“Keto” Diet Adds Fat and Wastes Lean In Athletes

The money quote:

The commonly heard claim that ketogenic dieting would lead to significantly more beneficial improvements in body composition in dieting athletes, on the other hand, is clearly falsified by the results of the study at hand. If anything, the loss of muscle mass is more and the loss of fat mass less pronounced than it would be with a balanced medium-to-high carbohydrate diet.

That’s Adel Moussa, Suppversity Blog: “Keto” Diet in Taekwando Athletes: Good for Performance, Less Beneficial for Body Composition – Non-Sign. Higher Muscle & Lower Fat Loss in 25% Deficit vs. Balanced Diet.

But here’s the big rub, as Duck and I pointed out in our recent series on the noon-ketogenic state of the Inuit. The diet tested here is not even ketogenic (probably way better).

If you want to do a keto diet, say goodbuy to tons of protein: What may not be obvious to all of you is the fact that the diet at hand is low in carbs, but not high enough in fat to be truly ketogenic. With 40% protein you are not going to go into ketosis. That’s simply too much protein to be converted to glucose in the liver – specifically if you get some of the protein from fast digesting protein sources like whey, which will spike the blood amino acid levels and kickstart hepatic gluconeogenesis. Unfortunately, the study does not list the absolute protein intake, but if we assume a baseline intake of 2800kcal per day for the subjects, they would have consumed 210g of protein per day – that’s 3.2g/kg for these lean guys – and still lost muscle.

See, same as for the Inuit, except their average protein intake was 270 g/d.

So let’s get this straight. There’s a diet out there being touted as the epitome when even at 40% protein, subjects lose lean muscle and have higher fat levels. I shudder to think what happens when you take the protein down to 15% so that your blood ketone meter makes happy noises.

Fucking dumb in every way imaginable.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. charles grashow on November 12, 2014 at 08:14

    Full study links
    The effect of weight loss by ketogenic diet on the body composition, performance-related physical fitness factorsand cytokines of Taekwondo athletes
    Rethinking fat as a fuel for endurance exercise
    Jeff S. Volek, Timothy Noakes& Stephen D. Phinney

    • Gemma on November 12, 2014 at 09:18

      Poor athletes. No keto, no carbs, no results, and on top of all that, this:
      “Taekwondo is a sport that determines the winner by the score obtained by blowing the opponent (Lee et al., 2012).”

    • Gina on November 12, 2014 at 09:31

      Oh, my.

  2. golooraam on November 12, 2014 at 09:53

    Richard – what is your recommendation then for sometime trying to maintain/put on a touch of LBM while still whittling down chub?

    • golooraam on November 12, 2014 at 10:39

      sorry, that’s a horrible question
      Basically, watch your calories, get your resistant starch in… reheated lentils and taters be the mainstays… don’t glob on the additional fat.. meat and veggies to taste…

      my bad

    • Richard Nikoley on November 12, 2014 at 12:13

      Yea, basically. Check out Leangains as well.

  3. Skyler+Tanner on November 12, 2014 at 10:30

    Here’s the thing: they used electric impedance which is well understood to not only have very low levels of accuracy, but also be the most sensitive to water fluctuations. Keto diets get rid of a lot of water, so that’s likely your difference.

    Not a particularly good study, and I say that as I eat an apple with my sweet potato hash.

  4. Ulfric Douglas on November 12, 2014 at 12:26

    Also Taekwondo is the most pitiful excuse for two bouncy lanky muppets to squeal at each other in the hope that the judges give them a point.
    Really! : watch the footage. May as well be a yelping contest.
    You have to be brain-damaged to do it, hence the author mistaking just crappy food for ‘keto’

  5. tw on November 12, 2014 at 12:39

    The KD performance findings seem to be consistent with the experiments that Peter Attia has performed on himself.

  6. Sean+D. on November 12, 2014 at 13:11

    Changes in weight, %body fat, BMI and fat free mass were not statistically significant between the groups. That means the observed differences in weight, %body fat, BMI and fat free mass between groups was most likely not due to the dietary differences. What was statistically significant though was the 2,000 m sprint times after weight loss. The ketogenic group had better times and felt less fatigue. In the author’s own words: “This result suggests that KD diet can be helpful for weight category athletes, such as Taekwondo athletes, by improving aerobic capacity and fatigue resistance capacity, and also by exerting positive effect on inflammatory response.”

    It’s important to remember to only analyze/compare results that are statistically significant. The statement you quoted from suppversity is not scientifically accurate based on the findings of this study SINCE the differences in body composition were not significant.

  7. John on November 12, 2014 at 14:18

    I still think about how lean I was when I first discovered MDA early 2010, right after doing a typical bodybuilding style 6 meal a day protein/carb cut.

    Strong abdominal definition. Veins on abs. Leanest I ever was.

    Then I remember thinking I could maintain that following PaNu/hyperlipid-esque diet dialing up fat and restricting carbs almost entirely and to some degree protein.

