Carb-loading is so deeply ingrained in endurance sports it may come as a shock to learn that a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet can help triathletes, marathon runners and cyclists achieve peak performance.
Fitness expert and Ironman triathlete Ben Greenfield is among the growing number of endurance athletes who are sold on the merits of a low-carb, high-fat diet.
He recently discussed the endurance-training benefits of a ketogenic diet on a podcast with fitness trainer Sam Feltham.
Greenfield, author of Beyond Training, completed the 2013 Ironman Triathlon World Championships in an impressive 9:59:26, all while following the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet.
The Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile marathon without a break.
Greenfield’s breakfast the morning of the triathlon was a half-stick of butter, two shots of MCT oil, and a cup of coffee.
He said he previously followed a high-carb diet but switched two years ago after realizing that too many carbs causes inflammation, which can lead to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity, and diabetes.
“Two years ago, I came across research about pancreatic fatigue and failure, loss of insulin-cell receptor sensivity, and surges in blood glucose leading to inflammation.”
After switching to a ketogenic diet, he experienced improved stamina, stable blood sugar, better sleep, less brain fog, and even better skin and hair.
Endurance athlete and surgeon Dr. Peter Attia is also sold on the endurance-training benefits of a ketogenic diet and has written extensively about it on his blog. After self-experimenting on a ketogenic diet, Attia, a fan of the Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, said his aerobic efficiency improved dramatically.
“Keto-adaptation made me far more metabolically flexible and efficient in the aerobic environment,” noted Dr. Attia, a graduate of Stanford Medical School who also has a degree in mechanical engineering.
“I can now rely on much more fat, rather than glycogen, during prolonged exertion. This frees me up from needing to be constantly eating on long swims and bike rides.”
Similarly, cyclist Dave Zabriskie, ultra-marathoner Timothy Olson, and NBA superstars LeBron James and Ray Allen have all abandoned their high-carb, low-fat eating plans in favor of the high-fat, lower-carb Paleo diet, and experienced significant performance gains.
Meanwhile, Dr. Dominic D’Agostino of the University of South Florida has confirmed that a ketogenic diet has neuro-protective qualities that enable Navy SEALs to ward off seizures in the rigorous deep-sea environment. He underscored that a ketogenic diet has already proven more effective than drugs at managing epilepsy.
Dr. D’Agostino has also done ground-breaking research confirming a ketogenic diet starves cancer cells. He’s confident that metabolic therapy will one day replace toxic chemotherapy in the war on cancer.
“Within the next 10 years, I think we’ll be able to rely on diet therapy to treat cancer and do away with toxic chemotherapy,” he said.