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The Targeted Ketogenic Diet For Basketball Players: Burn Fat For Fuel

Does The Keto Diet Burn Fat In Basketball Players

By Ball Till We Fall, Last Updated December 23, 2021

Category: Basketball Nutrition & Diet Guides

Burn Fat As Fuel While You Play Basketball With A Targeted Ketogenic Diet

In our Ultimate Guide To Basketball Nutrition we discussed the many different diet options for both competitive and recreational basketball players. 

In that guide we discussed the benefits that traditional high carbohydrate diet approaches can have on basketball performance.

We have also discussed the benefits of low carb dieting for basketball players.

The ketogenic diet is the most popular and well researched form of low carb dieting. 

Traditional keto is a very high fat, moderate to low protein and very low to no carbs.

By restricting the body of carbs for an extended period of time (after around 6-8hrs) the body begins to utilize fat as the primary source of fuel.

In a carb depleted state fat is re-packed in a molecule known as ketones.

Ketones can be burnt for energy like rocket fuel on the court.

The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) is basically a very low carb, high fat diet except with carbohydrates consumed around sport and exercise times. 

That means that any day you train or play basketball you will eat carbohydrates. You can see the Top 5 Best Carbohydrate Foods For Basketball Players here.

A low carb ketogenic approach can have many benefits for athletes who want to lose weight.

If your goal is to lose fat you will need to drop the total amount of fat calories consumed on workout days to make room for the additional carbs.

This means that fewer fats should be consumed on these days.

You can use our calorie counter for basketball players to work out How Many Calories You will Burn while playing and How Much Do You Need To Eat?

Who Can Benefit From Following A Targeted Keto Diet

The targeted ketogenic approach is best suited for competitive athletes who train at very high intensities most days of the week. 

If you just play recreational basketball once per week to have fun and stay in shape then a standard ketogenic diet would suffice.

The standard ketogenic is a great way to overcome carb addiction and reduce hunger.

 A word of caution... the targeted ketogenic diet does give you a taste for carbs and therefore can initiate food cravings in some people.

If you lack willpower when it comes to food choices, especially carb heavy food like chips, pasta and biscuits I suggest sticking to a strict standard keto diet

There are still plenty of delicious keto treats that you can enjoy.

Benefits Of Targeted Ketogenic Diet For Basketball Players

Keto Diet Tips For Basketball Players

The targeted ketogenic diet provides basketball players with a nice compromise between traditional high carb diets and very low carb diets.

With the targeted ketogenic diet you can reap the benefits of both the high and low carb approach.

Basketball is an explosive sport that utilizes the anaerobic energy system. Jumping, sprinting and cutting all require rapid energy production.

The most efficient way to provide energy in the muscles is by using glucose found in carbohydrates.

However, after long periods of ketogenic fat adaption people may become more efficient at using fats for intense activities.

Unfortunately this process usually takes months to years.

When on a ketogenic and not completely fat adapted, you will have difficulty sustaining max effort on tasks that last from around 10-300 seconds.

As I mentioned earlier, this modest performance drop may not be a problem for recreational athletes who never reach a truly high intensity effort during games or shoot-arounds.

It is best to think of carbs as high octane fuel.

You need to earn the right to eat carbs!

Consuming carbs not only improves performance, but it also stimulates insulin levels.

You have probably heard that insulin and blood glucose spikes are a bad thing.

Yes, indeed they are for most sedentary people who continue to load their bodies with sugary carbs all day long.

These people never burn these carbs in high intensity efforts.

They keep consuming carbs, glucose spikes, insulin spikes, they get fat, they get diabetes and die at a early age. 

This is what I mean by earning your carbs.

If you want to eat carbs you must burn them up as fuel. You don’t need carbs to sit at an office job.

Carbs make us fat, not dietary fat.

Back to insulin...

Usually on a ketogenic diet we want to keep insulin low.

However insulin acts like a key to the muscle cells.

It opens up the cells and lets glycogen and protein flow in.

By spiking insulin around training and game times you can take advantage of the anabolic effect insulin and glucose has on the muscles.

This means that you can build more muscle, prevent muscle breakdown and optimize recovery.

Consuming carbs at the right time allows the glucose you eat to enter the muscle cells.

This glucose can then be stored in the muscle cells as glycogen for future high intensity tasks on the court.

By only eating carbs around exercise you can effectively spend the rest of the day in fat burning mode.


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What Can Basketball Players Eat on The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)

Choosing The Correct Carb Source + Timing

Basketball players who undertake high intensity exercise find that 10-50g of carbohydrates consume around 15- 30 minutes prior to training and games gives them the best performance.

It is best to choose simple fast digesting carbs with a high glycemic index.

A few good options are gummy bears, white bread and white rice.

Pure glucose is the best option.

Avoid highly fibrous carbs like brown rice and lentils etc.

You also want to avoid high fructose foods such as fruit and honey.

Fructose tends to fill up liver glycogen stores rather than muscle glycogen stores.

Dextrose tablets or glucose gels can be a convenient way to get pure glucose needed for successful targeted ketogenic dieting.

Choosing The Correct Fat Source

You should also avoid consuming fats around the time that you “carb load”. Fat slows digestion of the carbs.

