Thanks mainly to the true guru of MMA – Joe Rogan, ketosis (and psychedelics) has become a hot topic in the changing rooms of every MMA gym worth its Himalayan salt.
The Targeted Ketogenic Diet for MMA & Crossfit
- Consume 30g-50g of fast-acting carbohydrate around 40 mins pre-exercise
- Stick to a normal ketogenic diet at all other times
- Do not consume post-exercise carbohydrates
- Consider consuming 5g of creatine with the pre-exercise carbohydrates
- Consuming carbs allows the body to carry out power & strength based exercises at a higher intensity – at least until you are fully ‘fat-adapted’
What is Targeted Ketosis?
Targeted ketosis involves the same low carb, high fat dietary guidelines as standard ketosis.
With Targeted ketosis however, a fighter will consume 30-50g of high glycemic carbohydrates around 30 minutes before training.
The 50g of carbs will temporarily kick the fighter out of a state of ketosis and the related benefits will be lost over this time…but the athlete will be able to train at a higher intensity than possible in a standard ketogenic diet.
It is important to note however, that you need to go through the fat adaptation process before starting targeted ketosis – otherwise there is a good chance that you will never start producing ketones and reaping the benefits.
Days 1 – 30
Stick to the normal ketogenic diet protocol of carbs only from fruit & veg etc
Onwards – start adding in fast-acting carbohydrates pre-workout
What are the benefits of targeted ketosis?
The athlete can train at a higher intensity thanks to the availability of carbohydrate.
On a typical ketogenic diet athletes report losses in strength, power and strength-endurance.
This reduction in strength is mitigated or completely prevented with targeted ketosis.
How often can you use targeted ketosis?
Every day in theory – however eating carbs before training will typically mean that an athlete will stop produce ketones for at least an hour post-training.
The anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and other associated ketogenic benefits will also be lost within this timeframe.
Keto & fat adaptation will also be potentially impacted.
Why can’t ketosis maintain high intensity exercise?
Movement is powered by 3 energy systems –
ATP-PC -> a 60m sprint would use this system predominantly. ‘PC’ stands for ‘PhosphoCreatine’ by the way.
The lactic acid system – > A Circuit Training Class would use this system predominantly – depending on the person’s fitness etc.
The Aerobic System -> Requires oxygen, is much slower to generate energy (in the form of ATP) but yields a much larger amount than the other 2.
High intensity exercise is maintained by 2 metabolic energy systems
– the ATP PC system – fuelled by creatine
– the lactic acid system – fuelled by glucose
Fat can only fuel the ‘aerobic energy system’ which in turn maintains and powers ‘long, slow’ bouts of exercise – such as long distance running.
Exogenous Ketones for MMA
There are 2 main benefits of Ketosis for MMA – reduced inflammation (1) and enhanced cognitive functioning (2).
If you could enhance these benefits, or experience these benefits without having to go on a strict diet…you’d be stupid not to?
Well with Exogenous Ketones you can experience these benefits.
I personally eat carbs once per day during the week, and eat protein & fats only at the weekends. I now supplement a small amount of exogenous ketones to experience the full benefits of ketosis without adhering 100% to the diet.
I’ll also eat some carbs (20g to 30g) before a workout and use exogenous ketones about half an hour afterwards to aid recovery.
The best value Exogenous Ketones that I could find, and have used in the UK are from Keto-Pro.co.uk
With a very high concentration of Beta-Hydroxybutyrate, the anti-inflammatory benefits are pretty amazing.
I’ve also used Perfect Keto which are available in the US.
We are naturally endurance athletes, not strength athletes
I hear a lot of people saying that the ketogenic diet is not natural and that it’s dangerous removing our primary fuel – i.e. carbs.
We were all on some type of ketogenic diet for hundreds of thousands of years, until agriculture went mainstream a couple of thousand years ago. We are also born in ketosis and breastfed babies are in ketosis.
In fact, with agriculture and high carb diets, the population’s height decreased and a whole new host of diseases cropped up!
In the animal kingdom, the human can outrun a horse in terms of endurance and hunters in many countries have historically run for hours and even days before killing prey. Prey was literally run/stalked to exhaustion.
Our natural-state ketosis, ideal for fuelling endurance exercise and not power/strength related exercise – which has been of limited benefit over the millennia.
In terms of strength and power however, humans are right at the bottom of the league table.
Intelligence, dexterity and endurance have made us superior predators. Ketones are also a more efficient fuel for the brain that glucose…
The below video about the benefits of ultra-long distance training is worth a watch –
Sorry – bit of a rant about how ketosis is ‘natural’.
Interestingly, there is also a lot of evidence now that the ketogenic diet may mitigate damage from brain trauma. More information here.
Studies with a rat model of TBI* have suggested reduction in volume of damage and improved recovery with use of the ketogenic diet (Prins, 2008). One study demonstrated increased protection against oxidative stress and deoxyribonucleic acid damage because of increased redox status in the hippocampus (Jarrett et al., 2008).
*Traumatic Brain Injury