build muscle on keto

How-To Build Muscle on the Keto Diet

by Cole Matthews - Last Updated November 26, 2018

A lot of people wonder: can you really build muscle on a ketogenic diet?

The answer is that you most definitely can. It is in fact, the ideal bodybuilding diet.

In this article, we will show exactly how to eat and train on the keto diet to build the maximum amount of muscle in the shortest possible time.

A Quick Keto History

Although it was invented in the 1920’s as a way to treat children with epilepsy, the modern day revival of the ketogenic diet began in a dingy gym in Los Angeles in the 1960’s. The owner of the place was a guy named Vince Gironda and he had been advocating a very low carb diet in order to shed body fat and maximize muscle gain for years. Vince famously put his athletes on either a  steak and eggs diet or a 36 eggs a day diet in order to get them absolutely shredded. Though he never used the term ‘ketogenic diet’, that is exactly what you are doing when all you eat is steak or eggs.

Vince was not a mainstream bodybuilding guru but those in the know were using a low fat diet with great results in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Chief among them was Dave Palumbo who appeared onstage at close to 300 pounds in ripped condition. Palumbo has perfected the keto diet for bodybuilding and it is his program- the Dave Palumbo diet– that we share here.

Keto for Bodybuilding

The Keto diet for bodybuilding is high in protein, moderate fats and low carbs.

Here is the macronutrient breakdown that you should be following:

Protein – 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight

Fat – 0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight

Carbohydrates – No direct sources

Following this protocol will put your body into a state of ketosis, where it will burn body fat for energy. You will need carbs for your workouts as glucose is the prime source of energy that you make use of in the gym. Most workouts will require about 40 grams, but Palumbo does not advocate getting them by eating known sources of carbs. Rather, he advocates getting them indirectly through the protein and fat foods you are eating.

You do get to have a cheat meal once per week which will provide you with a resupply of glucose. This will enable you to have the energy you need to power your workouts. It will also stave off gluconeogenesis, which is the catabolizing of muscle tissue for energy. You should have your cheat meal the same day every week. It is also recommended that it be the last meal of the day so that you are not tempted to also consume carb laden foods at your next meal.

It is suggested that you take a fiber supplement on this bodybuilding keto diet as fiber speeds up the conversion of fat to energy.

On this diet you should eat every two and a half hours that you are awake.

The Palumbo Keto Diet

For a 185 lb man

MEAL #1
4 whole omega-3 eggs + 7 large eggs whites (For the whole eggs, make sure to go with mostly Omega-3 eggs.)

MEAL #2
“Lean-Pro Meal”: 6oz chicken (cooked weight) with 1 Tbs Macadamia nut oil or extra virgin olive oil, and ½ cup green beans.

MEAL #3
Pre-Workout: 50g whey protein isolate + 2 tbs. natural peanut butter or almond butter

MEAL #4
Post-Workout: 50g whey protein isolate + 2 tbs. natural peanut butter or almond butter

MEAL #5
“Fatty Protein Meal”: 6oz of lean ground sirloin (cooked weight) or 7oz salmon (cooked weight), a small green salad. (No tomatoes, carrots, or red peppers) w/ ½ tablespoon of extra virgin Olive Oil.

MEAL #6
4 whole omega-3 eggs + 7 large eggs

For a 200lb man

MEAL #1
5 whole eggs (make sure to buy OMEGA-3 EGGS from the supermarket. They contain virtually NO saturated fat and tons of good OMEGA-3 fats); add another 4 egg whites to this (they don’t need to be the Omega-3 ones; you can use liquid egg whites)

MEAL #2
SHAKE: 50g Whey Protein with 1 ? tablespoon of All Natural Peanut butter (no sugar)

MEAL #3
“Lean Protein Meal”: 8oz chicken with 1/2-cup cashew nuts (almonds, or walnuts)

MEAL #4
SHAKE: 50g Whey Protein with 1 ? tablespoons of All Natural Peanut butter (no sugar added)

