Keto Gains: How to Build Muscle Without Carbs

minute read | Last update: Nov 29th2022

This article is backed by studies and reviewed by a certified dietician.

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If you have ever tried a weight-lifting-based workout to build your muscles, you would already know the rule—you require carbs to build muscle. Could this be a common misconception? In today's world, people have realized that the high-carb paradigm to gain muscle is not the only way to go. This raises the question—can you build muscle on keto?

Gaining muscle on keto is possible as the keto gains help in reducing fat gain and increasing the overall strength. So, yes, you can gain build muscle without carbs on a keto diet. Of course, this process does not happen overnight. You will have to undergo a keto-adaptation phase that might affect your workout performance.

But it will enable you to gain muscle without carbs on a keto diet.

So, if you’re willing to dig deeper about gaining muscle on keto, this article is here to save the day. Let’s take a look at how to build muscle on keto.

Carbs are not necessary for building muscle – Here’s why

Traditionally, we have observed that bodybuilding required a surplus of carbohydrates to gain muscle. Even today, we see that bodybuilders need the glycogen from carbs if they want to increase the insulin levels in their bodies.

This, in turn, creates an anabolic response that ultimately helps in the creation of muscle. So, the answer to the big question – can you bulk on keto – might seem negative. But, in all honesty, building muscle on keto is possible and completely viable if you do it correctly.

Keto bulking or a low-carb diet might prove to be better than traditional bodybuilding methods.

This is because the combination of keto gains from a ketogenic diet and a strength training routine can increase lean muscle mass while ensuring that no excess weight gain occurs.

Many studies have reported the same about keto bulking. Of course, as we mentioned before, this is not an overnight process.

It takes time to ultimately reach the goal of keto bodybuilding, mostly because you are required to use fat as fuel for bodybuilding as against the commonly used carbs to bulk up. Using fat for keto muscle gain is known as ‘keto-adaptation.'

It is relevant to mention that your workout will be slightly affected for one to four weeks, and your general workout performance might reduce while you are building muscle on keto.

Why strength decreases while you’re in the keto-adaptation phase

A ketogenic diet is a great way to gain muscle and go about bodybuilding. However, our bodies are extremely used to carbs consumption.

So, when you are just starting with your journey on gaining muscle on keto, it is likely that your body might not enable you to work out with a higher intensity. This happens because your body is adapting to breaking down the stored fat into ketones instead of tearing apart glucose for energy.

When you restrict your body from using carbs, it has no other option but to find and use another energy source. So, ketones, then, become your body's first source of energy. This is the main reason why your strength decreases when you are in the keto-adaptation phase.

As you may have guessed by now, your body takes time to adjust to such a routine, and therefore, this phase is known as the keto-adaptation phase.

Building muscle on keto is, therefore, a lengthy and highly efficient process that enhances your workout with the help of your metabolism burning the ketones.

Keto bodybuilding is faster and enables a longer workout because your mitochondrial density is improved once your body learns how to survive off ketones. So, keto muscle gain might be a lengthy process, but it enables your body to store more energy.

This energy is known as adenosine triphosphate, which originates from the fat in your diet and the stored fat in your body. Once your body has learned how to use fat as a fuel for gaining muscle on keto, your body will ensure that no muscle is broken down as you burn all that fat.

How You Can Build Muscle Mass on the Keto Diet

If you are thinking about how to build muscle on keto, you are in luck. Below, we have put together a list of things you can inculcate in your daily routine to enhance your keto bulking process.

Fix your calorie count

Gaining muscle on keto entirely depends upon the consistency that you eat calories. As your body uses ketones or fat as a fuel for keto bodybuilding, you are required to eat more calories than you are likely to burn.

When you’re keto bulking, it is beneficial if you increase your general calorie intake by a total of 15%. So, if you consume a total of 2000 calories per day for maintenance, you should up your calorie level to 2300 to enhance keto bodybuilding.

Additionally, it is better if you gain body weight within a range of 0.25-0.5% per week so that too much fat is not accumulated.

Add a protein surplus

We’re sure you already know that protein is the foundation of building muscle. Consequently, this also means that you must consume more protein than the amount broken down by your body.

Many people on keto bulking diets are concerned about too much protein intake as this might enable the body to use gluconeogenesis, barring their bodies from creating ketones.

Nevertheless, many studies have proved that it is alright to have a 1g protein/pound of body weight intake to remain in ketosis.

Consume more fat

Building muscle on keto requires your body to use fat as the power for building muscle. So, you need to monitor and increase your fat intake. Take a look at the bullet points below to ascertain why you need more fat.

