Your whole world just changed. No, you didn't win the lottery or save a trapped kitten on national television. Rather, it was something bigger… You discovered the benefits of ketogenic dieting! The biggest craze in the world of sports nutrition in the past decade for bodybuilding, strength, and fitness athletes is without a doubt the wonder of keto dieting. Cutting out the carbs slowly moves the body into a nearly magical realm of fat loss known as ketosis, and the vast majority of athletes who have tried it have been quite happy with the results. There's just one problem with ketogenic dieting… a distinct lack of energy when training. It turns out carbohydrates provide much more than just empty delicious calories and cool green colors. They're also a major source of energy that our body has become quite accustomed to using on a daily basis. Therefore, when you enter the ketogenic dieting phase where tough training is required, you may be in for a very rude wakeup call. That's okay - we're here to help!
Keep it Keto
First off, you want to ensure you are accurately following a ketogenic diet, and not some weird, low-ish carb version of that you came up with after earning your degree in Bro-Science. The actual ketogenic diet is very low carb (5% of your calories), very high fat (75% of your calories), and fairly moderate in protein (20% of your total calories). You'll note this is a LOT of fat, and very LITTLE carbs. Some athletes try to tweak the numbers, and as a result, they are no longer in an actual ketogenic state. Your body becomes a very efficient machine, capable of burning more fat grams than at any other time in your life - but only if the carbs remain extremely low. Over time, you can add more protein as well, but not initially. If your carbs have hit ten percent of your daily carbs, you're following a diet… but it ain't keto!
Your body is going to need a great deal of fuel when you're using ketogenic dieting. And if you're engaging in seriously heavy training at a reasonably moderate volume, then you are going to feel quite empty, a lot of the time! The trick to defeating this uncomfortable feeling is to snack… a lot! Plenty of small, high fat snacks throughout the day will keep your body feeling nourished and will take away those hunger pangs which result when no carbs are present in your diet. You can't train with a plate of eggs in your belly, but there are plenty of ketogenic style protein shakes which athlete use quite successfully to fuel their body for long workouts without breaking their keto code. Other snack options include veggies, cold cuts, pepperoni, cheese, nuts, and avocados. Try all of these foods, and record which of them have the most positive response with your body.
MCT oil, or medium-chain triglyceride oil, is a great addition to any snack, as you give your body a bit of fuel before embarking upon a tough workout. Your body is used to seeing the OTHER kind of oil, LCTs, short for long-chain triglycerides. They're present in eggs, nuts, and avocado. MCTs are harder to come by, but provide a terrific boost for trainers who are having a tough time finding energy for the weight room. Meeting daily fat goals can be quite tricky. Intestinal distress is a real thing when your body is introduced to that much new fat at once. The key is to begin gradually and work up your body's tolerance to that much far.
Anyone who has run an actual long term ketogenic diet will tell you that it takes the body 8 to 12 weeks to truly become adapted to the ketogenic style of eating. It just doesn't come easily. Your body is going to be craving carbs, a fuel it has enjoyed for your entire life. Your energy levels are going to slump during this time. For this reason, many dieting strength athletes use a supplement known as HMB. This is an anti-catabolic supplement which many lifters feel gives them an edge in holding onto muscle mass when a carbohydrate deficit is present. Give it a shot!
Finally, there is something you can do OUTSIDE Of the gym and the kitchen table, which can help your body to preserve muscle, manage resources, and make the best of a ketogenic diet. That, of course, is to STRESS LESS! The ketogenic diet can be very catabolic early on, draining your body of muscle mass and strength as you attempt to completely reprogram the way your system uses various kinds of fuel for energy… all while you're still training with the intensity of a madman! You'll get there eventually - all lifters do. However, any way you can eliminate stress in the meantime, you'll benefit your body greatly. Cut back on the drama with your significant other. Engage in fewer online political discussions. Avoid things which make you worry. Your body will use these precious resources in a manner you'd much prefer - for growth and recovery!