Ketosis and Muscle Loss

One of the many fallacies that people often hear about when they first begin to hear about low carb, ketogenic or Atkins diets is that it will cause you to lose muscle. Asking these questions and getting the actual science is teh most important thing you can do in your life to not be a victim of bad science. Most of our understanding about health and diet these days come from advertisers and doctors who don’t really know enough about the subject to give anyone advice. The average doctor only has 23.9 hours of nutritional training in medical school. I spent more time setting up this website and several months more just studying the science behind Ketogenic diets.

When Ketosis is studied by most medical professionals it is studied as part of starvation. During starvation the body goes into ketosis and begins to use fat for energy while burning up muscle to create enough glucose to provide the energy the brain needs. This process changes over time but to sum it up, during starvation your muscle becomes a source of glucose. This IS muscle loss. Over time you will have muscle atrophy if you continue to not eat. THIS IS NOT A KETOGENIC DIET…this is a fast or you need to find some food cause you’re starving!!

A Ketogenic diet is NOT a diet that causes muscle loss. Let me repeat…A KETOGENIC DIET DOES NOT CAUSE MUSCLE ATROPHY!! A Ketogenic diet is a protein sparing diet.

What this means is that if you are consuming the adequate amount of protein on a ketogenic diet you do not experience muscle loss. If you are consuming enough protein in your daily diet the body will use that, instead of muscle, to create the necessary glycogen your body needs.

HOLY COW SCOTT, YOU JUST ADMITTED THAT THE BODY NEEDS CARBS! YOU BETTER START SINGING THE PRAISES OF THE VEGANS AND GIVE UP ALL RATIONAL THOUGHT AND INDIVIDUALISM!

No, I didn’t. There are plenty of documented societies that lived without carbs in their diet and were very healthy. The body can create what it needs for glycogen through the use of protein. But the most important part of the protein sparing is the decrease in glycogen needs in the body that occur over time. As the body adapts to the decrease in carbohydrate intake it begins to use ketones as its fuel source (1,2). This gradual adaptation occurs in the brain and in the body. Most ketogenic dieters that are involved in Crossfit have noted that adaptation took about six weeks for performance to return to normal during a High Intensity Interval workout. After six weeks their performance went through the roof according to them. Matt Lalonde, the crossfit affiliate owner and Harvard Biochemist did a 3 month Ketogenic diet and lost body fat while gaining 10 lbs of lean muscle mass. The article can be found HERE.

Some people love the idea of turning their fat to muscle. Problem is that this does not occur. Fat is burned as energy and the majority of muscle is made up of glutamine which is the most abundant protein in the body. Of course there are plenty of other amino acids, vitamins, minerals and essential fats that make up new muscle.

To make sure you’re not losing muscle while on a Ketogenic diet make sure you eat plenty of protein and if you are trying to build muscle make sure you increase the amount of fat you are taking in. The new cell walls will be made up of fat so bring on the BACON!

1. “Ellenberg and Rifkin’s Diabetes Mellitus: Theory and Practice 5th ed.” Ed. Daniel Porte and Robert Sherwin. Appleton and Lange, 1997.
2. How metabolism affects clinical problems Medical Times (1970) 98: 106-122.

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