Questions on carbohydrates and athletics

Answered on November 26, 2013
Created November 25, 2013 at 6:22 PM

I've always eaten a high carb diet for athletic performance but there's so much controversy on the topic that I wanted to ask for some clarity on the subject.

First, you have the people like Anthony Colpo, who is a high carb advocator( all of the people that I'm mentioning are involved with athletics), who argues that ketones and/or fat are not efficient enough to fuel even aerobic activity, and cannot fuel anaerobic activity whatsoever.

There are also people like Peter Attia, who argues that full out ketosis is the best route for aerobic activity, and with some modifications can effectively fuel anaerobic activity too.

I notice that the high carb advocators, just lay out the science behind how the body works during exercise and how carbohydrates are much more effective than fat (such as the "why low carb diets are terrible for athletes" series by Anthony Colpo), and that the high fat advocators just run tests on themselves while exercising and showing multiple improvements from pre-low carb/ketosis ( "how a low carb diet affected my performance" by Peter Attia).

However, the tests on high vs low fat diets are always on aerobic activity. I'm not looking to change what I eat, I'm just interested on the topic. And ideas on the high fat vs high carb on both aerobic and anaerobic activity thing

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2 Answers



on November 26, 2013
at 07:50 PM

In my opinion, and based on my experiences, neither endurance nor anaerobic athletes benefit from low carb.

For athletes, protein should be the #1 macro in your diet. Fat and Carbs should be fairly equal, and each person may need to tweak a bit (the more glycogen depleting you workout the more carbs you need, but at a sacrifice or complement to protein, not fat.)... But 50% Protein, 25% Carbs, 25% fat is a good starting point. If you are sedentary, or workout for exercise, not competition, you should flip fat and protein. You can also drop carbs pretty low depending on how often you exercise, how much sleep you get, etc.

GNG is expensive on the body. And even the most efficient person will sacrifice some muscle as part of GNG. Is it a significant amount?

My take is why bother. Give your body enough carbs to replenish glycogen stores and a bit more for energy.



on November 25, 2013
at 10:33 PM

i have just been skimming the Attia blog, fwiw, i got the impression that Attia is not anti-carbs and he believes carbs are required to enhance performance in certain situations/circumstances,

in this post, Ketosis – advantaged or misunderstood state? (Part II), he writes "Does ketosis enhance anaerobic power? No".

And you can see from this post, Ketones and Carbohydrates: Can they co-exist?, that he is not afraid to eat carbs...not high carb percentage wise as he ate 5,400 cals in the example he gives, but he still consumed 320 grams of carbs.

Later in the same post in the comments section he responds to a hockey related query with "You will likely require CHO to maximize your performance in a game like hockey, especially at the intensity you describe"

And from this post (which looks like he was doing a no-carb diet at the time, so i think it was an earlier post than the other two posts above), How a low carb diet affected my athletic performance (Part 4),

It would seem that he increased (raised) his anaerobic threshold (an approximation for when your body transitions from being aerobic to anaerobic).

But may have reduced his Max VO2 ("anaerobic cap"). "it seems, to completely eliminating carbohydrates from my diet was a loss of all-out top end power. For someone like me, this doesn’t seem to hinder performance too much, but if I was trying to win an Olympic gold medal in the 400 meter run or the 100 meter freestyle, it seems I’d be better off with some carbohydrate in my diet"

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