Dietary habits according to the principle ‘low carb, high fat’ are on the rise. Athletes follow the ketogenic diet for the effect on their body composition and their performance. But in science, there is still no real consensus on its effectiveness. That is why many supplements exist on the market to assist improve athletic performance, some even buy Steroids in Canada, but not as effective as consuming the nutrients provided from whole foods. Presumably, this is also due to the extreme nature of the standard ketogenic diet. That is on average composed of 20 percent proteins, 75 percent fats, and barely 5 percent carbohydrates.
The mechanism consists of the fact that due to the lack of carbohydrates, the body is forced to produce alternative substances that serve as fuel for the production of energy: the so-called ketones, which arise from fat burning in the liver.
But several important studies, such as a German study from 2017 (3), already indicated that the ketogenic diet is not recommended for athletes, because it would worsen their endurance and their maximum ability and they would run the risk of losing muscle mass.
In clinical psycho-neuroimmunology, under the impulse of founder Dr. Leo Pruimboom (4), we are in favor of the adapted ketogenic diet.
Interesting in this regard is a July 2017 study among endurance athletes about the effect of the ketogenic diet on their body composition, their well-being, and their performance. It is an experiment in which they voluntarily switch to a ketogenic diet for 10 weeks.
The results state that the metabolic efficiency of the participants was increased: their ability to use fat as fuel (beta-oxidation) was increased. All of them reported feeling better about themselves and recovering better and showed a reduced degree of inflammation. They all felt good about the ‘diet’. But there was also a downside: their ability to perform at high intensity was disrupted.
When the athletes were interviewed again twelve months later, however, it turned out that none of them had returned to the high-carb and low-fat diet of the past. After the experiment, they gradually reintroduced carbohydrates into their diets until they could handle the high intensity again. That happened at a time when they were still eating significantly fewer carbohydrates and significantly more fat than indicated by the traditional dietary guidelines. In this way, they discovered for themselves the optimal ratio of macronutrients, the ratio in which body composition, health, and performance were optimal.
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To get the most out of the ketogenic effect, it’s best to start with a short-term ketogenic period to force the metabolism to use fats instead of carbohydrates to produce energy.
Because the body has to adapt to make this metabolic switch, it will not be able to deliver the usual performance for two weeks. Footballers can do that, for example, in the off-season.
After that short-term ketogenic period, you gradually reintroduce carbohydrates until the optimal level of performance is reached.
In clinical psycho-neuro-immunology, we, therefore, recommend ‘the adapted ketogenic diet’. This is the ketogenic diet as examined in the above study, but adapted to the individual needs of the athlete and supplemented with the following three kPNI guidelines.
- In the nutrition table included in the study, we see that the researchers added a lot of milk and meat products such as cheese, bacon, and pork chops as extra fat. Because of the negative health aspects of milk and meat products, our advice is: to focus on healthier fats from avocado, poultry buttocks, coconut oil, fish, eggs, olive oil, and butter as the main sources of fat. Animal fats such as bacon contain a less optimal form of ketones, particularly ketone salts. These are less efficient than the water-soluble ketone esters.
- Carbohydrates are indeed an important source of energy, but the question is: which carbohydrates do you use best? Pasta, bread, and potatoes? Or should we rather reintroduce ‘forgotten vegetables’ such as parsnips, rammenas, Jerusalem artichoke, and kohlrabi? Tubers are fantastic natural carbohydrate sources. This month, a study was published showing that tubers are not a ‘backup food’, but a reliable source of energy for homo sapiens. If we limit these tubers, and by extension also limit fruits and vegetables by following a traditional ketogenic diet, then a ketogenic diet often leads to a shortage of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- For the composition of your food, choose ‘high fat, low calorie. That means: in addition to a substantial fat intake (food with a high caloric density), you also eat a lot of different vegetables (food with a low caloric density). Compared to a traditional ketogenic diet, we recommend 60 instead of 75 percent fats. The proportion of calories from carbohydrates is 20 percent. But to get 20 percent of the calories from vegetables, you need to eat a large mass of vegetables. Eat a kilo of arugula (laughs). So we could say that we get the calories largely from fat and protein, but the volume from fruits and vegetables.
More and more athletes are putting this vision into practice. Whether or not combined with periodic fasting. Because skipping a meal and exercising sober also promotes the natural production of ketones.
For example, national coach Roberto Martinez is a convinced supporter of sober coaching. Because, Dixit himself, his brain does not have to compete with his digestive system.
Science is now also convinced of this. See, among other things, the article in Nature from the beginning of last year. It confirms that fasting provides a metabolic switch in which ketones are released that provide increased functionality and stress resistance to the brain through increased synaptogenesis. We should not worry much about the muscles, according to an American study.
Of course, a balanced diet is also crucial for periodic fasting.