Exploring the Arena: The Use of the Keto Diet in Bodybuilding Circles


The keto diet revolves around a significant lack of carbohydrates to put the body into ketosis

When the body goes through this metabolic process due to a lack of carbohydrates, it uses its fat stores for energy, releasing ketones. 

Many people looking into starting a keto diet, or people already following one, have a clear reason and goal in mind. The most popular one is weight loss.

However, keto has many other general health benefits besides burning fat. 

Throughout this article, we will look at other reasons people might turn to a keto diet, in particular, people intending to keep hold of their extra pounds. 

One good example is the frequently asked question, “Do bodybuilders use keto?”

The answer to that question is yes. Some bodybuilders will use carb restriction to prepare for a show. However, they may up their carb load during training periods. 

But let’s find out more.

What Are The Health Benefits of Keto

As we’ve already briefed on, the main focus of keto for many people is weight loss, which is why people wouldn’t think it would interest bodybuilders.

But there is so much more to this diet than you probably realize, which is one reason why people such as bodybuilders turn to a keto diet for their general health and fitness goals. 

For a start, research has shown that keto has many benefits regarding heart health and metabolic syndrome. It’s even said to reduce the risk of diabetes, polycystic ovarian disease, and cancer. 

Bodybuilding and The Keto Diet

For a bodybuilder, their main objective is building muscle mass, and here lies the question: do you need carbs to build muscle?

Well, the answer is yes; this is why a bodybuilder wanting to get into ketosis would instead follow what’s known as a cyclic keto diet. This means they’ll follow the keto rules for five or six days a week, but on their days off, they’ll load up on carbs. 

However, one thing to be careful of with carb loading on the refeed days is overindulging; this could undo all the hard work that’s been put in the rest of the week. 

The carbs a bodybuilder should eat on cheat days depend on their goals, fitness, and activity levels. For instance, someone taking part in daily strenuous activities and not taking days off for rest might handle more carbs than someone who only trains two or three days a week. 

Benefits of the Cyclical Keto Diet

There is one deciding benefactor in particular that makes the cyclical keto diet appealing to bodybuilders, and the fact is that it could improve athletic performance.

Although you might think the lack of carbs will hinder your strength and abilities, you’d be mistaken. 

When following a cyclical keto diet, you load up on carbs one or two days a week, which will cause a significant increase in blood sugar levels, stimulating muscle growth. 

You will learn more about blood sugar levels and muscle growth with this guide to using metformin on keto

Keto and cyclical keto diets are also excellent ways of monitoring and maintaining your weight in the long run. They are a much more efficient and realistic way to lose and keep weight off.

What Foods Are Allowed on a Cyclical Keto Diet?

The foods you can eat on a cyclical diet are precisely the same as those on a standard keto diet, which I’ll list shortly. However, the only difference is that complex carbs such as oats and wholemeal high-fiber foods can be included once or twice a week. 

If you’ve heard of the Mediterranean diet, it resembles this, but only for a small part of the week. 

Below is a list of some foods you can eat when on keto.

  • Protein – High protein meats such as beef, lamb, pork, chicken, duck, offal, turkey, veal
  • Seafood – Prawns, oysters, crab, scallops, seafood sticks
  • Oily Fish – Salmon, mackerel, and sardines
  • White Fish – Haddock, hake, cod, seabass, pollock
  • Vegetables – Leafy greens, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower (more keto vegetables here)
  • Fruit – Strawberries, blueberries, citrus, blackberries, raspberries, kiwi, pomegranate, avocado 
  • Dairy – Eggs, cheese, cream, butter
  • Fats – Olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, rapeseed oil, suet, lard
  • Drinks – Caffeine, tea, green tea, almond milk, coconut milk, smoothies, water
  • Nuts and Seeds – Peanuts, macadamia, pistachios, flaxseed, walnuts, sesame seed, and cashews (here are the best nuts for keto)

If you’re following the cyclical diet, you can eat all of the above at any time; the exception is that on your cheat days, you can also include healthy carbs such as beans, legumes, chickpeas, yams, sweet potatoes, squash, potatoes, beets, whole grain rice, bulgur wheat, and quinoa. 

Who Shouldn’t Do a Cyclical Keto Diet?

Although there is no evidence to suggest that a cyclical diet is harmful, there is also no proof that it will be safe for everyone. 

If you have any medical conditions, are currently taking medication, or are concerned about starting a cyclical keto diet, you must speak with your physician before making any drastic changes. 

For example, suppose you have diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, or are sensitive to carbohydrates. In that case, this might not be the right diet style for you. 

Downsides and Side Effects of a Cyclical Diet

The cyclical diet is a relatively new niche of diet. Therefore, there needs to be more evidence to say whether or not this version of the keto diet is safe or dangerous. 

However, some of the side effects might include:

  • Nausea
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue 
  • Cravings
  • Hunger
  • Water retention 
  • Headaches 

For these reasons, it’s important to examine the facts before starting a cyclical diet, especially for bodybuilders who must remain healthy, well-rested, and strong while training and competing. 

Final Analysis

So the answer to the question, “Do bodybuilders use keto?” Is yes. 

It’s perfectly doable for bodybuilders to practice a keto diet and remain in great shape while maintaining muscle mass.

However, they might need to follow a slightly modified diet to ensure they still consume plenty of good carbs on a few days each week, particularly when exercising.

If you’re considering a cyclical diet, research and prepare yourself beforehand by getting fat-adapted and practicing the typical keto diet for at least four weeks. 

It would be best to closely monitor macronutrients, such as fat intake and protein consumption. 

You may encounter some side effects on a cyclical keto diet, and it’s important to stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, and plan your cheat days well. Also, remember not to overindulge during these days; they’re not cheat days; they’re just there to refuel your muscles.