    Though I stayed mostly weight stable, muscle size/definition decreased, fat everywhere increased, and somehow I didn’t notice, in some sort of heavy cream induced drunken state, until months later when I finally woke up to my appearance.

    It took another 6 months or so of reading leangains and stuff like that to finally realize that carbs and insulin were not going to make me fat per se and/or kill me. The funniest part was that I somehow was able to forget that protein/carb while low fat is what got me so lean in the first place (before getting really lean on higher protein/lower carb lean meat/veggie/fruit with no cheat meals when I discovered MDA).

    Favorite meals when I was devouring fat – Peter’s “bolognese.” Home made buffalo wings. Andouille sausage fried with butter and peppers. Heavy cream with dark chocolate. Cheese. Makes me sick to think of now (Peter’s fried egg yolk/butter emulsion breakfast sounds repulsive).

    I’ll bet that despite the claims of “appetite suppression” “satiety effect of fat” and all that shit that was going around, I was eating a relative ton of calories. I was always feeling hungry no matter how much fat I was consuming.

    • GTR on November 13, 2014 at 03:45

      @John “I’ll bet that despite the claims of “appetite suppression” “satiety effect of fat” and all that shit that was going around, I was eating a relative ton of calories.”

      Fat gives one some satiety, but there’s no cutoff point, no limit of fat eaten after which you are full and have to stop eating. You can basically eat unlimited amount of fat and still not be satisfied. Especially protein and but also carbs tend to have this satiety endpoint, when you can’t just eat this thing anymore, you’d have to artificially force yourself to do it. So this “fat is satiating” slogan in a sense is a myth. Protein, fiber, water – clearly are satiating, while fat just lowers some appetitie, but doesn’t eliminate it, so it need to be approached carefuly.

      So basically as you suggest – the fat has intake should be controlled artificially, like by calorie counting. Especially because it’s so deceiving – small portions of contain a lot of energy, as well as our organism being able to digest like 100% of it, and it can go to the fat storage efficiently, without much energy usage for the process or for the long delays.

      There are few other reasons that fat-based diets might be deceiving. Fat is where the fat-soluble toxins are accumulated, and our organisms deal with toxins via putting them into our fat tissues. many high-fat-diet proponents are rich and thus can afford to eat clean fat, their followers are mostly not rich, so they buy low-quality fat, and thus are at risk at both toxins themselves, as well as toxin-induced fat accumulation.

      Besides, high-fat diet proponents talk a lot about people having glucose metabolism problems. What about those that have fat metabolism problems?

    • Jew+Lee+Us+C+Czar on November 15, 2014 at 19:36

      I’ve experimented with all sorts of diets while weight training. The main driver of appetite seems to be activity level. On any day that I don’t workout, I am very satisfied on a lower number of calories, regardless of the macro distribution of those calories. On training days, my appetite is much higher.

      I would say that any claims of a particular macronutrient’s satiety factor is based more on the activity level of the eater rather than on any special characteristic of the specific micronutrient.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 15, 2014 at 20:32

      I tend to agree, generally.

      But I like being hungry. This, I feel is missing. For me, I feel that’s why I’m not a blimp more than anything. I enjoy skipping an evening meal, going to bed hungry and taking account that 8 hours later, I’m not particularly hungry.

  8. GTR on November 12, 2014 at 16:31

    Notice that a classic bodybuilding routine is first “bulk up” (eat a lot, get a lot of muscles, but at the same time also fat), followed by “slim down” – some kind of fast, crash dieting just before the competition: it should ideally be just fat and water, but some muscle loss is cannot be avoided – you have to be somehow catabolic to loose fat. Some choose ketogenic diets as the slim-down method.

    Some muscle-builders who want to be thin all the time (not fat in any phase) like this Kiefer guy, and previously Ori Hofmeckler do some timing manipulations – like being low-carb before training, high-carb with high GI carbs after training for Kiefer, or undereating in the morning, overeating at night plus choosing “antiestrogenic food” for Ori Hofmeckler.

    And by the way – is taekwondo itself efficient as compared to like MMA training, thai boxing, kick-boxing, brazilian jujitsu, wresting, krav-maga etc.? Maybe these people would be better off changing the martial art than bothering with diet details?

  9. Richard Nikoley on November 12, 2014 at 19:09

    Kisses, Jesica.

    Hope someone’s getting you off regularly. I’m sure you’re worth the effort.

  10. golooraam on November 13, 2014 at 08:15

    who talks like this? seriously?

  11. golooraam on November 13, 2014 at 08:16

    I meant Jessica, not you Richard… sorry

  12. Richard Nikoley on November 13, 2014 at 08:31

    It’s probably a troll. I usually filter for that but trolls like Razwell have to get very clever to get past me. In any case, if he/she continues, I’ll just delete the comment and that email address will go back to first comment moderation.

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