A common sports nutrition phrase that you may have heard is “carb-loading” (or “carbo-loading”). This refers to filling the body with (often) very starchy, carbohydrates to top off glycogen stores to fuel a training or race day. While there is some validity in this statement, relying purely on carbohydrates as our primary fuel source ignores the 20,000 – 30,000 calories available from our fat stores. This ultimately can create inflammation in the body, due to sugar being a primary ingredient in many modern-day sports drinks and foods. Instead, let’s explore where and how should we focus our sports nutrition.
Low-Carb Diets for Athletes
A traditional or modified ketogenic diet supports long-distance endurance fueling. As this idea picks up steam and support, we can look at the recommendations and medical papers published by the pioneers in this field: Dr. Jeff Volek and Dr. Stephen Phinney. Per the extensive research of Dr. Volek and Dr. Phinney, we can see the benefits of a ketogenic diet or low carbohydrate/high-fat for athletes – even those not going for endurance feats, but shorter performance efforts.
Benefits of Reduced Carbohydrate Dependence
Unlocking oneself from carbohydrate dependence can take some time, but here are some of the benefits that can be found by reducing carbs/increasing healthy fats:
- Faster recovery – burning more fat for fuel versus sugar causes less oxidative damage, leading to better sleep and better performance
- Less need for fueling – becoming more metabolically efficient enables your ability to burn body fat over ingested quick carbohydrates, limiting the need to constantly ingest food
- Steady energy – minimizing blood sugar spikes and dips alleviates unfavorable side effects of carbohydrate dependency
Everyone can benefit from reduced carbohydrate dependence and re-evaluating their fueling strategy from time to time, especially if it is not working well for them and they experience GI distress during training/racing. It’s an ever-evolving process and consulting with an expert in the field is recommended, as additional supplementation may be needed.
Originally posted 2018-10-12 10:53:37.