T Nation

Ketogenic Diet Misinformation

Huge Drawbacks to the Keto Diet
(https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/tip-8-huge-drawbacks-to-the-keto-diet)

TC is one of my favorites. However, there is some misinformation in this article. With that in mind let break it down.

2 – Bad for Strength Athletes

This is incorrect.

Limit Strength (1 Repetition Max), Power and Speed Athlete do fine on a Ketogenic Diet, once “Keto Adapted”.

This group of athletes utilize the Phosphagen Energy Stystem, ATP. ATP is not reliant on ketone nor glucose. Thus, athletes who are “Keto Adapted” and those on a Traditional High Carbohydrate Western Diet preform equally.

Research show that complete restoration of ATP to the muscle occurs in approximately 3 minutes.

As Dr Mike T., Nelson and Dr Michael Israetel stated in an article, 3 minute rest period between sets is enough time ATP restoration for “Keto Adapted Athletes”.

4 – Killer Constipation

Research shows there is no real data to support the need for high fiber being necessary.

Dr. Zoë Harcombe - ‘What about fiber?’

and…

Dr. Paul Mason - ‘From fibre to the microbiome: low carb gut health’

…have dispelled that misinformation regarding high fiber intake.

7 – Actual Ketosis is Really Rare

“…when it isn’t getting enough carbs from other sources, breaks down the amino acids in dietary protein to make glucose.”

Initially, protein (as well as glycerides from Triglycerides) is converted to glucose via gluconeogenesis when carbohydrate intake is low.

However, once “Keto Adapted”, research shows that ketones preserve and protect amino acids being used as fuel.

Drs Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney found the amino acid, Leucine that drives mTOR, the anabolic trigger for muscle growth and repair, is elevated on a Ketogenic Diet.

Intermittent Fasting research has also demonstrated muscle protein is protected and preserved up to 72 hours. Catecholamines, the fat burning hormones are elevated, utilizing fat for fuel rather than protein in muscle.

8 – Unrealistic Expectations

“…most of the initial weight loss from the keto diet (or any low-carb diet) is from water.”

Initial water weight loss occurs on a Ketogenic Diet.

However, research shows that in a “Keto Adapted” state on a well formulated Ketogenic Diet, muscle glycogen (water weight) is restored. At this point, “Keto Adapted Athletes” have virtually the same amount of muscle glycogen as Traditional High Carbohydrate Western Diet Athletes.

Kenny Croxdale

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Good stuff. Thanks. I do just fine training at high levels on a protein and fat based diet. Your body is incredibly adaptable.

Why is it so important to justify your choice of diet? If it works for you, go ahead. The doctors you list haven’t dispelled anything; they’re just trying to find a slant that works for them to make $$. Don’t pretend they aren’t biased any more than TC Luoma on the subject.

It seems so odd that people want to say “Look, my diet is good because Dr. X says so” or, conversely, people that say “See, my rep scheme is the most effective way to build muscle. Dr. Y says so”. If you’re getting results you’re happy with, great. That should convince you (and others in your circle) that the approach works for you. Just stop it with this.

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Objective

My objective in any post is to provide the facts and dispel myths and misinformation.

Providing The Facts

Their purpose is also to present the facts and dispel myths and dogma that continues to perpetuated.

TC Luoma

Again, TC is one of my favorites. However, some of the information he provided is incorrect or taken out of contest.

Information taken out of context is a “Snapshot” rather than the whole picture.

It’s like the story of aliens who go to a basketball game. They report back that playing basketball makes you tall and sitting in the bleacher makes you short. That is an example of a “Snapshot” that doesn’t provide the complete picture.

Mis-Reading

Nowhere in my post do I imply that the Ketogenic Diet is the most effective diet.

In previous posts on this site, I acknowledge that I am on the diet due to a metabolic condition.

I go on to state that I have learned out of necessity how to make the Ketogenic Diet work and how to write and execute a optimal training program for it.

Due to the nuances of the Ketogenic Diet, writing and executing a effective training program requires a slightly different approach.

Drs Mike T. Nelson and Michael Israetel

Dr Mike T. Nelson and Dr Michael Israetel are not advocates of the Ketogenic Diet.

However, both Nelson and Israetel have indicated that strength training works on a Ketogenic Diet when it is kept in the Phosphagen Energy System.

