Keto Gains: Ketogenic Pre-workout and Intra-workout Supplementation (Breach & Clusterbomb)
Many want to believe that ketogenic or very low carb diets are just like the latest fashion, here for the day, gone tomorrow. However, ketogenic diets are here to stay and have been studied as far back as the 1950s. Infamous bodybuilder legends such as “The Iron Guru,” Vince Gironda (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s trainer), routinely practiced very low carb diets with his athletes to build some of the most incredible natural physiques ever seen since the golden era of bodybuilding (the 1970s). No matter what your view is on carbohydrates when it comes to your diet, one thing that is certain is that carbohydrates are very efficient for increasing exercise performance and if they are consumed, are best used for such goals.
Growing up in a world that’s been putting the emphasis on carbs since your childhood, can make getting a ketogenic or low carb diet to work for you difficult. The beauty of low carb dieting is that it is very effective for weight loss. It primes your body to burn its own fat, allowing you to get lean easier and reach single digit levels of body fat. However, building muscle can prove a challenge for some, ketogenic diets are not commonly known for being used for bulking and building mass. There is, however, steps that can be done to change that.
Targeted Ketogenic Diets and Carb Cycling
In his book “Unleashing the Wild Physique,” Vince Gironda proposed that when on low carb diets, you make sure to do a carbohydrate refeed every 3-4 days. This is to refuel muscle glycogen allowing you to still train hard and build mass, even on low carb diets.
During the last few decades, Vince Gironda’s ideas have evolved further into something we today call the targeted ketogenic diet. This is a more advanced approach for keto athletes that allow you to lift heavier while still maintaining fat loss. The principle is the same; you refuel muscle glycogen before workouts to make sure you can train as hard as possible. On a targeted ketogenic diet, however, this is done in the form of 25-50 grams of high glycemic carbohydrates 20-30 minutes before your workout. This will prime your muscles and enable you to train harder with extra reps, even when on a calorie deficit for cutting down on body fat. Keep in mind though that diet still has to be on par, however, you do not have to count these extra pre-workout carbohydrates to your daily macros if you are aiming for gaining mass.
Even though carbohydrates acutely increase exercise performance which is a nice benefit, in the case of ketogenic and low carb diets, this is not why we want to use it. Like the protocol that Vince Gironda followed, carb refeeds days are useful because they restore muscle glycogen to prep you for your next workout. Targeted Ketogenic diets are the same, but we minimize fat gains additionally by only consuming smaller portions of carbs at workout time. Making sure the body shuttles the glycogen from these carbs straight into your muscle instead of fat storage, minimizing extra fat gain.
People experience better strength gains when using carbs during workouts, but carbs slow down weight loss. A targeted ketogenic diet gives you the best of both worlds. We recommend using our product Cluster Bomb, containing highly branched cyclic dextrin, for carb cycling protocols. Using a high glycemic carb like this before workouts will not kick you out of ketosis for long but still give you the power of carbohydrates for exercise performance.
Intermittent Fasting and Muscle Breakdown
The ketogenic diet is similar to a state of fasting. The body starts burning fat in the absence of glucose. During high-intensity training in a fasted state, muscle breakdown can still happen because the body kicks on glycogenesis, which starts breaking down muscle for glucose. This can be prevented by using branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) before or during workouts. BCAAs can be of extra importance on ketogenic diets if you are looking to build as much muscle mass as possible. Interestingly BCAAs also improve fat oxidation and utilization of stored fatty acids, making them the perfect compliment on dietary protocols aimed at promoting fat loss such as ketogenic diets. Make sure you use a product that contains the researched 2:1:1 ratio of amino acids, such as in our Breach BCAA product.
If you prefer to follow a standard ketogenic diet without the carb ups (some people feel better on such a diet), you can still use BCAAs to elicit an insulin response post training. This will help shuttle more nutrients into your muscles for growth. The primary amino acid Leucine in BCAA supplements are responsible for this effect on insulin. Leucine can spike insulin in a similar way as carbs but without taking you out of ketosis. This can work as a replacement for post workout carbohydrates often used to fuel better recovery. In other words, you can still get good results using BCAAs on the standard ketogenic diet, without following a targeted carb cycling protocol.
Don’t Forget The Electrolytes
When it comes to pre-workout nutrition, make sure you have enough electrolytes in your body to sustain your hard workouts. This is especially important on low carbs diets that tend to drive more water out of the body.
Insulin is what makes your kidneys hold on to sodium. On a ketogenic diet, you experience a reduction in insulin levels, which in turn will make you excrete more sodium. Sodium being a vital electrolyte for the body, it is of particular importance to refuel sodium levels regularly while eating low carb. If you don’t, fatigue will set in quickly and not any pre-workout drink in the world will save your workout performance.
In our BCAA product Breach, we have already included extra electrolytes in the formula to make sure you don’t have to think about this common low carb mistake.
Ketogenic diets can be more than just for weight loss. A combination of doing both the targeted ketogenic diet with high GI carb ups, along with using plenty of BCAAs pre and post workouts, is the best protocol to follow for putting on fat-free muscle mass while following a low carb diet. This is by far the easiest way to reach single digit body fat while also maintaining and gaining mass.