Research Recap – Does Low Carbs Help Athletes
There’s a pretty decent study from last month on a topic that has rarely been given a second glance. The use of low carbs for assisting performance. We know it can be a boost for fat loss, and mental energy, but can it actually make you a better athlete?
The consensus is a resounding yes.
Overall, there are multiple short-term advantages to low carbohydrate diets beyond just the benefit of weight-loss. The long-term cardiovascular effects of a low carbohydrate diet clearly require further study. For the athlete, after achieving and sustaining nutritional ketosis, the human body can increase lipolysis rates to provide almost all of the body’s fuel for exercise, particularly for exercise of low to moderate intensity. This can theoretically provide a distinct advantage over carbohydrate-based metabolism, especially for endurance athletes tapping into their much larger fat-store reservoirs.
There are multiple “off-target” effects, including decreased inflammation and decreased gastrointestinal upset. While the low carbohydrate diet is not for every athlete, the invested athlete may improve his or her performance with keto-adaptation. Future study should also investigate periodization of diets, such as the “train low, race high” strategy, perhaps maximizing benefits of both low and more traditional high carbohydrate approaches.
There’s still the question of whether ketosis can sustain high-intensity activity, like heavy lifts and sprints, but at most intensities, it’s likely to improve performance. The strategy mentioned at the end, is basically carb cycling between bouts of activity. Low carbs before training, transitioning into high carbs during the session itself. It’s something I do myself, and works quite well for fuelling high-intensity lifts while keeping recovery across a high-fat diet.
Either way, it’s another win for low carbers and breakfast skippers alike.