Body composition changes in physically active individuals consuming ketogenic diets: a systematic review
To achieve ideal strength/power to mass ratio, athletes may attempt to lower body mass through reductions in fat mass (FM), while maintaining or increasing fat-free mass (FFM) by manipulating their training regimens and diets. Emerging evidence suggests that consumption of high-fat, ketogenic diets (KD) may be advantageous for reducing body mass and FM, while retaining FFM.
A systematic review of the literature was conducted using PubMed and Cochrane Library databases to compare the effects of KD versus control diets (CON) on body mass and composition in physically active populations. Randomized and non-randomized studies were included if participants were healthy (free of chronic disease), physically active men or women age ≥ 18 years consuming KD (< 50 g carbohydrate/d or serum or whole blood β-hydroxybutyrate (βhb) > 0.5 mmol/L) for ≥14 days.
Thirteen studies (9 parallel and 4 crossover/longitudinal) that met the inclusion criteria were identified. Aggregated results from the 13 identified studies show body mass decreased 2.7 kg in KD and increased 0.3 kg in CON. FM decreased by 2.3 kg in KD and 0.3 kg in CON. FFM decreased by 0.3 kg in KD and increased 0.7 kg in CON. Estimated energy balance based on changes in body composition was − 339 kcal/d in KD and 5 kcal/d in CON. Risk of bias identified some concern of bias primarily due to studies which allowed participants to self-select diet intervention groups, as well as inability to blind participants to the study intervention, and/or longitudinal study design.
KD can promote mobilization of fat stores to reduce FM while retaining FFM. However, there is variance in results of FFM across studies and some risk-of-bias in the current literature that is discussed in this systematic review.