Keto Diet Meal Plan for Bodybuilding

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Written by Bridget Nalwoga, Certified Nutritionist and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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Good nutrition is half the battle when training for sports. 

During physical exercise, the body needs energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals. All of these come from food. 

Carbs are very important for athletes when training for sports, including bodybuilding. They supply energy, replenish glycogen stores, and help in muscle building. While carbs are great, you can still thrive as a keto bodybuilder. 

In this article, you will get tips on building muscle, the benefits and drawbacks of bodybuilding on a low-carb diet, and a free ketogenic bodybuilding meal plan for a day.

 

What is keto bodybuilding?

Keto for bodybuilding is a low-carb high-fat diet with the goal of building muscle. 

The ketogenic diet is famous for promoting fat loss, but not many know about its ability to increase muscle mass. Some even have the misconception that low-carb diets result in muscle loss (this only happens when your protein intake is too low). 

The most important nutrient for muscle growth is protein. Low-carb diets don’t restrict protein. In fact, it is encouraged that you eat enough protein while on the diet.

So, can you gain muscle on keto?

Yes, you most definitely can. Keto macros for bodybuilding do not differ so much from a regular ketogenic diet. The two main differences are higher protein and more calories. 

If you are a bodybuilder, you require more protein to repair your muscles after strength training. You also need more calories to sustain yourself during exercise and to keep up with your increased metabolism.

 

Benefits of the keto diet for bodybuilding 

  • Fat loss. Many people think of muscle gain when they think about bodybuilding, but fat loss is just as important for the sport. Competitive bodybuilders need to keep their body fat very low to define the appearance of their muscles. Keto can help with that.
  • Water retention. Eliminating carbs can help your body release excess water. This can help improve muscle definition and also reduce the feeling of bloating.
  • Mental clarity. For some, the ketogenic diet can improve cognitive function by boosting clarity, alertness, and general mental capacity.
  • Protein sparing effect. If you get enough fat from your diet, it protects your body from breaking down muscle tissue to produce energy.

 

Drawbacks of a bodybuilding keto diet plan

  • Dehydration. Since carbs help the body retain water, removing them from the diet can increase one’s risk for dehydration. You can protect yourself from dehydration by drinking enough fluids and getting enough electrolytes. 
  • Keto flu. During the transition from a regular diet to keto, you may experience some unpleasant signs and symptoms like nausea, headaches, and fever. 
  • Recovery. Carbohydrates help with muscle recovery. During the transition to a ketogenic diet, your muscles may have a hard time recovering after exercise. 
  • Glycogen. Initially, as glycogen reserves get depleted, you may get muscle cramps after exercise. 
  • Muscle breakdown. If you do not get enough protein or calories on the ketogenic diet, your muscle tissue will begin to break down. 

Many of these drawbacks can be solved by following the diet very carefully. If symptoms appear anyway, supplements can help. Some of the supplements keto diet bodybuilding calls for include protein and electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, and sodium).

 

How to build muscle on keto

It is true that bodybuilding on keto will not be a breeze. However, there are some tips you can use to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. 

If you are still figuring out what is the best way to gain muscle on keto, these tips can help you achieve that goal.

  • Know your calorie needs. Calories are extremely important for muscle growth. Even if you eat enough protein but fail to eat enough calories, you will not gain muscle.
  • Know your macro needs. Decide on the best way to split your macros to get the best out of your training. Know the amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrate you will be aiming for every day to achieve your goals.
  • Eat enough protein. Try to eat protein-rich foods to meet your needs every day. Your protein intake should range from 60 g to well over 150 g per day.
  • Eat high-quality protein. Not all protein is created equal. Eat the best type of protein from sources like meat, fish, and chicken. Plant sources can also provide enough protein, but they are usually lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates per serving.
  • Train regularly. Merely eating enough protein and food will not boost your muscle mass without exercise. Engage in strength or resistance training regularly to grow your muscle mass.

 

GET A CUSTOM KETO PLAN

 

Keto diet food list for bodybuilding

Not all foods make the cut on keto. High-carb foods should be avoided. Some of the foods you will have to eliminate include:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Cake
  • Biscuits
  • Candy
  • Soda
  • Sweetened chocolate
  • Sweetened beverages
  • Legumes: beans, peas, lentils
  • Wheat flour and wheat products  

In place of these, you will focus on low-carb high-fat foods. You will also have to incorporate high-protein foods at all meals and snacks. Some of the protein-rich foods you should eat on a keto diet for bodybuilding include:

  • Chicken and other poultry like turkey and duck
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Plain yogurt

Other high-fat ketogenic foods include:

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Oil

What to eat before and after a workout on a keto diet 

A typical pre-workout meal should be rich in carbs and protein. Obviously, carbs are out for keto. Therefore, a keto-friendly pre workout meal replaces carbs with fat and maintains the protein. An example of a good meal would be Greek yogurt and strawberries.

