James Cracknell leads running keto type 1 research challenge

By Editor
20th October 2020
Low carb, Low carb high protein diet Research

Olympic athlete James Cracknell completes major endurance event to explore the safety and physiological effects of ketosis in people with or without type 1 diabetes.

A team of eight runners led by Dr Ian Lake, who has type 1 diabetes, covered a distance of 100 miles over five days with zero calories.

Olympic athlete James Cracknell also took part in the Zero Five 100 challenge telling his social media followers that he hoped the challenge would “add to evidence that a low carb diet is an effective therapeutic treatment for diabetics and beneficial for pre-diabetics”.

This endurance event was chosen to demonstrate how fat metabolism can be used as an alternative to traditional carbohydrate-based fueling Dr Ian Lake

The project was built on existing research, which has shown that low carbohydrate lifestyle results in a metabolic shift from carbohydrate to fat metabolism, when the body’s main fuel source is fat and ketones rather than glucose.

Nutritional ketosis

This has been shown to stabilise blood glucose levels and reduce the need for insulin treatment in diabetes. Nutritional ketosis is a physiological response to a high fat, low carbohydrate diet, and it is not to be confused with diabetic ketoacidosis, which is the result of poorly controlled diabetes.

Dr Lake said: “It is not the intention to present this project as validation of cessation of eating for those with eating disorders. Eating disorders require specialist management well beyond the findings of this project. Neither is it a recommendation to anyone to copy the method. This project required careful planning over several months and no one in the group intends to repeat it.

“This endurance event was chosen to demonstrate how fat metabolism can be used as an alternative to traditional carbohydrate-based fueling. We carried out a series of detailed metabolic tests and health checks along the way made this a serious scientific endeavour. This was a data-gathering exercise to explore the science and will produce informative media for the public via written results and articles for academia and mainstream media.”

Fasting techniques

All individuals were physically and mentally fit, and well nourished. They had trained in both fasting techniques, and in covering the distanced needed per day. Individuals were free to cease participation at any time. All volunteers completed the project safely and well, in high spirits.

By the end of the experiment, Dr Lake and his colleague Jon Furniss who also had type 1 diabetes, demonstrated that insulin is needed in reduced amounts during fat burning, and it is not necessary to eat glucose at all (except to rescue hypos) if you are a fat-adapted type 1.

The team also discovered that fat stores can potentially provide energy over extended periods in ketogenic-adapted individuals. Breath metabolic testing and blood ketones showed their bodies were fat-burning and working optimally. There was no ‘hitting the wall’ as the runners were tapping into a fat store that has ten times the energy capacity compared to total glycogen stores.

The participants also found that dietary carbohydrate is not essential for human performance. Livers can make all the glucose required for crucial cell functions, which was demonstrated by continuous glucose monitoring. A ketogenic diet (including essential fats and protein) puts the body into fat burning mode and allows access to the reservoir of fat energy. All participants had stable glucose levels, including the two people with type 1 diabetes.

To read more about the project, click here.

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