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Are Ketogenic Diets Better For Cycling Weight Loss?

Are Ketogenic Diets Better For Cycling Weight Loss?


– Ketogenic diets are
becoming increasingly popular. A lot of people are talking about them. You may have been recommended one. You may already be
eating a ketogenic diet. So in this video, we’re going to explain exactly what a ketogenic diet is, the potential benefits and disadvantages, and how it applies to cyclists, and how you can apply it. Can you be a competitive cyclist, and eat a ketogenic diet? Well, before we go into any of that, make sure to subscribe to
GCN if you haven’t already, and click the bell icon, as this will give you a notification, and it helps support the channel. (upbeat music) A ketogenic diet, or keto for short, is a high fat, high protein, but low carbohydrate diet, that’s designed to put the body into a state of ketosis,
where the body burns fat rather than carbohydrates for fuel. Put in a more scientific way, it’s a metabolic state where
the body breaks down fat into fatty acids, and
then into ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are acetone, acetoacetate, and beta hydroxybutyrate,
which are then used as fuel. Now to achieve it requires
very strict discipline, typically eating less than 50
grammes of carbohydrate a day. There are many options and
permutations to achieve this, but here is an example
of a typical daily diet. Breakfast could include eggs, bacon, and perhaps with some
wilted spinach or avocado. Lunch could include a
Caesar salad with chicken. No croutons though, they contain carbs. For a snack, some nuts such as macadamias. And for dinner, grilled fish with some sauteed green vegetables. The vegetables consumed
contain small amounts of carbs, but this isn’t enough to
push you out of ketosis. Foods that you’d avoid on a keto diet, well, that’s pretty much
all of the fun stuff. So bread, pasta, grains
like rice and oats, cookies, croissants, even some fruit, chocolate, and beer. And, why uh, little Timmy’s birthday cake? Wait, no birthday cake? – [Man] Nope. (light music) – I mean, cutting out
little Timmy’s birthday cake seems rather drastic. Why would you wanna go
on a ketogenic diet? Well, there is undeniably strong evidence that a ketogenic diet is very
effective for weight loss. Now there are many motives for cyclists wanting to lose weight. It might be to improve
your power to weight ratio, for health reasons, or to get
leaner for aesthetic reasons. But it’s important to point out that a ketogenic diet isn’t a free licence to eat as much as you want. A study in nutrients from 2014 suggested that the main result of weight loss from a ketogenic diet still comes from a caloric deficit. There are potential health benefits too, with medical conditions like diabetes. It’s also been shown in some studies to restrict the growth of particular kinds of cancerous tumour, Alzheimer’s, and it’s long been used as a way to treat epilepsy in children. But in many of these cases
studies are still ongoing, and the results are far from conclusive. Importantly for cyclists,
there’s a train of thought that a keto diet can turn you into a fat adapted athlete, that’s better at burning fat, and less reliant on carbohydrate as fuel, turning you into a fat burning machine with huge energy stores. Now, this works because
humans can typically store between 1600 and 2200
calories of carbohydrate, but even very lean individuals still have over 100,000 calories of fat tucked away. I know, I mean, hard to believe, I know, it’s true. I guess that means I’m not allowed to eat any of this. Being able to tap into that fat, and use it as an energy source by converting it into ketone bodies would effectively make
an athlete bonk-proof, which is what typically happens when you’re performing exercise and you run out of carbohydrates, or blood glucose, and have that feeling of hitting the wall. Factor in though, you may see
misleading results early on with a ketogenic diet, typically two to four kilogrammes in the first week or so. Now this isn’t muscle or fat
loss that you’ve experienced. It’s usually just water,
and the reason for that is that your glycogen
stores have been depleted, glycogen being how your
body stores carbohydrate. Now to store each molecule of glycogen, the body also stores three
to four molecules of water, so this loss is just
less water in your body. (light music) Ketosis for athletes is
a hot topic right now, and one that’s fiercely
contested on both sides. Now on both sides of the argument, you’ll find people with
motives and agendas to push, and I’ve tried to be as
objective as possible when going through the
scientific literature that currently exists on the topic. I don’t have an ulterior motive, or an agenda to push, but to
be completely transparent, I will state that I’ve never tried a long-term ketogenic diet myself, yet. First up, a well cited study in the Journal of Physiology, by Burke at al from 2017, found that low carbohydrate,
high fat diets, impaired exercise economy, and negated performance benefits from intensified training
in elite race walkers. Put more simply, the body
uses around 20% more oxygen to liberate energy from fat, as it does from carbohydrates, meaning that, well, fat is a
less efficient fuel source. This is offset though by the huge amounts of fuel that fat provides, but ultimately the take home message from this study is that
there wasn’t an indication of enhanced performance from this diet. And further to this,
having spoken to coaches and riders, I can tell you that no one is competing and racing in the Tour de France on a ketogenic diet, and this is because without
carbohydrate stores, or carbohydrate consumed