MEAL #5
“Fatty Protein Meal”: 8oz Salmon, Swordfish, or RED MEAT with a green salad (no tomatoes, carrots, or red peppers) with 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil or Macadamia nut oil and vinegar

MEAL #6
SHAKE: 50g Whey with 1 tablespoon all natural peanut butter or 4 whole (Omega-3) eggs and 4 extra whites

For a 250lb+ man

MEAL #1
6 whole Omega-3 eggs

MEAL #2
8oz chicken with 1/2 cup raw almonds

MEAL #3
50g whey with 2 tablespoons all natural peanut butter

MEAL #4
8oz salmon with 1 cup asparagus with 1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil

MEAL #5
50 g whey with 2 tablespoon PB

MEAL #6
6 whole eggs

120lb female

Meal #1: 2 whole (omega-3) eggs and 6 egg-whites.
Meal #2: 4oz chicken with 1/4 cup raw almonds.
Meal #3: 35g whey protein with 1 tablespoon all natural peanut butter.
Meal #4: 4oz salmon with 1 cup asparagus with 1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil.
Meal #5: same as meal #1 or meal #3.

100lb (lean body mass) female figure competitor

Meal #1: 2 whole omega-3 eggs and 4 egg whites.
Meal #2: 30g whey protein and 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter.
Meal #3: 6oz chicken and 1oz (1/8 cup) raw almonds.
Meal #4: same as meal #2.
Meal #5: 4oz salmon, 2 cups of spinach leaves, 1 teaspoon virgin olive oil and vinegar.

170lb male (153lbs LBM)

Meal #1: 3 whole omega-3 eggs, 3 egg-whites, 3 slices fat-free turkey.
Meal #2: 40g whey protein and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Meal #3: 150g skinless chicken breast and 1 tablespoon soy and 1 tablespoon mustard and 30g almonds.
Meal #4: same as meal #2.
Meal #5: 200g top sirloin steak and 85g raw spinach and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Meal #6: 2 whole omega-3 eggs, 1 can tuna.

160 lb male

Meal #1: 4 whole eggs, ¾ cup egg-whites, fish oil, primrose oil.
Meal #2: 7oz chicken, ¼ cup almonds.
Meal #3: 7oz salmon, 1 cup spinach.
Meal #4: same as meal #2.
Meal #5: 7oz lean ground beef, 1 cup spinach, 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Meal #6: 3 whole eggs, 1 cup egg-whites, fish oil, primrose oil.

185lb natty bb at 12%bf

Meal #1: 5 whole omega-3 eggs.
Meal #2: 7oz chicken with 1/3 cup raw almonds.
Meal #3: 40g whey protein with 1.5 tablespoons all natural peanut butter (post-workout meal).
Meal #4: 6oz salmon with 1 cup asparagus with 1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil.
Meal #5: 40g whey protein with 2 tablespoons all natural peanut butter.
Meal #6: 4 whole omega-3 eggs with 4 extra egg-whites.

176lb natty bb at 11-12%bf

Meal #1: 4 whole omega-3 eggs with 4 extra egg-whites.
Meal #2: 200g chicken with 1/3 cup raw almonds.
Meal #3: 40g whey protein with 1 tablespoon all natural peanut butter.
Meal #4: 200g red meat or salmon with 1 cup asparagus.
Meal #5: 40g whey protein with 1.5 tablespoons all natural peanut butter.
Meal #6: same as meal #1.

155lb male at 15%bf

Meal #1: 3 whole omega-3 eggs.
Meal #2: 5oz chicken with ¼ cup raw almonds.
Meal #3: 30g whey isolate with 1 tablespoon all natural peanut butter.
Meal #4: 7oz (93%) lean ground beef with 1 cup romaine lettuce (dressing: 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil and 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar) and 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil.
Meal #5: same as meal #3.
Meal #6: same as meal #1.

