Ketogenic Diet – Simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain

Ketogenic Diet - Good Fats are Essential

What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet involves consuming:

  • the majority of your calories from fat,
  • a large proportion from protein
  • and the minority from carbohydrates.

People are often trying to lose weight and gain muscle mass at the same time, which is not recommended. It is far easier to concentrate on one goal at a time., i.e. employ a calorie deficient diet and focus on fat loss first. After you have lost the desired amount of fat, you can switch to a calorie surplus and concentrate on muscle gain.

If you have already done most of the hard work and you are looking to take your body from great to awesome, then employing a ketogenic diet and simultaneously losing body fat and gaining muscle may be possible.

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a metabolic state. What it describes is a state where there are a large number of ketone bodies in the blood that which have reached levels of an abnormally high measure. A body that is in a ketogenic state is one where the body fuels the body in its everyday functions, by breaking down its own fat.

The Benefits of Ketosis:

When the body is in ketosis, it will increase the body’s ability to utilise fats for fuel. Diets that are high in carbohydrates have the body expecting continued energy sources to be supplied. In Ketosis, the body must become more efficient at mobilising fats for use as fuel.

So long as you have an adequate consumption of protein per day, Ketosis will begin to prefer ketones to glucose. As the body has enough fat throughout, there is usually no need to oxidise protein from which to generate glucose. (gluconeogenesis)

Ketosis causes low levels of insulin in the body which then cause greater lipolysis and free glycerol release. Insulin has a lipolysis-blocking effect, which can inhibit the use of fatty acids as energy. Also, when insulin is brought to low levels, beneficial hormones are released in the body, such as growth hormone and other powerful growth factors.

The Science of Ketogenic Dieting
  • Fatty acid production in fat tissue is stimulated by epinephrine and glucagon
  • Fatty acid production is inhibited by insulin
  • Insulin is a hormone in the pancreas that will secrete when carbs are consumed.
  • The purpose of insulin is to keep blood glucose levels in balance
  • Insulin pushes glucose into the cells
  • If insulin were not secreted, the levels of blood glucose would be out of balance.
  • Glucagon is insulin’s antagonistic hormone.
  • Glucagon is secreted by the pancreas when glucose levels fall too low.
  • When a person skips a meal or does not consume an adequate amount of carbohydrates, glucagon is secreted by the pancreas.
  • This occurs so that the stored glycogen in the liver breaks down into a usable energy form called glucose.
  • When the body’s glycogen stores get depleted, rates of beta-oxidation will increase.
  • The result is the mobilisation of free fatty acids from fat tissue.
  • During beta-oxidation, ketone bodies get released from the liver.
  • These cannot be used by the liver. Therefore, they travel to the brain.
  • The brain uses these ketone bodies as fuel
  • These free fatty acids are then turned into a usable energy substrate.
A recent study[1]compared 26 college aged men eating a traditional Western diet (WD) comprised of 55% carbohydrates, 25% fat and 20% protein, or a ketogenic diet consisting of 75% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbs:

“All subjects participated in a periodized resistance-training programme three times per week. Body fat and lean mass were determined via dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) while muscle mass was determined via ultrasonography analysis of the quadriceps. All measures were taken at week 0 and 11. Consent to publish the results was obtained from all participants….. Lean body mass increased to a greater extent in the VLCKD (4.3 ± 1.7 kgs ) as compared to the traditional group (2.2 kg ± 1.7). Ultrasound determined muscle mass increased to a greater extent in the VLCKD group (0.4 ± 0.25 cm) as compared to the traditional western group (0.19 ± 0.26 cm). Finally, fat mass decreased to a greater extent in the VLCKD group (-2.2 kg ± 1.2 kg) as compared to the (- 1.5 ± 1.6 kg).”

What is evident from the results of this study is that a ketogenic diet led to simultaneous lean muscle gain and body fat loss from active individuals.

Other studies[2] have found similar conclusions with regards to the body’s ability to retain muscle, while in a calorie restricted state when a ketogenic diet is utilised:

“Although more long-term studies are needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn, it appears, from most literature studied, that a VLCARB is, if anything, protective against muscle protein catabolism during energy restriction, provided that it contains adequate amounts of protein.”

If you want to take your body to the next level and improve your lean muscle mass without compromising your body fat content, then it may be worth your while utilising a ketogenic diet.

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