Why you're losing muscle on keto

One of the common complaints I hear about the ketogenic diet, is the experience of muscle loss. Now, for some it may not be noticeable, mostly because not everyone is interested in exercise, and body re-composition, they just want to lose the weight. But for those who are interested in gaining or maintaining their muscle mass, for some there's substantial muscle loss when being on this diet.

Why does this happen?

Now I've heard a couple of explanations of why this is, such as:

  • losing the weight too fast
  • not getting enough protein
  • or even mistaking some of the water retention for muscle mass, and obviously when you cut down on carbs so much, you lose a lot of water in the body

And all of these explanations might be valid, but another reason for this muscle loss is perhaps not having enough proteolytic enzymes through the ketogenic diet.

Proteases are digestive enzymes that help break down protein into amino acids and peptides, which are then transported to all the right places for muscle growth and repair. They are also essential for recycling damaged or bad proteins in the body.

If you have a gut dysbiosis, then your body is not performing this process efficiently. This could also explain why some people are having more trouble building muscle than others. In fact there are several studies that show that certain bacteria in the gut microbiota can prevent sarcopenia and cachexia, enhance muscle repair and growth, and even enhance muscle endurance, so for instance, your gut's health can affect your workout performance in a hypertrophy program like the German Volume Training.

How to prevent muscle loss and enhance muscle growth

Now even though your pancreas does produce some digestive enzymes, sometimes that's not enough, so it can help to get a variety of them from food. One of the food groups that are abundant in digestive enzymes, including proteases, is fruit. And not just kiwis either. Kiwi fruits, especially the green ones, are very effective for protein digestion through a protease called actinidin. But other fruits, including papaya, pineapple, grapes, mangoes, figs, etc also contain proteolytic enzymes. Honey is a full package of digestive enzymes that helps digest and process all the 3 macronutrients: carbs, fat AND protein.

Due to the restrictive nature of keto, most avoid fruit entirely, or just stick to a small quantity of low carb fruit like berries. But berries do not contain proteolytic enzymes. Many keto influencers will conveniently suggest that you buy and consume their supplements when you are on keto, some of which may include digestive enzymes, but my personal experience suggests that supplements don't have the same efficacy as getting it from real foods.

Fruit while being a diabetic or insulin resistant

Some of you may be asking, well what about those of us who are insulin resistant, or are type 2 diabetic? Well, I reversed my prediabetes and insulin resistance years ago while still enjoying as much fruit as I wanted. The full details of how I did that is for another day and another article / video, but for now, here's how you can safely eat fruit if you are insulin resistant or type 2 diabetic:

  • Stick to low or moderate consumption, like if you want to have kiwis, have 2 of them a day, or if you want grapes or papaya, you can have one small cup of those every day. Think of it as 10% or 20% tops of your total food intake.
  • Have them with your fats and proteins. Having them with your main meal, will reduce the glycemic effect of the fruit.
  • Incorporate intermittent fasting. Adopting one meal a day (OMAD) will help reduce the sugar spikes and elevated insulin levels that come right after you eat, as well as keep your levels stable throughout the day.
  • Build muscle. Having a good amount of muscle mass reduces insulin resistance and so as a consistent workout regimen.
  • Avoid the simple carbs and junk food. Many benefits that come from the ketogenic diet are simply due to cutting out ultra-processed carbs and sugars. Fresh fruits don't have the same effect in insulin and blood sugar as a donut, so there's no real need to cut such nutritious foods out of your diet.
  • And lastly, take good care of your gut microbiome.


If you're experiencing muscle loss with keto, then try a different approach to your diet. Fruit aids in preventing muscle wasting or loss, such as with sarcopenia or cachexia, but it also helps greatly in muscle repair, growth, and protein recycling.




I am NOT a doctor, personal trainer, registered dietician, nutritionist, athlete, influencer, nor at the end of my fitness journey. The content of this blog is based on what worked for me and is for informational purposes only, not a replacement for medical advice from a professional. Furthermore, we and our bodies are unique, so everybody is different. My results may not reflect your own. Any action you take upon the information provided by ZenGainz is strictly at your own risk.

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