By Jared Boynton
Ketosis, or “keto”, is the big thing right now. The dieting hemispheres go through different phases – low fat, carb cycling, ketosis, a plethora of cleanses, “gluten-free” – and at the moment, ketosis seems to be the king of the crop in fitness circles. BHB salts (ketone salts) are huge in the supplement game right now as well, with companies such as Granite Supplements, Giant Sports, and MPA Supps all coming out with and industry-leading and innovative ketone salt supplements to assist with getting you into and maintaining a ketogenic state.
That being said, there are a few things that need to be addressed.
Ketosis is Not Necessarily Conducive to High-Intensity Performance
As an athlete, when one weighs the cons and pros of hopping head-first into keto, one must factor in the diet’s performance impact. A 2014 study of cyclists aged 28-32 years, who competed in off-road cycling with a training experience of at least 5 years and a minimal VO2max of 55 mL/kg/min, led to a simple conclusion.
Though ketosis did indeed increase long-term endurance (based upon sessions that lasted roughly two hours), it also drastically decreased short-term high intensity performance. The ketosis-tuned (keto-adapated) athletes also experienced a significantly lower level of muscle damage from lactic acid, leading to more rapid recovery between sessions.
Each athlete must consider their performance goals – strength and explosiveness athletes would be better of utilizing a traditional dieting method that incorporates an adequate amount of carbohydrates, while endurance athletes would fare quite favorably when utilizing a ketogenic approach to dieting.
Your Diet May Not Be Keto
Carbohydrate-restricted dieting on its own is not conducive to ketosis; a “bodybuilder keto” diet, which supplies ample protein and fats while putting a very restrictive cap on carbohydrate intake, will never adapt your metabolism to tap into lipid stores to generate ketones. The underlying factor in this scenario is gluconeogenesis, a metabolic process that allow the body to convert amino acids (from protein intake) into glucose. If protein intake remains high, your body will simply translate that protein into simple carbohydrates for fuel, and the “metabolic switch” that forces your body to employ ketones as fuel will never be tripped.
A true ketogenic diet’s requirements differ from individual to individual, but as a rule of thumb, protein intake should never exceed 20% of your total caloric intake. As expected, carbohydrates should remain muted as well, with no more than 5-7% of your calories coming from carbs. The remainder of your calories should come from fats – butters, oils, avocados, egg yolks. Unfortunately, this leaves individuals with a fairly stunted list of foods that are suitable for a ketogenic diet.
Ketosis Has No Advantage in Regards to Body Composition
The main driving factor behind adopting a ketogenic diet, for most individuals, is the assumption that it will assist in recomposition or muscle preservation.
Another 2014 study of twenty-six college-aged, resistance trained men showed that ketosis, on its own, had no impact whatsoever on hypertrophy or muscle retention. On the contrary, a cyclical ketogenic diet (carb cycling, in which one would have a carb-laden feeding period once a week) showed favorable increases in both muscle mass and fat loss. Ultrasound scans determined that muscle mass increased to a greater extent in the CKD (cyclical ketogenic diet) group (0.25cm) as compared to the traditional western group (roughly 0cm, inconsequential). Fat mass decreased to a greater extent in the CKD group (1kg) as compared to the (0 kg, inconsequential).
With that in mind, ketosis is not advantageous to any gaining a step up in body composition. A cyclical ketogenic diet, on the other hand, could be quite conducive to doing so.
It it worth it?
Ultimately, the efficacy of a diet on paper is worth naught if you can’t follow it; and a true ketogenic diet is about as difficult to adhere to as it gets. Even with the overabundance of ingenious “keto-friendly” recipes available online, you still have to fit them into the inflexible macronutrient guidelines, rendering the majority of them fairly useless.
Ultimately, it’s down to YOU. Though ketosis may not be the best diet route for many, some find the increased endurance, mental clarity, and steady energy levels to be more than enough value to justify it. Weigh the pros and cons, give it a try, and see if it works for you – there’s certainly no harm in trying.
Jared Boynton holds a degree in Biochemistry from the University of Tennessee, and is an internet-based performance and conditioning coach and the owner of Genomax Performance Coaching. His experience has been accrued through years of real-world implementation with both his own physique and the physiques of numerous clients. You can contact Jared via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his website, www.GenomaxCoaching.com.
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