Why An OCR Athlete Should Steer Clear of The Keto Diet

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Why An OCR Athlete Should Steer Clear of The Keto Diet

Why An OCR Athlete Should Steer Clear of The Keto Diet

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  • June 5, 2017

The ketogenic diet is often more complicated than we are led to believe. Increasing fat in your diet doesn’t automatically make you more fat adapted, it goes much deeper than that.

To receive the benefits: 20% of your nutrional intake comes from protein (any more and your body may start converting certain amino acids to glucose and negating the ketogenic effect). For carbs you need to be at 5% or less. In some cases under 20 grams a day which can equal 1 serving of vegetables. Not to mention most fruit is out of the question. 75% of your diet comes from fat. Pouring olive oil, coconut oil and butter on nearly everything, while the rest of your diet consist primarily of avocados, egg yolks, nuts, coconut milk, and cheese.

It can take a few days to reach ketosis. Even a meal outside of these ranges can take you back to burning carbs for your primary energy source. Knowing that, if your body is so susceptible to come out of ketosis, that raises a red flag for me.

Ketosis is an adaptation and consist of a very complex biochemical pathway. Your body never has to adapt to using glucose as fuel, it quickly and efficiently metabolizes it. Yes, eating carbs in today's society can lead to an overabundance of junk calories that do not have a positive impact on your health. However, by eating more healthy carbs, you increase the likelihood that you cover all your nutrient needs and if you have the will power to get into ketosis you have the will power to eat less processed food and follow a healthier diet.

One of the main advantages of ketosis is the constant supply of energy to the brain. This makes a lot of sense because at one point we were are forced into starvation by scarcity of food. This adaptation of being in a ketogenic state kept us sharp and helped us find the next meal.

Better brain function sounds great, but we live in a world where the chances of maintaining this diet long term can be very difficult. Restaurant eating is almost out of the question. You will have to avoid most sauces, starchy vegetables and you only use oils and vinegar's for your dressings. Not to mention say goodbye to wine.

There should be no expected increase in actual body fat loss on a ketogenic diet over other diets unless it's in combination with increased exercise and better adherence. The initial weight loss is due to the reduction of stored glycogen and body water. As soon as you start eating carbs again you gain this weight back.

I recently had a lady who went ketogenic for a few months as well as practicing a 1 day a week water fast. When she came to see me she had already lost a significant amount of weight. After measuring her body composition through a 4 point bio-impedance test, her muscle mass was the lowest I've even seen for her body type. Less than the collection of typical results I see with people on a plant based diet, or the people who have never lifted a weight in their life. She did exercise, but not frequently and mostly walking. Yes, she lost weight but the majority came from muscle and minimal came from fat. Could this been avoided with more weight training and better tracking of actual protein intake? Maybe, but insulin which is affected by glucose is an anabolic hormone which helps builds tissue. With less insulin in the body especially post training this process becomes more difficult.

So far ketosis is not seen as having an advantage in weight loss over other diets. (1) (2) The best diet to lose weight is the diet you can stick to and is in combination with a strength and conditioning plan.

In terms of an endurance athlete, ketosis does not appear to be a great idea. Above 65% V02 max, the oxygen demand can be too high. World records have always been set by higher carbohydrate diets. Even if an ultra-runner claims to utilize a high fat diet, the likelihood that 75% of their intake comes from fat is unlikely. It's such a delicate process to measure. And when you need to eat, your body will eat. This type of eating may work for a couple well known bloggers; however, these guys are the furthest from endurance athletes, or for the few that are, we have not seen them on the podium at World Class events.

Ketone supplementation, which is a short cut to ketone production, has only been around for a short period time and has been primarily studied in rats. Right now, it doesn't appear to be superior in matching the power output of glycogen at higher intensity levels. (3)

We can teach our bodies to utilize more fat burning enzymes, but this takes years upon years of experience and fasted aerobic based runs in the off season.

In my opinion it's a sticky situation you are getting yourself in based on the absent long term research for athletes. Yes, good fat has good nutrients, but there is no reason why you can't get this out of adding more healthy fat to a balanced diet. If you don't want to do gels, eat some dates, or even have some dark chocolate covered raisins. Consuming these items during a run will not make you diabetic. Even going into the 100-200 gram carb range as a competitive athlete can be detrimental. Low carb and higher intensity exercise can possibly lead to lower testosterone and thyroid levels which will affect recovery and overall energy. (4) (5)

Trevor Cichosz who won The World's Toughest Mudder in 2016 was not following a ketogenic diet per say in 2015, however he was following a lower carbohydrate diet with more protein. By adding more carbs in his diet for 2016 he saw an increase in his performance, and obviously, it paid off for him being one of the first guys to hit the 100-mile mark.

With protein and fat, as long as you are arming yourself with quality, a little goes a long way. It's better to find your minimal effect dosage.

Keto is a buzz topic now. I'm sure as time goes on we will see less and less of it. Then like magic it'll appear again. If someone tries to get you on a auto-ship for ketones that they claim is going to help you lose weight and perform better, I'd save you money for real food.

By all means if you like experimenting, do it in the off season.

I wrote this article to help the general public understand the concept better. I hear a lot of people throwing around this idea on the internet and I feel its created more confusion and harm than good.

So, bring back that bowl of pasta, just make sure to combine it with a variety of vegetables, fruits, and enough god fat and quality protein.

(1) http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1900510





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Josh Stryde B.Kin (Hons), CSNN Holistic Nutrition Consultantâ„¢, Precision Nutrition Level 1, PTS

Josh has been working and educating in the fitness Industry for over 10 years. He has seen his greatest success by arming his clients with knowledge and allowing them to active role when working towards their goals. Without knowing why you are eating the way you are eating, or why you are following a particular workout routine it becomes difficult to stay consistent.

Spartan Team Canada 2017
Team PVL 2017/2018
20+ OCR podium finishes


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