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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Ketogenic diet does not affect strength performance in elite artistic gymnasts

Antonio Paoli*, Keith Grimaldi, Dominic D’Agostino, Lorenzo Cenci, Tatiana Moro, Antonino Bianco and Antonio Palma

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012, 9:34  doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-34

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Energy deficit and side effects

Don Matesz   (2012-11-27 14:14)  Private Practice email

According to Paoli et al, when the athletes consumed the ketogenic diet, they had an energy intake of 8254.5 kJ/d, whereas on the Western Diet they consumed 9520.7 kJ/d. This eduction of energy intake by 1266.2 kJ per day would predict a loss of 1.2 kg in 30 d, compared to the 1.9 kg reported here. The other 0.7 kg of fat loss may simply reflect mismatch of energy intake and expenditure due to training, i.e. expending more energy (about 756 kJ/d) in training than provided by the ketogenic diet.

The authors did not report side effects or changes in serum lipids in these athletes, thus readers do not have the information required to determine if the ketogenic diet presents a safe option for body composition management in athletes. I would like to know if these athletes had increased risk of the common side effects of low carbohydrate diets such as constipation, headaches, fatigue, halitosis, etc.

I question the wisdom of teaching athletes to practice restricting plant foods as a temporary weight loss strategy, as this favors the development of the yo-yo diet syndrome which compromises long-term health; and I question the wisdom of teaching them to eat such a diet long term because long term adherence to low carbohydrate diets appears associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease in some studies: http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e4026

Plant-based diets providing no more than 20% of energy from fat and zero cholesterol will reduce body fat mass, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce serum lipids, and provide adequate protein to prevent lean mass loss without restricting intake of fiber and glucose, the primary fuel for anaerobic activities such as gymnastics.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2677007/

Plant based diets can easily meet the nutritional requirements of athletes and may improve athletic performance: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20622542

Hence, I question the wisdom of prescribing ketogenic diets to any population, particularly athletes.

Competing interests

None

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