While you can lose weight on a ketogenic diet without any formal exercise, there may be reasons why you should incorporate exercise to speed up weight loss on keto, in addition to many other benefits exercise offers.
Exercise can help speed up weight loss while following a keto diet by increasing calorie expenditure and building muscle, which raises metabolism. Exercise can also help establish ketosis quicker, prevent muscle loss, and offer many additional health benefits.
I get it. I wish I could buy exercise in a pill too.
Just hear me out, and then decide whether or not adding exercise to your ketogenic diet is worth it to you.
In this article, I'll go over the benefits exercise will have while following a ketogenic diet, what forms of exercise you should do, and a practical approach to getting started.
I'll even play devil's advocate and let you know why exercise may not be all that it's cracked up to be.
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5 Reasons How Exercise Helps You On Your Keto Journey
There are probably over a hundred ways exercise can help you, besides speeding up weight loss while you're in ketosis. Here are just five reasons you may want to include exercise while following a ketogenic diet.
#1 Helps prevent muscle loss
When following ANY weight loss diet, we have to first distinguish between WEIGHT loss and FAT loss.
While you may think they are both the same, I assure you they are quite different.
An easy way to demonstrate this is by having you weigh yourself, sit in a sauna for 30 minutes, then weigh yourself afterward. Yes, the scale went down, but did you lose actual fat? I assure you that any weight loss was water weight and not real fat loss.
When you diet or eat fewer calories than you burn, you WILL lose some fat, but you will also lose some amount of muscle. While the scale may go down, you might just be as unhappy with what you see in the mirror as before you lost the weight.
This is what we call “skinny fat,” which is just a fat version of your skinnier self.
Also, by losing muscle, you are essentially lowering your metabolic rate, in addition to other possible adverse outcomes:
- Insulin resistance
- Life expectancy
- Weight regain
70% of the calories you burn per day happens at rest, known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR). A large portion of your BMR is proportionate to how much muscle tissue you carry.
As a result, you'll have a higher chance of maintaining weight loss and achieving the physique you so desperately are looking to achieve.
#2 Get you into ketosis quicker
There are only two ways you might expedite your transition into ketosis, one way is to fast, and the other is…
In this study, 2 hours of high-intensity cycling substantially depleted liver glycogen. 1
Ketone production only begins after liver glycogen is severely low or depleted as a way to provide fuel, mainly to the brain and central nervous system. 2
#3 Speeds up weight loss
Whether you want to count calories or not is irrelevant. You can lose weight without counting calories, but that doesn't mean that calories do not count when it comes to losing weight.
There are two primary mechanisms in which we can create a caloric deficit, or “caloric debt,” as I like to call it.
Two create a caloric debt in the body; we must either eat less than our body burns per day or burn calories through exercise.
There is a third option; it's to do both caloric restriction and exercise.I find that lighter individuals or those who have sedentary jobs will require some sort of exercise to lose weight at a reasonable rate.
By reasonable rate, I consider 0.5% for lighter individuals and up to 1.5% of body weight per week for those who have more fat to lose a reasonable rate of weight loss to expect. Losing weight faster will usually come at the expense of muscle loss and an unsustainable approach for most.
#4 Helps yoU keep the weight off
A meta-analysis, which is just a fancy way of saying a review that looked at MANY other reviews and pooled the data, found that physical activity was included in 88% of successful weight loss intervention.
Also, physical activity was part of what led subjects to maintain weight loss successfully.6 out of 7 people are able to lose weight at some point in their life successfully, but up to 95% of those individuals will fail at keeping the weight off in the long term.
What's more shocking is that one to two thirds to those people will end up heavier than when they started.
Don't become a statistic.
#5 Lower your body fat percentage
You may have heard of body fat percentage, but you may be unfamiliar with what this means.
To accurately determine your body fat percentage would require a body fat test to be done, but even those all have some margin of error.
Take, for example, a female weighing 150 lbs who has 25% body fat. This would mean she has 37.5 lbs of body fat and 112.5 lbs of lean tissue (which includes muscle).
If we take that same female and gain 5 lbs of muscle while losing 2 pounds of fat, while the scale went UP, her body fat went down.
That same female now weighs 153 lbs, which is 3 pounds heavier (+ 5 lbs of muscle – 2lbs of fat) and has a body fat percentage of 23%.
While she may be heavier on the scale, her clothes probably fit MUCH better, likes what she sees in the mirror, and perhaps getting compliments from family and friends asking if she lost weight.I should also note that if you are new to resistance training, you have a very high probability of losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time. You should do your best to take advantage of this small window of opportunity because it doesn't last long.
But we know that she actually gained weight!
See how relying solely on the scale to measure progress might not be the best way to track progress? While it may be one tool, a better indicator of improvement would be a tape measure, progress pictures, or even something as your pants feeling looser.
How Much Exercise Should You Do On A Ketogenic Diet?
Now that you know how exercise may aid you in your keto weight loss efforts, how much exercise should you do?