during competition, you have very little fuel available for a process called anerobic glycolysis. This is the body’s metabolic shortcut that rapidly produces energy by partially burning carbohydrate. Think of it as your body’s
natural turbo charger, and it kicks in and enables
you to perform short, high intensity efforts, such
as sprinting, attacking, or getting up short sharp hills. Now, to be crystal clear here, an athlete in ketosis will
still have small amounts of glucose for anerobic
glycolysis, the turbo charger. This is because the liver is capable of producing small amounts of glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. However, the amount of glucose available for the turbo charger, the amount of turbo charger fuel available will be much, much less than an athlete who is
competing while consuming carbs. Now I’m gonna go into
a little bit of depth, so brace yourselves, nerd alert, but it’ll help you
understand things later on. Now, ketones can be converted into something called acetyl coenzyme A, which is a fuel, and this is done by an aerobic process, that means involving oxygen,
called beta oxidation, and this is done by little
things called mitochondria, inside the cells of your body. However, this isn’t as quick
as anerobic glycolysis, the turbo charger. Burning ketones does have an added benefit of not producing one molecule of lactate for every one molecule of ketones burned, which you do get when you burn sugars. Now, lactate is associated
with that buildup of, well, lactic acid,
burning in your muscles, but it’s not all that bad, because lactate is essentially
partially broken down fuel, and it can be recycled
and then sort of chucked on the fire later on
when you might need it. So, if you’re going to be doing
a high intensity crit race, or a time trial, or you’re trying to go as fast as you can in a sportive, with lots of hills in it, then carbohydrates are
going to be required to get your full potential
out of your body. However, if you’re going to
be doing a week-long event, or a long 300 kilometre
audax at a steady pace, then being able to utilise fat and put fat to good use, could well be very beneficial. For weight loss though, it’s as simple as just
being in an energy deficit. You need to consume less energy than you burn in order to lose weight. And, well not everyone wants
to win the Tour de France, or do a bike race. People have different motivations, so if you’re motivations to
lose weight are for health, or for aesthetic reasons,
that’s perfectly legitimate, and in that case, ketogenic
diet could well be worth trying. (light music) So how could cyclists
integrate a ketogenic diet? Well, one solution could be to use it as part of a
longer-term training plan. So you’d have a block of
low intensity training, where you have a ketogenic diet, in order to try and lose some weight, get leaner, improve your body composition, and make race weight. And then this would be followed by a period of higher intensity training, perhaps some racing as well, where you’re fueling that
higher intensity period with carbohydrate. Basically for athletes in
the northern hemisphere, it would kind of make
sense to do this in winter, but proper peer reviewed thorough studies into this kind of approach
are limited at this stage, and haven’t really been done. Although anecdotally, I’m aware that some professional cyclists have tried this in the world tour, albeit with mixed results. Many pro cyclists do something called periodizing carbohydrate, but this is completely different. It involves consuming
carbohydrate and fuel when you really need it, so on hard training days
where you’re racing, or doing lots of intervals. And on rest days, not
eating as much carbohydrate. So, well today’s a rest day for me, so I’m having a black coffee
rather than a cappuccino. Periodizing carbohydrate in this way doesn’t get you into a state of ketosis. In order to achieve that, you need to go very low carb for a long-term period, and you only achieve ketosis after a few days of doing it. Another potential advantage could come in the form of reduced gastric distress. Athletes often struggle with tummy issues when trying to eat enough
in long endurance events, but becoming fat adapted would mean you wouldn’t have to eat as much. (light music) So what about supplementing with ketones? Well there’s a lot of
ketone supplements available on the market at the moment, and the technical term
is exogenous ketones, and the idea here is that you consume some ready-made ketones, rather than waiting for your body to get into ketosis, and
make the ketones for you. The theory behind this is
that it provides the body with additional energy
sources for fueling. You often hear figures quoted that humans can process between 60 and 90 grammes of carbohydrate per hour, and by supplementing with ketones, you’re providing an additional fuel source that’s metabolised in a
slightly different way. And I actually went
into more detail on this in the GCN Show a couple of weeks ago, so if you want to find out more about it, we’ll include a link to that episode at the end of this one. (light music) Right, well I hope you
found this interesting and informative, and ultimately
I’m not saying keto diets are good or bad. Quite simply there just
hasn’t been enough studies or evidence published on it yet, to fully understand the
benefits and limitations of it. And if you’re number one
goal is losing weight, or trying to get super lean, rather than trying to win super
high intensity bike races, then it could be well worth a go. And keto diets is a massive subject, and the science is ongoing, so if you like this kind of content, then give it a thumbs up, share, and subscribe to GCN, and let us know in the comments what you’d like to see
us do in the future. And to see more information on
exogenous ketone supplements and ketone esters, you
can click down here.

