Jump to content

Building muscle on keto/low carb?


Recommended Posts

Hey guys,


Doing the keto thing here, and it does of course work. However, I'm at a point where I think I need to start building some muscle. Now, I know the basic rules: 1g protein per pound of lean body mass, lift heavy, eat more calories than you burn, etc., but I'm confused about a few things.


First, some one once told me that carbohydrates act as a transport mechanism to get protein into a muscle cell for repair post workout. Is that actually correct, and if so, HOW MUCH carbohydrates do you need, in general? Would a normal keto diet of, say, ~60g of carbs per day be enough, or do I need to increase my carbs by a small amount, a huge amount, or something in between? Would I need to consume them before my workout to have them active and ready in my bloodstream, or post workout to aid recovery?


Additionally, does creatine as a supplement interfere with ketosis in any way?


A little more information on what I'm doing here for the curious, and my thinking:


I'm presently about 265, down from 305 last year on keto. However I'm noticing that things like pushups, bench, squat, situps, etc. are all really weak. My primary form of exercise right now is Krav Maga and while I punch very hard, my pushups/situps are pretty bad and I feel weak overall. This isn't ketogenic induction since I've been managing myself on keto for over a year now (I take time off every so many weeks and factor in a few cheat meals here and there). Perhaps more importantly, I just plain want more muscle mass, especially on my upper frame. I look like a goddamn T-rex - large muscular lower body, tiny arms. My game plan (so far, need to do some more research) is to do a shitload of pushups on roughly an every-other-day schedule combined with sit-ups and running to build muscle mass, get better at those pushups/sit-ups, and increase my cardiovascular endurance which is pretty weak honestly (I get winded very easily). However, I need to do this in such a way that I can build muscle mass and endurance for those exercises and cardiovascular endurance at the same time, and I recognize nutrition is key there.


Basically my overall goal is to increase cardiovascular endurance, upper body muscle mass, and get better at doing large volumes of pushups/situps while losing fat if possible (I realize that probably isn't) or at least adding next to none so that it comes off easier when I switch back to a calorie deficit.


Any suggestions are appreciated. Thank you.

Link to post

Don't worry about creatine right now.


Also the only way to do true keto is to drop your protein to 0.5g per LB of lean body mass. (some people need to go lower others can go higher, best way is to measure blood ketones)


Also with the carbs is all depends, on the person, need to measure it. I try to stick to 20g of net carbs, and under 50g of total carbs including fibre.


If you want to just gain pure size and lose weight, no real need to do endurance exercises, only do them if you enjoy them. For me when I started I did no cardio, now I just done some sprints once a week, want to be fit and fast if I ever need to run somewhere. Lifting weights and losing weight should be your goal first, then you can do some high intensity cardio and make massive improvements. Lifting weights has a positive effect on cardiovascular system and is safer than steady state cardio on joints and so on.

Race: Hobbit

Class: Warrior

Level: 3

STR: 12 DEX: 3 STA: 4 CON: 4 WIS: 3 CHA: 4


Check out my first challenge! http://rebellion.nerdfitness.com/index.php?/topic/38158-lawrences-super-adventure/

Link to post

Hey guys,


Thanks for the input here. Let me try to explain where I'm coming from here and maybe that'll help clear up why I'm thinking the way I am.


About 2 weeks ago, I went through my Practitioner 1 Krav Maga test. It was about 3 hours of technique demonstration under an instructor to make sure you did it right. That part wasn't *too* bad, but was pretty challenging. However, after that is when the real challenge started. See, to earn P1 under this particular instructor/school, you have to complete ONE HUNDRED pushups *and* ONE HUNDRED sit-ups.


They aren't timed and you can break it up, so I was thinking I'd do it in 4 chunks of 25 each. However, about half way through, it got incredibly hard for me to continue, where I was doing maybe 1-2 pushups at a time, and having to pull myself with my arms on each sit-up. It was actually a really incredible experience: there was probably about a gallon of sweat from me alone on that mat, I kid you not. All the other people testing finished before I did, and came to stand around me and cheer me on while I completed mine. It was to the point where I'd do one pushup, struggle, and fall on the next rep, not finishing it. I'd rest a few seconds, then do it again - one, FALL, rest. Flip over. Situps. Pull HARD, grunt like a freakin' madman, complete 5 or 6, flip over, pushups. And on and on. It was hard as hell, but I did finish!


