From Keto to Whole30: A Sports Nutritionist Weighs in on Popular Diets

Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
by Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
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From Keto to Whole30: A Sports Nutritionist Weighs in on Popular Diets

New diets pop up all the time, and it’s common to get excited and want to jump on board for the promise of improved health, a smaller waistline, clearer skin, better focus, etc. But what if you train hard and your goals are fitness and performance related? Which eating style could potentially deliver results and which hold you back?

Let’s check in with some of the basic pros and cons — as they relate to performance fueling — with some popular diets.


The diet: Cutting out all gluten-containing foods, which include standard wheat-based foods (breads, pastas, cereals, beer), some soups, sauces and dressings.


The diet: This strict, very low-carb, high-fat diet severely restricts carbohydrate intake (less than 10% of daily calories) to promote burning fat for energy instead of the preferred source: carbohydrates.


The diet: The vegan diet is free from all animal products and byproducts (honey, eggs) either for ethical and/or environmental reasons or the promise of decreased chronic health issues and increased vitality.


The diet: Give up most processed foods (there is a list of permitted items) along with grains, dairy, alcohol, legumes and sweeteners for 30 days.


The diet: This style of eating is high in monounsaturated fats from nuts and oils, vegetables, whole grains and seafood with moderate amounts of fruit, dairy, eggs and only occasional red meat and added sugar. It’s been highlighted as one of the most beneficially proven ways to eat for overall health.

This is just a small sampling of the popular diets that exist. Remember any diet can help achieve short-term weight loss, but not every diet leads to long-term health and performance improvements.

If you’re interested in adopting one of these diets (or one not listed above), consult a sports dietitian who can help you combine your fitness and nutrition goals.

About the Author

Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD

Lori, MS RD CSSD is an accomplished sports dietitian; she holds a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Certification as a Specialist in Sports Nutrition. As a current professional road cyclist and previous elite marathoner and ultra-runner, Lori knows firsthand that food can enhance or diminish performance gains. She understands the importance of balancing a quality whole food based diet with science-backed performance nutrition and strives to share this message with others. Learn more about her @HungryForResults.


37 responses to “From Keto to Whole30: A Sports Nutritionist Weighs in on Popular Diets”

  1. Avatar KassiaKrozser says:

    please note that the idea that a gluten-free diet is pricey, stressful, and contains limited whole grains is false. these elements *only* apply if you eat a diet of exclusively gluten-free specialty products (breads, cookies, etc). because meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, legumes, many grains / seeds are all naturally gluten free, it is possible to eat a very healthy diet without breaking the bank, feeling stressed, or limiting grain intake.

    • Avatar cattail722 says:

      My question about it is, how does eliminating gluten help you?

      • Avatar Liz Pacini says:

        It doesn’t unless you are one of the less than 2% of the population that is truly gluten intolerant.

        • Avatar cattail722 says:

          That’s why I’m wondering why you would use this as a “diet”. There are plenty of people that have decided they should do this that aren’t part of that 2%, but I can’t figure out to what end. I was hoping KassiaKrozser would give some insight.

      • Avatar KassiaKrozser says:

        as i have celiac disease, eliminating gluten is essential to my health. and, of course, some people are gluten intolerant. if it doesn’t bother you to ingest gluten, going gluten free isn’t necessary from a health perspective, but many people avoid it for personal reasons, from feeling bloated to just feeling better without gluten. as with all trendy diets, people jump on the bandwagon, believing they have found a miracle solution for weight loss or health — but this only works if your gluten-free diet follows the guidelines for any healthy diet (eat mostly plants, lean proteins, etc).

  2. Avatar Tracy says:

    Not sure of the accuracy of some of these comments…when The Game Changers comes out in theaters this fall, all should give it a view!!

  3. Avatar Diane Galluzzo Mirra Feldman says:

    I’m so upset. I don’t see any pros and cons. I would love to read this article w/pros and cons not just a description of what each diet is..i already know that.

  4. Avatar mepp says:

    I don’t see a single PRO or CON – so I’m sticking to the Cupcake diet.

  5. Avatar Golda Smith says:

    If by “sports foods” you mean protein bars, shakes and various powders then yes…whole30 does limit those items for 30 days but how would that negatively impact athletic performance? It really should not.

    Also, for you to suggest that one may not get enough calories or carbohydrates to fuel an active body is ridiculous. I’m speaking about my own experience as an avid lifter, runner and yogi. And no, I’m not a whole30 affiliate I’m just someone who appreciates factual and thorough information.

  6. Avatar Dee says:

    Love this layout and information. A more in depth article would be great. I love charts!

  7. Avatar Bart says:

    The idea that carbs are “preferred” especially wrt nearly nutritionally useless carbs from grain, is an idiotic yet widely promoted opinion. There is no such thing as a required carb, and the brain functions far better on ketones.

    • Avatar Kevin Talmadge says:

      Myth. Unsupported by rigorous science.

      • Avatar Janet Rossi says:

        Nope. “rigorous science” – what? There are too many on either side debating so there is no rigorous science…..but there are thousands of people who are healthy and active on the Keto way of eating. Carbs are just a way to fog up your brain. Try taking them out and welcome to your clear functioning brain and no aches and pains body. Carbs are not a big deal, sorry.

