There has been an upsurge in an “anti-western diet” philosophy recently, with a movement towards higher fat, higher protein, lower carbohydrate intake where the kinds of food matter as much or moreso than the macronutrient aspect of the diet. Kris Gunnars wrote a great piece on this recently titled What’s Wrong with the Modern Diet. This increased interest in the use of nutrition and nutrient timing as a method for improving general health and wellness is a good thing.
But where does this fit in with regards to athletes? There’s a large debate about the efficacy of a lower carbohydrate-no grain diet and its relationship to actual athletic performance.
But wait, I’ve heard low carbohydrate-high fat diets are awesome for performance.
Sort of. Yes, low carbohydrate diets do increase fatty acid oxidation during exercise and encourage intramuscular fat storage. The body is smart. If there isn’t enough primary fuel to support the stress it’s under, it’ll go for a secondary source -in this case, fat- then store more of it for the next time it encounters that stress. But this does not translate into improved performance as the ability to maintain high-intensity and/or prolonged exercise is compromised(1). Differences aside, the body needs carbohydrate to exist. And it needs accessible carbohydrate to perform in our cycling/endurance world.
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