With all due respect to keto, which is none, it’s not a good diet to maximize muscle growth. And yeah yeah yeah, I know I said that if you’re a beginner lifter, keto isn’t going to ruin your gains. But “make gains” and “maximize gains” are two different things.
So let me give you the scoop on why you shouldn’t gamble with keto if you want to maximize muscle growth.
1. Keto diet can suppress appetite
This one is right at the top of the list of why people tend to glorify keto. Some John goes like…
…and this Jessica the keto lover will agree with…
But that’s not a good thing when it comes to maximizing gains.
Maximizing gains entails calorie surplus. Yes, you can build muscle in a deficit but it’s suboptimal. But if keto has this appetite-suppressive effect, then you’re probably going to struggle to hit your target calorie surplus.
Take me as an example. I’m close to ending my massing phase, weighing 227 pounds now (103 kg), and I’m freakn’ struggling to get in those damn calories. I even resorted to drinking calories (juice), eating hyper-palatable foods (cookies, chocolate, etc.), using lots of oil and the glorious peanut butter. It’s still fugging hard. I’d be so fugging fugged if I ate keto.
2. Keto diet can limit training capacity
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis by King et al. concluded that for workout durations greater than 45 min and consisting of at least 8–10 sets, carbohydrates can improve performance. The researchers added:
So we’re circling back to your training experience — unless you’re a complete noob who doesn’t know the difference between a barbell and a dumbbell and creatine is a steroid in your mind, keto is going to be suboptimal for optimizing your training, and, thus, maximizing muscle development.
3. Keto diet can impair anabolic signaling
I’m familiar with the anabolic signaling term, but fugg if I know for sure. Let’s learn together and for that to happen, IMA quote Stronger By Science:
“Our bodies use anabolic signaling mechanisms to communicate to our muscles that they need to grow.”
Ok, gotcha. Mechanisms. But what mechanisms? So Google it is. Google says muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown are the primary mechanisms that regulate muscle growth and loss. Just remembered that I talked about it here.
A 2023 review by Margolis and Pasiakos found that when carbohydrate restriction is maintained for 8 to 12 weeks, the alterations in anabolic signaling and protein synthesis likely limit hypertrophic responses to resistance training.
They also said something about carbohydrate restriction increasing protein oxidation which, I’m sure, is bad for muscle growth too but whateva. Let’s wrap this up.
What does this mean for you?
It means that if you follow a keto diet, it’s going to be suboptimal for muscle growth. So if you want to maximize it, you should increase your carbohydrate intake. As Brad Schoenfeld, a professor of exercise science, once said,
“You don’t need to consume a high-carb diet, but there likely is a minimum threshold (still somewhat undetermined) below which gains will be impaired.”
Now, here’s my not-so-scientific conclusion: We have numerous studies showing keto is suboptimal for muscle growth and none showing it’s optimal. I mean, tons of great bodybuilders do keto including… It’s logical to assume the exact number is filed under “Doesn’t Fugging Exist.”
And since I need my stuff to look more sciency and trustworthy, I feel I need to quote as many great minds as possible. Thus, I’m leaving you with the quote by Alan Aragon:
“Is muscle gain possible on keto? Yes. Are there jacked folks on keto? Yes. However, is muscle gain *maximized* on keto? No. It limits training capacity, lowers glycogen levels, and can suppress appetite. So, for the specific goal of maximizing muscle gain, is keto the way? No.”
And if you want to bypass all of the nonsensical weight loss information and avoid common beginner mistakes, apply for the 1:1 Coaching Program where my goal is to be at your side the entire way, helping you to avoid scams and pitfalls that most people fall into.
Originally published by me on Medium on October 18, 2023