Ketosis: What Athletes Need To Know
Ketosis is a metabolic state of the body, commonly referred to as fat burning mode. During ketosis the body begins to make usable energy from stored fat, turning the fat into ketone bodies which are used for energy. When you eat a meal containing carbohydrates, your metabolism will switch back to a metabolic state of glycolysis. Glycolsis is the body’s go-to metabolic state. Due to all of the cells in the body requiring immediate sources of energy the blood must contain a consistent and constant supply of glucose. Everyone is familiar with the crash of low blood sugar and feeling sluggish and tired until we eat and the body starts making energy again.
What Causes Ketosis:
The liver triggers production of ketone bodies when there isn’t enough glucose or glycogen stored in the blood. Your body goes into a natural state of ketosis when you fast either intentionally or while resting/sleeping and for women during lactation. Ketosis is also induced after exercise when you have used up all the available glucose in your blood. Popular low-carb diets, intermittent or long-term fasting, can keep the body in a constant state of ketosis. Low-carb diets have become popular as they induce weight-loss very quickly and are typically high in proteins and fats, which can be good for you if all of your macro-nutrient needs are being met.
Effect on the Human Body:
Historically medical and nutritional experts had a mixed view of ketosis, but today everyone is advocating a low/no carb diet combined with high fat & protein. Ketosis has always been known to induce weight-loss, is used as a treatment for epilepsy, is important to brain development and functioning. However, it is crucial to note that these studies were performed on a sedentary test group. And research studies with athletes are few and far between and show conflicting results. Here’s what we do know…Due to an increase in cardio output which delivers more blood and oxygen to the body, athletes are able to metabolize foods, especially fats differently than sedentary people. The athlete who trains regularly is inducing an exercise ketosis in addition to a sleep induced ketosis.
How Ketosis Effects Athletes:
If you are an athlete, keeping your body in a state of ketosis is a slippery slope. Ketosis becomes a serious health issue if the body uses all the stored fat and there is no glycogen to use for energy, because then the body will begin to break down muscle to use for energy. This is where athletes have to be very careful with their diet and macro-nutrient intake, remember not eating carbs and exercise both trigger ketosis. Athletes risk many consequences of ketosis including dehydration, hypoglycemia and anemia, as well as extreme weight loss and vitamin and mineral deficiency. All of those things can then lead to hyperuricemia, leukopenia and kidney stones. You will lose strength, endurance leading to poor performance and no motivation.
How to Prevent Chronic Ketosis:
You can reap the health and weight loss benefits of ketosis by varying your diet during recovery and periods of low intensity workouts by limiting carbohydrates and by adding complex carbs back into your diet to enhance performance and endurance for peak performance. Depriving your body of carbohydrates when you are training and performing at your max can create long lasting damage to your body. Eating a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, not overtraining and staying hydrated will prevent chronic ketosis for athletes. You will need to ensure that your macro-nutrient needs are being met, based on your sex, height, activity level and goals. Choosing the right carbohydrates is also key. Avoid refined and processed carbohydrates such as white flour, white rice, sugar, and energy drinks. Avoiding or limiting unhealthy combos of carbohydrates and fat such as potato chips and donuts will also help. Eating a diet that consist of healthy proteins, fats and carbohydrates that come from whole foods will ensure your body gets the nutrition and energy it needs.