Is a Ketogenic Diet Right for Marathon Runners?
Over the years, the Ketogenic diet has become increasingly popular. Celebrities such as Lebron James and Kim Kardashian have tried it to lose weight. However, is it a strategy that marathon runners should use?
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The Ketogenic diet is not a new diet, having been around since 1920 when it was used to help kids with epilepsy and those with extreme obesity, which is still true today. Recently there has been evidence of its effect on body weight, diabetes, and Alzheimer's.
The Ketogenic diet uses fats as the primary energy source. It drastically restricts carbohydrates, reaching up to less than 50% of the total daily calorie intake. The body is obligated to use fat as the fuel source, leading to the generation of Ketone bodies. Some argue that such a substrate can be suitable for the muscle and could help generate changes.
Is the Ketogenic Diet Helpful for Marathon Runners?
When it comes to marathon running, fat is an essential fuel source. Together with carbohydrates and good fats, they are necessary to optimize our health. However, the usage of fats as an energy source depends on many factors, such as the length and intensity of the exercise, the level and physique of the runner, their diet, and the ingestion of carbohydrates before and/or during training.
During a prolonged exercise, the use of fats will be prolonged once the carbohydrate reserves have been exhausted. The Ketogenic diet aims to do this by drastically limiting carbohydrate intake. The problem is that there is a lack of scientific evidence concerning the functionality of this type of diet for resistance athletes.
The only study that analyzed this was by Phinney, Bistrian, Evans, et al. (1983), which included five athletes trained in resistance sports and did not observe any benefit regarding their performance. However, they saw an improvement in how they metabolized certain fats. Another problem with this type of diet is that it becomes challenging to sustain over a long period. The process one goes through until it adapts to living in ketosis can be very uncomfortable and produce changes in cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Therefore, the Ketogenic diet may not be the best strategy for marathon runners since they need a good amount of carbohydrates to respond appropriately. If your goal is to lower your time in your next marathon, it is essential to consume a diet high in carbohydrates when the speed and intensity of the run require it. This is called nutrition periodization and should be used alongside a professional who can advise you and make it as personalized as possible.
Should You Incorporate the Ketogenic Diet into Your Nutrition Plan?
The Ketogenic diet can make you more aware of what you eat each day in terms of quality and quantity, apart from helping you lower your weight if you do it for a long enough period and adapt it to your needs. It can also be useful for low-intensity training, where you can reduce your consumption of carbohydrates or limit them during a race to make use of the changes this makes in your muscles.
In conclusion, the Ketogenic diet is not ideal for marathon runners. If you want to improve your performance in sports and run faster, your carbohydrate intake must adapt to the type of exercise you will do in preparation for a marathon. Make use of the advantages of both types of diets by undergoing nutrition periodization, which should be used alongside a professional who can advise you and make it as personalized as possible.
Marathon running is a grueling and demanding activity that requires careful preparation and proper nutrition. While the ketogenic diet has gained popularity in recent years for its potential benefits for weight loss and certain medical conditions, it may not be the best strategy for marathon runners. While fats are an essential fuel for strength training, carbohydrates are necessary for endurance exercise, and consuming a diet low in carbohydrates can impair performance. Furthermore, the process of adapting to a ketogenic diet can be uncomfortable and produce negative effects on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, runners can make use of the benefits of both low-carbohydrate and high-carbohydrate diets through nutrition periodization, adjusting their carbohydrate intake based on the intensity and duration of their training. It is essential to work with a professional to create a personalized nutrition plan that optimizes performance and promotes overall health. By making informed choices about their diets, runners can improve their chances of success in marathon running and other endurance sports.