        • Avatar robbietek says:

          What you say is true and is true for most or my family we have been on this diet and all with almost the same result. And carbs are not needed for life.

          • Avatar Vandergrift01 says:

            Truth. Considering your body can produce all the glucose you need in the liver and kidneys, (from exercise by-products and amino acids) there is no such thing as an essential carb. Period. There’s plenty of rigorous science to back it up.

      • Avatar robbietek says:

        Really you must not read much and do you have any research that prove this and if you don’t then what you say is a myth and misleaking

  8. Avatar Justice League says:

    to each his own, i find that eating home based meals, staying away from prepackaged/frozen stuff and regular ( and i mean REGULAR) exercise works great!

  9. Avatar Liz Pacini says:

    My doctor recommended a low carb/keto diet for me. I was overweight, prediabetic and sluggish. After more than a year on a low carb diet, I am down 72 lbs, my blood sugar is normal, my cholesterol has improved and I’m extremely energetic. How can cutting out sugar, flour, rice, pasta and high carb veggies be unhealthy?

    • Avatar Allison Phillips says:

      You are basically cutting out sugar and processed food. Your body/brain run better on carbs with fiber than fat, but the blood sugar leveling and weight loss is coming from the less sugar and processed carbs/foods that you mentioned rice, pasta, flour, and specifically sugar. Every fruit and veggie has carbs…and fiber..just saying. No one food is one macronutrient btw

      • Avatar robbietek says:

        Wow this is completely untrue. You are misleading many people and possibly slow killing diabetic. Have you ever read what sugar leaves in the cells compared to what ketones do.
        Your brain and body will do much better on ketones

    • Avatar ced1106 says:

      My guess is that, since the article is written by a sports nutritionist, it’s audience would really be those in, well, sports. If you intensely work out, maybe this article has some pointers, but I’d say most everyday people don’t need simple carbs for their exercise program.

  10. Avatar Ali says:

    “A Nutritionist Weighs In”? Where is that happening? I just see each diet defined.

  11. Avatar Kevin Talmadge says:

    Getting all nutrients in optimal quantity from plants only is EASY. That’s where they are to begin with…

    • Avatar Dora Josée says:

      I agree. It is actually easier to get the needed nutrients from plants than animal meat. And those who have decreased the amount of animal product in their eating habits have seen an increase in performance.
      It is hard if one limits their food diversity.

      • Avatar robbietek says:

        Almost every nutrient is found in red meat and should always be eating with a larger amount of plants foods however I highly disagree with the fact eating meat slow performance.
        And again site the research

  12. Avatar robbietek says:

    Again downing the Keto diet I think you need to do more research on it because you really don’t know what the diet does. And you really don’t need high intensity work outs and they probably do more harm then good. And one more thing site you research so that we can read the information. Just because you are registered nutritiousness does not mean that I can believe you. My wife believed the ADA but on their plan she was just getting worse because of the amount of carbs they say she could eat which is way to much for a diabetic.

  13. Avatar Tk says:

    This is the first time I have ever commented on something like this. The above inplication that a Vegan diet is lacking in the above nutrients is misleading. Sure if you’re a junk food vegan, I can see that. Whole Food Plant Based vegan lifestyles are not with the exception of B-12, but even omnivores can be lacking in it. So I supplement with only that. For the record, plant-based milks and nutritional yeast carry it.

    Iron=greens, beans, whole grains, molasses.

    Calcium=dark leefy greens, cruciferous veggies, plant-based milks. (My calcium went up this year on my labs and was still within normal range). Animal protiens create an acidic environment in the body. What do you need to neutralize that acidic environment? A base, calcium. So it leeches from your bones and contribues to our countries top 5 world ranking in the incidence of osteoporosis.

    Protiens=high-beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts, whole grains. Lets not forget that there is protien in all plants, how would cows, elephants, rhinos, giraffes get big?

    Doesn’t support Performance? Lookup Torre Washington, Serena Williams(Wimbledon Finals this year anyone?), Mac Danzig, David Carter, Rich Roll and more.

    For the record, ketosis is what the body goes into on it’s first stage of dying as the kidneys shut down. If you want to scar you kidneys over and over again go for it. I eat carbs all day every day and am clear and have more energy now than 4 years ago when I qualified as prediabetic. I have a very physcial job and used to get brain fog mid-afternoon, not anymore. I’ve lost and maintained a 70lbs, which was a nice side effect. My labs are immaculate. I choose this way of living, not dieting, if you go in with that mindset you’re set up to fail. I want to live life well and not make those who love me take care of me because I choose to be selfish eat whatever I want and abuse my body. Yes, ultimately I can’t predict what may happen, but I can take the best care getting there. I do not push my lifestyle on others, but I couldn’t allow this misinformation to go unchallenged.

  14. Avatar sb says:

    This is not a “pros and cons” article. Its a let me give you a basic definition. Absolutely worthless.

  15. Avatar Joe says:

    Huh? All I’m seeing is the name of diet, and a sentence or two– no pros, cons, details. Is my browser not displaying full post?

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