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Exercise and keto

Exercise is wonderful for improving general health and fitness but it is not necessary for weight loss while on a ketogenic lifestyle. But here are several reasons why I do recommend moderate exercise:

  • If you are a post-menopausal woman resistance training improves your bone mineral density;
  • exercise may help you boost your immune system (overexercising though will have the opposite effect);
  • diabetes improves because exercise actually increases insulin sensitivity;
  • exercise improves age-related cognitive decline and helps to prevent neuro-degenerative disease;
  • physical activity helps prevent coronary heart disease;
  • exercise may increase life expectancy by decreasing mortality risk factors like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer.

General tips

Do not exercise just to burn calories and lose body fat. This mindset does not work in the long run. Instead, exercise to build muscles and feel good about yourself. Whatever physical activity you chose, do it for pleasure. Walking daily for example is an excellent starting point if you are very new to exercise. But always focus on your diet, it’s the most important factor for successful weight loss.

Also keep in mind: exercising regularly is fine but do not overdo it. Make sure to have full rest days and get enough sleep. Over-exercising increases your risk of injury, has a negative effect on the immune system and raises cortisol which in turn will hinder weight loss.

What are the best work-outs on keto?

Weight training (also known as strength/ resistance training) and HIIT (high intensity  intermittent training) are the most effective work-outs for long-term fat loss:

  • Weight training will help you build and maintain muscles and burns slightly more calories at rest. Women who are worried that they will become bulky in the process: it is a myth that women will grow big muscles if they lift weights. It takes years of hard training and specially designed nutrition to get to that level.
  • High-intensity intermittent training is a training technique in which you alternate intense bursts of anaerobic exercise such as sprinting or riding a stationary bike with short recovery periods. Another example of HIIT is Tabata, a very intense 4 minute/ 8 interval work-out. One of the effects is that you burn more calories in less time compared to other workout routines like prolonged cardio.

How about cardio?

Moderate amounts of low-intensity cardio such as walking, hiking, swimming or cycling are all health-improving activities. Not beneficial though are endless hours of extreme spinning, running or hard-core cardio classes. Using prolonged cardio for fat loss and burning calories is simply not a sustainable lifestyle for most people.

  • Chronic cardio will make you more hungry and you will most likely eat more unless you actually force yourself NOT to eat and that is not a good state of mind to be in. Increased appetite means that your body feels ravenous after prolonged cardio and will demand those calories back.
  • Chronic cardio also leads to negative changes in anxiety and mood;
  • Chronic cardio raises the stress hormone cortisol which is responsible for storing fat in the stomach area (also known as visceral fat). Long-term elevated cortisol levels also lead to leptin resistance: the hormone leptin plays a role in appetite and weight regulation and leptin resistance in turn leads to increased appetite and food intake. So again: prolonged cardio will make you hungry;
  • Effective exercise is accompanied by acute inflammation which is necessary for building muscles and improving performance. However, exhaustive exercise will lead to systemic inflammation and oxidative stress which you want to avoid.

For more information about exercise on keto plus links to related studies you can go here:

https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/post/2015/09/13/how-to-exercise-on-a-keto-diet
https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/post/2015/10/22/keto-diet-nutrition-and-exercise-carbs
https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/post/2015/11/10/ketogenic-nutrition-and-exercise-protein