195lb male

Meal #1: 5 whole eggs.
Meal #2: 8oz chicken breast and 1/3 cup almonds.
Meal #3: 50g whey protein isolate with 1.5 tablespoon natural peanut butter.
Meal #4: 8oz fish with 1/3 cup almonds.
Meal #5: 55g whey protein isolate with 1.5 tablespoon natural peanut butter (post workout).
Meal #6: same as meal #1.

Mass Training on the Keto Diet

When training for mass, the focus will be on time under tension, perfect form and four second negatives. You will put all of your mental focus on isolating and working the target muscle group.

There are three different workouts, which are each performed once per week. The normal split is to do the workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Time Under Tension

Adding extra poundage to the bar is not the thing that will build muscle. Your muscle cells have absolutely no idea how much weight is on the bar. For a lot of people, the more weight they use, the less work the target muscle is doing because other muscles are brought in to help get the weight up. That is counter-productive because the whole goal of training for muscle is to get the target muscle to do the work by itself. The longer you can achieve this, the more stress you will put on the muscle fiber, leading to more repair and growth (so long as you are getting in the right nutrients).

We call the amount of time that the muscle is worked during the set as the time under tension. There is an ideal time under tension for a set, after which the cell becomes too depleted. That ideal time under tension is between 40-70 seconds. That is a lot longer than most people’s set last, which is usually between 10-20 seconds.

To extend the length of your set you need to adjust your training tempo. To do that you need to make changes to the time it takes to lift the weight (concentric part of the lift) and to lower it (eccentric part of the lift). Here is the training tempo that you need to follow;

  • One seconds to raise the weight
  • One second to squeeze in the contracted position
  • Four seconds to lower the weight

That is gives us a training tempo of 1-1-4.

Training this way will be a whole lot harder. That means that you will need to lower the weight that you are using in order to maintain proper form.

Training to Failure

The training programs in this guide will prescribe sets and repetitions. You need to train so that the last rep on each set is the last rep you could do with that weight. If you can do more, then you need to bring the weight up slightly so that the last prescribed rep is the last rep you can do without breaking form.

Mass Workout A

Exercise Sets Reps
 FLAT BENCH PRESS 4 8/8/8/8
D/B INCLINE PRESS 3 10/8/6
DIPS 3 Failure
PEC DEC FLYS 4 8/8/8/8
PREACHER CURL 4 8/8/8/8
SEATED B/B CURL 3 8/8/8
CABLE CURL 3 8/8/8

Mass Workout B

Exercise Sets Reps
 SQUATS 4 8/8/8/8
LEG PRESS 3 10/8/6
LUNGES 3 8/8/8
DEADLIFT 4 8/8/8/8
LEG CURL 4 8/8/8/8
CALF RAISE 3 15/15/15

Mass Workout C

Exercise Sets Reps
 T-BAR ROW 4 8/8/8
PULL UPS 3 10/8/8
CLOSE GRIP PULLDOWN 3 10/8/6
SEATING ROWING 4 8/8/8/8
SKULL CRUSHERS 4 8/8/8/8
ROPE PUSHDOWNS 3 8/8/8
DIPS 3 8/8/8

Summary

The keto diet provides the ultimate nutritional environment for building muscle. It provides you with the protein you need to create lean mass and the fats that you need to fuel your training sessions. However, it is a strict diet. Eliminating carbs for everything except your one cheat meal of the week is a real challenge. If you can stick with it, though, there is a huge pay-off.

The template meal plans provided here really work. You may find it extremely boring. However, that is the price you will have to pay. A lot of people end up sabotaging their diets by always looking for something different. To be a successful bodybuilder, you have got to get used to eating the same thing every day. So, stick with the plan as written for 6 weeks – putting up with the boredom will be well worth it.

Keep your workouts short and intense. Work hard to increase the intensity every single workout. This may be in the form of adding poundage, doing an extra rep or doing forced reps. If you can do that, and keep strict on your keto diet, you will be rewarded with a bigger, leaner, more muscular body.

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