variety of situations.

      CARBS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO FLIP THE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS SWITCH, BUT PERHAPS THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO MAKE THE OVERALL ANABOLIC PROCESS MORE EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE.

      In a chronically low-carb environment, the body doesn't follow the normal biochemical rules because it has to change. It becomes much more efficient with muscle glycogen, it up-regulates gene expression of certain enzymatic machinery needed for maximum performance, and it adapts as needed to excel in the presence of far fewer carbohydrates and much less insulin.

      Quite simply, my adventure in carbohydrate-less anabolism was to prove that you can perform at a high level on minimal carbohydrate—at least in the short term. Carbohydrates are not required to flip the protein synthesis switch, but perhaps there are other ways to make the overall anabolic process more efficient and effective.

      Does that mean everyone should adopt a ketogenic diet? I don't think it is for everyone (and perhaps not for the long-term), but it's still interesting to see what your body can achieve through thick and thin.

      What are your thoughts on achieving feats of strength while on a ketogenic diet? I'd love to know, so share your comments below!

      REFERENCES

      Norton, L.E., et al., The Leucine Content of a Complete Meal Directs Peak Activation but Not Duration of Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis and Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Signaling in Rats. The Journal of Nutrition, 2009. 139(6): p. 1103-1109.

      Millward, D.J., Knowledge Gained from Studies of Leucine Consumption in Animals and Humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 2012. 142(12): p. 2212S-2219S.

      Paddon-Jones, D., et al., Exogenous amino acids stimulate human muscle anabolism without interfering with the response to mixed meal ingestion. American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2005. 288(4): p. E761-E767.

      Chow, L.S., et al., Mechanism of insulin's anabolic effect on muscle: measurements of muscle protein synthesis and breakdown using aminoacyl-tRNA and other surrogate measures. American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2006. 291(4): p. E729-E736.

      WALSH, C.H., et al., Studies in Whole Body Potassium and Whole Body Nitrogen in Newly Diagnosed Diabetics. QJM, 1976. 45(2): p. 295-301.

      Valarini, R., et al., Anabolic Effects of Insulin and Amino Acids in Promoting Nitrogen Accretion in Postoperative Patients. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, 1994. 18(3): p. 214-218.

      Gleeson, M. and N.C. Bishop, Modification of immune responses to exercise by carbohydrate, glutamine and anti-oxidant supplements. Immunol Cell Biol, 2000. 78(5): p. 554-561.

      Jentjens, R. and A. Jeukendrup, Determinants of post-exercise glycogen synthesis during short-term recovery. Sports Med, 2003. 33(2): p. 117-44.

      Rawson, E.S. and J.S. Volek, Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res, 2003. 17(4): p. 822-31.

      Benton, D. and R. Donohoe, The influence of creatine supplementation on the cognitive functioning of vegetarians and omnivores. Br J Nutr, 2011. 105(7): p. 1100-5.

      Eijnde, B.O.t., et al., Effect of Oral Creatine Supplementation on Human Muscle GLUT4 Protein Content After Immobilization. Diabetes, 2001. 50(1): p. 18-23.

      Steenge, G.R., et al., Stimulatory effect of insulin on creatine accumulation in human skeletal muscle. American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism, 1998. 275(6): p. E974-E979.

      Green, A.L., et al., Carbohydrate ingestion augments skeletal muscle creatine accumulation during creatine supplementation in humans. American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism, 1996. 271(5): p. E821-E826.

      Schliess, F., Call volume and insulin signaling. International review of cytology, 2003. 225: p. 187-228.

      Schoenfeld, B.J., The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res, 2010. 24(10): p. 2857-72.

      Source: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/can-...enic-diet.html
      Comments 17 Comments
      1. MCaesthetics's Avatar
        MCaesthetics -
        Great article thanks for posting. I've been on a bulking diet since august or september of 2013. It's time for me to take some of the fat off thats accumulated. I'm interested in trying a ketogenic diet. My one question is, do you aim for under 50g of carbs the entire time? Or do you have a carb-up day say once a week to restore glycogen in the muscles?
      1. The Engineer's Avatar
        The Engineer -
        2-4 weeks at the onset of a ketogenic to get become "fat adapted." After this period do a carb up once a week.

