February 27, 2017
As an endurance athlete, should I eat low carb healthy fat ?
You may or may not have noticed that recently instead of being carb centric in their eating choices, some endurance athletes are choosing to eat in a low carb high fat way. It seems to be more common in those doing longer distance endurance events. If you’re not familiar with this way of eating and the impact that it might have on your endurance capability, let me enlighten you.
The human body has evolved to be dual fuel i.e. it can burn both fat and carbs for energy at the same time. The view by people who follow this way of eating is that carbohydrate is a ‘dirty’ fuel and that by encouraging people to rely solely on carbohydrate for energy, it stops the body from being metabolically flexible. In addition it is thought that the by-products of using carbohydrate as fuel may cause long term health issues resulting from the inflammation that using carbohydrate can cause.
There are 2 schools of thought as to why you would want to eat low carb high fat:
1. Eating this way makes you become fat adapted – this means that your body will burn fat as clean fuel and use the resulting ketones as energy when carbs are in low supply.
2. Eating this way enables you to become metabolically flexible – which means that your body is able to switch between the 2 different fuel sources as and when required using fat as the primary energy source during periods of rest or low intensity exercise and carbohydrate as a fuel source for high intensity exercise.
Over the last 30 years we have been led to believe that high fat food is bad for us and that it causes heart disease. More recent research shows that this is not in fact the case and that it may well be the consumption of large quantities of refined carbohydrates which are actually the culprit. In developed cultures, it is common to eating refined carbohydrate on a regular basis.
Eating this way doesn’t require you to buy specialised foods, the approach is all about eating nutritious, minimally processed whole foods, a way of eat which I always recommend for endurance athletes. The only change that you need to make is to decrease your carbohydrate intake by cutting out bread, pasta, rice etc and increase your fat intake.
It’s certainly not about deprivation. If you are someone who finds they put on weight easily, struggles to get lean or feels excessively tired after a high carbohydrate meal, then eating this way might just work for you.
If you would now like more detail on this subject, I will be running a webinar on March 1st at 8:30pm.
Register here places are limited.
If you’re interested in knowing more about other aspects of nutrition specifically tailored to the needs of endurance athletes then come and join my Facebook community Eating to win