You might be wondering if it’s safe to continue with your high-intensity interval training [HIIT for short] while following a keto diet.
We’re here to tell you that, yes, it’s absolutely possible to do both at the same time! But equally, you need to pay close attention to your body’s needs during ketosis and manage your diet and exercise accordingly.
As you probably know, undertaking a keto diet means significantly reducing your carb intake. However, as carbs are traditionally your body’s leading source of fuel, your body will need to look for alternative sources of energy.
Most commonly, keto meal plans replace carb-laden foods with those high in fat, and it’s from the latter that the body turns to for fuel when exercising.
Let’s take a look now.
Before we delve into the compatibility of HIIT and keto, we need to first look at what we mean when we write of HIIT. As the name suggests, high-intensity interval training refers to repeated spells of intense, high-energy exercises split by short breaks or lower intensity recovery periods.
High-performing athletes have long followed forms of interval training to enhance their aerobic energy provision and build and maintain muscle mass. Some athletes design their own HIIT workouts, while others follow established and tested programs like the popular 4 x 4 interval training methodology.
One of the great things about HIIT is that you can complete workouts from anywhere with limited time, resources, and equipment. Typically, a HIIT workout will last from ten to thirty minutes and can often produce health benefits akin to double the amount of moderate-intensity exercise.
When following a HIIT regime, you can complete a wide range of cardiovascular activities, including cycling, running, swimming, and skipping, making it an excellent approach for people looking for variety in their daily workout routine.
Now we’ve got a grasp of what HIIT entails, let’s take a look at some of the benefits.
Given that HIIT has been popular with athletes for decades, you won’t be surprised to hear that this type of training has a multitude of benefits. When done right, HIIT will help you in the following ways:
As with all types of exercise programs, the benefits won’t be uniform for everyone. Many other factors, including your diet [we’ll get to this shortly], your current body weight & muscle mass, and underlying health conditions, will dictate how successful your HIIT workouts actually are.
Before assessing HIIT in relation to keto, our last port of call is how to get the most out of your HIIT workouts, so you can see how best to prepare for your exercise routine.
To get the very best out of HIIT and to enjoy the benefits listed above, you have to make sure you’re on point. While you might like to work with a PT to develop a personalized HIIT plan, the following four tips will help you nail your HIIT workouts:
Don’t be scared to change your plan: Even the best-laid plans need to be shredded once in a while. If you’re not comfortable with a particular component of your HIIT regime, ditch it and start again. The key to HIIT success is your motivation to carry out your training according to plan.
Form is super important: Instead of focusing on repetition, make sure your form is perfect. Six perfect squats in thirty seconds are much more effective than twelve lazy ones. Remember, when it comes to HIIT, focus on quality, not quantity.
You must hydrate before starting: For best results, your body needs to be hydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of water thirty minutes before starting exercise to avoid stomach cramps. You could supplement your hydration with an ionic drink to boost your workout with additional nutrients.
Diet is equally essential: For HIIT to be effective, you must supplement your training with an appropriate diet. We’re now ready to dive in and assess whether a keto diet is appropriate while you’re performing HIIT.
Research from a pilot study of endurance athletes in New Zealand found that all participating athletes increased their ability to utilize fat as a fuel source, including at higher exercise intensities while following a keto diet.
All of the athletes within the study also reported experiencing enhanced wellbeing, lower recovery times, and improved skin conditions due to their diet.
What does this mean? Well, it goes to show that keto and HIIT are at least compatible. The fact that athletes can maintain high levels of workout intensity while drawing on fat reserves instead of carbs for their energy is a great sign for anyone hoping to do HIIT while on keto.
The burgeoning popularity of the keto diet is largely due to the fact that the people who do it see results. Central to the keto philosophy is re-conceptualizing the traditional weight loss strategy of simply eating less and exercising more.
The keto diet encourages people to rethink the fuel they put into their bodies and then perform exercises that are proven to build muscle and reduce excess body fat. By eating appropriate foods, you can place your body into a state of ketosis, a metabolic state in which there’s a high level of ketones in your blood.
In ketosis, fats, not carbohydrates, provide the majority of fuel for your body. Therefore, when you’re exercising, your body draws on your fat reserves for its fuel, in turn burning fat instead of carbs. Many of the foods that are consumed on a keto diet are high in fat and low in carbs in order to sustain this state of ketosis.
