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Front Physiol. 2019 Jul 17;10:912. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00912. eCollection 2019.

Effects of a 12-Week Very-Low Carbohydrate High-Fat Diet on Maximal Aerobic Capacity, High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise, and Cardiac Autonomic Regulation: Non-randomized Parallel-Group Study.

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Department of Human Movement Studies, Human Motion Diagnostic Centre, University of Ostrava, Ostrava, Czechia.
Sport Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ), Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.
Exercise Physiology, Training and Training Therapy Research Group, Institute of Sports Science, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.



The aim of this non-randomized parallel group study was to examine the 12 week effects of a very low-carbohydrate high-fat diet (VLCHF) on maximal cardiorespiratory capacity, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) performance, and cardiac autonomic regulation.


Twenty-four recreationally trained participants allocated to either a VLCHF (N = 12) or a habitual diet (HD; N = 12) group completed 12 weeks of a diet and exercise (VLCHF) or an exercise only intervention (HD). Maximal graded exercise tests (GXT) were performed at baseline, after 4, 8, and 12 weeks. A supervised HIIT session and the 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test (30-15IFT) were conducted once a week.


Total time to exhaustion (TTE) in both GXT and 30-15IFT largely increased in both VLCHF (p = 0.005, BF10 = 11.30 and p = 0.001, BF10 ≥ 100, respectively) and HD (p = 0.018, BF10 = 3.87 and p = 0.001, BF10 ≥ 100, respectively) groups after 12 weeks. Absolute maximal oxygen uptake ( V ˙ O2max) was not changed in both groups but relative V ˙ O2max increased in VLCHF in concert with reductions in body mass (66.7 ± 10.2-63.1 ± 8.5 kg). Cardiac autonomic regulation did not reveal any between-group differences after 12 weeks. VLCHF diet induced an increase in β-hydroxybutyrate, which tended to normalize during the intervention period.


The 12 week VLCHF diet did not impair high-intensity continuous or intermittent exercise lasting up to 25 min, nor did it impair maximal cardiorespiratory performance or autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity.


30-15 intermittent fitness test; graded exercise test; heart rate variability; nutritional ketosis; β-hydroxybutyrate

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