LeBron James' shocking recent weight loss was due to a low carb, high-fat ketogenic style diet, according to ketosis expert Dr. Jeff Volek.
Volek, a professor at Ohio State University, said more athletes are now favoring low carb, high-fat diets such as the Paleo, ketogenic and Atkins plans to lose weight fast and dramatically change their body fat composition.
By drastically reducing carbs, these diets promote rapid weight loss by forcing the body to enter a state called ketosis, where it burns fat for fuel instead of glucose.
“There is a growing number of athletes who have been told that they need carbs and now you see them questioning that conventional wisdom,” Volek told Sports Illustrated. “It does take at least four weeks to adapt to the diet, but almost anyone can do it and it’s something they can maintain through competition.”
More Athletes Embrace Low-Carb Paleo and Ketogenic Diets
Volek told me in an exclusive interview that he has been following a ketogenic diet for the past 20 years and credits it for his excellent health. "It was nothing short of an epiphany when I switched to a ketogenic diet," he said. "I felt better, more satiated, and had more consistent energy."
By drastically reducing carbs and replacing them with healthy, unprocessed fats, Volek said we enhance weight loss, experience more stable blood sugar levels, enjoy better mood, and ward off diseases such as heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and cancer.
While conventional wisdom had preached that athletes should follow high-carb, low-fat diets, Dr. Volek said the tide may be turning as athletes are realizing that low carb, high-fat diets such as the Paleo, ketogenic and Atkins diets can enhance stamina, boost performance and aid post-workout recovery.
Even endurance athletes such as long-distance runners, cyclists and triathletes are beginning to embrace low-carb diets for mental as well as physical benefits. “There are benefits related to recovery and even cognition and mental clarity [for athletes]," said Volek. "The brain is very efficient at using ketones as a stable fuel source.”
Los Angeles Lakers nutritionist Dr. Cate Shanahan said she uses the low-carb diet approach with her team, saying it helped Dwight Howard get rid of his carb cravings. Shockingly, Howard used to eat about 24 candy bars a day before adopting a low-carb, Paleo-inspired diet.
Miami Heat guard Ray Allen lost 10 pounds and experienced better recovery after adopting a sugar-free Paleo diet in 2013. Sources said his transformation inspired LeBron to go low-carb. At 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, James, 29, was not overweight, but reportedly wanted to preserve his knees and extend his career by slimming down.
Expert: Ketogenic Diet Aids Epilepsy, Diabetes and Prevents Cancer
The health benefits of the low carb, high-fat ketogenic diet extend beyond weight loss and athletic performance, said fitness blogger Jimmy Moore, author of "Keto Clarity." The ketogenic diet has been shown to reduce epileptic seizures in children who don't respond to drugs, reverse type 2 diabetes, and prevent cancer.
Nationally recognized obesity expert Dr. Eric Westman, who co-authored Keto Clarity, has helped thousands of people lose hundreds of thousands of pounds and reverse their diabetes on the low-carb ketogenic, Paleo and Atkins diets.
Westman is pleased that mainstream media is finally debunking the myth that eating fat makes you fat. To the contrary, said Dr. Westman: Eating fat makes you skinny.
"I tell my patients not to fear the fat," said Westman. "Eat lots of fat. Fat makes you feel full. There's no problem with fat. In fact, saturated fat — the fat that we've been taught not to eat — raises your good cholesterol best of all the foods you can eat."