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May 28, 2021

Working Out on Keto: A Guide for Keto Exercise, Fitness & Health

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Bryan Seigel D.C., P.L.C.

Scientific research shows that the ketogenic diet offers powerful benefits not found with other diets, including increased fat-burning, reduced appetite, and the production of anti-inflammatory ketones[*][*][*].

Studies also demonstrate that going keto can make losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight easier, and that it may reduce the risk of health problems, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease[*][*][*].

However, as remarkable as the keto diet is, regular exercise is still necessary for your health.

If you’re sedentary and physically inactive, evidence suggests that you’re at higher risk of obesity and inflammation[*]. 

For adults, the American Heart Association recommends[*]:

  • 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or
  • 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, 
  • Or a combination of both, preferably spread through the week, and 
  • Muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights) twice or more each week, 
  • Or up to 300 minutes of total activity each week for even more benefit.

As part of an intelligent and well-organized plan, working out on keto can accelerate fat loss, enhance your mood and cognition, and boost your energy levels[*][*].

In this guide, you’ll learn the best ways to work out on keto for your goals, keto exercise mistakes to avoid, and which supplements can enhance your keto workout results.

Working out on keto

The Best Ways to Exercise on Keto for Your Goals

Working out on keto is an excellent idea no matter who you are, but “one size fits all” approaches rarely work.

Instead, your keto exercise program should reflect your goals, and must also take into account your level of experience with physical activity and your length of time on the keto diet.

Common goals include:

  • Fat loss and healthy weight maintenance,
  • General health and wellness, and
  • Fitness and sports performance.

For weight loss and related goals, walking and other gentle aerobic activity are highly effective, especially if you’re new to keto. 

The carbohydrate restriction of the keto diet paired with light activity is extremely beneficial for fat-burning, and also minimizes the risk of fatigue and activity-related injuries compare to higher-intensity workouts[*].

On the other hand, if your main focus is on general health and quality of life, you’ll want to implement a blend of aerobic exercise, strengthening activities, and mobility workouts for well-rounded fitness[*].

In contrast, fitness enthusiasts and athletes often prioritize one specific area of fitness, as well as setting aside time each week for any sport-related training. 

As a general rule, the less time you’ve spent on the keto diet or being physically active, the less strenuous your exercise regimen should be. As you gain experience and adapt to ketosis, you can gradually increase the volume and intensity of your program.

Finally, if you’ve got multiple goals, it’s probably best to prioritize fat loss and general health above other outcomes. Then, as you make progress toward better wellness, you can begin incorporating more fitness-oriented goals.

Next, we’ll dive into details and specific recommendations for each type of exercise.

Walking and Light Aerobic Exercise

Walking and other similarly gentle types of aerobic exercise are among the best introductory activities if you’re new to working out on keto.

And even if you’re already very fit, regular walking is an excellent choice for general health and speeding up your recovery from other workouts[*].

A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that for overweight men and women, peak fat-burning occurs around 3 miles per hour, which is slightly greater than 100 steps per minute[*][*].

And numerous peer-reviewed studies show that walking 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week or more, spread out over multiple days, results in more fat loss compared to diet alone[*][*][*].

If you’re new to keto or working out, try walking briskly for 30 minutes, 5-7 days a week for greater fat loss results and better fitness.

Resistance Training and Strength Training

Benefits of resistance or strength training include a faster metabolism, more lean muscle mass, healthier aging, and increased self-esteem[*][*][*][*][*].

And the evidence is clear that resistance training is effective for everyone, whether young or old, and for athletes and non-athletes alike[*].

Recent trials show that 8 weeks of strength training while following the keto diet can increase strength levels and reduce body fat in both men and women[*][*].

You can use free weights (such as barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells), exercise machines, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises, or any combination of methods. 

It’s a good idea to experiment with different methods to decide what you prefer and what works best for your body.

Try strength training at least once or twice per week, or more if you find that you enjoy it, using a mix of different repetition ranges.

Low-volume with 6 or fewer reps are best for increasing your strength, while sets of 6-12 reps are effective for building strength and lean muscle, and sets with 15 or more reps are useful for increasing muscular endurance[*].

To stay safe during strength training, always make sure you understand the correct form before attempting a movement, and consider hiring a professional trainer to help you master your workouts.

HIIT

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, is a popular exercise method that may save time and burn more calories compared to other types of exercise[*].

And according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, a combination of keto diet and HIIT increases fat-burning more over 4 weeks compared to HIIT alone[*]. 

During HIIT, you alternate between higher and lower exercise intensities for set durations referred to as “intervals.” 

Intervals can consist of the same activity performed at different speeds, such as cycling fast and slow, or two related activities like sprinting and walking, or two separate activities performed in succession.

