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A ketogenic diet relies on a very low intake of carbohydrates, moderate protein and high fat. It forces the body to metabolise and survive on fatty acids or ketone bodies for energy or fuel. It is an exceptional plan for improving insulin sensitivity, improved muscle development, the reduction of inflammation within the body and is perfect for endurance athletes when followed correctly.
What Are Ketone Bodies?
Ketone bodies, or ketones, consist of three molecules which are water soluble and break down into acetone. They are produced by the liver from fatty acids during certain extended periods of exercise and restrictive diets such as low carbohydrate, high fat plans.
What is Ketosis?
Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for the body to convert to energy. When restricting carbohydrate intake your body will no longer have sufficient glucose and will there need to burn fuel from an alternate source. Fat is the next best option. Ketones are made as part of the process of fat burning or breakdown for fuel and this process is called ketosis. The ketogenic diet is one in which ketosis occurs.
Ketones are actually the preferred source of fuel for the diaphragm and the heart and therefore ketosis is an ideal state for athletes to be in. After the initial switch from glucose burning to fat burning, achieving a state of stable ketosis is what should be aimed for. The first few days of the “switch” can be uncomfortable but there are certain supplements which can force ketosis, leading to stable ketosis and therefore go a long way to boosting endurance.
Supplements Which Force Ketosis
Being in a state of stable ketosis provides a focused mentality as well as drastically improved physical and cognitive performance. For this reason, a ketogenic diet is excellent for athletes. These supplements can help to force the body into a state of ketosis which can then be maintained through diet and further supplementation:
MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides. MCTs, in contrast to LCTs (long chain triglycerides), are able to enter the bloodstream very quickly and are therefore a readily available source of energy for the muscles and the brain which is particularly important for endurance athletes. Taking a steady amount of MCT oil throughout the day will help you to transition into a state of ketosis more quickly than through a food regime alone. Including these oils in your diet once you have achieved ketosis will not only provide stable energy but also help during the “switch” of fuel source burning. Sources of this fat include coconut oil, olive oil and palm kernel oil (do not confuse this with palm oil). Coconut oil is approximately 60% medium chain triglycerides and therefore an excellent source.
Exogenous Ketone Supplement
These supplements come in various forms including liquid, tablet and powder so it is possible to choose one that best suits your palate. Using exogenous ketones will speed your shift into ketosis and help your body to stay in “the zone”. They can put your body into ketosis almost instantaneously and can also help to get it back into a state of ketosis when you’ve unavoidably eaten carbohydrates. Like most supplements, to achieve optimum results, they should be used as part of a ketogenic diet, not just on their own.
Important in the metabolism of fat, it helps the muscles to use the energy from fat metabolism effectively. Low levels of carnitine will lead to a reduction in the body’s ability to utilise fat for fuel which in turn will increase blood sugar. In order to stay in ketosis, this supplement is vital.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
An anti-oxidant which is both fat and water soluble. It is important in the maintenance of insulin sensitivity, regulated blood sugar levels and healthy blood vessels – important for the cardiovascular health of endurance athletes.
Using cinnamon capsules daily assists in the improvement of insulin receptors and slows the production of enzymes that block insulin receptors. It’s also a strong anti-oxidant which decreases inflammation in the body.
Curcumin is also a potent anti-oxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces activity of certain liver enzymes which release sugars into the bloodstream and it regulates blood sugar levels, reduces sugar cravings and improves insulin receptivity.
Gymnema Sylvestre and Chromium
These supplements help to reduce cravings for sugar and naturally balance blood sugar levels.
To help your body with the side effects of transitioning to burning fat as a fuel source while running on drastically reduced carbohydrates, important electrolytes like potassium and sodium should be supplemented as they are reduced when following a ketogenic plan. An electrolyte supplement is also suggested to combat the side effects of the “switch”.
Kelly Crawford is passionate about health, well being, running and minimalist. As a competitive runner, she has insight into the struggles of balancing work-outs with good nutrition and injury prevention. She is a contributing writer for HardBoiledBody.com – a site dedicated to health, nutrition and fitness advice. You can follow her on Facebook at; https://www.facebook.com/hardboiledbody