The keto diet is an excellent strategy to put an end to your climbing ambitions. Though you go on this diet bandwagon, your shaky fingers will slip right off those slopers, as if they were covered in the bacon grease that binds your diet. Why?
To begin with, it’s important to understand what the keto (or ketogenic) diet is. Ketosis is the metabolic state that your body enters when you consume a very low carbohydrate diet (approximately 20 to 50 grammes per day). This is usually 60 to 80 percent fat and 10 to 30% protein. A medium apple has roughly 25 grammes of carbohydrates, which is about half a day’s supply. This is very minimal carbohydrate consumption, particularly for a climber who is active.
When your diet is low in carbohydrates, your body seeks additional methods to metabolize substrates in order to meet your daily needs. Ketosis sets in at this point. Ketones are essentially a fuel substrate that your body uses instead of glucose. Ketosis is a challenging metabolic adaptation that happens when there isn’t enough glucose in the body.
Ketosis is not a smart idea when it comes to climbing. Carbohydrates are the preferred food source for your brain and skeletal muscles. Limiting it to only 20 to 50 grammes per day will leave you exhausted.
Your body uses both fat and carbs as fuel at lower levels. Your body consumes glucose when you exert more than 60% of your maximal effort. Climbing is frequently characterized by intensity shifts, such as a lengthy trad route with a violent crux or a boulder issue with a dyno. Carbohydrates are required for these high-intensity exercises. It is difficult or impossible to be strong if your body is gaining fat and protein with very little carbohydrates. Forget about it if you’re a fast climber.
A low-carb diet also reduces training adaptations. Carbohydrates are essential for feeding, recuperating, and propelling activities during exercise.
In decades of research, there hasn’t been a single study that shows the keto diet improves sports performance. According to research:
- the same level of performance, but greater perceived effort
- Reduced efficiency
- Power reduction
- increased fatigue time.
The keto diet also has significant disadvantages, such as limiting meal options. Many grains, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables are left out. This may result in:
- digestive issues
- Heart issues and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Diet satisfaction and adherence are low.
- Eating disorders
On the road, limited food options, free gasoline, van living, or backcountry experiences
It is true that the keto diet may help you lose weight. However, losing weight is more involved and nuanced than just “going keto.” As your body uses its glycogen reserves to power your everyday activities, you lose weight at first, which is essentially water weight. When glycogen (the sugar storage form in your muscles and liver) is depleted, the water is released. Magic! (No, not at all.) Within a few days, you shed two to five pounds of water weight.
Beyond the first water weight reduction, genuine fat loss happens only when you are in a calorie deficit on the keto diet, just like any other diet. For weight loss, there is nothing special or beneficial about the keto diet.
For climbing performance, avoiding low energy availability is preferable to weight reduction.
So clean off the bacon grease, have a spaghetti meal, and go to work on your project.