Can Ketogenic Diets Benefit Endurance Performance?

Tl;dr: How the body uses fuel substrates during exercise
  1. Low-carb high-fat diets increase the ability to use body fat as an energy source at rest and during exercise — this flexibility might mean an athlete can have access to more fuel stores and access fat stores at a higher exercise intensity. This would also help to spare muscle glycogen, a big advantage for ultra-long endurance sports.
  2. Low-carb diets are proposed to lead to less inflammation and oxidative stress (due to less glycolysis), and this might help with performance and recovery. Exercise does damage to muscles, and an “anti-inflammatory diet” could help athletes rebound quicker from hard efforts.
  3. Ketogenic diets might favorably impact body composition — namely by lowering body fat % and total fat mass.
Fat and carbohydrate oxidation during a 3-hour treadmill run. Volek 2016
Pre and post diet 10k race walk times. Burke 2017
Weight, time to exhaustion, and other performance outcomes from the study. Zinn 2017




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Brady Holmer

Brady Holmer

PhD candidate at the University of Florida — Science writing with a particular focus on exercise and nutrition interventions, aging, health, and disease.