A 28-Day Carbohydrate-Restricted Diet Improves Markers of Cardiometabolic Health and Performance in Professional Firefighters

J Strength Cond Res. 2019 Dec;33(12):3284-3294. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003354.


Waldman, HS, Smith, JW, Lamberth, J, Fountain, BJ, and McAllister, MJ. A 28-day carbohydrate-restricted diet improves markers of cardiometabolic health and performance in professional firefighters. J Strength Cond Res 33(12): 3284-3294, 2019-We investigated the effects of a 4-week ad-libitum, nonketogenic, carbohydrate-restricted (<25% of calories) diet (CRD) on cardiometabolic and performance markers in firefighters (FF). Subjects (n = 15) completed 9 sessions (trials 1-3 [familiarization], trials 4-6 [baseline], and trials 7-9 [post-CRD]). Following habitual western diet, anthropometric measures were assessed, glucose tolerance measured, and then completed a graded cycling test, maximal Wingate test, and conducted their FF physical performance assessment (FPPA) to measure performance while metabolic variables and perceptual responses were recorded. Subjects then adhered to a CRD for a 4-week duration and returned for repeat testing. Body fat as measured by BodPod, and 7-site skinfold thickness decreased (p < 0.01), and a decrease was observed in blood pressure (BP) (p < 0.01; ∼5 mm Hg) after CRD. There were no differences found for glucose tolerance, but an increase was found for fat oxidation rates (p < 0.01; ∼0.07 g·min) and a decrease in carbohydrate oxidation rates across a range of intensities (p < 0.01; ∼0.24 g·min). Finally, the 2.41-km run and pull-up performance during the FPPA improved (p < 0.01; ∼41 second and 3 repetitions, respectively) and with no differences observed between treatments regarding the Wingate test. To date, this is the first CRD implemented with FF and resulted in decreased fat mass (∼2.4 kg), BP, and improvements to performance on the FPPA while preserving high-intensity exercise. These data suggest that a 28-day CRD can benefit markers of health in professional FF without detriments to occupational performance.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted*
  • Diet, Western
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise Test
  • Firefighters*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Functional Performance*
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Carbohydrates