64 thoughts on “Are Ketogenic Diets Better For Cycling Weight Loss?”

  1. Hope someone at GCN actually read the research article in its entirety. Nice explanation of ketones physiological role though.

  2. As always, very informative and delivered in the way that everyone can understand. Spot on team GCN 👍👍

  3. Excellent video. There's just one tiny thing I don't understand. Ollie said at one point that you still need calorie deficit in order to lose weight. So if it takes calorie deficit to lose weight, then what's the point of the ketogenic diet again?

  4. If you want to listen to people who really know what they are taking about and are really passionate about the subject, I recommend the following link. I’m an MD,MPH btw.

    https://youtu.be/n5bLggnbtyI

  5. Keto Diets are excellent way to lose weight plus after being on a keto diet for a while it is relatively easy to go on a fast, so again excellent if you are trying to lose weight. But for top end racing efforts I think you need to have carbs. I could go on but I feel that a keto diet is excellent for the off season where you are trying to keep the weight down. Of course the video here does explain it very well. I am just confirming what has been said from my personal experience. For general living I would say a keto diet is best because you don't get the food cravings you get when your on a carb diet having to eat every 2 or 3 hours. Basically you feel less hungry after a while on a keto diet.

  6. This is a pretty good, be it brief, introduction.

    Just thought I'd point out, keto isn't high protein, that's Atkins, it's "sufficient protein", depending on one's needs. Protein kicks you out of ketosis due to the spike in insulin, though this doesn't last as long as if one consumes carbs.

    Also, beta oxidation is lipid catabolism, ketolysis is ketone catabolism, ketolysis seems to produce acetyl CoA about as quickly as glycolysis, but the advantage of glycolysis is muscles and liver can store glycogen, but ketones need to be produced through ketogenesis on demand when insulin is low enough.

    There's a lot of caveats to the "ketogenic diet" from the athlete's perspective, especially in a mixed load discipline like road cycling, so for a 14min video this is a good introduction, good job! And thanks for spreading the word. Also, a clue to unlock a load of greater understanding on ketosis, fasting is the most effective way to enter that metabolic state, intermittent fasting for 12-16 hours is good for this, doing a low intensity ride on the end of an intermittent fast will enhance your ability to produce and burn ketones, especially when you don't carb reload after a glycolytic workout the day before. Again, thanks!

