Breathe Better and More Oxygen with Ketogenic Diet

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 05/22/2024

Ever thought about how your diet affects your breathing? It might sound surprising, but what you eat can play a huge role in how well you breathe. If you're following or considering a ketogenic diet, there's more good news for you.

The benefits go beyond weight loss and energy boosts. The science behind this is fascinating. On keto, your body switches from burning carbs to fats for fuel, producing fewer by-products that make breathing harder.

For those with respiratory conditions like COPD or asthma, this switch could be life-changing.

Respiratory Quotient and Its Impact on Breathing

Let's talk about the benefits of breathing better on the ketogenic diet. It all comes down to something called the respiratory quotient (RQ).

The RQ is a measure of the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. Different macronutrients - fats, proteins, and carbohydrates - have different RQs, which directly impacts your breathing.

How Fat Improves Oxygen Intake

Fat has the lowest RQ compared to protein and carbs. This means that when you're burning fat for fuel, you produce the least amount of carbon dioxide and take in the most oxygen.

In fact, when you're in ketosis, the ketones your body produces have an even lower RQ, ranging from 0.66 to 0.73. This translates to better oxygen levels in your body.

Comparing Macronutrients' RQs

Let's compare the RQs of different macronutrients:

  • Fat has the lowest RQ, resulting in the least CO2 and the most oxygen.

  • Protein has a slightly higher RQ than fat, producing a bit more CO2 and less oxygen.

  • Carbohydrates have the highest RQ, leading to the most CO2 production and the least oxygen intake.

This is why many people report breathing better on the ketogenic diet. By prioritizing fat and limiting carbs, you optimize your body's oxygen utilization.

Benefits for Respiratory Conditions

The benefits of breathing better on the ketogenic diet extend to various respiratory conditions. If you have COPD, emphysema, or asthma, a low-carb, high-fat diet may help improve your breathing.

Enhanced Breathing in COPD Patients

The ketogenic diet can be a game-changer for individuals with COPD. By reducing carbon dioxide production, the diet helps COPD patients breathe more easily and efficiently.

I've seen this firsthand in my patients.

Those who stick to a strict keto diet often report less shortness of breath and improved exercise tolerance.

Asthma Management

Asthma sufferers can also benefit from the improved oxygen levels that come with a ketogenic diet. By providing more oxygen to the lungs, the keto diet may help reduce inflammation and improve overall asthma control.

Of course, it's important to work closely with your doctor when using the keto diet to manage any respiratory condition. But the potential benefits are worth exploring.

Understanding Ketoacidosis and Safety

When discussing the benefits of breathing better on the ketogenic diet, it's crucial to address concerns about ketoacidosis. Let's clear up some misconceptions.

What is Ketoacidosis?

Ketoacidosis is a dangerous condition that occurs when blood pH drops and blood glucose levels are extremely high, typically over 300 mg/dL. It's characterized by symptoms like excessive thirst, frequent urination, nausea, and shortness of breath.

However, it's important to note that ketoacidosis is primarily a concern for individuals with type 1 diabetes who have no insulin production and uncontrolled blood sugar.

Why Non-Diabetics Are Safe

For people without diabetes, following a ketogenic diet does not lead to ketoacidosis. When you're in nutritional ketosis, your blood sugar remains low, around 60-80 mg/dL.

Your body has a built-in feedback loop that prevents ketones from reaching dangerously high levels. As long as you're producing insulin, you're not at risk for ketoacidosis.

Lactic Acidosis and Its Prevention

Another form of acidosis that can impact breathing is lactic acidosis. This is a particular concern for individuals taking metformin for diabetes.

Causes of Lactic Acidosis

Metformin, a common diabetes medication, can sometimes lead to lactic acidosis as a side effect. This happens when lactate builds up in the bloodstream faster than it can be removed.

Symptoms of lactic acidosis include rapid breathing, muscle pain, and stomach discomfort. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening.

Preventive Measures

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of lactic acidosis while on the ketogenic diet. Supplementing with vitamin B1 and calcium has been shown to help prevent this condition.

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, plays a crucial role in metabolizing lactate. Calcium helps regulate lactate production and clearance. By ensuring adequate intake of these nutrients, you can minimize your risk of developing lactic acidosis.

Broader Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet

While the benefits of breathing better on the ketogenic diet are significant, they're just the tip of the iceberg. The keto diet offers a wide range of health advantages that go beyond respiratory function.

Physical Fitness Enhancement

The ketogenic diet has been shown to improve physical performance and endurance. By providing a steady supply of ketones for fuel, the keto diet helps athletes maintain energy levels and reduce fatigue.

I've worked with many athletes who have seen significant improvements in their training and competition after switching to a keto diet. From runners to weightlifters, the benefits are clear.

Metabolic Advantages

In addition to enhancing physical fitness, the ketogenic diet offers numerous metabolic benefits. By improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation, the keto diet can help prevent and manage conditions like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Studies have also shown that the keto diet can lead to significant weight loss, particularly in the form of body fat. This can have profound effects on overall health and well-being.

Man sleeping in bed

Better Sleep Quality

Finally, the ketogenic diet may help improve sleep quality. Many people report sleeping more soundly and waking up feeling more refreshed when they're in ketosis.

This may be due to the stabilizing effect of ketones on blood sugar and energy levels. By avoiding the spikes and crashes associated with a high-carb diet, the keto diet promotes a more balanced and restful sleep cycle.

In conclusion, the benefits of breathing better on the ketogenic diet are just one piece of a much larger puzzle.

From enhanced respiratory function to improved physical fitness, metabolic health, and sleep quality, the keto diet offers a comprehensive approach to optimizing your well-being.

As always, it's important to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before starting any new diet or lifestyle change. But for those who are looking to improve their breathing and overall health, the ketogenic diet is definitely worth considering.

Breath of Keto

Methylene Blue, a compound with diverse applications, is gaining attention for its potential benefits in the realm of ketogenic diets.

Beyond its traditional uses, recent studies suggest that methylene blue might enhance mitochondrial function, promoting better respiration and energy production.

This could be particularly beneficial for individuals on a ketogenic diet, where efficient mitochondrial function is crucial for metabolizing fats into ketones.

By optimizing respiratory processes, methylene blue may support enhanced energy levels, cognitive function, and overall well-being in those following a ketogenic lifestyle.


Contrary to Hollywood's portrayal of AI as our future overlords (looking at you Terminator), real-world applications show otherwise—just like the misconceptions about diets and their impact on our lives.

The ketogenic diet offers many advantages that often slip under our radar—improving not just metabolism but also making every breath easier and healthier.

By embracing this lifestyle change, we open ourselves up to enhanced physical performance, metabolic gains, and yes—better sleep quality too!

This isn't just another fad; it's lasting wellness rooted in solid science—a journey towards sustainability one healthy breath at a time.

Healthy Keto Guide for Beginner

FREE Keto Diet Plan