I recently published an article titled Keto and Bodybuilding and I purposely didn’t mention any keto bodybuilding supplements. In fact, I went out of my way to say they are not essential. If you focus on eating the best keto superfoods, avoid eating dirty keto and take the most effective antioxidants once in a while you should be fine. If you just lift weights and eat a standard ketogenic diet you should be able to build muscle and burn fat without any problems.
However, these supplements might give you a little boost with building muscle on keto
When explaining the keto diet to people I always stress the importance of strength training. This study from the American College of Cardiology found that strength training was more strongly associated with reducing heart disease risks than aerobic activities like walking and cycling.
How did I come up with the above keto bodybuilding supplements?
These supplements are popular within the bodybuilding community, but more importantly, these are the supplements that I have had success with through the years. Additionally, all these keto muscle building supplements are backed by science. I will include a link to the scientific study in the description of each supplement to back its “claim to fame”.
Disclaimer: I am not selling any product or promoting any brand over another. My goal is to provide you the best information based on my experience and research to give you options in reaching your goal of building muscle while on the keto diet.
When I do these keto supplement reviews I get annoyed when I read half the article then realize the article is just trying to sell me something. When I see that, the review loses all credibility. This is an unbiased review.
Building muscle while on keto will absolutely speed keto.
So what makes these supplements “keto bodybuilding supplements?”
The first criteria are these keto muscle building supplements had to be sugar and carbohydrate-free. The last thing you want to do on the ketogenic diet is to introduce a bunch of carbohydrates that aren’t in the form of vegetables.
The other criteria are no sucralose (Splenda). There are different opinions on sucralose. I get it, it doesn’t raise blood sugar, but it’s an artificial man-made chemical and I have read studies it can disrupt your intestinal flora. This study shows sucralose disrupts the gut bacteria. Disrupting the diversity of your gut bacteria can lead to keto constipation. Here is an article on fixing your digestion if you are having digestion problems.
Muscle building supplements on the ketogenic diet manipulates two hormones: Insulin and glucagon.
Keto suppresses insulin and stimulates glucagon. Insulin is anabolic and glucagon is catabolic. This would seem contradictory to muscle building because not only does insulin cause your cells to store fat, but it causes your cells to store muscle glycogen, electrolytes, and nitrogen. This is why most bodybuilders that eat a lot of carbohydrates not only get big and strong, but also look fat and bloated.
Glucagon stimulates the cells to release fatty acids which your liver turns into ketones for energy.
But, glucagon can also result in some muscle tissue being lost during catabolism. When the body needs glucose it can break down the amino acids alanine and glutamine to make its own through a process called gluconeogenesis.
Most of the keto bodybuilding supplements mentioned above focus on preserving muscle loss while in a catabolic state. I also targeted keto bodybuilding supplements that have shown to either increase testosterone (Forskolin) production or improve insulin resistance (fenugreek).
Furthermore, those on a keto diet rely on ketones for energy as opposed to glucose. Two of the products listed above stimulate ketone utilization (exogenous ketones & MCT oil) and the other, (carnitine), transports long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria so they can be used to produce energy.
So, without further adieu, here are my top ten keto bodybuilding supplements.
Whether you are on the keto diet or not, creatine is the most powerful natural bodybuilding supplement discovered to date. It’s safe, non toxic and has been extensively researched for decades.
Creatine really shows its strength when taken with glucose or dextrose (sugar). The glucose/dextrose causes an insulin response and the insulin pushes the glycogen (muscle sugar) and creatine into the muscle cells. Yes you get big and strong, but your muscles also look soft and puffy with very little definition.
Whether you are on keto or not, I would not recommend taking creatine with massive amounts of glucose/dextrose/fructose or any other sugar. Yes it work, but it’s not healthy.
When taking creatine while on keto you won’t get as much creatine into the cells without the insulin. However, without all the sugar and insulin your muscles won’t retain as much water and you will get defined and not look as soft or bloated.
Creatine increases ATP in the muscle. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the primary energy source inside the muscle cells. ATP provides anaerobic energy, in other words, it’s the energy used for brief, explosive bouts of exercise such as bodybuilding, strength training and powerlifting.
Taking 5 grams of creatine monohydrate before and after working out is optimum. I also recommend stacking creatine with other keto bodybuilding supplements like HMB ad Fenugreek.
I have taken HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate) over the years while dieting and it does preserve muscle. The science is pretty solid on it. A number of studies have demonstrated that HMB can lessen skeletal muscle damage and protein breakdown.
HMB looks like an excellent keto bodybuilding supplement because those on keto often times workout in a fasted state or with depleted muscle glycogen.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) actually endorses HMB as a nutritional supplement.
- HMB can be used to enhance recovery by attenuating exercise induced skeletal muscle damage in trained and untrained populations.
- If consuming HMB, an athlete will benefit from consuming the supplement in close proximity to their workout
- HMB appears to be most effective when consumed for 2 weeks prior to an exercise bout.
It (Carnitine) is a well known keto weight loss supplement because it helps shuttle fat into the mitochondria to be used as energy. But, carnitine has also been shown to be an effective keto muscle building supplement.
This study on PubMed shows after 9 weeks of L-carnitine supplementation a significant increases in bench press lifting volume and leg press. There was also a significant increases in mean power, peak power as well as a reduction in post-exercise blood lactate levels.
Carnitine tartrate is the best form of carnitine. This study shows L-carnitine L-tartrate (LCLT) reduced the amount of exercise-induced muscle tissue damage.