  7. Based on 4 years experience with keto, if you do short fast rides keto is your enemy. If you do long slow rides keto is your friend. You can also do a hybrid diet where you are generally eating a keto diet and a week or so before a critical event slowly transition to a "normal" diet. (it typically took me 2 weeks to fall out of ketosis, so for me that's the max transition). By doing this, you can rely on fat stores for the bulk of your ride, have larger stores of glucose and eat gels, etc. when you need short bursts of high intensity. Doing this I often had personal best times on several hill climbs… Sometimes in the order of 10-20% faster. The downside is it can take a month or so before you can repeat this process. It does take experimentation to figure out.

  8. By definition, ketogenic diets are designed to mimic fasting. Or in other words, "fool our body" into fat burning activation. With that in mind: just practice fasting and have balanced meals when you don't fast. Keep in mind that fasting is more doable for endurance trained subjects who can also use it as a "free ride training" resembling caloric deficit of long runs.

  9. Keto makes sense if you're stranded in the wild somewhere constantly trying to work out your next meal just to survive

  10. As a veterianarian, I do not agree on this. There are no extensive scientific evidence for this diet to be of any benefit over longer periods of time. And it can be very dangerous for a person suffering from an undiagnosed diabetes 2. It can be beneficial for short term weight loss. But that is about it. There are no health benefits from this diet. It is simply a copy-cat of the Atkins diet.

  11. Would be nice to have the link to papers showing keto is indeed good. Apart from helping children with epilepsy, there has been no good study showing keto is beneficial as far as I know.
    But whole plants have https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/ … A lot of times

  12. I think what happens when you're fat adapted is: your mitochondria and body becomes efficient at utilizing fat storage to produce ketones BUT can switch back to carbohydrate burning easily..

    Provided you're in ketosis for about 80% of the time then carbs for the remainder this shouldn't affect your negatively.

    however I must sav that if vou flip this and are carbohydrate dominant you won't have the metabolic flexibility unfortunately…

  13. This video was entirely too reasonable. I need at least 70% more broscience and at least 5 miracle supplements pimped.

  14. I tracked down the study made showing the 7% drop in anaerobic performance when on a ketogenic diet. Unbelievably they had put the participants on a ketogenic diet for only 4 days! This means they were not even close to being keto-adapted and their muscles would not be able to use ketones. The "scientific study" is incredibly useless and pointless – totally stupid even. Anyone who has experience of going though that adaptive process can tell you that they were weak – but that completely changes later when your muscles do get to use the ketones. You need to understand what ketosis is first. When you have access to carbs in nature then your body goes into "fat stockage" mode – using insulin to store sugars as fat – which is how the body is designed to store energy over cold winters etc. before we had refrigerators. (we also used fermenting – which converts all carbs to other byproducts anyway) When easy food runs out then the starved the body quickly starts to burn some of the fat and produce ketones (in 2 or 3 days) – but they are only provided for the vital organs initially for survival. Over a period of a month to three months the ketones are progressively accessed by the muscles and so the body starts to dig into its substantial fat reserves but now allows you to hunt and survive the entire winter. It takes time to switch metabolic systems. The food you catch in the cold will then provide a ketogenic diet as well – by default. Prior to modern farming and agriculture most humans would have been ketogenic nearly all the time – hence no obesity, no diabetes, no heart disease and no cancer. There were no grains, cakes, pizzas or supermarkets selling crap. Once ketogenic you can then add carbs (depending on the individual) and burn them directly without stocking them as fat, without insulin issues and without losing ketosis. You do not have to be strict – you can use a high fat ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, endurance exercise and weight training in proportions to suit you and and the intensity of ketosis you want to be maintain. The "ketogenic diet" was invented in the 1930's to allow epileptics to simulate "fasting" effects – namely the production of ketones as food for the brain and also as we now know for neurogenesis. This cures 85% of epileptics 100% but is not used today because it doesn't make money. The brain is still said in the medical world to use only glucose for fuel – but this is false. Researchers refer to Alzheimer's as "Diabetes Type 3" – ketones are the preferred fuel for most organs.

  15. How are we, as the viewers and consumers of this information, expected to trust the information presented when the presenter says that a ketogenic diet is a high fat, high protein diet? A ketogenic diet is NOT a high protein diet. Not even being able to correctly define the topic should make the viewer dubious of information presented.

