Working out while on low carb - low cals

janette130 Posts: 66 Member
Hello everyone! I'm so glad I found this group.
My husband and I have started, through a doctor, a low carb low calorie (low fat) diet. We are on day two. We enjoy hitting the gym lifting, treadmill and elliptical. I'm to stay under 30 carbs and my husband 40 - which has been easy since we are doing low everything; however, we are concerned with our workouts. We haven't been to the gym yet, but are concerned with the "hitting the wall" feeling. What can we eat before we workout and maybe after a workout?

Thanks everyone in advance!


  • Sunny_Bunny_
    Sunny_Bunny_ Posts: 7,141 Member
    It does take some time to adapt to low carb but if you weren’t already exercising before you don’t really have anything to compare your energy level to, so you couldn’t necessarily say it’s reduced because of adapting.
    However, you will benefit from supplementing sodium prior to working out.
    Hopefully your doctor is aware of the increased need for sodium on keto and has you supplementing already.
  • nvmomketo
    nvmomketo Posts: 12,020 Member
    It can take a few days to get adequate ketone levels to help avoid that wall. Honestly, it can take a few weeks of months to get fully ketoadapted. Most find they are basically fine within a week.

    My guess though, is that your fatigue is mostly about low sodium. Sodium is lost rapidly on a low carb diet and needs to be replaced with at least 3000-5000 mg of sodium a day. There is about 2300 mg of sodium in a teaspoon of salt, so it is a fair bit. Salty bouillon or taking salt with water should help with feelings of fatigue, brain fog, nausea, headaches, muscle aches or spasms.

    Really low fat intake could affect energy too. People mainly use carbs/glucose or fats for fuel. If both are low that could cause low energy... Although body fat can fill in the fat energy deficit.

    There is no special foods for energy. Some just eat good whole foods. Others will time carbs around exercise, and yet others may supplement with protein powders or exogenous ketones/ mct oil. My guess is that more salt will make the biggest difference at this stage. :)

    How low calorie are you if you are low carb and low fat? Your protein levels must be very, very high. That is working well for you so far?
  • janette130
    janette130 Posts: 66 Member
    I"m not to exceed 600 daily (800) when working out. I'm trying to eat over 70 grams of protein daily. It's just hard to keep the calories down and try to get to that 30 carbs. Yesterday was only 13 carbs by the time I reached 700 calories. I'll for sure get more salt. Already feeling a bit foggy. We have been told to drink drink drink.
  • T1DCarnivoreRunner
    T1DCarnivoreRunner Posts: 11,462 Member
    You will probably have to slow down for now... and it will likely take 8-10 weeks before you are fully "fat adapted."

    Generally, a low carb, low calorie, and low fat diet (PSMF type diet) is either for those who need to to lose a whole lot of weight or for body builders, models, etc. trying to lose the last few lbs. of fat very quickly for a photo shoot or contest. In either case, it isn't a long-term approach and it is an advanced dieting practice... so I'm glad to see you are consulting with a physician who specializes in fat loss.

    "Bonking" or "hitting the wall" is a reaction that athletes experience when they run out of glucose. It's mostly mental because your brain / central nervous system is only capable of either using glucose or ketones. Endurance athletes who eat carbs regularly will sometimes bonk after going through blood glucose and glycogen during a long event.

    Like I said, this will take weeks to adapt for cardiovascular activity:
    The first thing that will happen is you will use glycogen to supply glucose to your brain and muscles.

    Next, you will start making ketones, which can be used by muscles and your brain. They will fight over these ketones for energy to supplement the small amount of glucose available. You will probably notice this when exercising during the 3-5 week time window. There is no shame in slowing down... you will need to slow down, in fact, to avoid bonking.

    Finally, your muscles will start to directly oxidize fat for energy at higher and higher intensity levels. Though fat is used to make ketones (our liver does this for us), free fatty acids and ketones are not the same thing. When we get to the point where our skeletal muscles oxidize free fatty acids, ketones are freed up for our brain. Our brain and muscles are no longer fighting over ketones.