"Cluster Hypertrophy Set Training"

Research by Dr Jonathon Oliver has demonstrated that a well written “Cluster Set Hypertrophy Training” is an effective method increasing muscle mass while maintaining and/or increasing power and strength.

Cluster Set Training employs the Phosphagen Energy System. .

Traditional Hypertrophy Training employs the Glycolytic Energy System, which isn’t optimal for individual on a Ketogenic Diet.

Secondly, Traditional Hypertrophy Training increases muscle mass at the expense of strength and power; strength and power drop like a rock in a Traditional Hypertrophy Program.

Previous Post

In my previous post, I have noted that while I enjoy the Ketogenic Diet, I do NOT advocate it.

  1. Due to the restrictive nature of the Ketogenic Diet, it is hard to maintain. The harder you make something, the less likely someone is to stick with it.

  2. Due a lack of knowledge about the Ketogenic Diet, most are never on the Ketogenid Diet. They usually end up on a high fat, high protein, low carbohydrate diet.

  3. Most individual lack the knowledge of how to write and execute a “Ketogenic Diet
    Training Program” that elicits the most effective response.

To reiterate, an individual on a Ketogenic Diet needs to write and perform a resistance training program that caters to the Phosphagen Energy System.

With that said, I am an advocate of Intermittent Fasting. It elicits benefits that are similar to the Ketogenic Diet. Intermittent Fasting is easier. Just skip a mean every once in a while. Nothing to fix, cook or count.

Summary

My objective with all posts is to provide the facts and dispel myths and misconceptions.

Anytime new research contradicts the status quo of information, it is met with resistance. It should be questioned but not dismissed; but rather carefully examined/vetted.

Whether someone want to take the next step and examining the research data is up to them.

What other do with the information that I provide is up to you and them, as well.

Kenny Croxdale

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Yes, they may “do fine”, but you’d be hard pressed to find elite power or strength athletes who can progress on a ketogenic diet.

I’d be interested to see this data.

The body can produce glycogen in the absence of exogenous carbs. I think the importance of carbs is grossly overstated. Most trainers just don’t give the body enough time to adapt. I did notice some slight increases in strength when carbed up but I think it was the leverage from water retention.

Good points all around. Glucose is definitely not needed to fuel muscle building sets, biochemically speaking. Strength is powered by ATP which can be refueled fine by fatty acids. Glycogen depletion is not a typical reason for muscular failure in muscle building ranges. Reports of constipation drop to nil as carb intake drops. Fiber is beneficial primarily because gut flora turns fiber into short chain fatty acids which protect the gut lining. Keto adaptation should prevent activity related catabolism since ketones protect against hypoglycemia even down to 20 mg/dl which would be fatal for a not keto adapted individual.

Problems with ketogenic diets

  1. being “half way” there is about the worst possible situation because the body lacks glucose utilization but is not adapted to use ketones optimally. Blood sugar and ketones can be high simultaneously which is worse than merely elevated blood sugar.

  2. Insulin and Leucine work synergistically to activate mTorr. mTorr activation may be difficult in true ketosis since even leucine can spike insulin enough to begin to shut down ketosis. Ketosis reduces catabolism of proteins but also reduces anabolism since insulin is a key signal for anabolism. It is also hard to spike leucine levels on a high fat diet because fat slows down absorption of protein.

  3. Glucose and insulin increase blood flow to working muscles which can bring in more oxygen and remove lactic acid.

"Yes, they may do fine…"

That the bottom line; they can preform well on the Ketogenic Diet.

Secondly, they can progress well on the Ketogenic Diet. That providing the adhere to the diet as Marine77 noted "Give the body enough time to adapt, achieve “Keto Adaptation”.

Due to how demanding and restrictive the diet is, like most individual, elite strength and power athletes, simply aren’t going to maintain the diet, which I understand.

The Data

That data can be found in…

  1. The Ketogenic Bible
    Drs Ryan Lowery and Jake Wilson

  2. The Art and Science of Low Cargohydrate Performancde
    Dr Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinny, MD, PhD

Due to a metabolic condition, metaphorically speaking, the Ketogenic Diet chose me. Research indicates it, as well as Intermittent Fasting may help.

If I didn’t have a metabolic issue, I probably just have Intermittent Fast and go back to the good old days of having a couple of full sugar Dr Peppers with a bag of Reeses Pieces.

Earn While You Learn Program

As with anything new,it took me some time to become acclimated to the Ketogenic Diet and a little longer to understand the nuances of strength training.

