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Mind-Body Synergy: How to Work Out on the Keto Diet

By Fitoru | 31 May 2018
lady looking at the ocean with feet in the water

Sticking to a keto diet requires a lot of discipline. Balancing yours with workouts that complement it takes even more (along with generous doses of practical knowledge).

Luckily, you came to the right place for finding both.

Below we detail the type of insights and self-control you’ll need in order to integrate your new keto diet with safe, productive, fat-burning workouts.

Along the way, you’ll also (hopefully) achieve the elusive mind-body synergy required for dramatic physical transformation.

Changing Physiology and Exercises to Avoid

As a new keto-dieter, you may not feel so good at first.

In fact, you may even feel like a zombie trying to navigate through an all-encompassing mental fog. Don’t worry though, this zombie-fication phase is completely normal, and comes as a natural consequence of your body’s changing physiology (which we discuss in more detail below).

Our rationale for pointing this out—far from some petty shadenfreude—is simply to offer you a few words of caution.

One of the most important pieces of advice we have is this: to avoid injury, it’s best to refrain from exercises that require quick reaction time—at least during the initial period of your keto diet.

Exercises to avoid during your first few weeks as a keto-dieter include:

  • Cycling (especially in traffic)
  • Hiking difficult terrain (particularly at night)
  • High-impact sports like tennis and racquetball
  • Jogging on the street
  • Indoor climbing and more

(Furthermore, if you’re ever in doubt as to whether or not an activity demands quick reaction time, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid jumping into it.)

Calibrating the Right State of Mind

Far from panicking at your initial sluggishness, it’s best to look at this early phase of the keto diet as your body strengthening itself for its future conquests.

These conquests—of course—include successes in the gym or on the court, field, or trail.

But before touching on the many stellar workouts compatible with your new keto lifestyle let’s get your mind right.

Here’s a helpful confidence booster: Studies show that ketogenic diets, when coupled with moderate-intensity exercise, can positively affect your body composition, according to Chelsea Axe, D.C., C.S.C.S., fitness expert at DrAxe.com.

“(Studies) have shown that ketogenic diets enhance the body’s ability to burn fat, both at rest and during low- to moderate-exercise intensities, so your weight-loss efforts may be maximized while training in these zones,” Axe says.

Armed with the confidence that your weight-loss efforts are likely to work, you’re one step closer to making them a reality.

However, you’ll still want to avoid pairing overzealousness with physical activities.

Here are some guidelines on how hard you should to push it.

Striking the Right Balance

As your body will have fewer carbs available as energy to burn you’ll need to make sure to eat an optimum amount of fat to compensate and have enough energy for a productive workout.

“Without enough fat to compensate for the carbs you’re missing, you’re likely to feel tired and miss out on actually going into ketosis. That’s why it’s super important that the majority of your calories come from healthy fat sources like grass-fed meats, fish, avocado, and coconut oil,” says Ramsey Bergeron, C.P.T., a seven-time Ironman and keto athlete.

However—even besides these physiological considerations—Bergeron notes that there are also strategic reasons for refraining from jumping into too challenging of a workout routine right away.

“If you change too many things at once, you won’t know what worked and what didn’t,” Bergeron states.

So, what are some good exercises for keto-dieters?

Good Exercises for Keto Dieters

With your mental and physiological houses in order, you’re probably excited at the prospect of engaging in some exercise and starting to see results.

To get where you want to be, arm yourself with these exercises for keto-dieters (and a helpful mantra that’s worth repeating):

  • Brisk walking/ jogging
  • Light cycling
  • Resistance band exercises
  • Leisure swimming
  • Light calisthenics/ activities like yoga

What do all of these have in common?

They’re all aerobic, moderately intense exercises.

In fact, as these two types of activities will get you to the fat-burning promised land, the phrases aerobic and moderately intense exercise should be your mantra.

To be clear, moderate-intensity aerobic activity is the preferred mode of exercise for keto-dieters.

Here’s why: “(Due to a lack of carbohydrate consumption), higher-intensity exercise performance can be compromised (in keto dieters)… (as such) moderate intensity exercise is ideal for optimizing the body’s fat-burning potential,” says Dr. Chelsea Axe.

What this means is that, among other things, you’ll want to lay off the HIIT and Crossfit routines (or just save them for your keto off-season) in favor of a more moderate approach.

However, you may be unsure where the moderate aerobic exercises end and the vigorous ones begin.

To help you distinguish among the two, here’s a helpful chart from the CDC.

Let’s Do This

Warrior mentality?

Check.

A solid understanding of how your physiology works on the keto diet?

Check.

Awareness that you’ll shed the pounds and that you’re armed with the best exercises for doing so?

You’re good to go there too.

In short: you got this.

Now go out there and kill it in the gym, on the track, or on the trail… moderately.

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