Can a ketogenic diet be harmful for athletes?
As anyone with Facebook knows, ketogenic diets are currently everywhere. In fact, just yesterday I wrote an article on the pros and cons of the keto diet. And I would be remiss if I didn’t state once again, that I think fad diets are a short term solution to a long term problem, and a much better course of action is to permanently change your diet over time. That being said, many people are trying the keto diet lately, so it got me wondering about whether or not cutting carbs is safe for athletes.
Before we delve into that, you should understand how the keto diet actually works. Basically, the body normally creates energy from glucose, which we derive from carbohydrates. When you cut those carbs, the body has to find an alternate source of energy, so it goes after stored fat, breaks it down, turns it into ketones, and burns those ketones for energy.
Since energy is the most important thing for any athlete, you have to wonder whether ketones work as well as glucose, in terms of good energy sources.
READ MORE: Pros and Cons of the Keto Diet
The idea behind it seems solid, since you would think that burning stored fat instead of glucose would be an ideal situation for everyone. The truth however, is not so simple.
Even though ketones work as an energy source, they aren’t as effective as glucose and carbs. And technically, your body is in starvation mode during ketosis, so if you are trying to win a game, being in starvation mode probably isn’t going to help your odds. Also, going keto adds stress to your body, and as any athlete knows, the idea with athletics is to reduce the amount of stressors in your life and focus on the game.
That being said, there is one more option; ketone supplements. Taking a ketone supplement combined with normal carbohydrates can potentially improve performance in aerobic sports.
So if you are considering adding ketone supplements to your diet, I encourage you to do more research before you pull the trigger. Make sure that your particular sport would benefit from the extra endurance provided by ketones.
Overall however, the keto diet is not something I would recommend for athletes.