It was 2017 when we first decided to try the ketogenic diet for the first time and we were incredibly nervous about it. The thought of eating high fat and changing our metabolism was daunting.
The diet goes against almost every single piece of health and dietary advice we had ever heard or studied.
However, we were desperate. Lindsay was having such severe digestive problems that we committed to trying keto for one month, and then we would re-evaluate. Two weeks in, we were sure we’d stick to it. Lindsay’s digestive problems were resolved and her energy levels drastically increased. Nic had better mental clarity than ever before. Not to mention our body compositions were both improving.
Because of our own success stories, Nic became a certified Ketogenic Living Health Coach, and has been testing the ketogenic diet and CrossFit for over a year now.
Fast forward to 2020 and keto seems to be running rampant these days. Miraculous stories of weight loss, health transformations, and so much more circulate all over the internet and within fitness groups. One community where keto is only just being explored is the world of CrossFit®.
You may have heard that the ketogenic diet and CrossFit® don’t mix. Many people think that because CrossFit® is extremely “glycolytic” – meaning that the exercise is fuelled primarily by glucose – any diet that is not high in carbohydrates will not work.
We are going to explore the science and facts behind the ketogenic diet and CrossFit®, and explain why the keto diet is at least as good as a typical diet for CrossFit® and also includes some unique benefits for CrossFit athletes.
The official CrossFit.com newsletter and website have begun to include many studies on the benefits of the ketogenic diet, and there is even a CrossFit® approved course on the ketogenic diet titled Nutrition Network Professional Training in LCHF/Ketogenic Nutrition. CrossFit HQ seems to be endorsing the high fat low carb (HFLC) diet quite strongly this past year.
This is Part One of a series of posts covering different aspects of CrossFit® and the impact the ketogenic diet has on each one. Here, you’ll learn about the studies that have been done on the ketogenic diet and its effects on CrossFit® in particular, as well as a ketosis, energy systems, and why this funky metabolic state can actually be very beneficial for overall health and athletic performance, specifically CrossFit®.
KETOSIS: A SHORT HISTORY
The metabolic state known as ketosis, in which the body burns fat (instead of carbohydrates) for energy, in the form of ketone bodies, is actually as old as mankind itself. Ketone bodies are produced during times of extended fasting, and most people often produce some ketone bodies in the early morning before they eat breakfast.
Going for many hours without food can cause a small production in ketones. This study highlights the fact that ancient people relied heavily on fat for their energetic needs. In fact, another study claims that it was the increased consumption of fat from bone marrow and brains that jump-started human evolution to have the large brain we have today.
In the modern lens, there are many benefits to the state of ketosis, including: weight loss, lowered blood sugar, improved cholesterol and reduced triglycerides, reduced risk of heart disease, and increase in cognitive performance, between others.
The most basic way to look at the keto diet is that the body is consuming mostly fat for fuel, instead of carbohydrates.
When fat is consumed, it is broken down into free fatty acids (FFA) that can be used directly by cells for energy, or it can go to the liver, where it is broken down into ketone bodies, hence the name ketogenic diet.
There are modified versions of the ketogenic diet with different macronutrient breakdowns:
As you can see, keto is not even a one-size-fits-all diet but can actually be more lenient than some would have you believe – especially once you’re “fat-adapted,” meaning your body is efficiently using fat for energy production.
Throughout this series, you’ll get a better understanding on the best variation of keto for CrossFit®, overall athletic performance, and overall health and longevity specifically.