With the whole fitness and health field booming in the last couple of years, a lot of new information has come out, which is definitely a good thing, but big words and new information come with that making it a little overwhelming for a good portion of the general public.

Ketosis has recently become a new tool to use so people can reach different health and fitness related goals.

Specifically, ketosis is a metabolic state where the body’s energy comes from ketone bodies in the blood, instead of being in a state of glycolysis where blood glucose provides the usual energy for us. I’ll get a bit more into detail here in a minute and break down what all of that means.
Ketosis is not to be confused with ketoacidosis which is basically an extreme state of ketosis. Ketoacidosis is usually related to type 1 diabetes where the liver breaks down fats and even proteins, as well as prolonged alcoholism.

What is Ketosis and what is it used for?

“Ketosis is a nutritional process that is characterized by blood serum concentrations of ketone bodies over 0.5mM, with low levels of insulin and blood glucose (Phinney, 2011).” Basically, this just means that there is an elevated level of ketones being produced in the body and in the blood which is called “hyperketonemia.” Long-term ketosis can result from fasting or staying on a low-carbohydrate diet or a ketogenic diet.

The big thing with ketone bodies, at least in the fitness world, is that ketones can be used by the different cells of the body as fuel instead of the typical glucose that most people’s bodies use as fuel. This allows the body to use fats as a more prominent fuel source to lose fat mass while preserving muscle mass. That reason is why ketosis is sometimes called the body’s “fat burning” mode (Paoli). Ketosis also has been used, studied, and showed some promise in other conditions such as helping with epilepsy, diabetes (EC, Jr., JC, M, & JR, 2008), and has even studied in helping animals with certain conditions as well.

Who can/should use ketosis?

This should go without saying, but see and ask your doctor if a ketogenic diet would be properand a good idea for you. That being said, ketosis has mainly been used as a means to lose body fat while keeping a good share of muscle mass. This leads many people to use this for bodybuilding or figure competitions where their performance is based on their appearance, muscle mass, and low body fat percentages on stage. A ketogenic diet should also be done over quite a bit of time since it does take some time to put your body into a ketogenic state where your body is using and producing ketones effectively.

Now, would a ketogenic diet be good for someone who needs to perform in other ways such as athletics, powerlifting, or Olympic lifting? It’s not exactly recommended since high carbohydrate diets have shown to be more effective at higher intensities of exercise (SD, et al., 1980). The typical high carbohydrate diet would still be recommended for high intensity exercise activities such as different types of maximal lifting, team sports, and certain track field events, just to name a few.
Ketogenic diets may also be a good idea for people suffering from diabetes, epilepsy, or even your home pet that is suffering from some type of ailment. It should go without saying that this should be done with proper approval and supervision from your doctor or your pet’s usual veterinarian.

Final Thoughts

Ketogenic diets have recently stormed the health and fitness fields, and for good reason. They’ve shown they can be a very effective tool for people looking to lose weight, lean out for fitness shows, or even help with other health related goals. Although some more traditional diets such as high carbohydrates, or even just optimal macronutrient rations may help other athletes, low carbohydrate and ketogenic could be a tool that certain athletes could use to help take their games to a new level, and a tool that personal trainers and coaches should be able to utilize to help their clients with their performance and health related goals.

-Tyler Giery, BS, CPT