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Keto Diet Works for Strength Athletes Too!

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By Don Gauvreau

Strength athletes have always been cautious of drastically reducing carbohydrate consumption in fear of losing strength and performance. Many strength athletes, such as powerlifters and Olympic lifters, compete in weight classes and often use weight-making strategies to compete in specific weight categories with an optimal power-to-weight ratio. Some experts believe that low-carbohydrate diets might offer specific advantages for weight reduction without the negative impact on strength and power previously hypothesized to accompany carbohydrate restriction.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, a group of Australian researchers set out to determine whether a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet could be used as an effective weight reduction strategy for athletes competing in the weight-class sports of powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting. Fourteen intermediate to elite competitive lifting athletes at an average age of 34 years were included in the study. The subjects consumed an ad libitumusual diet (greater than 250 grams daily intake of carbohydrates) and an ad libitumlow-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (with less than 50 grams daily intake of carbohydrates) in random order, each for 3 months in a crossover design. Lifting performance, body composition, resting metabolic rate, blood glucose, and blood electrolytes were measured at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months.

The low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet phase resulted in significantly lower body mass (-3.26 kg) and lean mass (-2.26 kg) compared with the usual diet phase. Lean mass losses weren’t reflected in lifting performances, which weren’t different between dietary phases. Weight class athletes consuming a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet decreased body mass and achieved lifting performances that were comparable with their usual diet. The study concluded that coaches and athletes should consider using a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet to achieve targeted weight-reduction goals for weight-class sports.


Greene DA, Varlet BJ, Hartwig TB, Chapman P, Rigney M. A low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet reduces body mass without compromising performance in powerlifting and olympic weightlifting athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2018;32:3373-82.

Image credit: GettyImages


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