No matter your goals as a cyclist, the calories you take in need to fuel your exercise plan. Many cyclists struggle to find a diet that helps them take off excess body fat while increasing their muscle mass and providing them with energy.
While the first few days of a keto diet can leave you feeling weak and sickly, getting through the keto “flu” can actually leave you feeling highly energized and clear-headed.
What is a Keto diet?
The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat and high-protein diet. Any foods that quickly enter the bloodstream as glucose or energy, such as
- natural sugars from fruit, though some berries are allowed
- processed sugars and starches such as candy, white bread and white rice
- most grains, particularly wheat
Keto diets lessen the amount of insulin your body needs to produce and lowers the time your body needs to maintain an elevated level of insulin. This lower insulin level lessens the risk of insulin resistance, which can lead to Type II diabetes.
There are indications that the keto diet can be a healthy choice for people with conditions from Parkinson’s to polycystic ovarian syndrome. If you are currently struggling with a health condition, make sure you discuss your keto plan with your doctor. Ketosis raises the ketones in your bloodstream. For Type 1 diabetics, this can turn a manageable condition into a dangerous one.
Read more: Healthy Grocery List for Cyclists
Is Keto diet good for cyclists?
The keto diet is a great way to shed extra weight and can help you burn muscle. However, if you need an extra burst of energy for a sprint, such as during a timed trial or during a race, you may lose some energy at the end of a hard push.
Keto can lead to constipation, particularly in the early stages as the body sheds water weight. It is critical that, as you boost your intake of protein and fat, you maintain a high intake of fiber from produce such as
- cabbage and cauliflower
- spinach and romaine lettuce
- green bell peppers and avocado
Constipation can lead to blockages, gut damage and hemorrhoids. Bike riders suffering from a sluggish gut may need to do a bit more walking and focus carefully on hydration to reduce the risk of the pain, itch and general misery of hemorrhoids in particular.
Training your body to draw energy from fat can be fairly straightforward. However, turning protein into fuel will take more steps. If you have a hard race or are planning a serious cycling climb somewhere, you may want to move to carb cycling instead of sticking strictly to a keto plan.
For example, you may use a strict keto diet to help you get to a healthy weight. You can then start carb cycling, or rotating in a high carb day on two non-consecutive days of the week. As a carb cycler, you can schedule your starch and sugar days for race days so you have access to quick energy.
Does keto ruin your metabolism?
If you’re focusing on the keto diet as a way to drop weight, adding carbs back in may quickly add pounds back on your frame. The key to an effective keto diet is, in no small way, the ability to get through the early stages of ketosis.
You will not feel great during these early days. You may feel
- sad, sleepy and cranky
- smelly, both your perspiration and your breath
- foggy or confused
Finally, many of the foods on the keto diet can give you gas. No matter what you do as an athlete and as a keto diet follower, focus on hydration and gentle movement. A simple walk while drinking a liter of water can help you digest more effectively.
Keep drinking water to reduce the unpleasant taste that keto can leave in your mouth. Finally, if you want an additional shower each day, take another one to feel cleaner.
Because keto is so restrictive, one of the big worries in coming off of your keto plan is binging. It makes sense that after a long stretch of life without sugar, white flour or most fruits, you’d be tempted to reach for an apple pie.
Moving from strict keto to a carb cycling process, when you have two non-keto days a week, may be the best way to readjust your diet without putting all the weight back on.
It should be noted that there are many who started keto for gut health instead of weight loss. If you have any gluten or grain sensitivities, switching to a keto diet may be an ideal way to heal a diseased gut. If you haven’t started one, now is the time to start a food journal.
A simple notebook can work for this; just track what you ate, how you felt after a few hours, and any symptoms you had related to your specific problem. For example, if you have ulcerative colitis, your symptom timing will be different than someone with a peptic ulcer.
Read more: 10 Delicious Bike Snacks for Your Next Ride
Experts do not recommend the keto diet for the long-term. However, once you get accustomed to using food energy from fats and proteins, moving back into the keto diet may come more easily. If you have health issues that are improved by following the keto diet, you may find exactly what causes your health challenge by adding carb-rich foods slowly and noting your symptoms.
Cyclist sprinters may need carb days. Anyone with a damaged or sick gut may find great relief from keto food choices. Grain sensitivities can show up as another illness. Self-awareness and tracking are key to safely moving in and out of keto.