You can choose any two or more activities for HIIT, but make sure you’re proficient at any movement you use to minimize the risk of injury.

A variety of interval periods can work for HIIT. Some intervals shown to be effective in scientific research include[*]:

  • 4 minutes high-intensity and a 3-minute recovery interval
  • 30 seconds of all-out effort followed by 4 minutes of active recovery 
  • 8 seconds of all-out effort followed by 12 seconds of active recovery

You can also experiment with different interval lengths to learn what works best for your body.

If you find the prospect of HIIT exciting, try adding 1-3 sessions of 15-30 minutes per session each week so you can determine how they affect your results.

However, keep in mind that HIIT doesn’t necessarily take the place of walking or resistance exercise. 

Think of it as an added boost for your fitness and fat loss results. The best time to add HIIT is probably after you’ve got a solid foundational exercise regimen in place, not as your first foray into working out on keto.

Foam Rolling, Stretching, Yoga, Mobility, and Recovery Work

Including some recovery work like foam rolling, stretching, active mobility exercises, or yoga each week is the perfect way to round out your keto exercise routine.

Although recovery activities don’t contribute directly to fat-burning, they do provide other helpful benefits, including[*][*][*][*]:

  • Faster recovery from workouts
  • Decreased soreness
  • Reduced injury risk
  • Increased mobility
  • Better posture
  • Lower stress levels and better mood

If you’ve got time, incorporate one or two recovery sessions each week, or try attending a gentle yoga class.

You can also use stretching, foam rolling, or mobility exercises as part of your post-workout cooldown to support recovery.

Keto Exercise Mistakes to Avoid 

Working out on keto is a guaranteed way to boost your progress — as long as you don’t you make mistakes that undermine your hard work. 

Avoid these common keto exercise mistakes so you don’t derail your progress.

Don’t Do Too Much Too Soon

Exercise releases beta-endorphins, feel-good chemicals that can encourage you to exercise more[*].

For anyone who’s recently begun exercising, feeling much better paired with observable progress can be an extremely powerful motivation to ramp up the volume and intensity of activity.

But as a novice, doing too much too soon can quickly result in an injury that sets you back weeks or months. 

If you’re relatively new to exercise, try to enjoy the process and remember that it’s a life-long journey, not a race. 

Start by walking consistently for a month or two, then add in some strength training to round out your routine.

From there, you can eventually add in HIIT if you’re craving more intensity and challenge, or opt for gentle activities like stretching or yoga if you’re experiencing muscle soreness or want to speed up recovery.

Beware Dehydration and Keto Flu

When you transition to keto, the lack of carbs in your diet literally flushes excess water weight from your body, which can sometimes result in dehydration and the depletion of electrolytes[*][*].

Electrolytes are necessary for cells and organs in your body to work correctly, and dehydration or electrolyte deficiencies are a serious problem that can result in medical emergencies if they’re severe enough[*].

Under normal circumstances, your body should be able to readjust to your new low-carb lifestyle within a few weeks, but there’s also a chance that exercise (especially in the heat) could make the problem worse[*].

Another, related problem that people sometimes experience is the “keto flu,” which occurs when you’re new to keto and your body is switching over to using fat as fuel[*].

Keto flu symptoms like headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and “brain fog” appear to result from several factors, including electrolyte imbalances[*]. There’s also a chance that dehydration could make them worse.

Here’s what you can do to stay safe and minimize keto flu symptoms:

  • Be sure to drink plenty of water, especially when you sweat or exercise
  • Be watchful for signs of dehydration, such as thirst, dry mouth, dark yellow urine, or cramping
  • Take electrolyte supplements to lower the risk electrolyte imbalances

After a few weeks of working out on keto, your risk of these problems likely decreases, but it’s always wise to be vigilant about dehydration during and after exercise.

Our Keto Electrolytes are tasty zero-sugar electrolytes engineered to keep your energy levels up, prevent keto flu, and support healthy hydration during physical activity.

Don’t Rely on Exercise to Burn Lots of Calories

You might think exercise is all about burning calories to lose weight, but that’s not exactly true, especially not on the ketogenic diet.

On the keto diet, people often find they can eat as much as they want — without ever counting calories — and still lose weight because their appetites are diminished[*]. 

Instead of intentionally restricting eating, the decrease in hunger naturally leads to sustainable, effortless fat loss.

Research also supports the idea of eating ad libitum (literally “as much as you desire”) and still losing weight on keto[*].

That’s why instead of focusing primarily on how many calories you burn with exercise, you should instead select activities that are great for your overall health and offer added benefits, such as walking and strength training.

