Keto diet is one of the latest trends to appear in the fitness world. With a rather bold idea at its core, an average keto diet is all about eliminating carbohydrates and getting all of your energy from fats instead. 

Needless to say, it’s one of the most controversial diets out there, despite the proven benefits it brings to the table. What we want to know is whether these proven benefits work for runners, or should keto be avoided? Let’s find out. 

What Is Ketosis? 

Keto is short for ketosis – a process where our body shifts from one fuel to another. The whole idea behind the keto diet is to deprive your body of carbohydrates, which are the fuel we burn to perform any physical task. Carbs are processed by the liver, creating stores of glucose which are then used as necessary. When your body gets completely devoid of carbs, it quickly starts looking for another source of energy. Fortunately for us, human bodies are extremely good at adapting and surviving. 

Once the glucose runs out, the liver starts to process fat, thus entering the state of ketosis. During ketosis, the liver is either transforming the existing fat stores into ketones, or it’s processing the fats you eat to create this alternative fuel. 

Different Types of Ketones 

Not all ketones are created equal. There are three types of ketones that our body produces when it enters ketosis – BHB, acetoacetate, and acetone. Of all three, beta-hydroxybutyrate is the most abundant one. It accounts for around ⅔ of all ketones your body produces. 

BHB is an interesting compound as it serves a diverse purpose. It’s not just fuel that you can tap into during ketosis. It also reduces the number of free radicals in your body, improves cognition, has a positive effect on neuroinflammation, and more. BHB has so many positive effects that you can get it as a supplement. Pros over at offer a great guide on BHB supplements and some of the better options on the market. The main benefit of BHB is the fact that it can be used long-term as a source of energy. 

How Does Keto Affect Runners? 

Entering ketosis is often seen as a slow process that can take days. Teaching your body how to use something other than carbs for energy takes time. From a runner’s point of view, going keto might be challenging. 

Running often requires fast processing times between consuming food and turning that food into energy. There has been some criticism toward keto that pointed out the slow burn rates of fat compared to carbs. Fat burning occurs naturally during running, but using fat as energy doesn’t always provide the best results. 

Namely, short distance HIIT aerobic exercises may not work too well with keto diets. In such cases, a low-carb, high-fat diet might be the most optimal way to go. Adding that little bit of carbs will prevent the body from entering ketosis, but it will also give you that instant boost of energy you require for sprinting, short distance high-intensity runs, and similar. 

Keto and Marathon Running 

On the other hand, ultramarathon runners and those who utilize a slower pace, covering long distances, will absolutely benefit from going into ketosis. In fact, if you’re frequently running 30+ mile marathons, your body already has plenty of experience with ketosis. 

Running such large distances quickly depletes your body of carbs and glucose. Once you go past the half-way point of an ultramarathon, your body slowly starts shifting its focus from carbs onto fats, thus entering ketosis. 

By following a keto diet, you can actually make your body much more efficient in this regard. The idea is to get it used to the state of ketosis, which eliminates the need for the liver to switch from one fuel to another mid-run. Instead, you’ll be running on slow-burning ketones the entire time. 

Is Keto Right for You? 

Changing a diet is a big deal for anyone, but especially runners. That being said, keto is proving to be extremely beneficial in more ways than one. It’s a great way to maintain a specific weight, eliminate a bunch of unhealthy foods, and give your system a flush similar to the one you get when fasting. 

Do we know everything there is to know about how keto impacts our bodies? Not really, but we know enough to understand that ketosis is safe. Although it’s not for everyone, we highly recommend that you give keto a try. If it doesn’t work for you, it’s easy to go back to a balanced diet or a low carbs diet.