Epicatechin, or epi for short is a powerful flavanol found in a variety of foods such as green tea and cocoa. It is considered a myostatin inhibitor. Myostatin regulates muscle cell growth. It limits skeletal muscle growth to protect muscles from becoming excessively large. So, theoretically, suppressing myostatin might result in increased muscle growth.
This study published on the US National Library of Medicine shows that Epicatechin decreases myostatin and increases muscle growth. The study also goes on to say, “Epi treatment significantly decreases myostatin levels between 15 and 21%.
“Epi is the first compound ever noted, to favorably modulate both regulators of muscle growth and suggest increases in strength.”Effects of epicatechin on molecular modulators of skeletal muscle
Supplementing your diet with Caffeine will give you a boost while you are bodybuilding on keto. It’s a legal stimulant, it gives you energy and is healthy, what more could you ask for? The science is settled on this bodybuilding supplement. It raises plasma epinephrine levels and has shown glycogen sparing effects in active muscles. This study shows caffeine releases free fatty acids (FFA). Significant elevations in FFA were observed after drinking coffee, caffeine usually reaches its peak in 3 or 4 hours.
I have found that caffeine works well stacked with carnitine. The caffeine can stimulate the cells to release the free fatty acids and the carnitine can help your body utilize the FFAs as energy. You need to take this combination in a low carbohydrate environment because any glucose/sugar in your system will stop the release of free fatty acids.
I occasionally drink a keto coffee as a pre-workout before I go to the gym.
Most people on the keto diet get plenty of protein because they eat an abundance of meat. However if you’re bodybuilding on keto you might want to supplement your diet with a little extra. Collagen peptides are probably your best best. The amino acid profile in collagen doesn’t induce a blood sugar/insulin spike and you can easily find grass fed collagen that is unflavored and carbohydrate free.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is essential in maintaining the normal structure and strength of connective tissue, bones, skin, cartilage, and blood vessels.
This study shows the benefits of collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training.
This is one of the original keto body building supplements. Desiccated liver is even older than keto itself. Bodybuilders of the 1970s used to take liver tablets when they were in their cutting phase prior to competitions. They didn’t know it at the time, but back then they were actually periodically using the keto diet (low-carb) to lose fat, reduce water retention and increase muscle definition.
This is actually a very interesting article that touches on the history of desiccated liver as a keto bodybuilding supplement: Liver: The Old School Supplement
Make sure your keto bodybuilding supplements are sourced from organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed animals.
Back in the day sourcing animal products from grass fed, non GMO sources wasn’t as important as it is today. The liver filters toxins from an animals body, so if the animal was raised eating GMO grains, antibiotics and growth hormones you could be introducing those toxins into your own body.
What are the benefits of liver?
- Nature’s most potent nutrient-dense keto superfood
- High in Vitamin A, B12, Folate, Riboflavin, Zinc, Copper, and Choline.
- Complete source of protein, trace elements and micro-nutrients.
- Restores levels of highly bioavailable vitamin B12.
MCT oil and exogenous ketones do primarily the same thing. They generate ketones which can give you energy and suppress the appetite. You can use MCT oil as a pre-workout while you are fasting to get you through a workout when you feel “bonked”. I have written a complete article on MCT oil that you can access here. Traditionally, MCT oil has been used as an aerobic exercise performance boost. This study on PubMed however, shows increasing free fatty acids during exercise can spare muscle glycogen. Muscle glycogen is the fuel you use to power your muscles during bodybuilding (anaerobic training).
When your in a state of ketosis your body produces its own ketones, but you can actually also consume them orally. I have mixed feeling on exogenous ketones as a keto bodybuilding supplement. If you drink them and introduce them into your body then your body might not need to make its own ketones. Theoretically it could slow down the fat burning process.
On the plus side though, if you are on a ketogenic diet exogenous ketones could potentaily be used to increase your level of ketosis by raising blood ketones even further.
But, I have tried them and noticed a benefit, especially during exercising while fasting. I typically fast during the day and eat OMAD (one meal a day), so I workout in a fasted state. Exogenous ketones help prevent that drained feeling you get sometimes and they definitely help suppress appetite.
The picture above is a GHB (β-hydroxybutyrate) in the form of ketone salts. This form is what you will most likely find on the store shelves. However, there is a more pure form of exogenous ketone in the form of an ester. Ketone esters are more expensive, but also are more potent.
Science is starting to emerge that β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB) has benefits that far exceed its ability to provide energy and suppress the appetite. This interesting article on PubMed shows that β-hydroxybutyrate could improve cellular function, gene expression and be a possible treatment of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
In this spot I could have included a number of herbs that have shown the ability to improve insulin function including Ceylon cinnamon, Berberine, Gymnema sylvestre, and bitter melon (Momordica charantia). This study shows they all have potential to improve insulin sensitivity.
Furthermore, this study from the National Library of Medicine demonstrates that Berberine has the ability to regulate glucose and lipid metabolism.
Since fenugreek has been shown to improve insulin function it might be used as a keto bodybuilding supplement stacked with creatine. The pharmacological actions of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) are attributed to a diverse array of phytonutrients.
Fenugreek consists of:
- steroidal compounds
- amino acids
This study on PubMed titled: Metabolic and molecular action of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek). The results show that the action of fenugreek in lowering blood glucose levels is almost comparable to the effect of insulin.
When I wrote my article for Speed Keto I included Forskolin because of its potential to increase the anabolic hormone testosterone. I encourage you to read this article on Forskolin. It shows potential for both a weight loss as well as a keto muscle-building supplement.
If you know of any other bodybuilding supplements that support the ketogenic diet please let me know and I’ll research it and update this article. Thanks for reading 😉