CYCLING AND THE KETO DIET, IS IT WORTH IT?

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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

In the world of cycling, both amateur and professional, performance and excellence are sought. To achieve this, we are always willing to experiment with all kinds of sports and nutritional strategies that offer us benefits.

That is why the Keto diet has been gaining followers and this is mainly due to its effectiveness in controlling the body mass index of athletes.

Here we are going to clear up some doubts and know if it is really so beneficial for cyclists to follow this diet or not.

The Keto diet is an eating plan rich in unsaturated fats, which we call “good” fats and proteins.

These proteins and good fats come from sources such as salmon, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, eggs, olives, and nuts, a parenthesis, in case you have also thought about it for a long time, peanuts are not a nut, they are a legume, but we will talk about that in another chapter, just don’t count them as nuts.

On the other hand, there is a maximum reduction of carbohydrates, sugars, and some fruits and vegetables.

The result that this diet produces in the body is called “Ketosis” which is the obtaining of energy through the efficient burning of fats.

We could say then that, in cycling, going on a Keto diet could bring quick results if what the sportsman needs is to lose weight quickly by looking for an ideal body weight target for this discipline.

But let’s keep looking at this type of diet in detail to see what else we can find.

WHAT TEAMS USE THIS DIET IN CYCLING?

One always looks for references to carry out certain activities and cycling was not going to be the exception, if we see that Egan, Froome or Nairo follow some special diet and perform as they do, then we are going to want to do something similar.

Many media claimed at the time that the Keto diet was used by several athletes at the London Olympics in 2012.

And apparently, after this episode, its fame shot up, since then it is said that the World Tour teams increased their intake, so much so that, in the Tour de France in 2018, seven teams used this kind of components (ketones), as a food supplement in their nutrition plan.

The Jumbo-Visma teams, from the Netherlands, the Belgian Lotto Soudal and QuickStep, and the emblematic Team Ineos, formerly Sky, have implemented the Keto diet in their cyclists to obtain results, although we are not sure if they currently follow this type of diet or simply complement it with others for the performance of their athletes.

CAN AMATEUR CYCLISTS BENEFIT FROM THIS KIND OF DIET?

We could say yes, since the physiological changes produced by the consumption of good fats and proteins in the body as an energy source are:

– Increased energy expenditure

– Hunger reduction

– Loss of body fat


This kind of diet requires a proper training and nutrition plan, preferably guided by a professional in the field, so as a recommendation, it is important that before you believe anything posted on the web, you put yourself in the hands of a good nutritionist to help you with the right diet.

How long does it take to adapt to the keto diet?

The period of adaptation to the Keto diet can be seen after 6 or 7 weeks, but before that happens, you may experience a decrease in your performance, headaches, and fatigue, so don’t be afraid.

There are several studies, which mention that this diet will give cyclists greater speed and endurance, in addition to:

Improved body composition, decreasing fat mass, and increasing lean body mass.

Increased power levels in sprints.

Decrease in physical recovery times.

We leave you here the link to McSwiney’s study for you to check it out:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0026049517302986

THAT SO KETO, DON’T GIVE SO MUCH

Despite the scientific evidence and sporting examples that support the use of a ketogenic diet, this kind of eating method, which stimulates the reduction of carbohydrate intake, causes energy losses in cyclists, exposing them to episodes of loss of performance, and entering into what is known as the famous “pajara”, which is nothing more than the sudden exhaustion of strength resulting from hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).

By having a low carbohydrate consumption the body does not produce energy from the ATP cells, and therefore we see how in the middle of a race, in climbs like Mont Ventoux in France, Monte Zoncolan in Italy, or in national climbs like La Linea or Alto de Letras, the bodies of the cyclists are weakened in a pronounced way, making it impossible to continue the physical effort at the maximum level.

We can see impatiently how the body sweats cold, there is dizziness and blurred vision, in short, due to insufficient glucose, the cyclist suffers physically and psychologically an abrupt decrease in performance.

ARE THERE RISKS IN A KETOGENIC DIET?

Studies from the University of Australia found that a low-carbohydrate diet (ketogenic diet) could compromise the normal development of the skeletal system.

Since it is a diet that benefits the consumption of fat and protein, and substantially reduces the consumption of carbohydrates, the latter of which are essential for a balanced and well-balanced diet, there are some side effects that could manifest themselves in the short or medium term.

Kidney stones, vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, among others, could take their toll on a Keto diet without proper supervision and without the recommendations of a true specialist.

Here we are going to leave you with some final pearls that, in our opinion, will be useful if you think you can really combine cycling and a Keto diet or if, on the contrary, you can opt for a diet where carbohydrates are mostly present:

  • The Keto diet was actually initially implemented as a treatment for neurological problems like epilepsy, and it was a measure to combat weight loss. It is not easy to find in the literature studies of sports performance in athletes through the ketosis phenomenon. In this sense we could not venture to give more precise scientific conclusions without some studies that support it.
  • The goals you have set for yourself if you practice cycling will also determine whether the Keto diet is good for you. You could combine ketogenic diet states before a cycling competition, or at times of stages where a marked sprint or top speed is required.
  • If you want to go on a Keto diet, we recommend (again) that you get advice from a professional so that your performance and, above all, your health are not compromised.

PEDAL TOWARDS A MORE INTELLIGENT DIET

If, after consulting your doctor and nutritionist, you feel that the “Keto” diet is ideal, don’t waste any time. We recommend that you do a complete search for studies that present the benefits of this kind of diet, don’t go for the easy way out.

Remember that the Keto diet decreases the production of insulin, and it is the insulin that regulates the use of the carbohydrates we eat.

Tell us if you would be willing to go on this diet and how we can help you with more useful information.

Good route!