  16. Ollie! Really love your presentation style! Great way to learn through truly entertaining segments! 🤙👍🤣😂

  17. Great job and well researched Ollie. One important thing is missing though and that’s a very important subject of RQ (Respiratory Quotient). This is what makes a great difference for fat adapted athletes in a long term ketogenic state. In simple terms, traditionally fuelled athlete would be easily completely dependent on glucose at heart rates of about 140+. Fat adapted athlete however, would be able to delay this dependency to about 50/50 rate at 160bpm and more, depending on the physiology and level of adaptation. So while those athletes would still need the glucose for their turbocharger at max efforts and sprints, they’ll be able to spare more of this kind of fuel during sub threshold efforts at much higher intensities than others. As you’ve said – It’s all about the type of events you want to train for. But it’s also about optimising for the type of substrate you might need at certain intensities while maximising the backup glucose availability for those hard efforts.

  18. Excellent presentation. There are 2 books that are the Bible for this: “The art and science of low carbohydrate living” and “The art and science of low carbohydrate for Perfomance” by Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Volek, a must read.

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  20. Do you suffer from severe epilepsy, then maybe try keto. Heck, that's why it was developed…. not for vein people losing weight. By the way, it's not keto that helped you lose weight, you just created a calorie deficit, simple math/thermodynamics. And why limit the one fuel source your body uses the most in an intense sport like competitive cycling. Peace

  21. Dr. Klapper, a former anesthesiologist who would help doctors clear plaque from arteries and do bypass surgery, says that keto dieters are in for a rude awakening in the future when their arteries clog up.

  22. I rode the Tour of Slovakia in 1979 at 20 years of age , one of the stages was 190 km mountain stage , I was 3 miles from the finish and on my knees , when up popped an Apple tree ,
    what character building !

  23. Keep in mind that "scientific studies" are sponsored by corporations seeking validation for profit, people should rather focus on real results. Keto diet's benefits far surpass weight loss.

  24. Keto-diet presenter with FTP tests and subjective reports on energy on/off ketosis. As a T1Diabetic the low-carb diet is marvelous for sugar control and rides <80%V02 max, but for racing all cards point to carbs :(.

  25. Well presented, my experience on Keto was good for weight loss 25kg, 10in of my waist, free from medications for diabetes and high blood pressure and now I have started cycling seriously and enjoying it I also do intermittent fasting and do not feel that tired anyway I am not a professional cyclist just a recreational one so it’s okay.

  26. Very informative video, thanks! Everyone seems to be forgetting that the Asians live on carbs (rice) and didn't experience weight issues until the Western diet and fast food were introduced. I don't think it's the carbs that are the problem…… just my two cents 🙂

  27. I chose to try the Keto diet over 10 months ago in the hope of reducing gastric distress. Initially I felt awful, however as my body adapted to the lack of carbs and began burning fat this changed and I felt fantastic, in fact the best I've felt in 30 years.
    I've tried vegan(felt awful, no energy and weak), vegetarian(slightly better than vegan), gluten free (which helped for a few years) but nothing prepared me for the transformation this lifestyle has given me. In the process I'm now pain free, I've lost 9 kg off a 'healthy' weight, I've gained muscle and lost fat, have plenty of energy and won't go back.
    However, this lifestyle isn't for everyone as you need discipline, be prepared to address sugar/carb addiction, be prepared to think outside the box and do plenty of research on the topic.
    As for the downsides, yes Keto flu is real however this can be lessened (which I didn't realise when I started), eating out requires being bold and asking for changes to menus and finally athletic performance. At 52 my best athletic years are a long way behind me but I have noticed a drop in top end performance, this could be diet, age or just a lack of structured training or most probably a combination of all 3.
    As for the video, I was pleasantly surprised with only a couple of points being a little cliche and incorrect!

  28. The calories in calories out model is fundamentally flawed because it assumes the body does not change its metabolic rate to adapt to various stimulus. So yes you need to expend more energy than you consume but the way to do that is to lower the brains regulated fat mass rather than to eat less or exercise more. One way is to lower average insulin, another is to reduce cortisol and there are others too depending on what the cause is. Keto diet tackles chronically elevated insulin and keeps glucagon high as fat does not spike insulin. Atkins mkII does spike insulin with its high protein.