Kenny Croxdale

Can you link a few pre made workout plans that rely on the Phosphagen Energy System?
Would something like 5/3/1 work?
How many seconds under tension is too much?

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I think whether they can progress is actually the less contentious issue. Making progress on Keto during off season isn’t really the issue in strength sport and, for me personally, I’ve made just as good gains doing Keto as following other good diet protocols. The bigger issue is whether they can compete Keto. Looking at powerlifting it appears to be a disadvantage at least to some extent.

Strength Training On Keto

Strength Training isn’t much of an issue, as you noted, with Strength Training on a Ketogenic.

That providing an individual is truly on a Ketogenic Diet (Keto Adated) and they know how to write a good program the caters to the diet.

Disadvantages

Specifically, what disadvantages might those be?

Kenny Croxdale

A few competition specific things.

  1. Dropping weight to make weight. One of the quickest and most reliable ways to drop significant scale ‘weight’ is to drop carbs very low and deplete glycogen. When you are Keto adapted this tool is very much blunted.

  2. Refilling glycogen between weigh in and competition. Obviously fast digesting carbohydrates is the fastest and most reliable ways to do this.

  3. Maximising muscular glycogen, this has a non negligible effect at the limit of your 1rm. Not for the energy demands of the rep, but simply maximum circumference of the muscle and higher intramuscular pressure. I don’t have the research for this to hand but it’s out there and I’ve certainly experienced it.

  4. For the same reason as point 3 above, maximising ‘bloat’. Inducing higher water retention in the short term again helps at the margin of a 1RM. I’ve only ever been able to achieve this by combining higher carb, creatine and salt intake. Salt, fat and creatine has some of the same effect, but not to the same magnitude.

All that said, I very much enjoy Keto, I probably spend 4-6 months of any year on Keto and now adapt very quickly. But I can’t use Keto in and immediately around competition, for the reasons listed above, if I’m looking to be as competitive as possible.

I also agree with everything in your OP, the article has significant limitations, this is just one, rather niche, area where Keto is sub-optimal.

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Agreed

As we know, initially water weight loss occurs on a Ketogenic Diet . Once Keto Adapted and providing one keep their sodium intake elevated, water weight and glucose is restored to the muscles.

Carb Loading

As you know, Carb Loading the runner do increased glycogen as well as Supehyration of the muscles. It creates a effect similar Cell Voluminizing produce by creatine.

However, for an individual who is Keto Adapt doesn’t experience the same effect. That due to to the fact that water weight and glucose restoration has occurred.

Superhydration

Great point! You’re one of the few individual who’s picked up in this.

An individual on a Traditional Western Diet who minimize carbohydrates for three days and then reloads superhydrates muscle cell; overcompensation occurs.

One of the reasons that creatine works is due to Superhydration. That is also one of the reason certain anabolics like Dianabol and Anadrol work, Superhydration.

In both cases your muscles soak up water like a sponge.

Car Tires and Strength Analogy

Car mileage is somewhat like Strength.

When car tires are under inflated, mileage decreases.
When car tire are over inflated, car mileage increases.

When muscle Dehydration occurs, there a decrease in Strength.

When Superhydration occurs, there is an increase in Strength.

Like you, I have experience it, as well.

Cyclic Ketogenic Diet

Basically, this is a Carb Loading Diet. In the five days of low carbohydrate a dramatic drop in water weight occurs, training is tough.

After two days of Carb Loading, training loads feel pretty easy.

However, research by Dr Jake Wilson found that the Carb Loading of the Cyclic Ketogeinc Diet only got you into ketosis about one day out of the week and the diet did do well for fat loss.

The “Bloat” Increases Strength

Another great point. The Carb Loading definitely gives you an uncomfortable bloat. However, as you stated, the increase in “bloated” water weight definitely increase strength.

Impressive Reply

I am impressed with your knowledge and reply.

You should consider writing an article on this.

Kenny Croxdale

I always enjoy your detailed responses so wanted to explain myself fully.

Ha, I’m glad you liked it but I seriously lack the credentials to be writing anything for anyone, most of this was just experiential evidence that I happened to be able to confirm as I came across research here and there.

I’d consider it, but I think ‘keto isnt optimal for powerlifting’ might have a pretty small readership lol, dont think there are many out there doing it. The reverse would be a cool article, if only it was true.

A keto powerlifting offseason article would be interesting though.

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