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A Ketogenic Diet’s Potential Impact on Active-Member Military Members


Written by Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc. on October 6, 2022.

Scientifically reviewed by

Jonathan Clinthorne, PhD Human Nutrition

October 6, 2022

A Ketogenic Diet’s Role on Athletic Performance

A Ketogenic Diet’s Potential Impact on Active-Member Military Members and Veterans

Many Americans, including a significant number of military service members and especially veterans suffer from poor metabolic health. A series of upcoming studies, funded by the Department of Defense and led by Ohio State University exercise science and biomedical researchers, including principal investigator and Simply Good Foods Scientific Advisory Board member Jeff Volek, will examine the impact of a ketogenic and low carb diet on improving the metabolic health of this group.

“Despite billions of dollars in investments by the private and public sectors, traditional drug and lifestyle treatments have had limited success in curtailing the complications attributed to poor metabolic health, which include disrupted sleep, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart failure and chronic kidney disease,” said Jeff Volek.

“We expect that whatever we find here will have huge relevance across the board both within and outside the military.”

What are Ketones?

Ketones are substances produced by the liver from fat during accelerated fat breakdown that serve as a valuable energy source for cells throughout the body.

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis , or Nutritional Ketosis , is when there is a moderate and controlled level of ketones in the bloodstream, which allows the body to function well with little dietary carbohydrates, in turn, burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.

What Happens in Ketosis?

“A big part of the grant is studying both of those strategies to augment ketosis—the ketogenic diet and ketone-based beverages,” Volek said. The ketone drinks are designed to put the body in nutritional ketosis.

“Does the ketogenic diet produce different effects than the ketone esters? Is one better than the other? My work has found the ketogenic diet provides robust health benefits, but there could be some health benefits attributed to taking ketones and not changing the diet. It’s a whole new area of investigation.”

The funding for this series of studies supports four projects:

  • The formulation and timing of ketone supplementation: Clinical studies will explore ketone ester dosing, formulation and timing of delivery, as well as study participant health markers, to gauge the supplements’ physiological and metabolic effects. Researchers aim to create evidence-based guidelines for use of ketone supplementation based on individual characteristics and soldier performance requirements.
  • How ketone supplementation and a ketogenic diet may protect against sleep restriction: High-quality sleep is key to military mission readiness and success but isn’t always possible to get in the field. This trial will gauge the extent to which ketone esters and a ketogenic diet reduce detrimental effects of sleep loss on cognitive and physical performance.
  • How ketone supplementation and a ketogenic diet may increase exercise tolerance in heart failure: The team will examine effects of ketone esters and a ketogenic diet in patients with type 2 diabetes and heart failure. A randomized, double-blind, crossover trial will compare exercise capacity and cardiac function in participants taking ketone esters, eating a ketogenic diet or eating a mixed standard of care diet.
  • A ketogenic diet’s role in in the delay or prevention of type 2 diabetes: This two-year study will examine whether the continuous remote care model—which includes biomarker monitoring—and a uniformly delivered ketogenic diet may slow or even reverse the progression to chronic kidney disease in veterans with type 2 diabetes.

A Ketogenic Diet’s Role on Athletic Performance

Peak performance in the military requires the endurance and stamina of an athlete, and studies have shown that a ketogenic or low carb diet may be beneficial to athletes, so it makes sense that this would apply to active military members as well, in addition to improving their metabolic health.

Why Low Carb and Keto Works for Endurance Athletes

Jeff Volek explains the connection between a low carb or ketogenic diet and athletic performance.

How a Ketogenic Diet Works for Weight Loss

Decreasing carbohydrate intake may also be a sustainable approach to weight loss.



Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc.

Vice President of Nutrition & Education

Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc. is a former Director of Nutrition at The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in New York City. With 20+ years of experience as a nutrition expert, the NY Times best-selling author is the current Vice President of Nutrition & Education at Simply Good Foods Company.

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