So, what types of exercise are best suited to the keto diet? Well, it’s possible to do a wide range of exercises while following the keto diet, including aerobic, anaerobic, flexibility, and stability exercises. HIIT is a form of anaerobic exercise, and as such, can be performed while on keto. One important thing to consider, however, is that during high-intensity workouts, carbs are usually the main source of your body’s energy.
When your body’s in a state of ketosis, you may struggle, particularly at first, with the demands of high-intensity workouts, as there are limited reserves of carbohydrates upon which your body can draw.
So that begs the question: how do you sustain HIIT while on keto?
The answer? Through a targeted ketogenic diet.
In order to sustain your HIIT workouts and to achieve your fitness goals on keto, you will need to adjust your keto diet slightly in order to provide your body with sufficient fuel. This is commonly referred to as a targeted keto diet and is followed by many top-level athletes.
The main difference between a standard and targeted keto diet is that the latter dictates when your net carbs should be eaten. Most people who follow a standard keto diet plan will limit their net carb intake to a maximum of 50 grams per day.
If you intend to perform HIIT while on a keto diet, you should aim to take half of your net carbs around thirty minutes before doing your workout and the remaining half once you’re done. This is a vitally important amendment and will ensure that your body is able to maintain its state of ketosis. It will also provide the required fuel for your body to complete its high-intensity workout.
You don’t need to change anything else within your diet; just be sure to take in a suitable amount of carbs before you work out so that your body can perform as expected. Switching to a targeted keto diet is the perfect way to do HIIT while on keto.
Providing you adjust your diet slightly and follow what is known as a targeted keto diet, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do HIIT on keto. In fact, being in ketosis actually helps athletes recover after high-intensity workouts, so keto is an ideal diet to follow on HIIT.
The great news is that a targeted keto diet isn’t that different from a standard keto diet. The main difference between the two is that you should take all of your carbs just before a high-intensity workout on a targeted plan.
The best way to do this is to create a detailed targeted keto meal plan, making provision for your daily carb intake to be taken before and after your intense workout sessions.
It’s important that you don’t exceed your carb intake, even on your HIIT days. Doing so can jeopardize your body’s state of ketosis and potentially ruin your whole keto program.
Again, because it’s not too dissimilar from the standard keto diet, you don’t need to make any drastic changes to your diet just because you want to do HIIT while on keto.
Immediately before and after your exercise, however, your goal is to use your carbs immediately as fuel for your high-intensity workout. Carbs that contain dextrose are a good option here, which is found in both potatoes and rice.
Alternatively, you could look for a keto-specific snack or energy drink that contains high levels of dextrose in order to boost your energy before working out.
Carb cycling, also known as the cyclical ketogenic diet, involves consuming a low-carb keto diet for up to five days a week. Then on any two days when high-intensity workouts are performed, carb intake is increased to provide added fuel to the body.
A cyclical keto diet ensures the glycogen stored in your muscles is topped up each week but doesn’t disturb your body’s state of ketosis. Just like a targeted keto diet, carb cycling is a successful way of providing fuel to your body for high-intensity workouts during ketosis.
While it’s perfectly safe [and in many respects desirable] to do HIIT while on keto, it might not be appropriate for everyone. If you feel particularly weak or light-headed during or after exercise, it’s important that you stop and take a rest.
You should rehydrate with water and take on board some fats and proteins to try and stabilize. If you’re worried about your health while your body’s in ketosis, it’s best to speak to your doctor about your lifestyle and seek guidance before continuing with any high-intensity workouts.
Hopefully, this guide has given you the ideal insight into doing HIIT on keto. Maintaining a state of ketosis is proven to be extremely beneficial to your long-term health, wellbeing, and ultimately, happiness.
Exercising is a vitally important part of the keto diet. Whether aerobic or anaerobic, keto shouldn’t stop you from achieving your exercise goals.
However, if you’re a fan of high-intensity interval training, you need to make sure that you adjust your carb intake appropriately to provide your body with sufficient fuel when completing high-intensity workouts.
The best way to do this is to follow what is known as a targeted keto diet to ensure you get all of the energy you need. Adhering to targeted keto, you should be able to continue with HIIT as you see fit and continue to see the results you’ve worked so hard to achieve.