        Personally, I ran a keto diet for 7 weeks and my energy tanked because I wasn't carbing up. The carb up is amazing. Some go for a planned, scientific approach with pushing carbs to 70% of their caloric load and others just go for a straight up binge.

        I train 3-4 times a week, full body with periodization and on sunday or saturday I eat like I get paid for it.
      1. cory0475's Avatar
        cory0475 -
        Great article. One quick question. I have read alot about hormone responses and am getting mixed responses whether testosterone and Igf-1 increase or decrease. Basically what im asking is, is this diet cause anabolism when bulking?
      1. Swolljaboi's Avatar
        Swolljaboi -
        I've been on a keto diet for several months now and I just a couple of weeks ago set a PR on both squat and deadlift. I have actually seen some strength gain in other areas as well.
      1. cory0475's Avatar
        cory0475 -
        Originally Posted by Swolljaboi View Post
        I've been on a keto diet for several months now and I just a couple of weeks ago set a PR on both squat and deadlift. I have actually seen some strength gain in other areas as well.
        Were you bulking or cutting?
      1. wiseman's Avatar
        wiseman -
        If keto diets worked the pros would use it, but they don't. Keto is whack.
      1. Swolljaboi's Avatar
        Swolljaboi -
        I'm actually at a 500 cal deficit at the moment.
      1. flamini's Avatar
        flamini -
        Originally Posted by wiseman View Post
        If keto diets worked the pros would use it, but they don't. Keto is whack.
        The pros don't use it cuz the pros are taking drugs . Keto diet is not wack for natural athletes it's for people that have discipline and are serious about reaching their specific goals. Lol do what the pros do without performance enhancing drugs and see where that gets you
      1. wiseman's Avatar
        wiseman -
        Originally Posted by flamini View Post

        The pros don't use it cuz the pros are taking drugs . Keto diet is not wack for natural athletes it's for people that have discipline and are serious about reaching their specific goals. Lol do what the pros do without performance enhancing drugs and see where that gets you
        I don't need the pros to tell me what to do because I've researched human physiology. All that protein gets turned into glucose. Keto also makes the body acidic.
      1. flamini's Avatar
        flamini -
        I was just sayin the real reason they don't use it is cuz they don't need too not cuz it doesnt work haha And yes amino acids can form into glucose glad if your body really really needs it. Keep researching it's the bet way to learn I'm sure u know
      1. wiseman's Avatar
        wiseman -
        Originally Posted by flamini View Post
        I was just sayin the real reason they don't use it is cuz they don't need too not cuz it doesnt work haha And yes amino acids can form into glucose glad if your body really really needs it. Keep researching it's the bet way to learn I'm sure u know
        The pros know that they need carbs. The body's first source of fuel is carbs. Carbs are anabolic. Keto is good for short term fat loss but I would hate to be in a keto state for a long time.
      1. The Engineer's Avatar
        The Engineer -
        Originally Posted by wiseman View Post
        The pros know that they need carbs. The body's first source of fuel is carbs. Carbs are anabolic. Keto is good for short term fat loss but I would hate to be in a keto state for a long time.
        That's why there's CKD and TKD, buddy.
      1. wiseman's Avatar
        wiseman -
        Originally Posted by The Engineer View Post

        That's why there's CKD and TKD, buddy.
        If you say so lol
      1. flamini's Avatar
        flamini -
        Originally Posted by The Engineer View Post

        That's why there's CKD and TKD, buddy.
        Hims a young bull hell learn
      1. jamesm11's Avatar
        jamesm11 -
        Keto is scientifically backed in numerous studies
      1. cory0475's Avatar
        cory0475 -
        Originally Posted by wiseman View Post

        I don't need the pros to tell me what to do because I've researched human physiology. All that protein gets turned into glucose. Keto also makes the body acidic.
        Plus all the things they can take to help lean down helps if your not trying to stay natural. Clen, T3, winny, masteron.....
      1. Ristonian's Avatar
        Ristonian -
        Oolala. Get in da CKD.

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