How much exercise you should do will depend on how much you're currently doing. Many people fall into the trap of going 0 to 100, which leads them to burn out eventually and quit.
If you currently don't work out at all, it doesn't make sense to commit to waking up early and going to the gym every day before work.
Start small, and build up how much exercise you do incrementally. I recommend a ~10% increase in duration per week.
If you worked out 30 minutes in the first week, then do 33 minutes the second week. This increment may seem small, but imagine where you'll be in a few months.
All of the small things begin to add up to BIG things.
Something as simple as waking up 10 to 15 minutes early to go for a walk before breakfast is simple enough to implement. This same walk can be done during your lunch break or after dinner as a way to unwind.
Eventually, you may want to work your way up to three 10 minute walks.
A brisk 10-minute walk after meals can improve digestion, insulin sensitivity, and decrease gas. Besides, walking is a low impact, safe, and FREE. 3
There's also reason to believe that three 10-minute walks may be superior to one 30-minute walk. Also, there are plenty of health benefits associated with simple 10-minute walks.
When determining how much exercise to do, you should consider:
- How much you are currently doing
- How much can you realistically commit to, ideally as a lifestyle
- Your current capabilities
What Types Of Exercise Should You Do While Keto?
Ideally, when it comes to exercise, including some type of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training is ideal.
Since I've already stressed the importance of resistance training and maintaining as much muscle when shedding the pounds, I'll cover cardiovascular exercise in this section.
Just to reiterate, when looking to speed up weight loss, you have two variables you can manipulate:
- How much you eat
- How much you move (exercise)
To speed up weight loss on keto, you would need to manipulate one or the other, but ideally, a combination of both.
When it comes down to burning calories and exercise, cardiovascular activities will burn more calories than resistance training, but resistance training will likely benefit you more in the long-run.Also, cardiovascular exercise doesn't necessarily need to be walking, running, or hitting up the stair master at the gym, either.
If you enjoy playing at the park with your children (or fur babies) or enjoy playing a particular sport, these can all serve as great ways to expend additional calories.
Pick something that you enjoy and be consistent with. Don't worry about the small things like if you should be fasted when exercising, the most optimal time to do cardio, or what burns the most calories.
The most important exercise you can do is the one that you will do.
How To Speed Up Weight Loss On Keto WITHOUT Exercise
Now that I've gone to explain how exercise will speed up weight loss let me play devil's advocate and tell you that it won't speed it up as fast as you may think.
Besides, you should be exercising for the myriad of other benefits associated with exercise, but you're a grown adult, and you are capable of making your own decisions.
Now, what many people don't realize is that a large portion of calories burnt throughout the day doesn't come from exercise.
Aside from your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the calories you expend just to sustain life, the next most prominent piece of the pie is what we call Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT).
NEAT makes up ~15% of your daily calories burned.
What exactly is NEAT? Non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT is all the activities you do that isn't considered formal exercise.
NEAT is washing the dishes, folding the laundry, walking your dog, grocery shopping, heck… even sex is considered NEAT.All of the activities you do throughout the day make up a significant portion of the calories you burn. Don't underestimate how much you can speed up your weight loss efforts on keto by merely staying active throughout the day.
If you're awake and don't have a requirement to sit at a desk, stay on your feet, and keep busy. You can also implement simple daily habits that will add up:
- Park further from entrances
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Walk if you don't have to drive
NEAT can vary by as much as 2,000 calories in individuals of the same height and weight. 4
This may be the reason that someone who has similar stats to you can shed the weight quicker and/or eat more food and still lose weight.
NEAT plays a significant role in why people may you may not be losing weight on keto after awhile. As you continue to diet and lose weight, your body subconsciously causes you to move less and expend less energy.
You're also moving around a lighter body, so you burn fewer calories doing the same activities.
If you want a better way to speed up weight loss on keto without exercise, then the best thing you can do is stay active throughout the day.
How To Increase Fat Burning With Supplements To Compliment Your Keto And Exercise Regimen
When It comes to supplements, there are very few that are worth your money. 99% of fat burning supplements will do nothing for you except lighten your wallet.
If you're interested in the why behind the supplements I'm listing down below, you can check out my article explaining if you can take fat burning supplements on keto. In the article, I go over the supplements I'm listing down below in more detail.
Just remember, supplements won't do the work for you. While we all wish there were a way to take exercise in a pill, we still have to put in the work.
Supplements are just that, supplements. They are meant to be supplemental to your diet and exercise, not take the place of them. Assuming you've optimized your other variables, supplements are the cherry on top to compliment your weight loss efforts.
The only supplements that have shown be effective according to science:
- Caffeine (Click here to check prices and reviews)
- Green Tea Extract (Click here to check prices and reviews)
- Yohimbine HCL (Click here to check prices and reviews)
When it comes to speeding up weight loss on keto, exercise can play a role in accomplishing that.
However, we must focus on the things that matter most. In order, the most significant contributing factors will be:
- Your Diet
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
- And then… Physical Exercise
Aside from the health benefits of including physical exercise, you'll expend more calories, which does speed up weight loss.