Post workout, you want to focus on recovery. Fluids and electrolytes are extremely important for hydration. A keto post workout meal should also provide energy and more protein to aid muscle recovery.
 

Keto-friendly shopping list for bodybuilders

Meats will be a staple in your diet. You will need to stock up on different types and cuts of meat for some variety.

  • Chicken: cuts or whole
  • Beefsteak
  • Ground beef 
  • Ground turkey
  • Sausages

Different types of fish and seafood also provide both protein and fat.

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Shrimp
  • Sardines

Do not forget about nuts and seeds as well.

  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds

Finally, you will need more high-fat foods to help you achieve ketosis.

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Avocado
  • Mayonnaise
  • Oils like avocado and olive

While we want all or most of our nutrients to come from food, supplements can be a great tool for achieving your goals. Some of the keto-friendly supplements you can buy are:

  • Keto pre-workout drink
  • Protein bars
  • Protein powder
  • Electrolyte drinks
  • Exogenous ketones

 

1-day sample of a ketogenic bodybuilder menu

Keto bulk meals are simply regular low-carb high-fat meals with a bump in their protein content. Below is a full day of keto bodybuilding meals.

  • Breakfast: Strawberry smoothie
  • Morning snack: Hard-boiled eggs
  • Lunch: Steak, spinach, and avocado
  • Evening snack: Cherry tomatoes and cheddar cheese 
  • Dinner: Salmon and arugula salad with olive oil dressing

Calories: 2,468 | Macros: 24.2 g net carbs, 201.9 g protein, and 151.8 g fat.

BREAKFAST Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Strawberry smoothie Strawberries 1 cup, whole 196 8.2 1 0.4
  Greek yogurt 100 g 97 4 9 5
  Coconut milk 1/2 cup 223 3.2 2.3 24
  Protein powder 1 scoop (1/3 cup) 113 1 25 0.5
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
692 16.4 g 37.3 g 29.9 g            
MORNING SNACK Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Hard-boiled eggs Egg 2 144 0 12.2 10
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
144 0 g 12.2 g 10 g            
LUNCH Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Beef steak Beef 1 steak (360 g) 764 0 98.4 41
Spinach Spinach 3 cups (90 g) 21 0.6 2.7 0.6
Avocado Avocado Half a medium fruit 113 1.3 1.3 10.5
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
898 1.9 g 102.4 g 52.1 g            
EVENING SNACK Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Cherry tomatoes Tomatoes 100 g 127 4.4 2.2 7.8
Cheddar cheese Cheddar cheese 1/2 cup 228 0.7 14 19
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
355 5.1 g 16.2 g 26.8 g            
DINNER Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Salmon Salmon Half a fillet (159 g) 202 0 32.6 7
Arugula Arugula 2 cups 10 0.8 1.2 0.4
Olive oil Olive oil 2 tablespons 230 0 0 25.6
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
442 0.8 g 33.8 g 33 g            
DAILY TOTALS   2,468 cal 24.2 g net carbs 201.9 g protein 151.8 g fat

 

PERSONALIZE YOUR MEAL PLAN

 

FAQs on keto for bodybuilding 

If you still have some questions, read on as we cover the common topics you might be wondering about.

HIIT can be challenging on a low-carb diet plan, especially in the beginning. However, as your body becomes fat-adapted, it should become easier to increase the intensity of your exercise. 

In place of HIIT, you can engage in medium-intensity exercises and strength training.

Yes, you can. 

If the carbs you are eating are not sustaining you through your workouts, you can consider increasing your carb intake. You may also adopt different types of ketogenic diets that support more intense workouts:

  • Cyclical ketogenic diet is where you get some higher carb days. For example, you can eat some carbs over the weekend to replenish glycogen stores. 
  • Targeted ketogenic diet allows you to consume more carbohydrates around your workouts / events (train low, compete high).

Yes, it is possible. 

However, it may be challenging. Animal foods are the best sources of protein. While plants can also provide protein, it is usually less in quantity and these sources are also higher in carbs.

High-protein low-carb snacks include beef jerky, pork rinds, nuts, seeds, Greek yogurt, nut butter, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, protein bars, and chia pudding.

To build muscle, you need to eat 0.5 - 1 gram per pound of body weight or 1.2 - 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

While on keto, it is important to work out before and/or after meals to provide or replenish energy for the body.

 

Other ketogenic plans alternatives to bodybuilding