Anyway, there were several problems that made this hard, and I have to do 150 of these for my next test whenever that comes! So I need to improve my fitness level in a lot of ways to get through that.


First, I lacked the endurance, cardiovascularly, to finish even though I had plenty of time to rest between "sets". I attribute this to being generally out of shape and the fact that pushups are a more full body exercise than, say, a bench press (since you use your core to stabilize yourself).


Secondly, I've always lacked muscle strength. Even though I'm about 265, I can only bench, at most, probably about half my own bodyweight. I just plain need to get stronger. And as I understand it - and please correct me if I'm wrong - strength is a function, in males anyway, of muscle size.


Thirdly, like I said, I just want to have more muscle on my frame.


I'm operating under two theories here. First, that aesthetics are a function of fitness (something I've read around here somewhere I believe). If I can improve my fitness, that should help me be better looking :) Second, that muscle increases metabolic function, requiring more calories per day to exist; ergo an increase in muscle mass will, at least theoretically, result in faster fat loss when a person goes to a calorie deficit diet.


So ultimately my goal is to be able to handle those 150 pushups/situps with ease next time, which means more strength and endurance. However, I'd like to get there by increasing muscle mass if I can, without adding any fat if possible.


Complicated, I know. Hence my coming to some forums :) Thanks for the input.

Link to post

I find it hard to believe that anyone could gain muscle mass on a low carb diet.  Fat intake has a very dumb signalling path in the body; your body has very little way of keeping track whether you are in a surplus or deficit via fats, ingested fats are just added to the reservoir of fat already there.  Carbs (and protein converted to carbs) OTOH have a very intelligent signalling system, the body is very aware of carb levels and carb based energy balance, being in a surplus turns on a number of functions that are disabled when not in a surplus, muscle building among them.  In addition to being the superior fuel for strength training, carb intake "tells" the body its ok to grow bigger muscles.  Even if there is some muscle growth, you are almost surely looking at an extremely inefficient process.

currently maintaning

battle log challenges: 16,15,14,13,12,11,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
follow me: myfitnesspal
don't panic!

Link to post

Trying to gain mass on low carbs is like walking into a gunfight with a knife.


Any detrained athlete or total novice can get "newbie" gains almost regardless of diet to an extent....but you would be severely lowering your ceiling by putting your body into a catabolic state.


You might be able to do some damage with your knife....but ultimately...your fate is sealed before even walking into the room....




Sculptor - Warrior

LVL 4 | STR 10 | DEX 8 | WIS 12 | CHA 8 | STA 1 | CON 6


Link to post


  1. Go to www.reddit.com/r/ketogains  
  2. Read anything by DarthLuigi
  3. ???
  4. Profit



So it sounds like the plan to actually gain muscle is to do mega carb refeeds around workouts 1x-2x a week in the midst of an overall keto diet.


LIS, you need the anabolic signal from the carbs to tell your body it is ok to gain muscle.

currently maintaning

battle log challenges: 16,15,14,13,12,11,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
follow me: myfitnesspal
don't panic!

Link to post

So it sounds like the plan to actually gain muscle is to do mega carb refeeds around workouts 1x-2x a week in the midst of an overall keto diet.


LIS, you need the anabolic signal from the carbs to tell your body it is ok to gain muscle.



Yeah, pretty much. The only way I've made any sort of gains or put on any weight whilst in keto lifestyle was to run a Cyclical Keto Diet or Targeted Keto Diet. Cyclical is carb reloading once a week, where as Targeted is taking X amount of carbs pre workout in order to fill glycose levels immediately before depleting them.


You're still in ketosis... for, you know, most of the time. 

  • Like 1

Dwarven Warrior

What's Seth Doing Nowadays?

Sometimes I lift it. Sometimes It Lifts Me.

Link to post

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

New here? Please check out our Privacy Policy and Community Guidelines