Whether you’re an elite athlete or a Joe-Schmo gym-goer, you’ve likely wondered whether you can boost your performance with a keto diet. Although researchers haven’t yet confirmed the benefits of a low-carb, high-fat diet for all physical activity, you’d do well to go keto for certain types of exercise.
What you may not have considered is that exercise actually enhances keto. Find out how to take advantage of the relationship between ketosis and physical performance so you can look, act, and feel like a champ.
Should you go keto? It depends how you move
High-intensity exercise that requires quick bursts of energy, such as sprints, may be better powered by glucose. However, long, low-intensity workouts can easily get their kick from ketones.
In fact, Inuits and hunters have crossed great expanses in cold temperatures subsisting on nothing but animal fat and flesh. So if you’re an ultra-runner or other endurance athlete, keto can absolutely go the distance.
On the other hand, if you’re an average gal or guy who’s committed to regular low-intensity exercise for improving your health and appearance, a keto diet is right for you too.
Understanding the process of ketosis
When you eat a standard American diet, or any diet that includes carbohydrates, your body breaks those carbs down into sugar, or glucose, during digestion.
Your body stores some of this newly mined glucose in your cells and the rest, in the form of glycogen, in your liver and muscles. If you’re diabetic, extra sugar may float through your bloodstream.
When you switch to a low-carb diet or no-carb diet, your body turns to glycogen for the energy it’s no longer getting from your food. When your glycogen reserves begin to diminish, insulin levels decrease. This triggers the release of fatty acids from your body fat.
That’s when the good stuff happens: Your body goes into ketosis and burns fat instead.
How ketosis relates to physical performance
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which ketone bodies, or ketones, are present in high quantities in the body. When no carbohydrates are available to run on, your body must turn to fat for energy. When fat breaks down, it forms ketones, which provide energy as an alternative to glucose or glycogen.
Clearly, minimizing or eliminating carbs from your diet is the most obvious way of initiating ketosis. The sweet secret is that there are other ways to stimulate ketosis.
Consuming coconut oil and other healthy fats also increases ketone levels. As does fasting. You can even ingest ketones in the form of specific nutritional supplements, such as BHB salts.
But the real surprise is that physical activity helps bring on ketosis. That’s because exercise depletes glycogen.
If you sit down to a mainstream post-workout meal, the newly ingested carbs negate that glycogen depletion. But when you’re on a keto diet, your body has no glucose available to convert into glycogen. Hence, your liver cranks out ketones.
It’s a win-win cycle that helps you snowball into shape. Get your body into ketosis and improve your physical performance. Get active more often and enhance the ketosis.
One caveat: the waiting period
So in general, you know that achieving ketosis can help you achieve certain fitness goals. However, there’s one more thing you need to keep in mind.
It takes a few weeks for your body to convert from sugar-burning to fat-burning mode after you start cutting carbs. During this changeover, your physical performance may decrease.
So although you’re eating low-carb, don’t assume you’ll instantly reap the performance benefits of ketosis. The process varies from person to person, but ketosis is usually achieved within one week to one month.
Of course, as you learned earlier, you can shorten the waiting period by adding coconut oil and keto-friendly supplements. Keto1 made by Vaxxen Labs contains the patented GoBHB ketone body and is easy to include in your daily regimen.
A keto diet can improve your physical performance if you’re an ultra-endurance athlete or an everyday exerciser. If you play stop–start sports or need fast energy, you may or may not see enhanced results from a ketogenic eating plan.
If you’re looking to perform better and lose weight, it’s worth trying a keto diet. And remember that exercise helps bring on ketosis. Just give your body time to transition into the ketotic state, and give yourself a boost if you want to get there sooner.