The Ketogenic Diet
Good for the Brain, Weight Loss AND for Athletes
The ketogenic diet has been shown to help with many health issues, including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, migraine headaches, autism, some cancers and weight loss. But for competitive athletes specifically, the ketogenic diet can help boost energy levels and cognitive function, which can further enhance athletic performance.
Now, before I launch into providing some reasons why athletes might want to consider adopting the ketogenic way of eating, let me define it a bit for you.
Broadly speaking, the ketogenic diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet, which pushes the body to breakdown fat for energy instead of glucose (the body’s sugar).
Our bodies can only use so much blood sugar at any given moment and so when there is more blood sugar than is needed (such as when we eat a high carb diet or lots of processed foods with added sugar), the sugar that doesn’t get used by our cells immediately, gets stored as glycogen (the stored form of sugar), which is a good and necessary thing. BUT when the glycogen stores are all full, then the excess sugar gets stored as FAT. However, when way fewer carbohydrates are consumed, the body will have less sugar available as an energy source and so is then forced to use fat as its main fuel. This is how the ketogenic way of eating can help with weight loss.
When your body uses fat as the main fuel and produces ketones, you are ‘in ketosis’. Ketosis is a naturally evolved, built-in survival mechanism that is activated during prolonged fasting, starvation, or lack of carbohydrate consumption. But athletes can use this to their advantage.
Athletes who burn ketones instead of glucose, experience a boost in cognitive and physical performance.
Cognitively, ketones are a cleaner, more efficient fuel source than glucose, particularly for the brain. Too much glucose is actually toxic to the brain and it leads to excess insulin, and inflammation (which feels like brain fog and may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s). Ketones are an efficient, slow-burning fuel source, leading to improved cognition – greater concentration and prolonged focus.
We all know that exercise improves blood circulation and delivery of oxygen to our muscles and other parts of our bodies. But exercise also increases our production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is like fertilizer for our brain cells, helping grow new ones and repair damaged ones. Ketones also help boost BDNF.
Physically, transitioning to burning fat instead of glucose for energy, improves endurance exercise capability in athletes. Keto-adaptation may also improve aerobic and anaerobic exercise ability in endurance athletes. Plus, ketones help increase mitochondrial glutathione levels, which subsequently may lead to quicker recovery between exercise sessions.
Ok, now let’s talk food.
Here are some food choices to make, if you want to begin to adopt the ketogenic way of eating:
- Eat whole foods (non-GMO, and organic when you can)
- Limit processed and packaged foods (these are high in carbohydrates and poor-quality fats, and have low nutrient value because most of the nutrients were stripped away during the processing; they have added ingredients, oftentimes chemicals and artificial ingredients)
- Eat high fat (good quality, anti-inflammatory ones (extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil, avocado, cold water fish salmon, mackerel, anchovies, raw nuts (walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts) and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax, chia), extra virgin coconut oil, dark chocolate (80% cacao or higher) and whole free-range eggs)
- Eat moderate protein (whole free-range eggs, some beans and lentils (these also contain carbohydrates), quinoa, free-range poultry, grass-fed beef and the fish, nuts and seeds, as mentioned above)
- Eat low carb (lots of non-starchy grains (for example, quinoa) and non-starchy veggies (like dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, collards, chard, bok choy), onions and garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, asparagus) and low-sugar fruits like berries and citrus fruits)
- Drink lots of good quality, filtered water.
Krista is offering members of the Yellowknife Racquet Club a 20% discount on her consulting services until the end of 2020. So, if you are interested in receiving individualized recommendations and support on how the ketogenic way of eating can help you to hit your weight loss goals, or boost your athletic performance, book a free 30-minute discovery call with Krista to discuss how she can support you (https://p.bttr.to/30zVKgX).
If you’d like to learn more about Krista, check out her website (www.wholemindnutrition.com) and her social media (Instagram (@gut.brain.alz.nutritionist) and on Facebook (@pre.alzheimers.nutritionist)).
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