(above simple illustrations show the two metabolic pathways for energy production in our bodies. Click to enlarge)

There has been lots and lots of research on using Sugar/Carbohydrates as your primary fuel source. For athletes and just Joe Average for that matter.  Where has that gotten us? With lots of insulin spiking carb loads from a huge bowl of rice, pasta, whole grain whoopla to a fancy sports drinks and sadly a very limited fuel source and inhibiting fat loss for days.

More Available Energy
If you compare the two fuel sources, on average even a conditioned athlete maybe able to store and use about 1600 to 2000 Kcal of Glucose/Glycogen held in the liver and muscles. Lasting you maybe about ~3 hours at the most. While a Keto-Adapted Athlete could utilize >40,000Kcal of stored energy via fat. Which you could pretty much run on for days.

Recover Faster

Once you are keto adapted your body will actually experience less oxidative stress. Your body produces less CO2 per calorie burned resulting with less of  PH drop. (doesn’t make as much acid) and less lactate. Lactate is also mobilized better. Since Monocarboxylic acid transporter actually takes up both Ketones and Lactate, and since there is more of it when ketones are high. Uptake of the lactate is much faster.

Burn More Stored Fat 
Using Fat as a fuel source burns more bodyfat! When you are keto-adapted you utilize your body’s fat stores for energy. Thus burning dietary fat and your stored fat. Think about it. If you body is metabolizing fat and you have it stored and you didn’t eat much dietary fat. It’s ready to burn yours. Doesn’t have to wait to use up the 2000Kcal of stored sugar and with out dumping a ton of Carb into your system. Whether it’s a “slow” digest carb or a fast. (which let me quickly say fast or slow is ridiculous, your body still has to deal with it)Your body won’t have high insulin levels inhibiting the process!

Carry Less Water
The actual process of burning fat or utilizing fat as energy requires less oxygen. So by nature your body will carry less water. What does this mean. Lighter athlete yielding more energy.

Other Advantages for a Keto-Adapted Athlete

  • Steady fuel source for the brain… no Bonking
  • Increased insulin sensitivity and improved recovery
  • Protein preservation sparing lean muscle tissue
  • Less accumulation of Lactate, better PH control and respiratory function
  • Improved Endurance
  • contribute to increased strength/power
  • Better Cognitive function
  • Faster recovery
  • Better body composition (power to weight ratio)
  • Improved long endurance from steady fuel source
  • Increased body fat burning
  • Better VO2 maxes

Check some of the sources below for more info. The book I highly recommend for athletes is the Phinny, Volek book. “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” 

FAQ’s and Common Concerns.

Isn’t Ketosis Bad?

No there is a big difference between Nutritional Ketosis and Diabetic Keto Acidosis. Nutritional Ketosis there is just a presence of Keytones in the body. 0.5-3.0 Milimoalar.  Diabetic Keto Acidosis is something that happens in Type 1 Diabetics and sometimes severe Type 2 Diabetics. Blood ketones in the levels of. 15.0-25. millamolar

What about my Cholesterol (Heart Health)
That’s a whole other article. But no. You are fine. Just briefly, increasing your Saturated fat will increase your HDL (sometimes called healthy cholesterol). Also, low carb will lower your Triglercerides as well as give you a big healthy fluffy LDL (sometimes called bad cholesterol). LDL and HDL are lipoprotiens anyways, not actual cholesterol.

One of the larger problems with carbs in particular grains is the anti-nutrient Lectins and WGA causing breaking in the fibrous caps or plaques in Atherosclerosis. Breaking up these caps break off and go downstream and clog vessels.

Lower carb intake (Particularly grains, legumes, tubers) will also eliminate lots of the things that increase inflmation in your body.

If you are truly looking for markers for heart health look for signs of inflammation test for CoQ10, Homocysteine, LDL Density, C-reactive Protien, Insulin.

Isn’t fat burning slower process to create ATP  and can’t keep up with the demands of an Athlete?
No not true, studys done where the Beta Oxidation process is slow has not been done on keto-adapted individuals. The studies were done on individuals that were previously running on glucose and in the midst of converting to Ketosis. Not to mention lots of organs and muscle run more efficiently in keto adapted Athletes so less ATP production is needed

Won’t I burn muscle in Ketosis?
No BCAA levels actually stay higher after exercise in a keto-adapted athlete.

[1]Human Physiology an Integrated Approach, Dee, Unblaub, Silverthron (This is a college Biology book)
[2] The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate LIving, The Art and Science of Lower Carbohydrate Performance, Volek, Phinney
[3] Primal Body, Primal Mind, Nora T. Gedaudes, CNS, CNT