In our latest blog post, NK Fitness Sports Nutritionist Becky discusses the ketogenic diet. If you would like to discuss how nutritional support could help you then feel free to contact us or browse our sports nutrition page.
What is a ketogenic diet?
Ketogenic diets are becoming increasingly popular on social media platforms. But what is keto? Ketogenic diets are diets very low in carbohydrates but high in both fat and protein. For the last 50 years we’ve viewed carbohydrates as the main fuel for sports performance. However, more recent research has been carried out into the effects of a low carbohydrate intake on performance. Scientist McSwiney and colleagues found that keto-adaptation diets may enhance exercise performance. Furthermore, the keto diet was comparable to a traditional carbohydrate based diet. This study might suggest that ketogenic diets can give sufficient fuel for athletes.
It may get even better! Other research studies have shown improved fat burning on ketogenic diets. One word of caution though – they didn’t find any impact of this on sports performance. So it may amount to nothing in real terms!
Ketogenic diet all the way?
Findings from studies on ketogenic diets have been extensively reviewed by expert nutritionists. Caution must be exercised when looking at these studies. Its argued that in some of the studies athletes lost concentration and lacked focus. This is put down to the fact that their diets were low in carbohydrate. Low carbohydrate diets may be unsuitable for endurance athletes and have been associated with reduced sports performance. Endurance athletes have been seen to dehydrate at a faster rate in some ketogenic diet studies.
So is keto the way forward for athletes? Based on these findings and current knowledge, it remains unclear. There isn’t enough evidence that ketogenic diets can fuel athletic performance. Keto diets may be useful for short periods of fat loss. As it currently stands athletes should not cut carbohydrates out of their diet. Instead we see them as being highly important for energy stores for training and performance.