Equally importantly, if you’re not losing weight on keto, it’s probably a bad idea to add more exercise in hopes of driving progress.

Instead, try troubleshooting and double-checking that you’re actually in nutritional ketosis, eating healthy keto-friendly whole foods, and not consuming hidden sources of carbs.

Supplements to take when working out on keto

Recommended Supplements for Working Out on Keto

Keto supplements can help you burn more fat, speed recovery, ease sore muscles, enhance your exercise performance, and help prevent issues like dehydration or electrolyte imbalances.

Here’s a rundown of research demonstrating which supplements actually work and how to use them for your goals.

MCT Oil for Increased Fat-Burning

Medium-chain triglyceride or MCT oil is a unique healthy fat derived from coconuts.

MCT works by increasing ketone production and fat-burning. A 2010 study found that compared to olive oil, MCT oil resulted in about 3.8 additional pounds of fat loss[*].

According to a 2018 review, human and animal studies have shown that MCT.”induces weight loss through increasing energy expenditure and fat oxidation and helping in the process of excess calorie burning”[*]. 

A 2019 study in older women found that combining aerobic exercise with MCT oil was more ketogenic compared to either MCT or aerobic exercise alone, meaning there was greater production of endogenous ketones when women performed aerobic activity and took MCTs[*]

For best results, take 5-10 grams of MCTs in the morning or before exercise. 

Our Keto Cocoa Keto Hot Chocolate MCT Powder boosts ketone levels, increases fat burning, and is made with real cocoa to satisfy your chocolate cravings

Shop Keto Cocoa MCTs now. 

Collagen Protein for Speeding Recovery and Addressing Sore Muscles and Joints

Collagen makes up most of the connective tissues in your muscles, joints, and skin, making it the most abundant protein in your body[*].

Hydrolyzed collagen protein is a supplement made from animal collagen sources that’s shown to support muscle repair and decrease soreness in muscles and joints[*][*][*]. 

For example, a 24-week study found that for athletes with activity-related joint pain, taking collagen protein significantly reduced pain while moving and resting[*].

Take 8-10 grams of collagen per day for faster recovery and less soreness.

Our Multi-Collagen Protein Powder is an advanced collagen formulation that supports healthy collagen production and recovery on the keto diet.

Shop Multi-Collagen Protein now.

Exogenous Ketones for Performance and Fat-Burning

When you follow the keto diet and restrict carb intake, your body makes endogenous ketones like beta-hydroxybutyrate, which are responsible for many of the health benefits of going keto[*].

Exogenous ketones are similar, except they’re not made in your body. Instead, they’re ketones in supplement form designed to raise your ketone levels.

Research suggests taking ketone supplements may increase physical performance, even if you’re already in ketosis[*].

They can also increase fat-burning during exercise, making them an effective fat loss supplement[*].

Take 10-15 grams of exogenous ketones before exercise or any time you need a physical or mental boost.

Our Keto Ketones provide instant ketosis, supporting mental clarity and peak physical performance. They dissolve perfectly, taste great, and are free of sugar, caffeine, and artificial ingredients. 

Shop Exogenous Ketones now.

Keto Electrolytes for Healthy Hydration

When you first start keto, you’re at higher risk of dehydration, especially when you’re also physically active[*][*].

Drinking plenty of water is essential for staying hydrated, but if you train hard or sweat a lot, water without electrolytes can result in dangerous electrolyte imbalances[*].

Taking electrolyte supplements helps reduce the risk of electrolyte depletion or imbalance due to dehydration, and may also ease keto flu symptoms[*].

Use a high-quality electrolyte supplement with sodium, potassium, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and other electrolytes when you begin keto and any time you exercise on the keto diet.

To stay safe when you first begin keto or whenever you exercise, consume extra sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and other essential electrolytes as part of your hydration strategy.

Our Electrolyte Recovery Plus drink mix is formulated for energy, hydration, and keto diet support. It contains zero carbs, sugar, or calories, dissolves perfectly, and tastes great. 

Shop Keto Electrolytes now

Working Out on Keto: Putting It All Together

Keto and exercise are synergistic for fat loss and other health benefits, but remember that with exercise, more isn’t always better.

You don’t have to spend tons of time each day burning calories to succeed on the keto diet, and too much exercise too soon can result in an injury or other setbacks.

If you’re new to working out on keto, start by going for a brisk walk for 30 minutes most days of the week. 

Then, once you’ve made a habit of walking frequently, add in strength training a few times a week for a balanced approach to fitness.

From there, you can either add high-intensity interval training for an added boost to your results, or gentler activities like yoga and stretching to enhance recovery.

Once you realize that following the keto diet and being physically fit are life-long practices that work immediately and continue to pay off over many years, there’s no need to rush anything.

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