All Bodybuilders Eat a Ketogenic Diet
Bodybuilding is a very complex sport. On one hand, you have to have as much muscle as humanly possible. On the other, you have to have as little body fat as humanly possible. These are two goals that are, physiologically, in opposition.
Generally speaking, muscle is built during times of caloric surplus (think, eat to grow), and fat is lost during times of caloric deficit. Ipso facto, one is not able to gain a tremendous amount of muscle while dropping body fat and one cannot lose significant amounts of fat while adding bulk. There are exceptions, of course, but this is a broad guideline.
A Bodybuilder’s Standard Approach to Cutting
As any bodybuilder knows all to well, the first step to getting shredded and stage-ready is to start cutting carbs. Now in fairness, this is often the approach because fat is already low, and protein is perceived as too precious to reduce (and these are the 3 contributors to calories, and fewer calories are required to lose weight and fat).
Again, as a general guideline, bodybuilders progressively reduce calories, primarily as carbs, and often increase protein while increasing the amount of cardio exercise performed over a period of anywhere from 6-30 weeks leading up to their show.
This creates a massive energy deficit, and while consuming extra protein and maintaining resistance training volume, little muscle mass is lost, the athlete does their show(s), then they transition back to a building phase. That massive energy deficit, however, also literally starves the body, and what happens during starvation?
How Many Calories Do Bodybuilders Eat While Cutting?
This is going to vary tremendously between athletes and when we’re asking that question relative to their phase of prep. However, we can apply some ballpark numbers.
A general midpoint of the diet might look something like 1g carb, 1.1g protein, and .25g fat per pound of bodyweight.
So a 200lb guy would be just over 1,000 calories per day.
Combine that with approximately 1 hour of cardio and 1 hour of weights per day: subtract approximately 600 for the cardio and approximately 300 for the strength training.
So 100 calories are left, but we have to subtract the resting metabolism, so there goes another 1,600 (really 2,000, but let’s assume a 20% slow down, a common effect of calorie restriction) calories, so the athlete is now at a 1,500 calorie deficit. That’s A FREAKIN’ LOT for a single day!
Following general CICO (calories in calories out) principles, that’s almost a half pound of fat loss per day. Not bad!
But staying on topic, that deficit is roughly equivalent to if the athlete had not moved and not eaten anything at all. What else does that sound like? Starvation.
And during starvation the body starts kickin’ out ketones. But we have another kicker here…
Why is Cutting so Difficult?
What we always hear about from bodybuilders is how much cutting sucks and how bad they feel while doing it.
This is because they force themselves into a form of metabolic purgatory. They’re physiologically starving, but they’re still eating carbs. This simply doesn’t happen by chance. It’s a very deliberate human effort – we wouldn’t do this on accident in nature, it’s a result of our vanity and the evolutionary luxury of too much free time – and the body doesn’t know how to react.
That leaves it pissed off that it’s being starved, but at the same time, it’s being teased with these carbs preventing it from transitioning into a fat-based metabolism.
A.K.A. Metabolic Purgatory.
No wonder it sucks. However, what do we hear from people who are ketogenic when they eat nothing at all and may even continue exercising while fasting?
Something along the lines of, “Yeah, I’m hungry but I don’t need to eat, and I’m surprisingly lucid – I’ve been more productive today because of all this free time that would otherwise have been spent eating.”
So why aren’t there more keto bodybuilders?
All Bodybuilders Are Keto
By definition, these bodybuilders are keto, but we’re dealing with 2 different kinds of ketosis. Bodybuilders are in starvation ketosis, whereas those of us who choose to eat ketogenic are in nutritional ketosis.
While starving, it doesn’t exactly behoove the body to become complacent. We’d not have made it this far down our evolutionary timeline had we not had the instinct to seek nourishment while starving!
In other words, starvation ketosis when starting with a carbohydrate dependent metabolism does not easily create keto-adaptation because we get hungry, eat carbs, reset the adaptation process, rinse and repeat. There are enough carbs to prevent keto-adaptation, but too few to make the body happy.
Thousands of years ago, we’d not have those carbs available, so we wouldn’t be ravenously hungry and going crazy, we’d just be like, “oh, yeah, I’m going to go eat now, it’s been a while,” because we’d have been able to adjust to using fat and ketones. Metabolic Purgatory avoided!
With nutritional ketosis, we’re able to fat adapt, and carry on happily metabolizing fats and ketones, and if we don’t eat all day, yes we’ll get hungry, but we won’t feel like the world is ending!
Why Don’t More Bodybuilders Prep Keto – with Nutritional Ketosis?
That’s a great question!
Some of the really big names do prep this way – it’s just not popularized. More and more are starting to give it a shot. So far, those I know are having great success.
If you’re one of them, I want to hear from you!
Hit up @archetypesupps on insta or go straight to the source, @jordanmjoy!
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