The Ketogenic Diet for Bodybuilders

The pros, cons, and who should follow it.

PHILOSOPHY

When you cut carbs out of your diet, your body must find an alternative source of energy. The body turns first to muscle tissue, breaking it down to fuel activity. However, if you take in an adequate amount of protein, this will help protect your muscle tissue and encourage your body to use stored body fat instead.

The ketogenic diet is a way to trick your body into thinking it’s in starvation mode while you’re still consuming enough calories from protein and fat to provide satiety and protect your muscle mass from being used as fuel. The ketogenic diet is very similar to the Atkins Diet, with perhaps the biggest difference being that on Atkins you don’t pee on ketone strips to determine if you’re in ketosis. This is the condition in which your body is releasing stored fat to fuel activity, and ketone bodies are present in your urine, providing a measurable indication that you are in this state.

WHAT YOU SHOULD EAT

Meat, cheese, oils, fish, eggs, very low-carb protein products.

WHAT YOU SHOULDN'T EAT

Processed foods, sugars, grains, and even vegetables and fruits.

CONS

You can’t eat carbs and stay in ketosis, making this a fairly restrictive diet. During the initial stages, it’s best to cut even fruits and vegetables to make sure your carb intake is minimal and you reach ketosis as quickly as possible. And you have to pee on ketone strips to check your urine for ketones. Often people develop an odd breath odor when they enter ketosis.

PROS

You can consume your regular amount of calories (or slightly fewer), so you’re not likely to suffer from hunger. Add fibrous vegetables (broccoli, spinach, other greens) once you reach ketosis. Recently, some endurance athletes have started following a ketogenic diet program, reporting that it allows them to perform extreme events without “bonking” because they have a ready supply of body fat, and their bodies are no longer dependent on carbs to fuel activity. This may translate to bodybuilders training with intensity to prepare for a contest.

WHY YOU SHOULD FOLLOW IT

The ketogenic diet is among the fastest fat-loss diets available, because you can eat just about as much as you want throughout the day so long as you stick to the foods on the program. Some professional bodybuilders use ketosis as their gauge to determine the success of their diet.

HOW TO FOLLOW THE KETOGENIC DIET

You can include plenty of non-carb dairy, but you need to cut out milk for its lactose. Also, take in low-carb protein shakes throughout the day.

BREAKFAST

Bacon, eggs

MIDMORNING SNACK

Cheddar cheese, no-carb deli meat

LUNCH

Salmon, avocado (or chicken and mayo)

PRE-WORKOUT

Whey protein, creatine, BCAAs, glutamine

POST-WORKOUT

Whey protein, creatine, BCAAs, glutamine

DINNER

Flank steak, spinach with olive oil

BEDTIME SNACK

Boiled eggs, turkey breast (or casein protein)

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