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Is the ketogenic diet a useful strategy to follow in competition or training?

We asked our endurance nutrition professional Dr. Felicina Biorci who offers us a scientific analysis of its usefulness explaining why it is not recommended in endurance competitions and in prolonged training sessions with high effort.

The Ketogenic Diet is a diet that limits carbohydrates to a maximum of ~ 50 g of total daily energy, while keeping proteins moderate (1.2-1.5 g / kg of body weight), with the remaining portion of energy deriving from fat. So FAT 60-80%, PROTEIN 20-30%, CARBOHYDRATES 5-10%.

The body is thus forced to use its own stores of fat as fuel.

The advantages therefore appear to be:

  • in terms of body composition, fat loss
  • in terms of performance, the saving of muscle glycogen

Do we turn them on? Only halfway.

The loss of fat is confirmed, but with evidence similar to that of diets that have the same amount of protein and few carbohydrates, without having to reach levels of carbohydrates almost non-existent as the ketogenic diet imposes.

So similar results, with less suffering.

In terms of performance, the use of fats as fuel induces an increase in oxidative processes, with an improvement in mitochondrial function. + the mitochondria are functioning, + the athlete is efficient. So the advantage is important. BUT the metabolic demands of sports performance often include high intensity efforts equal to or greater than the anaerobic threshold, for the maintenance of which carbohydrates are required; without carbo there is a risk of limiting the functionality of fast fibers.

In summary, the ketogenic diet can be useful for stimulating weight loss and mitochondrial function in low intensity training sessions for long periods of time.

So ok for a controlled training scheme. Not to be applaied in a nutrition competition scheme.

Have a look at our Racing Nutrition Plans: HERE

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Cristina Tasselli

Digital Strategic Marketing Director - certified Innovation Manager - in multinational companies, she is still today the only Italian female athlete to have ran 900 km and 55,000m D+ in the mountains in a single stage race (Transpyrenea 2016, 3rd women overall). She counts numerous Podiums and international Victories on races over 100k. She holds a SNaQ CONI certification as a Trail Running Coach, Athletic Trainer and in Nutrition and Sports Supplementation. Since 2014 she is President and sports executive of innovative technology startups and companies, including Trail Running Movement and Digital Sport 360. She trains elite trail running athletes and she teaches in trail running coach certification courses. She is an author of sports articles on training, nutrition and supplementation in trail running and running, both in Italian and in English and Spanish. She manages relationships and collaborations with Federations and Race Organizers.