This is about a question that I often get, which is what what to take/drink/eat before and after working out. My mindset about this has changed a lot over the past few years, so I wanted to share my own experience. Who knows, maybe you can relate to this.
Before starting Keto 1,5 years ago, I used to be obsessed with timing my carbs and protein perfectly pre- and post workout. If I didn’t have a big portion of rice or pasta approximately 2 hours before working out, I felt less energy and my performance would suffer as a result. Then, after working out I had to have my double Protein shake mixed with cheap carbohydrates in the form of maltodextrin. As soon as I got home, I would force myself to eat as big of a meal as possible, consisting of carbohydrates and protein, as I thought all of this was essential to build muscle and to maximize protein synthesis. I was always really tired and crashing after working out, so my day was pretty much done after that. Doesn’t sound like too much fun, right?
Now, lets fast forward one and a half years later. Thanks to the Ketogenic Diet, I’m able to only work out once/week in the gym since August 2015 while maintaining the physique I want. As an example, here is what my weekly workout day looked like last saturday:
– 7 AM: Cup of coffee with coconut oil after getting up
– 12 PM: Lunch: Cabbage with butter and some Mackerel
– 6 PM: Full body gym workout with my girlfriend Zsofi. We both felt tons of energy, she managed to beat her own bench press record. We finished after 45 minutes, without the slightest energy crash and still being able to make the best out of the rest of our evening.
– 8 PM: Dinner: Buttered Cauliflower-mash with ground beef
That’s it. No supplements/boosters/aminoacids/carbs or other powders before, during or after working out. Just water and some tea in the 6 hours between lunch and our workout. And then after getting home, we relaxed and hat a nice, low-carb, high fat dinner.
Btw, on days where you are working out, you can add a little more protein to your meals, it will not kick you out of Ketosis.
Now here is what I do if I’m going to work out early in the morning and I’m still fasting, so if I didn’t have any food for the last 14 hours or so:
Half to one hour before working out, I make a coffee or tea and mix that with 10-15ml of MCT oil or a tablespoon of coconut oil, which is slightly less powerful. The medium chain triglycerides will be quickly metabolized by the liver and provide you with an instant energy boost.
If you feel a little sluggish or tired before working out and you can feel that you’re not in Ketosis because your energy levels are off, (maybe you ate some carbs or your body is still adapting to a Ketogenic Diet) I would do the same – have some coffee or tea – depending on the time of the day, with MCT oil or if you don’t have any, coconut oil, before working out. This strategy is especially helpful when you’re just starting out and you notice that your workout performance is not yet where it used to be before Keto. Don’t worry, after a couple of weeks your workouts will be even better than before. The part that I personally enjoy the most is not crashing afterwards.
Ketones protect your muscle mass and make the amino acid leucine more readily available. Leucine is especially important for the maintenance and for building muscle. This is why some people are able to fast up to 72 hours without loosing muscle mass, thanks to the presence of ketones in their blood. There is no need to constantly be eating or to spend a ton of money on supplements like creatine, protein powders and workout boosters etc. which are mostly filled with chemicals anyway. Believe me, I’ve personally wasted way too much money on those and threw away many of them over the last couple of years.
Look, here is the deal: Until the beginning of October I always had a stevia-sweetened Whey protein shake after my workouts. It was more of a habit, because I’ve been doing so for a long time. It wasn’t until I stopped that I realised how much better it is to simply wait and have a real meal at home as well as not needing to prepare this little extra when going to the gym. Quite often we think we need something or do something out of habit or because we were influenced by great marketing, even though it might not add any real benefit.
Keep it simple and get rid of all the garbage you don’t need. Stick to real, whole food, follow the Ketogenic Diet and after a while you’ll be as amazed as we always are when we’re in the gym and feel full of energy without having eaten anything for a long time. Sometimes it’s so unbelievable that feel like you want to tell people when you’re there – ‘guys, there is a better way! You can stop stuffing yourself with oats, rice and pasta before working out. And no you don’t need carb-ups afterwards either!’