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Will a low-carb or keto diet keep me from making gains?
The ketogenic diet was originally devised to assist with controlling epilepsy in children, but it isn’t recommended for adults because it’s very difficult to follow. You will be eating about 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrates a day, or eating 3 or 4 grams of fat for every 1 gram of carbs and protein, which means you’ll get about 60 to 80% of your diet from fat sources, while carbs may be 2 to 4% of the diet, whereas it’s normally 45 to 65% of the diet.
Most research has shown that a low-carb or keto diet will do more to help you with maintaining weight loss versus assisting in any muscle gains. And in order to maintain lean body mass during weight loss, a higher protein intake is needed, around 0.5 to 0.8 gram for every pound you weigh. In addition, more research seems more promising in the endurance arena versus muscle building, which is not surprising since muscle is made out of muscle glycogen, and muscle glycogen is derived from carbohydrates, while fat is stored in fat cells.
The bottom line is, if you’re consistently doing strenuous exercise, you’re not going to perform as well without some carbohydrates. And remember that keto diets cut out a bunch of food groups like fruit, dairy, grains, and many vegetables, so if you are on it you may need to take supplements so you aren’t missing out on key vitamins and minerals.
Jonathan Valdez, R.D.N., A.C.E.-C.P.T., is the owner of Genki Nutrition, a nutrition wellness and counseling business in New York City.