Everybody has their own rituals surrounding their workouts. Some prefer to train fasted, others prefer to have a meal beforehand. There aren’t specific rules around when you CAN and CANNOT eat on keto. But, it does make a difference. It depends on your own personal goals with the diet. Are you trying to lose weight? Are you trying to build muscle and bulk up? Based on how you answer those questions, your keto pre workout meal could vary.
For myself, I normally have something in my stomach when I workout. My goal right now is to build muscle and be in a caloric surplus.
Let’s talk about what your options are for your keto pre workout meal. The research that I did for this article mainly comes from the strength training side. But, This article is going to apply to all you runners too.
Reasons You Should Have a Keto Pre Workout Meal
1. You are New to Keto
- Having a bit of protein before your workout will spare your muscles from wasting. Studies have shown that your body may break down muscle if it is not adapted and you haven’t eaten protein. 
- Remember that your workouts are going to be difficult at first. Consume an electrolyte drink before your workout as well.
2. You Are a Marathon Runner
- As a distance runner, you’ll likely be using the food in your keto pre workout meal during the activity. So, you can eat right before your activity starts. This applies to any event longer than 90 minutes.
- The average person isn’t going to be using the food in their stomach for a 60–90 minute workout. They will be using muscle glycogen and then burning stored fat.
3. You Feel Better If You have something in your stomach.
- Everyone has a preference. If your workouts are more intense when you have a bit of food in your stomach, by all means, have a pre workout meal.
- Keep it light and allow 60 minutes for most of your food to get to your small intestine for absorption.
4. You Are Trying to Bulk Up
- It is far easier to consume a calorie surplus on keto when you spread your meals apart in the day. That includes before your workout.
- Intermittent fasting and keto coffee will suppress hunger. You may not always want this.
Tips for Enjoying Your keto Pre Workout Meal
7 Great Foods for Your Keto Pre Workout Meal
- Protein-rich foods such as beef, chicken, fish, and tuna are great but require at least 1 hour to be useful. (Ideally 3 to 4 hours).
- Avocados – Contain potassium and are quickly digested.
- Green Leafy Vegetables – Contain potassium and are quickly digested.
- Eggs – Contain high amounts of leucine. Eat the yolk as well.
- Whey Protein – Is great for the leucine content.
- Broccoli – Easily digestible and may provide a few extra carbs for glycogen supply.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Boost pre workout digestion.
Awesome Keto Pre Workout Recipes|
7 Great Ingredients for Your Keto Pre Workout Drink
- Bullet Proof coffee with MCT Oil (MCTs are quick energy)
- Potassium Citrate
- Sodium (From Pink Salt or Sea Salt)
- Creatine for energy
- Beta Alanine for energy
- Exogenous Ketones may help boost protein synthesis [*]
- 5–10 Stevia drops for taste
Is Your Workout Performance Suffering?
You need 6 weeks to metabolic adaption…  Make sure you give yourself enough time.
If your performance in the gym is suffering, BCAAs and exogenous ketones may help restore that. I don’t necessarily think this NEEDED, but both of these supplements can give you a small edge. BCAAs are controversial with the keto diet (because of mid-workout insulin spikes), but I’ve personally noticed improvements in my own workouts when I’ve taken these. I take them occasionally.
Leucine that is found in BCAA supplements, is considered the main muscle-building amino acid. It has been proven to increase muscle growth. Insulin can also trigger muscle growth but since our insulin spikes are generally smaller on keto, the role that leucine plays in muscle growth is even more important. [*]
Good Natural Leucine Sources
Whey protein is by far the best source of leucine available. [*]
- Whey Protein
- Nuts (various kinds)
I want to point out that If your main goal is fat loss, then eating before a workout may not be the best thing for you. You are essentially preventing fat burning during your workout by spiking insulin. Insulin prevents fat from leaving the cell.
Planning Your Meals
When you eat in relation to your workout DOES make a difference. Different foods take different amounts of time to absorb into the bloodstream.
Sugar and carbohydrates are the quickest to consume. Sugar, in particular, is in the blood in less than 30 minutes. Then, you’re hungry again soon after…
Fats and proteins take much longer on average. Protein digestion takes at least an hour to start. We see amino acid levels in the blood peak around 4 hours after a meal. If you were to time it right, your pre-workout meal for keto would be 3 to 4 hours after eating protein. [*]
You don’t want to be in the gym with a full stomach where that food isn’t doing you any good. Your blood will be busy fueling your digestive system instead of your muscles. You may feel sluggish.
Benefits of Working Out Fasted
This is a rather new concept among the fitness community. It’s great for cutting body fat while building or maintaining muscle.
You may have heard about human growth hormone (HGH). It is an anabolic hormone that comes out during sleep and periods of low blood sugar. When we work out fasted, we have high levels of growth hormone. Not only does this hormone spare muscle tissue, but it also helps build it back up.
I would recommend fasted training for people heavily focused on fat loss and that are also keto adapted.
If you are in your first 2–3 weeks of keto, I would hold off on trying this. You don’t want your body breaking down your own muscle during your work out because it wants to make glucose.
Want to Learn More about Muscle and Protein?
Dr. Donald Layman from the University of Illinois did a talk on protein synthesis in 2013. If you are a nerd like me, I highly recommend it! He covers the role of leucine and the importance of protein quantities during meals. Dr. Layman has been involved in studies for the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” and is a big supporter of low carb eating habits.