The Ketogenic Athlete: How Being in “Ketosis” Fuels My Athletic Success

Selene Teitelbaum
October 10, 2017

#NOWAmbassador Selene Teitelbaum is a Certified Precision Nutrition Coach, CrossFit Level II Coach, and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association). She currently lives in South Florida where she competes as a Professional Beach Volleyball player. Follow Selene @selenebean2, @ketocrossfitter, and/or @kaizencoach

Why Keto?

I’ve been an athlete my entire life, playing volleyball in college and discovering beach volleyball and CrossFit shortly thereafter. I have been coach for more than a decade, coaching collegiate volleyball, juniors volleyball, CrossFit, as well a health and wellness nutrition coach. I’m passionate about being an athlete, coaching, and sharing my personal experience and knowledge to help others improve their lives. I am constantly learning and experimenting on myself to continue to better myself as well as better serve my clients.

I’ve tried many different “diets” and ways of eating over the years. I’ve tried everything from vegan and vegetarian, to paleo and primal, in the pursuit of finding what would work best for me. I even went through a fat free phase (gasp) in an attempt to lose the “Freshman 15” in college. Needless to say it didn’t work at all.

What I found worked best for me was following a Paleo/Primal-Zone diet which is very popular in the CrossFit community. I ate this way for over a decade and was able to maintain my weight and continue to improve athletically as well. I was happy and healthy and could have eaten that way for the rest of my life.

In the last few years, I started my own business doing health and wellness coaching and began experimenting with different diets myself so that I could recommend the right ones for my clients. I had just finished a month of eating vegetarian (which my body did not agree with) and was then going to try Keto for 30 days. This is how I ended up trying a Ketogenic Diet at the beginning of 2017 and becoming a Ketogenic athlete!

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

Keto is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet. Specifically, 75% calories from fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates, if you’re familiar with macronutrient breakdowns. These numbers are going to vary for each individual depending on your carb tolerance, but it’s a good place to start.

When you aren’t eating carbohydrates, your body will eventually shift to burning fat instead of burning sugar, which is a natural state called ketosis. In fact, NOW has a plethora of Keto-friendly products and ingredients, many of which I use daily. Here are just a few of the products that I use and love!

Supplements/Sports Nutrition

NOW® Magnesium Capsules
NOW® Sports ZMA® Capsules
NOW® Potassium Citrate 99 mg Capsules
NOW® Sports MCT Oil

Natural Foods/Ingredients

NOW Real Food® Organic Coconut Flour
NOW Real Food® Raw Almond Flour
NOW® BetterStevia® Extract Powder
NOW Real Food® Organic Erythritol

There is a growing amount of literature and resources about the Ketogenic Diet and I encourage you to explore it if it interests you. Below you’ll find my tips on how Keto can benefit you as an athlete.

Top Six Ways a Keto Diet Can Support Your Athletic Performance:

  1. Mental Clarity and Focus
    I can’t begin to describe the feeling of being in ketosis. It’s something you have to experience for yourself. What I can say is that I have no more mental fog and no trouble concentrating. Ever. I have perfect mental clarity, and have the ability to focus for long periods of time and easily get into the zone during training and competition. I no longer get sleepy in the afternoons and can power through the day. This alone is reason enough for me to eat Keto!
  2. Appetite Control
    Ever since I can remember, I’ve had to eat regularly throughout the day. I became a “grazer,” so instead of eating three large meals, I ate six or more smaller meals throughout the day to keep my blood sugar stable and ward off the constant hunger. When I was young, I used to get faint if I didn’t eat for more than six hours!

    Now, being Keto, it’s the complete opposite. I also practice 16:8 Intermittent Fasting (I.F.) which means I fast for 16 hours, and eat in an eight-hour window. Being Keto allows you to fast without being hungry or lacking energy. I do my morning training fasted, just BPC (bulletproof coffee) and then my first meal is afternoon. Instead of eating frequent meals and snacking all day, I eat two large meals, lunch and dinner. That’s it! It’s very liberating to not have to think and obsess and worry about food all the time.
  3. Unlimited Amounts of Energy
    Would you rather have 2,000 calories to burn every day or 40,000? The answer is a no-brainer, especially if you’re an endurance athlete. This is exactly what happens when your body shifts from burning sugar to burning fat. On a regular diet, your body is burning glucose of which you have a finite amount, about 2,000 calories stored in your body. Once it’s used up, if it isn’t replenished, you “bonk” or “hit the wall” as many athletes have experienced. Being a fat-adapted athlete, your body shifts to burning fat, both the fat you eat and the stored fat in your body of which there is a much greater amount. No more bonking!
  4. Mood Stabilization
    We’ve all heard of the “sugar blues” or the “sugar crash” and have either experienced it ourselves or watched a child have a meltdown hours after consuming copious amounts of sugar. For me personally, I notice significant mood swings when I’m not eating healthy. I’ll be honest, I’m not perfect and I enjoy a cheat day here and there, but I always pay for it afterwards. I’ve noticed that my moods are much more unstable when I consume too many unhealthy carbohydrates. Since I’ve been Keto, I’ve noticed that I’m much happier and my moods are always stable.
  5. Food Tastes Amazing!
    I love food! I love to eat, and I love eating at nice restaurants to enjoy a good meal now and then. Having an occasional splurge is something I’ve always allowed myself. Most people would agree that being on a “diet” is not fun. It always feels restrictive, like you’re missing out on your favorite things and food doesn’t taste good and you’re hungry all the time. Keto is NOT that way. Because you’re eating high fat foods, they taste great, they fill you up and leave you feeling completely satisfied. My sugar cravings are completely gone, and I prefer my Keto meals to anything else now. They are delicious!
  6. No Willpower Needed
    Most diets fail, this is a fact. Most people fail, not for lack of willpower, but because most diets are not sustainable long term. Constantly feeling deprived and hungry is no way to live. This is why people rebound after being on very restrictive diets for a period of time. Eventually, they give in and decide that they’d rather be happy and eat what is enjoyable than to be miserable and on a diet forever. This is yet another reason I love Keto. It takes no willpower to stay on track. It’s easy to maintain because it is so satisfying, food tastes great, fills you up and leaves you feeling happy with amazing energy and mental clarity. No stomach aches from eating something disagreeable, no food comas or food hangovers the next day, and absolutely no remorse for eating high fat, delicious foods!