This diet is so popular these days, especially for those looking for weight loss. It is a high fat, moderate protein and low [and I mean VERY low] carbohydrate diet. And there are many variations to this diet including intermittent fasting [don’t worry, that will get its own blog :)] and high protein keto diet. Now Healthline breaks down the various types of this diet, mainly focusing on the standard version. But as we are athletes, let’s focus on high-protein and targeted ketogenic diets.
Name of diet:
1. High-Protein Ketogenic Diet breaks down to about 60% fat, 35% protein and tiny 5% carbohydrates.
What does that mean though?
Female runner who weighs 125 pounds wants to go on this diet. Here’s the breakdown:
133 grams of fat, 175 grams of protein, 25 grams of carbs
2. Targeted Ketogenic diet is when carbs are added around workouts.
This can be addition of no more than 50 grams ADDITIONAL carbs
What “problem” does the diet solve?
Weight loss, diabetes, acne, and epilepsy. But how?? Well, Keto stands for ketosis, which is when our body goes into a metabolic state replacing fuel that is normally is from carbs, now coming from fat. Our bodies become efficient in burning fat, not carbs, which is normally what our bodies use as fuel.
What does the diet consist of?
Lots and lots of fat.
Break it down: Fat/Protein/Carbohydrate.
So a balanced diet is typically this breakdown 20/20/60. Here’s a Keto diet: 90/6/4. This means you eat lots of seafood, low carbohydrate vegetables, cheese, avocados, meat and poultry, eggs, dairy and coconut oil.
What does the diet eliminate/restrict?
No sugar and starch! No fruit. No grains. No sweets. No beans. No root vegetables. Little to no condiments. No processed oils. No alcohol. And no being sneaky with sugar-free diet foods. So no sports gels or chews. No sports drinks.
Is there research behind diet?
For certain conditions like epilepsy, lots of research shows benefit of using the ketogenic diet to reduce seizures. And fun fact, this diet was created for brain diseases, but now is showing benefits in assisting those with diabetes, improving insulin sensitivity. One study found that those who followed a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on low-fat, calorie-restricted diet. Another study found that about 95% of participants on a ketogenic diet were able to discontinue their medications, compared to those in a higher-carb group.
Is it beneficial for endurance athletes?
Well, endurance sports are characterized by low intensity competitions, thus utilizing fat as a fuel is how our body fuels when the glycogen runs out (after that 60 minutes). BUT for those same athletes, they do high-intensity workouts/competitions [5ks, speed work] then a Ketogenic diet can actually decrease their performance. They could see decreases in performance as high as 15% according to a study done by St. Louis University.
So my recommendation:
Do not start a Ketogenic diet if you are an endurance athlete.
Healthline: Beginners Guide to Ketogenic Diet 101 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-101
Brehm BJ. A randomized trial comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12679447
The Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies
Westman, EC. The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633336/
Low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet impairs anaerobic exercise performance in exercise-trained women and men: a randomized-sequence crossover trial