Today I want to discuss ketogenic diets and muscle loss. This week alone I got 3 emails from people telling me they lost a ton of muscle size following a keto diet. It was from 2 men and 1 woman.
One of them stated:
“Doc Sam – I recently followed a ketogenic diet. I paid $100 and got a book, a membership site and so forth because I wanted to do it right. He’s one of these well-know guys on YouTube [I’ve removed his link because I don’t want to say anything negative about this person on Youtube.
In 4 months, I lost 23 lbs. But I think most of it was just muscle loss because I’m much smaller now, I’m weak and I look “skinny/fat”. My sex drive is gone and I’m cold all the time. I never sweat anymore at the gym. I’m afraid to go back to eating carbs because I don’t want to get fat – what should I do?”
I’m posting this email because this is more typical than people think.
What Happens When You Start Keto Diet?
People who exercise and want to get in shape, follow a ketogenic diet and are very excited at first. They get to eat bacon and lots of fat and other “forbidden” foods.
They start to lose “weight” immediately and actually feel a bit euphoric and happy because their brain is using ketones and not glucose.
However, what they don’t realize is that the initial weight loss is just water loss because you’re not eating carbs. Carbohydrates hold 3x their weight in water.
So within a week, you LOOK leaner and the scale “proves” it, because of the water loss. But, it’s fake.
The Bad News
Yes, you do burn fat following a keto diet – but if you’re natural and don’t take steroids, your testosterone will drop and so will your thyroid levels. To make things worse, your stress hormone Cortisol shoots up.
This means you start to lose muscle at a faster rate than fat loss.
And over the next few weeks and months, your metabolism starts to really slow down because of these negative hormonal changes.
People are so afraid of insulin and don’t want it high – but they don’t take into account all of the other hormones.
Now, some of these so-called “experts” will argue and say “but keto diets increase Growth Hormone”. Yes, maybe temporarily and they also increase prolactin, a female hormone.
But GH does nothing unless it converts to IGF (insulin-like growth factor) and THAT requires insulin and thyroid, BOTH of which are low on a keto diet.
Thus, the higher GH is worthless because it doesn’t convert much to the real muscle builder, IGF.
And yes, the minute you add carbs back into your diet, you blow up and get fat because your body is not used to the sugar, your testosterone and thyroid levels are much lower and your stress hormone Cortisol is much higher.
ALL things you don’t want.
By the way, these negative effects are worse for women, and they last longer as well. It really screws things up for women and it’s harder to fix things for them.
What Should You Do?
So if you want to follow a keto diet, just do it short-term… no more than 2-3 weeks, and then go back to a higher carb diet.
You don’t have to go to extremes to into shape and I think a keto diet is extreme.
And if you’re going to get off of a keto diet, slowly add carbs back to your diet so you don’t “blow up”. It’ll give a chance for your hormones to slowly adjust without the shock and thus, the fat gain.