Paoli et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012, 9:34 http://www.jissn.com/content/9/1/34
Ketogenic diet does not affect strength
performance in elite artistic gymnasts
Antonio Paoli1,2*, Keith Grimaldi3, Dominic D’Agostino4, Lorenzo Cenci5, Tatiana Moro1, Antonino Bianco6 and Antonio Palma6
Background: Despite the increasing use of very low carbohydrate ketogenic diets (VLCKD) in weight control and management of the metabolic syndrome there is a paucity of research about effects of VLCKD on sport performance. Ketogenic diets may be useful in sports that include weight class divisions and the aim of our study was to investigate the influence of VLCKD on explosive strength performance. Methods: 8 athletes, elite artistic gymnasts (age 20.9 ± 5.5 yrs) were recruited. We analyzed body composition and various performance aspects (hanging straight leg raise, ground push up, parallel bar dips, pull up, squat jump, countermovement jump, 30 sec continuous jumps) before and after 30 days of a modified ketogenic diet. The diet was based on green vegetables, olive oil, fish and meat plus dishes composed of high quality protein and virtually zero carbohydrates, but which mimicked their taste, with the addition of some herbal extracts. During the VLCKD the athletes performed the normal training program. After three months the same protocol, tests were performed before and after 30 days of the athletes’ usual diet (a typically western diet, WD). A one-way Anova for repeated measurements was used.
Results: No significant differences were detected between VLCKD and WD in all strength tests. Significant differences were found in body weight and body composition: after VLCKD there was a decrease in body weight (from 69.6 ± 7.3 Kg to 68.0 ± 7.5 Kg) and fat mass (from 5.3 ± 1.3 Kg to 3.4 ± 0.8 Kg p 0.001) with a non-significant increase in muscle mass.
Conclusions: Despite concerns of coaches and doctors about the possible detrimental effects of low carbohydrate diets on athletic performance and the well known importance of carbohydrates there are no data about VLCKD and strength performance. The undeniable and sudden effect of VLCKD on fat loss may be useful for those athletes who compete in sports based on weight class. We have demonstrated that using VLCKD for a relatively short time period (i.e. 30 days) can decrease body weight and body fat without negative effects on strength performance in high level athletes.
Keywords: Very low carbohydrate Ketogenic diet, Body composition, Weight loss, Strength, Gymnastic
Many procedures used for body weight reduction by athletes in sports that include weight categories lead to a series of negative side effects which directly influence
physiological efficiency during sports performance. The
practice of rapidly losing a significant amount of weight,
* Correspondence: email@example.com
Physiological Laboratory – Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
Human Movement Sciences School, University of Padova, Padova, Italy Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
through low calorie diets, deliberate dehydration, saunas
etc., just before competition, is widespread [1-3]. These
traditional methods are often unsafe and typically impair
health, physiological function, water balance, electrolytes, glycogen and lean body mass [1,4-6] and are sometimes illegal as with the use of diuretics . However for athletes competing in sports divided into
weight categories a safe method of weight loss that does
not impair performance can be a legitimate and important tool. For example, bodybuilders regularly need to reduce fat and/or weight before competition preferably
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