  29. Good job Ollie! I've briefly covered ketosis at University. I thought it was important to reinforce that people who aren't in ketosis are still utilising fat as an energy source. The amount of energy derived from fat will be dictated by the intensity of an activity e.g. a 100m sprinter will generate their energy from either phosphocreatine or anaerobic glycolysis – rapid but limited sources of energy, whereas a marathon runner would be utilising a mix aerobic glucose (more efficient) and fat (much larger stores). The percentage of fat supplying energy, compared to glucose, increases significantly when the marathon runner hits 'the wall', as the body's metabolism tires to conserve glucose for other essential functions.

  30. Great video on LCHF diet. It indeed works and results are amazing. You do lack some energy for some heavy training/races but in general – it's great. Main advantage, at least for me, was complete lack of attraction to sweet things (like candies or ice-cream). That really helps to keep calories low. Mind that you do need to be strict on the carbs intake. Otherwise your body will manage to "recover". I still wonder how 200g of chocolate can result in over 1kg fat!? 🙂
    You do need to read the labels and choose what you eat. You also need to love eggs and bacon. Otherwise LCHF will be tuff for you 🙂

  31. If you are overweight and need to loose weight then this is great but not sustainable for endurance athletes already have single digit body fat percentages. High carb plant based all the way.

  32. I'm a triathlete, I lost >40lbs when I started and would never use a ketogenic diet. If you do any high intensity exercise, you stop burning fat and can only burn carbs, so you'll bonk. It doesn't matter if you're an Ironman or a short course athlete, you should be doing some high intensity training to improve your performance. Tried a low carb diet a couple of times and felt like absolute shit. A simple caloric deficit derived from a balanced diet is the way to go; it's far less restrictive and at least as effective. You can still increase fat adaptation with this also.

  33. Well put together Dr. Ollie! As a physio and man of science I love your “nerd alerts” and unbiased presentations.

  34. Great video, Ollie!
    No mention of bad breath, bloating or constipation! You could have had fun with those too.
    No birthday cake would be the clincher for me though. 😁

  35. Correction: it is moderate protein, not high.
    I love keto, being on it for two years, shaved 20 lbs. I am the same size and weight as Marco Pantani. I am faster , more balanced, way less injuries or inflammation. It takes me more time to recover though. Once my turbo charger is activated though I do keep going for a longer period of time. I need a couple of days to recharge ( I run, hike as well) . I forgot to mention, I do fasting 23/24 and my thighs are significantly grown bigger( natural GH went up 1300%) , I use autophagy for tissues repair mechanisms . There are times where I do carnivore only to feel better, I just listen to my body. I am a female and 53 , I do not compete though.
    I am in my best cycling shape ever. I love it. Thank you for your video, this was very informative. I love ❤️ your channel.

  36. Mountain biker here… not a racer. But. I did keto for 2 years. You do lose your high gear. Where you go zone 5 for a few minutes… u jyst can't do it. But. You can run in zone 3 n 4 literally all day long without eating. And. It does take many months to improve your metabolism to get good at burning fat. Fat adapted.. once your fatty adapted. You can fuel your workouts with carbs. Eat then just before u ride. But only eat what your going to burn

  37. imho the only advantage of a low carb diet for weight loss is that carbohydrates tend to reduce the sense of satiety. So it doesn't provide any advantage when you are calorie counting (directly or indirectly with the amount of carbs and proteins) anyway.

  38. Great presentation. Nit: weight loss is not “simply” calories in, calories out. It is dependent on the source of those calories. Using fat (and not carbs) as a calorie source delivers a different response from the endocrine system that can avoid insulin resistance and help maintain or increase metabolic rate, assisting weight loss.

  39. While keto adapted, I'm just not hungry, so the caloric deficit comes easily. The turbo boost is definitely not there, leading to a leap-frog situation: buddies pass me on the steeps, and I pass them after they've stopped to snack. (MTB, so can't easily eat while riding.)

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