    *A bonus to becoming fat adapted is lean tissue (including muscle) preservation. The traditional belief from most bodybuilders is that insulin is the only thing required for protein synthesis, and they think eating carbs to cause insulin release is essential. In fact, insulin and leucine are both part of the process and counter-balance each other. In fact, leucine is primary and insulin is just a 'helper' in protein synthesis. More leucine and less insulin works better than more insulin and less leucine. When fat adapted, our muscles 'eat' less leucine for energy since ketones are available and have a similar carbon structure. This is why fat adapted athletes have more leucine available and why eating a low carb diet causes more weight loss to come from body fat and less from lean tissue when compared to the same calories on a higher carb diet.
  • janette130
    janette130 Posts: 66 Member
    thanks midwesterner85 for your response. This was very informative. I do have a lot to lose (60 pounds). I will choose my calories wisely. I'm to only eat protein my first week, then introduce veggies on the second week.
  • FlyingMolly
    FlyingMolly Posts: 490 Member
    edited February 2018
    That’s really low-calorie. Have you talked with your doctor about what kind of workouts you have planned? I’ve found (7 weeks into keto) that I’m working at a lower intensity than I did before—I could walk all day if I wanted, but box burpees are out of the question for the time being. It sounds like your diet is a lot more restrictive than it needs to be just for low-carb and/or weight loss, which makes me concerned there might be other factors your doctor knows about that would be relevant to how (and if) you should manage workouts.
  • ladipoet
    ladipoet Posts: 4,180 Member
    I hate to be the negative nellie here but trying to stick to a triple low diet

    Low calorie
    Low carbs
    Low fat

    is unsustainable in the long run as @midwesterner85 already pointed out above. Your energy has to come from somewhere and you are limiting not just one, but ALL sources of that energy. :# That said, any kind of intense physical activity related to exercise is going to suffer because you simply won't be giving your body enough of what it needs to get through a decent workout.

    I would go back to that doctor of yours and thoroughly grill him/her on why he/she wants you to limit all sources of energy to such low amounts!
  • TheMerryMermaid
    TheMerryMermaid Posts: 69 Member
    Hi! Lots of information here to digest, I know.
    Most of the contributors in this forum do not have medical credentials, nor do they have degrees in nutrition. However, I've found that many, many MDs are not educated in nutrition or prevention! So many western, conventional doctors focus on disease (obesity) and the symptoms not lifestyle and wellness as a continued state of being. Medical schools are aligned with "Big Pharma" and the American government recommended eating model is aligned with corporate food companies. Follow the money!
    The folks here in this forum are speaking from personal experience and [most] have done copious amounts of research on an extremely specified subject- low carb weight loss.

    I can tell you from my own experience, that in 2011 I lost 34lbs in 8 weeks doing low carb, low fat with no workouts at all. I also lost about a third of my hair about 10-12 weeks in and developed heart palpitations. I had put my body in starvation mode and all under the guidance of an MD! I gained it all back a year later. My experience is low-carb, low-fat and the added nightmare of extremely low calorie is not sustainable and harmful to health.

    I'm now eating a ketogenic diet and tracking it here on MFP since November 2017. I've gradually included daily/weekly workouts and I'm eating about 65%fat plus a max of 20 net carbs daily. Slow and steady is the way to go. Educate yourself, beyond your physician's advice; it's your body and your life! In the big picture, 60lbs is not a lot to lose. I know, I know, it may seem insurmountable, but one year out of your life to develop a lasting way to maintain optimal weight and wellness is nothing!
    Hope this helps!
    Cheers to you for taking a step to a better body!

  • canadjineh
    canadjineh Posts: 5,381 Member
    edited February 2018
    @janette130, somewhat like @TheMerryMermaid I lost 35 lbs doing low carb and low fat (definitely adequate protein, though) with no workouts - just brisk walking, snowshoeing, x-country skiing for enjoyment but not to any sweat stage, winter 2013/14. Cals were between 750-900/day.
    It took me 12 weeks to do that. I did not lose hair or develop heart palpitations. I was very conscientious about my vitamins including potassium (in my case). To be included every day was 4 c. of LC vegetables. When I finished losing my weight to goal I upped the fat and slowly upped carbs to find my maintenance level. While losing it was suggested to me that if I chose to exercise more, I needed to add a bit more food (protein and a few more healthy carbs; you will be getting extra fat from body reserves, remember). Add a bit more if you need the energy. If everything is still working well, no problems as long as you realize that you will need to move into a maintenance phase slowly, once you have reached goal, and up your intake to balance your energy output without losing or gaining weight.
    It can be done in a healthy successful way but of course n=1 so be very aware of what your body is telling you.
  • nill4me
    nill4me Posts: 682 Member
    edited February 2018
    Kinda sounds like PSMF. Proceed with caution. I agree with @kirkor
  • auntstephie321
    auntstephie321 Posts: 3,586 Member
    800 calories total for the day? when working out? no this is awful advice, I don't care if a "doctor" told you to do it, its unhealthy and a recipe for disaster. not only will you "hit the wall" you will be damaging your body if you plan to do this for any extended period of time.

    I'd spend some time searching around the group here reading threads from people who've had success.