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Low carb ketogenic diet makes athletes lose 5 kilos while maintaining performance

Endurance athletes who have a race ahead, but would like to appear a few pounds lighter at the start, may consider taking a low-carbohydrate diet for a few months. Such a diet, unlike you might expect, will not be at the expense of performance - and will lower your fat percentage by 5 points. This is shown by an Irish study published in Metabolism.

Irish sports scientists at the Waterford Institute of Technology divided 20 male endurance athletes into 2 groups. One group followed a standard diet [HC] for 12 weeks; 65 percent of the energy came from carbohydrates, 20 percent from fat and 15 percent from protein. The other group followed a low-carbohydrate diet [LCKD]; 6 percent of the energy came from carbohydrates, 77 percent from fat and 17 percent from protein.

Before and after the 12 weeks, the athletes had to cycle a distance of 100 kilometers.

The respiratory exchange ratio [RER] during the 100K was lower after 12 weeks of low-carbohydrate diet. This means that the subjects burned more fat.

Low carb ketogenic diet makes athletes lose 5 kilos while maintaining performance

Low carb ketogenic diet makes athletes lose 5 kilos while maintaining performance

After 12 weeks the subjects in the low-carbohydrate group had lost 5 kilograms, and their fat percentage had decreased by just over 5 points. Those effects were statistically significant. The low-carbohydrate diet also seemed to make the athletes a little faster, but that effect was not significant.

But still: if you look at the effects of the low-carbohydrate diet at the times of the individual athletes, then you see that there were a few best responders. In those athletes, the low carb diet maybe did improve the performance...

Low carb ketogenic diet makes athletes lose 5 kilos while maintaining performance

"In summary, a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet may benefit some athletes, particularity those who struggle with maintaining competitive race weight", the researchers wrote. "Adaptation to a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet for 12 weeks did not negate measures of performance relevant to endurance athletes, and caused more favourable adaptations to take place in some individuals."

"Thus, implementation or avoidance of this dietary protocol should be based on an individual's own dietary preference."

"Despite the concept of keto-adaption being over 30 years old, we are still in the early stages of understanding this dietary paradigm. The finding that 12-weeks of ketoadaptation improved aerobic and anaerobic exercise capacity, as well as body composition, in endurance athletes most certainly implies there is potential for using low carbohydrate ketogenic diet to improve performance and metabolism."

"In striving for a more individualistic approach to dietary prescription, keto-adaptation is one approach worth considering."

Metabolism. 2017 Dec 5. pii: S0026-0495(17)30328-1.

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