Photo by Tom Sharrow/SoNourished.com

In a recent study, researchers wanted to test whether the ketogenic diet improved the athletic abilities of resistance trainers.1 Seven volunteers agreed to follow the ketogenic diet for a period of 12 weeks, while researchers compared them to a control group of five athletes. The ketogenic followers kept food logs of what they ate and had their blood ketone levels tested.  Meanwhile, the control group did not log their food intake. The researchers logged the quality and quantity of their workouts while tracking performance results.

The results? The two groups' performance was approximately equal, with neither group doing any better or worse than the other. They had similar results when it came to cardiovascular health and muscle strength.

Improvements in Body Composition

Although the researchers did not see any improvements in performance, they acknowledge that the ketogenic diet is great for athletes who want to improve physique. “We contend (that) practitioners should explore implementing this diet when body composition improvements are sought rather than performance benefits.” The study seems to indicate that keto may not improve performance, but it does improve the athlete’s overall body composition.

Previous Studies

The researchers noted previous studies that show that while the ketogenic diet doesn’t necessarily improve athletic performance, it doesn’t hinder performance. The ketogenic diet does not impair muscle glycogen levels or affect muscle protein synthesis. Most notably, studies show that the ketogenic diet does not reduce muscle mass, even when dieters lose significant fat mass. The researchers acknowledge that mobility should improve for those following the keto diet to lose weight.

Limitations of the Study

This study had a very small sample size. Twelve participants contribute hardly enough data to draw any solid conclusions – especially over just a period of 12 weeks. The researchers admit that the keto group may have experienced placebo effects in their own athletic abilities. The experience of the athletes was subjective and anecdotal.

Although the study was limited in size and scope, it did indicate several things: first, the ketogenic diet does not appear to have any negative effects on athletic performance, and initial results indicate that the diet seems to have a positive effect on body composition.

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