We want to streamline the carbs straight to the muscle belly.

There is one type of fat that can be easily digested and can therefore be consumed alongside your carbs.

These fats are called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).

They are rapidly digested and can even increase ketone levels even in the presence of carbs. It is best to try MCT oil before a big game situation to see how your body reacts.

Some people experience an upset tummy after taking MCT.

Some athletes also like to supplement with exogenous ketones to really push the fat burning into overdrive.

Choosing The Correct Protein Source

You can also consume an easily digestible protein source with the carb load.

This works particularly well post exercise.

Whey protein is a fast acting protein that can be quickly shuttled into the muscle alongside the carbohydrates.

Combing glucose and protein is also a smart option for basketball players who want to gain lean muscle mass and get the most out of their weight training sessions.

To learn more about choosing the correct protein sources checkout our roundup of the Top 5 Protein Foods For Basketball Players.

Will The Targeted Ketogenic Diet Knock Me Out of Ketosis?

After consuming carbohydrates the body will recognise that a new fuel source has been introduced and as a result the amount of ketones produced by the body will decrease.

The amount of time that they remain in a reduced state will depend on how many carbs were consumed plus a variety of genetic and metabolic factors.

Your workout intensity, workout duration, stress levels and your insulin levels will also influence how long you stay in ketosis after you ingest the pre-workout carbohydrates.

Most fat adapted athletes find that they drop out of ketosis for a couple of hours after the workout, game or training.

Well trained athletes tend to be able to suck the carbohydrates straight out of the blood and shuttle them into the muscles during or after bouts of intense exercise.

Exercise increases insulin sensitivity which means less insulin is required to handle the influx of carbs. On the cells of our muscles we have what is known as glucose transporters which are up-regulated with exercises.

These act as a vacuum to glucose. 

If these transporters are working well, which they should be in all young healthy basketball players, you should have no trouble clearing the blood of glucose and jumping right back into ketosis after a few hours.

Getting Back Into Ketosis Faster

One little trick to help you get back into ketosis faster is to add in some low intensity cardio to post training. 

This helps to burn up any extra glucose in the blood and starts to ramp up fatty acid and ketone production.

Also, using MCTs and exogenous ketones after exercise can help ramp up ketone production at an accelerated rate.

It is helpful to track your ketones with a keto monitor in the initial stages of targeted keto, but don’t get too obsessed with the numbers. 

Monitoring your ketone levels can help you be able to see how your body responds to different amounts of pre-workout carbs.

For example, if consuming 20 grams of carbs barely affects your ketone level then great you can push that up to 30 g of carbs pre-workout and then re-test.

The goal is to be able to consume as much glucose pre-workout as you can without dramatically negating ketones.

Also, if you don’t want to monitor you levels that’s ok too.

Just focus on eating a high quality keto diet and take note how you feel.

If you are performing and recovering well you are on the right path.

Should Every Basketball Player Use A Targeted Keto Diet?

If you are a professional or college athlete who trains and plays basketball for many hours each day it may be difficult to supply the body with enough carbohydrates while adhering to the targeted ketogenic diet.

However, it can be done.

Recommended Reading: Does Low Carb Dieting Work For Basketball Players?

High level athletes are better off using this dietary approach in the off-season when training load and intensity drops off. 

The targeted ketogenic diet is great for shedding stubborn fat while maintaining lean muscle.

Many older athletes tend to favor this approach later in their careers as they realize that having a lighter frame can reduce load on the joints and ultimaltely prolong their career.

The targeted ketogenic diet is perfect for the health conscious recreational baller who loves to compete but also wants to get/stay lean and healthy.

After sticking to the targeted ketogenic diet for a longer period you may find that you no longer need to eat carbs anymore to fuel intense training sessions.

Over time the body learns to adapt and become very efficient at burning fat for fuel and replenishing gylcogen stores via gluconeogenesis.

Summary Of How To Use A Targeted Keto Diet To Fuel Basketball Performance

Here’s how you can effectively use a targeted ketogenic diet approach to improve you on-court performance this basketball season:

  • Calculate your daily energy expenditure and energy needs using a keto diet calculator
  • Adjust your macros by dropping daily fat intake to make room for the extra carbs. Remember every gram of carbohydrate equals 4 calories, while every gram of fat is 9 calories. 
  • The best time to consume carbs is 20-50 minutes prior to your games, training or workouts where you will eat anywhere from 10-50g of carbohydrates.
  • Choose rapid absorbing forms of carbohydrates. The best carbohydrate sources for the targeted keto diet are gummy bears, sports drinks, dextrose supplements, and glucose gels.
  • Remember to avoid fructose foods as they can refill liver glycogen and interrupt ketosis.
  • Avoid all fats except MCT oils and exogenous ketones in this pre-workout drink.
  • You also have the option of ingesting carbs post workout however this is likely to knock you out of ketosis for longer.
  • Combining post workout carbs with fast digesting whey protein can be a great way to build extra muscle on the ketogenic diet.
  • If you have multiple training sessions per day divide your total carbs up over the sessions evenly. 

Overall the targeted ketogenic diet approach can be a great option for basketball players that want to lose body fat and build metabolic flexibility.

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