Does Keto Diet Burn Muscle?

People are worried of burning muscles while starting and maintaining a ketogenic diet. That’s a very valid concern as keto diet is super efficient at burning fat cells. But does keto diet burn muscle? There are multiples possible causes for losing muscle mass and some diets based on caloric restriction might indeed cause that but that’s not the case for the keto diet.

Table of Contents

Loss of muscle mass due to our lifestyle

Losing muscle mass is a natural process as we age. It occurs for everybody whatever physical condition they are in.

But this process happens slowly over the years. We shouldn’t notice muscle loss on a day by day basis or even a month by month basis.

Changes in your lifestyle is the most common non-pathological cause of muscle loss. As mentioned this occurs naturally as we age.

As we age we naturally lose muscle

A lot of people experience a decrease in activity as their life goes more busy. During our school years and college years we practice a lot of physical activity on a regular basis: football, soccer, hockey, swimming, running, etc. you name it. We all love this period of our life with intense physical activity.

When we start our carrier we decrease our physical activity

It is very common for people who go into their professional life to decrease their level of physical activity. More time is required to commute to your job.

Also we tend to spend long hours at our workplace. When we start our carrier we need to prove ourselves.

And as our carrier progresses we still need to maintain the quality and quantity of our work to satisfy the expectations placed on us. All in all that doesn’t play well for keeping a good level of physical activity.

Starting a family make it harder to exercise

Another big drop in physical activity happens when we have our first newborn and become parents. That’s really one of the greatest joy in life, that’s for sure!

But babies need to be well taken care of and our natural love toward them will make sure of that. To the detriment of our physical activity once again.

Pathological losses of muscle

There can be several pathologies that cause you to lose muscles and which are not due to your lifestyle:

  • Malnutrition: if your diet is extremely bad and your eating habits are terrible you can experience muscle loss.
  • Infections: if you are sick with an infectious disease for an extended period of time, that can cause muscle loss.
  • Prescription drugs: some drugs can have side effects that cause muscle loss.
  • Genetic conditions: some fortunately uncommon genetic conditions can cause muscle loss.
  • Depression: people suffering of depression often relate a loss of interest for eating properly that results in muscle loss.
  • Drug abuse: drug abuse cause all sort of psychological and mental pathologies that can result in muscle loss.
  • HIV: AIDS is a disease that attacks your immune system and weakens your whole body and your muscles.

If you suspect your are experience one of the pathological losses of muscle mentioned above you should consult your physicist. She will be able to help you and take care of you.

Ketogenesis burn cells in your body

Any type of calorie restriction diet is going to result in loosing cells in your body, mainly fat cells but also a small amount of muscle cells. That’s inevitable.

But a keto diet consists of 70 to 80 percent of fat. This results in plenty of fat cells for your body to burn to source energy. The rest of your keto diet should consist of 15 to 20 percent of protein, and 5 to 10 percent of carbs. As long as you follow these indications your body keeps having plenty of fat to burn.

A research study even found that low-carb diets protect muscle loss during caloric restriction if the diet contains a sufficient amount of proteins which is clearly the case for keto diet[4].


The main causes for muscle loss throughout the life are lifestyle causes such as aging and sedentariness. Beyond those main causes some pathological causes may occur which should be followed by a physicist.

So, does keto diet burn muscle? While you’re following a keto diet some muscle loss will naturally occur but if you follow the guidelines of this type of diet, i.e. eating at least 70% of fats throughout your day, your body will have plenty of fat cells to burn instead of muscle cells.


[1] Age-related and disease-related muscle loss: The effect of diabetes, obesity, and other diseases. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2014;2(10):819-829.

[2] The effects of resistance training with or without peanut protein supplementation on skeletal muscle and strength adaptations in older individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2020; 17: 66. 

[3] Whey Protein Drink Ingestion before Breakfast Suppressed Energy Intake at Breakfast and Lunch, but Not during Dinner, and Was Less Suppressed in Healthy Older than Younger Men. Nutrients. 2020 Nov; 12(11): 3318.

[4] Very-low-carbohydrate diets and preservation of muscle mass. Nutr Metab. 2006; 3: 9.

Comments are closed.