A lot of people say it, but is it true that exercising is not necessary for weight loss while on Keto? Keto Coach Sevi Rutgrink explains everything about the benefits of exercising and shares some of her workout tips in this short interview for Keto Cacao.
KC: Why is exercise important?
SR: The most common statement I hear is that exercise is necessary for weight loss. Although exercise is definitely very important for improving general health and fitness, it will not always help you lose more weight. The reason for that is simple: the more you exercise, the more you eat.
Strictly speaking, you can lose weight on keto without any exercise at all. The main reason for that is simple too: you will naturally eat less because eating keto has an appetite-suppressing effect.
Still, there are several reasons why I do recommend moderate exercise:
- If you are a postmenopausal woman, resistance training improves your bone mineral density;
- exercise may help you boost your immune system (over-exercising will have the opposite effect though);
- diabetes improves because exercise increases insulin sensitivity;
- exercise improves age-related cognitive decline and helps to prevent neurodegenerative disease;
- physical activity helps prevent coronary heart disease;
- exercise may increase life expectancy by decreasing mortality risk factors like high blood pressure, type two diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
KC: What are your general tips?
SR: Do not exercise just to burn calories and lose body fat. This mindset does not work in the long run. Instead, exercise to build muscles and feel good about yourself. Whatever physical activity you chose, do it for pleasure. Walking daily, for example, is an excellent starting point if you are very new to exercise. Remember, always focus on your diet: it is the most important factor for successful weight loss.
Also, keep in mind that exercising regularly is fine but that you should not overdo it. Make sure to have full rest days and get enough sleep. Over-exercising increases your risk of injury and has a negative effect on the immune system. It also raises cortisol, which will hinder weight loss.
KC: What are the best workouts on keto?
SR: Weight training (also known as strength/resistance training) and HIIT (high-intensity intermittent training) are the most effective workouts for long-term fat loss.
Weight training will help you build and maintain muscles and burns slightly more calories at rest. For women who are worried that they will become bulky in the process, it is a myth that women will grow big muscles if they lift weights. It takes years of hard training and specially designed nutrition to get to that level.
High-intensity intermittent training is a training technique in which you alternate intense bursts of anaerobic exercises, such as sprinting or riding a stationary bike, with short recovery periods. Another example of HIIT is Tabata, a very intense four-minute/eight-interval workout. One of the effects is that you burn more calories in less time compared to other workout routines, like prolonged cardio.
KC: How about cardio?
SR: Moderate amounts of low-intensity cardio such as walking, hiking, swimming or cycling are all health-improving activities. Not beneficial, though, are endless hours of extreme spinning, running or hard-core cardio classes. Using prolonged cardio for fat loss and burning calories is simply not a sustainable lifestyle for most people.
Here are the reasons you should take it easy on cardio:
- Chronic cardio will make you hungrier. You will most likely eat more, unless you actually force yourself NOT to eat, which is not a good state of mind to be in at all. Increased appetite means that your body feels ravenous after prolonged cardio and will demand those calories back. Chronic cardio also leads to negative changes in anxiety and mood;
- Chronic cardio raises the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for storing fat in the stomach area (also known as visceral fat). Long-term elevated cortisol levels also lead to leptin resistance. The hormone leptin plays a role in appetite and weight regulation and leptin resistance, in turn, leads to increased appetite and food intake. Again, prolonged cardio will make you hungry;
- Effective exercise is accompanied by acute inflammation, which is necessary for building muscles and improving performance. However, exhaustive exercise will lead to systemic inflammation and oxidative stress, which you want to avoid.
KC: What kind of exercise do you do yourself?
SR: I do light full-body weight training at home two or three times per week. On the other two or three days, I go for a short run. These runs are usually three or five km at a very slow pace, also known as LISS (low-intensity steady state). I plan for two rest days so generally speaking, I exercise five days per week. In good weather, I also like to walk to town to run my errands. This is a good way to get 15.000 steps in.
The running is mainly a nice tool for me to gather my thoughts and find inspiration. I love to get up really early, around 5.30 am, and run through the empty streets of my neighborhood. Speaking of the mind: I also meditate regularly. It might not be the same as a physical activity but I can highly recommend it!
For more information about exercise on keto plus links to related studies, check: