A light meal or snack before a workout on the keto diet can optimize your performance. A meal that contains healthy fats but also proteins, and even some carbs, is the best choice for fueling your body through your workout.
Not sure where to begin with your pre-workout keto snack or meal? Here is the information you need to get started.
Keto Pre-Workout Meal
What to eat before a workout on the keto diet is a question that many followers of the keto lifestyle ask. When eating keto, you’re working hard to keep your body in a state where it most efficiently burns fat for energy, and staying there isn’t always easy.
When it comes to eating before your workout on keto, the most important thing you can do is to listen to your own body. Follow the guidelines of the keto diet, making healthy fats the focal point but also realize that your body is going to respond differently than the person next to you at the gym.
Here, we provide you with a baseline starting point of what to eat and what not to eat when planning your pre-workout keto meal or snack.
How Much – A Snack or a Meal?
This is entirely dependent on what your body is telling you and your personal preferences. Some people work out at peak efficiency when they have recently eaten a full meal to power them through. Others will get almost queasy at the idea of working out on a full or semi-full stomach.
This preference might also change depending on the type of workout you’re doing. A high-intensity interval training (HITT) might be difficult after a full meal, but you might need more fuel to help you power through an intense weightlifting session. Experiment a little and learn what your body needs to perform optimally while on keto.
Types of Foods – Fats, Proteins, or Carbs?
Fats are your primary source of energy and calories when doing keto. You want to hold to this with your pre-workout meals and snacks. It’s not necessary to load up on carbs before your workout because you’ve fine-tuned your body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.
That’s not to say that you need or should ban all carbs. Including a few carbs in a small pre-workout meal or snack can help your body burn fat and calories more efficiently. Still, you want to hold to the basic concepts of the keto diet. This means healthy fats, followed by protein, should be the base of your snack or meal, with a small number of carbs added in.
Keto-friendly protein bars can work in a pinch if you require a little pre-workout snack and don’t have access to other foods. For some, they’re exactly the right amount of caloric energy to enhance their workout. As a rule, it’s best not to rely on protein bars but use them as an occasional snack or meal supplement instead.
Keto-friendly protein bars aren’t going to sabotage your workout or diet but opting for whole, nourishing fats and proteins is always a better option. If you want a quick snack, try a keto-friendly shake with MCTs instead.
Keto Post Workout Meal
What you eat post-workout on keto is even more important than what you eat before. Eating before your workout is a matter of personal preference that should be based on your body’s needs. Eating at least a light keto meal after your workout is essential for recovery.
Fat is typically your primary source of calories when eating keto, with protein coming in second. Keto diet standards suggest that protein makes up about 20-25% of total caloric intake if you want to reach and maintain ketosis. It should be noted that macronutrient percentages to reach and maintain ketosis are different for each person because our bodies are different.
Protein is essential for building muscle and recovering from the stress of a workout. Your post-workout meal should include healthy fats, but this is one point in the day that you don’t want to short yourself on protein. This is especially true if you’re working towards building muscle.
There’s some evidence to suggest that limiting protein intake to 20% or less of your daily calories leads to muscle loss. If your focus is solely on losing weight, then this low intake of protein might work for you. However, if you want to build any muscle at all (or even keep what muscle you have), adding in a little extra protein is essential.
What to Avoid on Keto Pre-Workout
There is a lot of information available about what to eat before a workout on the keto diet but less about what you should avoid. Here are the big three to pass up when it comes to your pre-workout snack or meal.
Carb Loading for Exercise
For decades, we’ve been taught that pre-workout nutrition should include plenty of carbs to help fuel your body through the workout and recover afterward. Carbs aren’t exactly your friend on the keto diet, so how should you be approaching that pre-workout meal?
Your body does use carbohydrates for fuel, but they aren’t the only macronutrient that meets your body’s energy needs. Proteins and fats are also used by your body and have even shown to be better sources of fuel for longer workouts of low to moderate endurance levels.
In other words, carb loading isn’t necessary. If you feel your body performs better with at least some carbs, try something like adding your chicken to a small salad of low carb greens and broccoli.
