Should Strength Athletes Be On The Keto Diet?

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Nutrition Blog

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the keto diet and its benefits. This high fat, low carbohydrate diet is said to promote fat burning and suppress appetite – in addition to other health benefits.

However, when it comes to fitness and strength training, carbohydrates have always been a go-to fuel source. By cutting this important energy source out of the diet, there are concerns that it could have detrimental effects on athlete health and performance.

So, Should Athletes Follow The Keto Diet?

As to be expected, there will be a decrease in performance as your body adapts to your new diet. The thing that you absolutely need to keep in mind is that strength training requires a calorie surplus, so eating enough protein and training regular should have the same effect.

The ketogenic diet, or keto diet, splits your daily macronutrients as follows:

  • Carbohydrates: 5-10%
  • Protein: 30-35%
  • Fat: 55-60%

How Does The Keto Diet Work?

The body utilises glucose as an energy source for muscles as well as the brain. This usually comes from carb-rich foods that store glycogen in the muscles and liver for use when the body needs it. When these sources are not available, the body goes into a fat-burning state. The body then breaks down the fat stores so that it can obtain energy from ketone bodies and triglycerides.

Ketones are acids that can break down fats, but in high levels can actually poison the body. The ketosis state is deemed to be safe as the ketone bodies are only produced in small quantities and have no effect on the body’s pH level.

The number of ketone bodies produced will depend on your metabolic rate, body fat and body weight. Most adults will be able to enter ketosis in three to four days. High-intensity exercises can help you to reach this state faster.

Foods Suitable For The Keto Diet

The keto diet cuts out sweets and carbohydrates and promotes the consumption of high-fat foods such as seeds, nuts, oils, eggs, butter, cheese, Greek yoghurt and meat. Low carb, high fibre vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, brussels sprouts and asparagus are also allowed.

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The Benefits Of The Keto Diet

The most commonly experienced health benefits include weight loss, appetite suppression, brain support and cholesterol management.

When the body enters the ketosis state, your insulin levels drop, which is beneficial to your blood sugar levels and preventing heart disease.

Concerns About The Keto Diet

While research is still underway, keto flu has been widely reported. This implies that common side effects of the keto diet include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and insomnia. During this time, it’s important to stay hydrated. Try to be patient and give your body time to adapt.

If you have a history of yoyo dieting, a history of eating disorders and that suffer from medical conditions should consult a doctor prior to attempting the keto diet.

At the end of the day, more research is needed to support the use of the keto diet amongst athletes. However, preliminary findings indicate that the keto diet can be a sufficient fuel source when it comes to strength training, as long as you have a caloric surplus.

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