New evidence suggests that, in well-trained individuals, a very low carb, ketogenic diet can increase fat burning as well as reduce body weight.
On a ketogenic diet, the metabolic state in which ketone bodies are utilised as the main energy source instead of glucose has been shown to lead to several metabolic advantages, including weight management and improvements in blood glucose control.
An independent research also showed that a ketone body produced whilst in this state can neutralise part of the harmful effects of a metabolite of sugar metabolism, helping to slow aging and the onset of type 2 diabetes-related complications.
The new study involved twenty male endurance-trained athletes who habitually ate a high carb diet. The researchers separated them into two groups.
One group stayed on a high carb diet, consisting of 65 per cent carbs, 14 per cent protein and 20 per cent fat, and another went on a low carb, ketogenic diet, including 6 per cent carbs, 17 per cent protein and 77 per cent fat.
Both groups followed the same exercise regimen, composed of endurance, strength and high intensity interval training (HIIT) for the duration of the 12-weeks study.
All participants had their body mass and body fat percentage assessed prior to and following the study. They also completed a training protocol, for which the high carb group fuelled on carbs, while the low carb group consumed water and salts.
After the experiment, the group consuming a low carb diet saw a significantly greater decrease in body mass. The low carb group reduced their weight by almost six kilos, while the high carb group lost close to a kilo.
There were also more beneficial changes in body fat for participants on a low carb diet. Those consuming it had a 5.2 per cent decrease in body fat, compared to a reduction of 0.7 per cent in the high carb group.
In terms of performance, exercise testing revealed that the low carb diet group increased power during training and fat burning, as evidenced by elevated levels of the ketone body beta-hydroxybuyrate in low carb participants at week 12.
The findings suggest that, in people with high physical activity, consuming a low-carb, ketogenic diet can lead to more beneficial changes in body weight and body composition, while ramping up the body’s ability to burn fat.
Although the study is small and needs to be replicated among people with a lower fitness level, these findings expanded the known biological functions and effects of low carb, ketogenic diets.
The study results were published in the journal Metabolism Clinical and Experimental.

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