Diets & Eating Habits

Is the Keto Diet Good for Athletes?

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Most people swear by the keto diet, getting those ketones and engaging in ketogenesis. However, you don’t hear many athletes boasting about a keto diet. Is that for good reason? Is a keto diet good for athletes? Let us take a closer look.

What is Keto?

Keto is short for ketones or ketogenesis, a pathway in your body that produces ketones, a source of energy that is somewhat different from the energy that we traditionally get from food. It is so popular because the process of ketogenesis breaks down fatty acids, otherwise known as ketogenic amino acids.

People who want to lose weight or get shredded, attempt a keto diet in order to get there. Some people have claimed an increase in health and performance after they started a keto diet. For athletes, this might not be the case, and here is why.

Ketogenesis Relies on an Absence of Carbohydrates

Typically, when the body starts burning fat, that is because there is not enough energy inserted through regular eating. A typical diet consists of a balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats as macronutrients. A keto diet tries to remove the carbs and focuses on fats and proteins instead, with the idea of trying to engage ketogenesis. 

Athletes need energy for performance. You can’t imagine a sprinter or an ultra-level endurance athlete not eating carbs or having a balanced diet. There probably are some outliers, but typically, losing carbs, the healthy kind, will do damage to an athlete’s performance. 

Can Any Athletes Benefit From Keto?

The only athletes that come to mind that benefit from keto are the ones who don’t have a high performance requirement, such as bodybuilders. Ketogenesis burns body fat, and bodybuilders typically want to have little to no fat, to keep that chiselled figure visible and pretty for the audience and the judges. 

If you count some non-athletic sports as sports, where the performance level is rather minimal, like golf, you can imagine such athletes having keto diets and being successful. Anything that has a huge performance level like football, basketball, rugby, tennis and such, not to mention track and field, will not benefit from a keto diet.

Keto diets are popular with people who have been eating in an unhealthy way and have been consuming too many carbs, especially processed ones, which turn into fat, or are rejected by the body. 

Keto, on the other hand, is very unlikely to be good for athletes and will more often than not, result in a decrease of performance, though that depends on the sport and the athlete.