  • Protein - 4 kcal per gram
  • Carbs - 4 kcal per gram
  • Fat - 9 kcal per gram

Focus on strength training

Keto gains are noticeable only if you consistently perform resistance training. As you may already know, strength training for gaining muscle on keto encompasses strength-based exercises such as weight-lifting that help in increasing muscle mass and gaining more strength.

A couple of exercises that might enhance your keto bulking workout are pushups, bench presses, squats, and pull-ups.

Take nutrient supplements

Although supplements are not necessary, they are a catalyst for building muscle on keto. Nutrient supplements are the best choice if you are unable to reach your daily protein count.

In that case, it would be advantageous for you to use a protein powder supplement. You will, however, have to be mindful of the carbs that your body will receive through the supplement you choose to consume.

What You Should Know About Keto Gains

Keto gains are all about a greater intake of calories than what your body burns on a day-to-day basis. We have collated a list of factors that you should know about keto gains to help you make wiser decisions. Take a look!

Follow a targeted keto diet

If you have been on a keto diet for a minimum of one month, a targeted keto diet is the best option for you.

Suppose you're wondering how a targeted keto diet is beneficial in building muscle on keto. In that case, you should know that a targeted ket diet provides you with an instant 20 – 50 grams of carbohydrates after or before you start your training.

However, if you are trying to lose weight, the targeted keto diet is not a suitable option.

Maintain electrolyte levels

Electrolyte levels are an essential part of achieving optimal athletic performance. The most important electrolytes that you need to be alert about are magnesium, sodium, and potassium.

You can monitor these electrolytes through a large and controlled intake of magnesium-rich, ketogenic-friendly foods such as the ones given in the table below:

Additionally, you can also use keto electrolytes if that is a more convenient option for you.


Potassium Rich

Magnesium Rich












Dark Chocolate






Increase sodium consumption

If you want healthy muscles, sodium is a must while you are on the keto bodybuilding journey. The most commonly observed mistake is a lack of sodium intake while restricting carbs. A keto bulking process necessitates that you reduce your carb intake.

This is when your body releases a greater number of electrolytes than usual. Sodium is one such electrolyte that is secreted in a large quantity. So, it would be best if you consumed more sodium than you generally do.

You should have a minimum sodium intake of 5,000 mg to 7,000 mg each day. If you want to improve your performance during a workout for gaining muscle on keto, you should take 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg.

Track your ketones

Ketones form a highly important part of your full keto bulking process. So, if you are trying to gain muscle on a keto diet, you must track your ketones regularly. This will help you determine whether or not you are in a state of ketosis.

If you’re not in ketosis, then you will have to adjust your diet accordingly.


So, as you can see from the information given above, the keto diet is low carb – encouraging your body to survive on ketones to enhance the keto bodybuilding process. Many studies have proven that it is possible to build muscle without carbs with the help of a keto diet.

For building muscles on a keto diet, you will need to calculate all your intakes, such as carbs, proteins, and fats. Of course, keto bulking is most effective when you compliment it with resistance training and supplements that truly maximize all the keto gains.

Don’t forget to follow a strict nutrition plan and monitor your ketones levels to ensure the state of ketosis.


Can you build muscle on keto?

Yes, you can build muscle on keto by reducing your carb intake. Upon this restriction, your body will rely solely on fat to gain muscle on keto. This fat will break down into tiny ketones, which will fuel your keto gains process.

How much protein to build muscle on keto?

Eating a total of 0.7 to 0.9 gm of protein/pound of body weight is the most suitable amount of protein for building muscle on keto.

What is the best way to build muscle on keto diet?

The best way to build muscle on a keto diet is through strength training and remaining in a state of ketosis. This is accompanied by increasing protein and fat intake while taking nutrient supplements (if need be).

How to decrease body fat while building muscle on keto?

To reduce body fat, you will have to enter the keto-adaptation phase, which enables your body to use the body fat as fuel for your workout and energy. This, coupled with regular strength training exercises, and a strict diet, helps in reducing the body fat that you want to get rid of.

Can you use keto and intermittent fasting while trying to build muscle?

Although it is safe to combine intermittent fasting with a keto diet, it is still advised not to do so as you may have difficulty reaching the targeted proteins and fats for keto bulking.

Can you build muscle and lose fat at the same time on keto?

Yes, you can build muscle and lose fat while on keto as your body uses the stored fat to create ketones which fuel your body and help you enter ketosis. This entire process helps you build muscle while using up the fat. Hence, resulting in a loss of fat and muscle gain.

About the author

The Authentic Keto Team is here to bring you health tips that help you with losing weight fast. We focus on a clean keto diet for beginners because we believe that is the easiest and most simple way to healthy eating. Our keto weight loss tips will not only bring you into ketosis fast but will also help you to improve your mental health, sleep problems, and wellness.

- Our goal is to make keto success easy. -

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