Key nutrition tips for distance runners on ketogenic diet

Key Nutrition Tips for Distance Runners On A Ketogenic Diet

Updated: Mar 26, 2024Veronika Larisova

Have you decided to fuel on fats instead of carbs? Science says that you can perform well no matter what fuel you choose. However, there are some macro and micronutrients you might miss out on if you don’t structure your keto diet right. The top macro-and micronutrients you should watch out for are easy to cover just by eating fresh whole foods.

Protein Intake Protocol

Too little protein will eventually lead to muscle wasting and impaired post-exercise recovery. Too much protein will inhibit ketosis as excessive protein converts to glucose via gluconeogenesis. Stick to 15% of protein or maximum of 1.4g protein per every kilogram of body mass per day.

Stay On Top of the Quality of Fats

Choose good quality fats such as fatty fish, olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado, nuts, butter from grass-fed cows and meat. Consuming fatty processed foods (such as salami and other processed meats) is pro-inflammatory and too high in sodium. Too much sodium causes calcium excretion. As a result, you may end up in lacking calcium even with adequate intake. Furthermore, chronic inflammation inhibits post-exercise recovery and impacts on every aspect of your health and fitness.

Calcium Intake

As a female runner, you need to take care of your bones, to prevent reduced bone mineral density and potential stress fractures. Calcium is one of the key players in keeping your bones strong. As a female athlete, you need 1200-1500mg of calcium each day. It’s easy to cover your calcium requirements on a ketogenic diet by consuming animal foods such as oysters or small fish with their bones (sardines, tuna, salmon). Genuine bone broth contains 100mg of calcium per tablespoon so you need about ¾ cup of bone broth per day to get all the calcium you need. Low-oxalate green vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale) and some nuts (activated almonds) and seeds (sesame seeds, tahini) are all good plant sources of calcium, acceptable on a keto diet. 

Magnesium and How It Works

Together with calcium, magnesium is involved in muscle contraction. Calcium causes the muscle to contract and magnesium does the opposite. Lack of magnesium is likely to cause cramping which is exactly what you don’t want during your run. To cover your magnesium intake, consume a variety of nuts, dark green vegetables, and seafood. Besides saving you from cramps, magnesium is also a key player in your heart function!

Sodium and Potassium Balance

It’s difficult to maintain potassium balance without consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables, as potassium is lost from meat with baking, roasting and broiling. Supplementing sodium at 3–5 g per day and total potassium at 2–3 g per day, will assist your circulatory system (i.e. vasodilatation during submaximal exercise) and positive nitrogen balance necessary for building and maintaining lean muscle mass.

Selenium-Rich Foods

Selenium is another key player in your cardiovascular health and fitness. It is crucial in removing free radicals from the body, thus preventing oxidative tissue damage. A ketogenic diet that’s not planned well can lack in selenium-rich foods, because of protein restriction. Some ketogenic diets recommend over 80% energy intake from fats, which leaves a little space for protein. The best ketogenic-friendly sources of selenium are seafood and meat. Make sure you consume a minimum of 1g of protein per each kilogram of your body weight per day.

If you are considering a ketogenic diet, always consult with your physician. A ketogenic diet can be dangerous in if you are pregnant, or if you suffer kidney disease or low blood pressure.

To find out more about the ketogenic diet and how it affects endurance performance, read our previous articles on the topic.


Veronika Larisova 


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