Like many of my fellow athletes I too look for ways to improve my performance. For the last two years the hot topic of keto (short for ketogenic) diet keeps on popping up sparking endless debates... The allure of losing weight by switching your body from primarily burning carbohydrates to burning fat for fuel seems like a holy grail especially for endurance athletes. Your body naturally stores tens of thousands of calories in the form of fat, ready to be used for energy. No longer do you need to rely on replenishing your depleted glycogen reserves with carbohydrates such as gels, energy bars etc during your workouts and races, just burn away all the fat you are already carrying on you. That all just sounds so amazing! So, what's the catch?
This could be yet another fad diet or a true life-changer. So what does the science say? Well, according to the article in the Popular Science: Sorry, keto fans, you're probably not in ketosis it is extremely hard to get your body into a true ketosis state and the side-effects can compromise your long-term health. However, ketogenic diet has been successfully used since 1920s for treatment of epilepsy in children.
What about the performance benefits? After all some athletes don't mind getting an extra edge at any cost. This is one of many interesting topics that Alex Hutchinson (a competitive athlete and an editor for Outside Magazine) discusses in his wonderful book: Endure, Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. After doing his research on the subject he comes to a conclusion that for a low intensity endurance like hiking, the ketogenic diet may work. However, for competitive endurance training and racing the science shows no benefits and as the intensity of the effort increases, it actually shows a decline in performance.
These are the main takeaways for me on a keto diet. I haven't tried it, have you?