Study: a keto diet improves pound-for-pound physical performance in weight lifting athletes

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A low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet reduces body weight without compromising performance in powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting athletes (Greene et al., 2018)

This was a tricky one. Many relevant moving parts.

They were experienced lifters so we can trust they knew what they were doing in the gym, and any improvements would be due to diet as opposed to n00b gainz. 

On the flipside, this was a THREE MONTH crossover which really levels the playing field wrt confounding variables.

Carbs were <50 grams or <10% per day, which by virtually any definition is very low carb/ketogenic for these young highly active individuals. They were instructed to maintain their normal protein and calorie intake, which in reflection may have been a flaw in the study design...


The interpretation & nuances of the results are important, but Tl;dr: when on keto, they lost weight, slightly more lean mass than fat mass*, but largely maintained strength & physical performance.

*My main criticism of this and many other keto studies is that as far as body composition is concerned, keto drains muscle. It redirects amino acids from building muscle to gluconeogenesis therefore MORE PROTEIN is required to maintain nitrogen balance. THIS IS AN EASY SOLUTION, NOT A FATAL FLAW OF NUTRITIONAL KETOSIS. It should really be a non-issue: replace most of the carb calories with fat but some with protein. Easy peasy.

The cool part of this study, which may or may not have been due to their extensive athletic experience, is that strength and lifting performance were completely the same during the usual diet & keto diet arms of the study. Despite losing muscle on keto

How? Maybe all that jazz about how heart cells & sperm operate more efficiently when they're bathed in ketones (and insulin, but shhhh). Their training regimens were on point and a decent level of ketosis was achieved (~1.5 mM). Since this was a study on physical performance and not other realms where ketosis may be beneficial, I just wish they would've met the keto-induced increased protein requirements!

That's all for now!

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