It’s best to skip that pre-workout drink that’s loaded with artificial sweeteners, whether you’re following the keto diet or not. Artificial sweeteners help to quench the craving for sweets while on keto, but they can cause havoc when it comes to hormones and metabolism.
There’s some evidence that suggests artificial sweeteners produce similar insulin responses as table sugar. Many in the bodybuilding communities have found that consuming artificially sweetened drinks pre-workout regularly results in slow or diminished results. Skip the artificial sweetener and hydrate with good old water infused with citrus or cucumber for a bit of a flavor burst.
You might hear some people claim that a drink or a shot, maybe even two, before a workout provides just enough buzz to enhance performance. This is a practice that’s best to avoid for a few reasons.
First, that buzz is anything but energizing for many people. Second, you’re at a greater risk of dehydration and injury if you workout after drinking alcohol. Finally, even a slight buzz can loosen inhibitions to the point that your resolve to follow the keto diet can weaken.
While many alcohols are allowed on the keto diet, drinking can affect your judgment, response time and lead to dehydration – which also increases your risk of injury. Keto or not, save the drinks for after the workout.
Keto Protein Before or After Workout?
Protein has a place both before or after your workout while keto. That said, if it’s a choice between the two, aim to have your protein after your workout instead of before.
If you’re hungry before your workout or like the added energy a pre-workout meal or snack provides, then you should eat a proportionate amount of healthy fats and proteins. After your workout, protein is essential for helping your body recover.
Some people are hesitant to eat too much protein pre or post-workout because of the potential of excess protein being converted to glucose and being kicked out of ketosis. This can happen but only under certain conditions. If you’re keeping the right fat to protein balance, it shouldn’t be an issue.
How Bodybuilding Changes the Meal
For bodybuilding, you’ll want to make some slight adjustments to your pre or post-workout keto meal. The reason is that you want to prime your body to build muscle, as opposed to the singular goal of shedding weight.
In general, you want to consume a surplus of about 250-500 calories a day if you want to increase body weight by increasing muscle mass. This doesn’t have to all come from your pre-workout meal, but it is a spot you can add a few extra keto-friendly calories if you’re finding it hard to consume an adequate amount throughout the day.
In general, when eating keto, you want these extra calories to come from fat rather than protein or carbs. Try adding healthy fats to your pre-workout meal.
If you’re snacking on some keto cloud bread, drizzle it with olive oil and herbs, or add avocado to egg salad rolled up in your favorite type of green. This is also a good time to add a little MCT oil to your pre-workout smoothie.
Optimizing your workout isn’t just about what you eat before or after. Supplements can be an important part of your pre-workout nutritional routine. These three supplements are among the best for working out while on the keto diet.
L-Citrulline is an important amino acid that can boost your workout and help your body recover afterward. It helps to improve blood flow by increasing nitric oxide production. This leads to enhanced strength and flexibility. L-Citrulline has also been shown to reduce inflammation, so it can help reduce stiffness and soreness the next day.
Beta-alanine is another amino acid that is beneficial as part of your pre-workout keto snack or meal. Beta-alanine supports endurance and helps to strengthen muscles – making it a respected pre-workout supplement. Beta-alanine is often included in sports nutrition formulas due to its rule as a performance enhancer.
If you’re not keen on the idea of taking beta-alanine as a supplement (some people report flushing or tingling when taking larger amounts), this amino acid is found naturally in many of the meats and poultry that are part of a keto diet.
Creatine monohydrate is one of the safest and most widely used endurance/performance supplements today. It can be used both pre and post workouts to help enhance performance and the results of all your hard efforts. Creatine monohydrate can also help sore, overstressed muscles recover after an intense workout.
Nourishing your body before and after a workout is an important part of growing stronger and becoming healthier with the keto diet. Follow the basic guidelines of the keto program but don’t shy away from a few extra grams of protein or healthy carbs when putting together your snacks and meals.
Above all else, listen to your body and provide it with what it needs to become the healthiest it can be.