The low carb, high fat (LCHF) movement is sweeping the endurance world by storm. And rightly so. But let me get one thing very straight: “low carb” does not equal no carbs. The mindset of “if low carb is good, then no carbs must be better” is completely destructive to your health and wellness. It will make you slow, potentially decrease your thyroid function, or worse still, have you land in the deep hole that is adrenal fatigue. Let’s avoid this shall we?
Here’s why you need to right amount of carbohydrates for you:
- By definition, “low carb” is a spectrum of 20-200 grams of carbohydrates per day. If you are metabolically healthy and lean, your metabolic efficiency can be developed easily and comfortably on 150-200g carbohydrate/day. I see this in clinic daily. If you’re getting results, preserving your long-term health and extending your athletic longevity, then why would you choose a restrictive or extreme route? This should be a lifestyle that is periodised yearly in line with your training and racing, not another version of calorie counting and deprivation.
- Carbohydrates are always needed for top end performance. You have a maximum of 2000 calories of muscle glycogen on board (if you’re very well trained), so if you burn 1000 calories/hour, you are going to need the strategic use of exogenous carbohydrate to keep your intensity beyond two hours. It is your metabolic efficiency and ability to burn fat that bridges the gap between what you burn and what you are consuming, but racing on no carbs is downright stupid. Unless you want to walk your marathon off the bike of course.
- Carbohydrates are always needed for recovery from high intensity sessions. As you burn through your muscle glycogen, there is a replenishment requirement. This is essential for recovery and subsequent performance. Berries in a smoothie and/or sweet potato with dinner should feature regularly in an athlete’s nutrition plan.
- Fasted training is beneficial to develop your metabolic efficiency, but if your splits are slowing, you’re smashed at the end of a session and/or your recovery is poor, why aren’t you fuelling the back end? There’s no point in a 2.5 hour fasted session if your performance and/or recovery suffers.
- Whole food based carbohydrates are essential for thyroid health. Unless you know your TSH, T3, T4 and RT3 numbers, DO NOT cut your carbohydrates excessively. Please work with a holistic practitioner and start with salivary hormone testing first. We’re more than happy to help.
- Fruit and vegetables come out of the ground or off a tree. Let’s not demonise whole foods please? It’s about the quantity and timing, but not the elimination.
So, do we have a deal – can we please stopping taking our nutrition to the extreme?
Catch up on the benefits of LCHF, plus additional fat adaptation strategies in Episode 30 of The Real Food Reel: “How to become a fat adapted athlete with Steph Lowe”.
Book your personalised Initial Consultation with Steph here. We have Face-to-Face and Skype appointments available and can assist with all your nutrition and testing requirements.
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