As the keto-craze continues, chances are you’ve heard one of your friends talk about their ventures into running on keto. Thanks to studies that have shown the ketogenic diet effectiveness at achieving weight loss, it’s become a hot commodity for athletes1, as well. A lot of runners aren’t sure whether it’s for them though, and experts do admit that more research needs to be done. However, if running on keto sounds appealing, here are some things you should know.
There’s a Science to Running on Keto
One study2 followed five endurance athletes for a 10-week ketogenic diet period. During those 10 weeks, each of the athletes showed marked improvement in their body composition and their overall well-being. However, they saw no improvement in their running performance. Rather, they actually experienced decreased energy, and their ability to tackle high-intensity training was measurably decreased.
Lizzie Kasparek, a registered sports dietician with the Sanford Sports Science Institute doesn’t believe this is an accurate measure of the diet’s success though. “There isn’t a lot of good research that shows people can perform better, and that’s what runners really care about.” She believes that one reason their performance showed no improvement was due to a lack of ketone measurement.
Ketones Might be the Key
Many people who embark on a ketogenic diet never test their ketones, so it’s possible that they may simply not be in a true state of ketosis. Kenneth Ford, Ph.D., director, and CEO of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition agrees that ketones might be the underlying issue. He says, “Being in ketosis does not imply reduced muscle glycogen levels. Over time, the keto-adapted athlete improves his or her ability to burn fat for fuel and still have glycogen available.”
For those experiencing negative results, the athletes are likely not sufficiently fat-adapted – a process which can take several months to achieve. When done right, the keto diet can boost the overall performance of runners – and those who run long distances (like ultrarunners) will likely see the most success. This is because when you hit the longer distances, your body inevitably starts tapping into its fat stores as an energy reserve.
So, is Keto for You?
When done right, keto could be a great option for all athletes. However, long-distance runners who need those fat reserves will likely see the best results over time. To become a properly fat-adapted athlete, you need to measure your ketones to ensure your body has reached a true state of ketosis.
That being said, if your focus is on short, high-intensity workouts at faster paces, carbs might still be in the cards for you. Start by eliminating processed foods and focusing on a clean, healthy diet first and foremost.
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