Keto: it’s the low-carb, high-fat diet that has taken the world by storm.
Almost 13 million Americans try their hand at the keto diet each year, with many claiming that the popular weight loss program can help you burn fat faster while also making you feel less hungry between meals.
Seems like a foolproof diet, right?
Well, one problem that some keto-diet followers seem to run into is losing muscle.
If you’re just looking to lose a few pounds and squeeze back into your favorite jeans, losing muscle isn’t ideal – and honestly, it’s not all that healthy.
So, do you really lose muscle on the keto diet? How much do you lose, and is there a way to stop it?
What Is The Keto Diet?
With the ketogenic diet, participants follow a low-carb, high-fat diet that lowers your blood sugar and insulin levels and changes the way the body’s metabolism works by shifting it away from carbohydrates and more towards fat and ketones.
The aim of this diet is to send the body into a state of ketosis with the consumption of a low-carb diet.
On the keto diet, most people eat foods such as eggs, poultry, avocados, cheese, fish and seafood, nuts and seeds, plain greek yogurt, and more.
A number of people can benefit from the keto diet, including those with epilepsy, heart disease, acne, and even brain disease.
What Is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a bodily process that occurs when you don’t consume enough carbohydrates to burn energy.
Instead, when your body is in ketosis, you start to burn fat and produce ketones, which the body then uses for fuel.
During this metabolic state, ketones become the most important source of energy in the body and brain.
This state is identifiable by higher levels of ketones in the blood. If ketones in the body are not used for fuel, they’re expelled from the body via urine and the kidneys.
Can You Lose Muscle On Keto?
In short, yes, you can lose muscle. However, research is still being performed in this area to establish the exact reasons why and how it can be counteracted.
However, there are a few reasons we’re aware of that may cause you to lose muscle quicker on the keto diet.
Need For More Protein
When you first start the ketogenic diet, the body requires more protein.
Before you started the keto diet, your body was using glucose as its main energy source. Now, it needs to learn how to use them efficiently.
Before your body adapts to the keto diet, you’ll still need to feed your brain the glucose required to function.
When your brain isn’t in a state of keto-, it needs approximately 100g of carbohydrates a day to function.
In the primary stages of the keto diet, this requirement is met through the gluconeogenesis process.
When this happens, your body will significantly increase how much glucose it produces from protein and various other substrates.
When you start off, your brain is unable to use ketones as an adequate fuel source.
However, your brain will eventually adapt to using ketones over time.
Eventually, the brain will derive ~75% of its total energy requirements from the ketones, and the rest will come from glucose made in the body.
If the body doesn’t get enough protein, it will experience a negative nitrogen balance.
When this balance occurs, the body will start breaking down your tissue to meet the amino acid requirements for gluconeogenesis. If this happens, you may start to lose muscle.
However, to experience tissue repair and growth, your body must be in a positive nitrogen balance.
Therefore, your primary goal during this time should be to achieve this balance to avoid muscle loss.
Dieting Too Quickly
You’re on a diet to lose weight, so it’s easy to get impatient and diet too harshly so you can see results quicker.
Although dieting aggressively will give you the results you want to see in a short period, it’s not healthy.
So not only will you be neglecting your body’s nutritional needs (which, in the long term, can be dangerous for your health), but you’re also likely to lose muscle.
In fact, if you’re dieting too aggressively, you’ll most likely see more muscle loss than fat loss.
However, this tends to be the case in people that are already lean.
In other words, if you have more fat to lose, you can be more aggressive with your dieting without the risk of muscle loss.
We don’t recommend this, though. You’re still likely to experience a nutritional deficiency and neglect your health.
If you’re trying to lose weight, think about the future. How will you remember your diet in five years when you’re at your goal weight?
The chances are, you won’t be thinking about how quickly you lost the weight. You’ll simply be glad that you did it.
So, the moral of the story here is to take it easy and look after yourself in the process. Losing weight isn’t a marathon.
Can You Burn Fat Without Losing Muscle On Keto?
The answer to this question is yes, of course! So we’ll give you a few tips to show you how. To start off, you’ll need to…
Understand Your Calorie And Protein Requirements
To maintain muscle, you’ll need to understand your metabolic baseline.
As a general rule, we recommend getting at least 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of weight when you start. You increase this slowly to see what works for your body.
Cut Calories Slowly And Don’t Deprive Yourself Of Nutrients
If you’re cutting calories, do this slowly. Don’t throw yourself in at the deep end and go into an extreme calorie deficit.
Instead, you should gradually lower fat and protein each week to reduce your calorie intake.
This will prevent your body from burning muscle to slow down your metabolism, as you’ll have time to adjust.
Remember: losing muscle to slow your metabolism is a survival mechanism, and it’s usually triggered by going into an abrupt calorie deficit. So letting your body adjust to the diet slowly is one of the best ways to avoid losing muscle.
The Bottom Line
Keto can be an effective diet, but if it’s not done correctly, you risk losing muscle. Follow the guidance above to get the most out of the keto diet and keep your body functioning healthily.