Ketogenic and low-carb diets ahave been around for quite a while, and these share similarities with paleolithic diets. Studies have shown that lower-carb diets can help you lose weight and improve various health markers. On the other hand, the evidence on muscle growth, performance and strength is mixed. This report takes a thorough look in low-carb/ketogenic diets and physical performance.
Low-Carb and the Ketogenic Diet
The tips for a low-carb diet change between studies. According to research, low-carb is generally classified as less than 30 percent of calories from carbohydrates. Most typical low-carb diets consist of 50 to 150 g of carbohydrates each day, a high amount of protein and also a moderate-to-high fat intake. Yet for some athletes, “low-carb” can still mean over 200 grams of carbs every day.
By comparison, a well-formulated ketogenic diet is more restrictive, usually consisting of just 30 to 50 grams of carbs every day, together with a very high fat intake. This exceptionally low carb intake makes it possible to reach ketosis, a process where ketones and fat eventually become the main sources of energy for the human body and brain.
There are several variations of the ketogenic diet, including:
- Standard ketogenic diet: This is an extremely low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs (8).
- Cyclical ketogenic diet: This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
- Targeted ketogenic diet: This diet allows you to add carbs, usually around periods of intense exercise or workouts.
An alternate strategy is cycling, in which high-carb intervals or refeeds are included in a low carb or ketogenic diet.
Low-Carb Diets and Fat Adaptation
Throughout a low-carb or ketogenic diet, the body becomes more efficient at using fat as fuel, a process known as adaptation that is fat. The drastic reduction in carbs causes an increase in ketones, which are produced in the liver from fatty acids. Ketones can offer energy in the absence of carbs, during a prolonged fast, during lengthy exercise periods or for people with uncontrolled type 1 diabetes.
The brain can also be partly fueled by ketones. The remaining energy is offered by gluconeogenesis, a process where the body breaks down proteins and fats, converting them to carbs (sugar). Ketones and ketogenic diets can have valuable properties and benefits for people. They’re even being used to treat diabetes, neurological diseases, cancer and risk factors for respiratory and heart ailments.
The fat adaptation on a diet can be quite powerful. One recent research in ultra-endurance athletes discovered that a ketogenic group burnt up to 2.3 times more fat at a 3-hour exercise session. Yet although low-carb and ketogenic diets provide many health benefits, there is a continuous debate about how these diets affect exercise performance.
Low-Carb Diets and Muscle Glycogen
Dietary carbs are broken down into glucose, which turns to blood sugar and provides the most important fuel for moderate and high-intensity exercise. For several decades, research has repeatedly shown that eating carbs can assist with exercise performance, particularly endurance exercise.
Unfortunately, the human body can only store enough carbohydrates (glycogen) for about two hours of exercise. After this moment, tiredness, fatigue and decreased operation may occur. This is known as “hitting the wall” or “bonking”. To counter this, most endurance athletes now have a high-carb diet, “carb up” the day before a race and consume carbohydrate food or supplements through workout. However, low-carb diets do not have a lot of carbs, and therefore don’t help maximize the reserves of glycogen.
Low-Carb Diets and Endurance Performance
Research was done on the use of fat as fuel in athletics functionality. During exercise, fat supplies energy at lower intensities and carbs provide more energy at higher intensities. This is known as the “crossover effect.
Lately, researchers wanted to determine if a low-carb diet could alter this effect. Their research found that athletes burned fat at up to 70 percent of max intensity, versus just 55 percent in the high-carb athletes. In fact, the ketogenic athletes in this study burned off the most fat ever recorded in a study setting.
Yet despite these positive findings, fat may not be able to create energy fast enough to satisfy the needs of the muscles of elite athletes. Before any firm recommendations can be made, further research is necessary in an athletic population.
Studies have found that diets can help prevent fatigue during prolonged exercise. They may also help you to lose fat and improve health, without compromising low-to-moderate intensity exercise performance. What’s more, these diets may instruct your body to burn more fat, which may help you maintain muscle glycogen during exercise.
How Carbs Affect Muscle Growth
As of this moment, no study has shown that diets are better for power-based or high-intensity, strength sports. This is because carbs aid muscle development and high-intensity workout performance in several ways:
- Promote recovery: Carbs may help with recovery following exercise.
- Produce insulin: Carbs additionally produce insulin, which helps with nutrient delivery and absorption.
- Supply gas: Carbs play an important part in the anaerobic and ATP energy programs, which are the primary fuel sources for high-intensity exercise.
- Reduce muscle dysfunction: Carbs and insulin help decrease muscle breakdown, which might boost net protein balance.
- Improve neural drive: Carbs additionally improve nerve drive, resistance to fatigue and psychological concentration during exercise.
But this does not mean your diet has to be high in carbohydrates. A moderate-carb or carbohydrate cycling diet may work well for most sports. In fact, a moderate-carb, higher-protein diet appears to be ideal for muscle growth and body makeup for folks that are lean and active.
Studies on Low-Carb Diets for Athletes
Many studies have looked into the effects of diets on endurance exercise. But they’ve provided mixed results. One study found no distinction between the groups for high-intensity sprints. Yet the ketogenic group did get less tired during high-intensity cycling, which is likely because the entire body used more fat for fuel.
Other studies have shown that individuals on low carb diets may spare muscle glycogen and utilize more fat as fuel, which could be helpful for ultra-endurance athletics. Nevertheless, these findings have less significance for athletes performing high-intensity exercise or workouts of less than 2 hours.
The research can be blended in obese people, with some studies showing benefits in lower-intensity aerobic exercise, while others show a negative effect. A number of studies have found that individual response might vary. As an example, one study found that some athletes achieved better endurance functionality, while others experienced drastic decreases.
At the time, the research does not demonstrate that sports performance that is high-intensity cans improve, in comparison with a diet. However for lower-intensity exercise, a low-carb diet can match a traditional high-carb diet plan and also assist you to utilize more fat as fuel.
Are There Any Extra Benefits For Athletes?
One beneficial part of a low-carb or ketogenic diet is that it teaches the body to burn fat as fuel. For endurance athletes, research has shown that this can help maintain glycogen stores and prevent you from “hitting the wall” during endurance exercises.
This helps you rely during a rush, which might be important for athletes who fight to digest and eat carbohydrates during exercise. It may also be valuable during ultra-endurance occasions in which access to food is limited.
Furthermore, several studies have proven that low-fat and ketogenic diets can help people lose weight and enhance overall health. Fat reduction may also enhance your fat to muscle ratio, which is very essential for workout performance, especially in weight-dependent athletics. Exercising with low glycogen stores has also become a favorite practice technique, known as “train low, compete high”.
This can enhance fat utilization, mitochondria function and enzyme activity, which have a beneficial function in health and exercise performance. For this reason, following a low-carb diet for a short time period, such as during an “off season”, may help long-term performance and health.
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By Dr. Alex Jimenez
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