Adapting to a Ketogenic Lifestyle

An Interview with 6-time Ironman Champion Dave Scott

The sports nutrition experts at EAS Sports Nutrition recently sat down with renowned Ironman champion, coach, and EAS ambassador to discuss the ketogenic diet and how it can be applied to an endurance lifestyle.

We chatted about some of the frequently asked questions Dave fields about the diet, be they from high performing elites and professionals who currently follow the diet, age groupers who are considering the diet, and those athletes who are keto-newbies but once they hear about the diet and the benefits it can deliver, want to learn all there is to know about this way of fueling.

The Interview

EAS: Dave, many athletes have heard about the diet from training partners, friends, and family but want to know, what are some of the benefits you’ve personally experienced and that athletes might expect once they transition from a traditional (high carb) diet to a high fat, low carb (HFLC) or ketogenic diet for endurance athletes?

DS: There are a number of reasons why I’ve committed myself to a LCHF diet. Some of the benefits I’ve experienced myself and others I’ve seen in my athletes and clients. While the reasons are varied, several of the reasons I’ve choosen to follow this way of fueling include:

EAS: Dave, many athletes who are considering the ketogenic diet (or are currently working towards become keto-adapted) wonder how long it might take them to transition from being a high-carb, sugar-hungry athlete to one that begins to burn their own fat as their source of fuel.

DS: The latest scientific studies suggest – and in my personal experience – it takes between 3 to 5 weeks to transition to a low-carb, moderate protein, high healthy fat plan.

Of course, everyone is different, and your transition time to a LCHF diet could vary. In order to make your transition as short as possible, it’s important to be vigilant with your compliance. Many of my athletes find that once they become keto-adapted – they can slowly introduce modest amounts of healthy carbs back into the diet yet still remain in ketosis and continue to rely on ketones for fuel.

EAS: Any insider tips on making the transition a bit easier?

DS: Yes! I encourage my athletes to schedule their harder workouts in the morning, and after they’ve enjoyed their morning coffee (but more on this later). LCHF diets as mentioned have several cardiovascular, hormonal and thermogenic benefits. By including harder sessions in the morning, this tends to elevate your exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC), which results in a continued metabolic elevation hours after the workout.

I’ve also found coconut oil to be one of my secret weapons for hastening keto-adaptation. Coconut oil is made up of approxately 65% medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), and these MCTs are quickly metabolized in the liver, boosting the ketones that the brain & body use as fuel while helping to suppress hunger. The MCT component of coconut oil oxidizes quickly, similar to a refined carbohydrate. An additional benefit of coconut oil is its antibacterial and antimicrobial compounds. I prefer coconut oil to pure MCT oils which are often highly refined, expensive, and, in my opinion, overly processed.

EAS: Is there a certain distribution of macronutrients endurance athletes should aim to hit in order to shift to relying on ketones as a fuel source?

DS: I work with my athlete to help them make this shift from relying on all-carbs-all-the-time (or so it seems) to an intake of: 50–70% of calories from healthy fats and oils, protein 20–30% of calories from protein, and 10–20% of calories from carbohydrate. It’s a common misconception to think that as long as carbs are limited, intake of fat AND all the protein is unlimited. Protein is not a free for all because excess protein intake have the ability to stimulate gluconeogenesis - or the creation of glycogen which exacerbates the insulin response and can kick one out of ketosis. Finally, I also recommend endurance athletes take net carbs into consideration. In other words, the fiber content of the food will affect the overall carb content and the more fiber a vegetable provides the better. (Net Carbs = Grams of Carbs – Grams of Fiber). An example of a source of healthy carbs is kale or broccoli; the worst source of carbs is refined grains and fruit juices, the latter two have no place in a ketogenic diet.

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