If you are a running enthusiast, then you would know how the drill goes before a big race. Eat a great pre-race meal that will help you recharge, run a great race, and recoup with a high-protein recovery meal. However, while runners eat high-carb meals after their runs, many of them are now switching to the keto diet, which favors low-carb meals. So, how does this low-carb diet help runners? Is being on the keto diet sustainable for runners? How do you run while on the keto diet? Here’s the ultimate guide to help you figure out everything related to running on a Keto diet.
Does the Keto Diet Help Runners?
Brett Osborn, a nutrition expert, seems to think that the keto diet will help endurance runners as it encourages fat burning. A long-distance runner basically burns fats and depends on ketones while running. Therefore, sticking to a fat-burning diet might help their body prepare for long races. The Keto diet focuses on high-fat, low-carb foods. This, in turn, forces the body into a state of ketosis, wherein it burns stored fat to get energy for bodily functions. However, certain others feel that the keto diet doesn’t really work for runners as it takes away much-needed carbs. As running is a high-intensity activity, having access only to slow-burning fuel, such as fats, will not help the body. However, everyone agrees that the keto diet suits light and moderate-intensity workouts and runs.
Do we Need Carbs?
Osborn believes that the statement that our body needs carbohydrates is a myth, as he feels that our body prefers ketones. He believes that the primary energy source used while running is fat; hence, that is the food that runners need to load upon. However, in case you are a runner making a switch, make sure you don’t do it too close to a big event. Your body requires some time to get used to the new diet. Hence, the switch should be made a solid 6 months before the event so that your body gets enough time to prepare. Also, runners should be on ketones before the race starts, and if they do so, they will not suffer in any way, performance-wise.
What About the Keto Flu?
A lot of runners are afraid of the keto flu that accompanies switching to this diet. The keto flu is a broad umbrella term used to describe a wide range of symptoms that annoy dieters when they first change to the keto diet. Signs of the flu include headaches, fatigue, cramps, upset stomachs, and dizziness. However, you don’t need to fret because these symptoms go away once your body gets used to the diet. They typically last between seven to ten days and go away once your body shifts into using ketones.
Types of Keto Diets Runner Can Try Out
Standard Ketogenic Diet
- It involves taking in almost 80% of your daily calorie requirement through healthy fats.
- The diet also focuses on consuming moderate levels of protein, making up 25% of the calorie requirement.
- Consuming only around 20-25 grams of carbs in a day.
- It helps with weight loss, reduction of body-fat percentage, and improvement in energy levels.
- Works well for recreational runners, weight loss enthusiasts, fitness experts, and long-distance runners.
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
- It involves cycling between a regular keto diet and a carb-loading meal plan.
- Therefore, on some days, you consume less than 30 grams of carbs, whereas, on others, you eat over 400 grams of carbs to recoup.
- The carb reloading phase typically lasts for a day or two.
- Helps with toning your muscles and reloading your glycogen levels.
- Works well for serious athletes and bodybuilders.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet
- This involves staying keto for 80% of the day and eating a preset amount of carbs right before a workout session.
- It comes somewhere in between the regular and cyclic types of the keto diet.
- This diet helps provide your body with the carbs it needs for a HIIT workout, while also helping reduce your total carb intake.
- All the carbs you consume are used up before they get stored in your body.
- You need to stay on a typical keto diet for at least 6 weeks before adopting this style to get used to going into ketosis.
Does the Keto Diet Help Runners?
Researchers from New Zealand worked with several professional runners to test the effect of the keto diet on their performance. This study proved that the keto diet works great if you are running moderate and long distances, but can reduce speed for more intense runs. Therefore powering up a hill and running short distances at high speeds might be a little difficult if you follow a keto diet. However, for people running middle distances, the keto diet is a blessing in disguise. It helps reduce their reliance on carbohydrates, which helps them while running. However, fat adaptation allows people who run very long distances, as it helps the body burn through fat more efficiently. Therefore, the keto diet can help you out in many ways unless you are running high-intensity bouts.
Benefits Of Running On a Keto Diet
- Ketones help fuel both the body and the brain.
- Helps runners improve their body’s ability to burn fat
- Enables athletes to improve their body composition
- Prepares your body to burn through fat when running long distances
- Helps athletes lose those last few pounds
- Enables athletes and runners to maintain the right body-fat percentage
Long-distance runners need to tap into their fat reserves to get through such long distances. For such runners, the keto diet acts as a sort of preparation, helping them switch to fat-burning more efficiently. Furthermore, the keto diet will also help runners reach their dream weight by shedding those last few pounds.
So, does running on a keto diet help athletes? Honestly, the answer depends on you, your needs, and what level of athlete you are. Introspect on your own fitness goals to figure out whether you should switch to keto, and if so, to what type of keto. In case you are a fitness enthusiast with a love for running, make the switch, and see how it makes you feel. If you are a professional athlete trying to improve their performance, consult an expert before making the decision. Stay healthy, stay fit, and keep running guys!