Scientifics studies over the last 40 years have consistently pointed to carbohydrates as the primary fuel source for improving and maintaining physical performance. However, over the last 10 years, we have seen the rise of the Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diet supported by influential researchers such as Dr. Volek, Prof. Tim Noakes and Dr. Dan Plews triggering a paradigm shift in the approach to energy producing nutrition. This shift can cause many of us to feel confused and overwhelmed. You may be asking yourself some questions regarding its benefits and how to approach the diet? For an athlete, the LCHF diet may seem restrictive as the idea of reducing carbohydrates could be scary. Here are the answers to a few essential questions regarding the LCHF diet.
But how does it work?
The LCHF diet, also referred to fat adaptation, will ultimately reset your body so that it not only produces energy from the carbohydrates you eat but also from the fat. The body is built to use fat as an alternative source of fuel, therefore it’s just a matter of training your body to burn fat for energy and preserve its limited stored carbohydrates.
What is the process behind fat adaptation?
The preparation for fat adaptation is similar to your training blocks before a race, it takes roughly 10 weeks with 2 to 3 weeks periods of diet tweaking, from eating wholefood to restricting to low carbohydrate. You will then need to find your ideal sweet spot by increasing carbohydrate to get you well-tuned for the long-distance performance.
For the ladies, these stages will need to be adapted and aligned with your menstrual cycle to minimise side effects and support your body needs.
Typical key foods in a daily fat adapted athletes are: Green vegetables rich in magnesium and antioxidant, oily fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna rich in Omega3 fatty acids, high quality protein to support recovery such as chicken, lean beef and eggs. Some starchy vegetables in moderations such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes and carrots.
What are the benefits of high fat adaption?
During the training weeks, being fat adapted has been shown to reduce appetite throughout the day, reduces inflammation, reduce energy crashes while supporting recovery during multiple training session on the same day.
On race day, carbohydrates are still king, however, the work that you have done to fat adapt your diet will make your body more efficient when supplying you with the energy you need to complete your race. This will reduce the risk of you hitting the wall due to the depletion of your stored glycogen and it will minimise any gastrointestinal distress that can be caused by high carbohydrate intake during physical activity.
The uncertain race schedule offers the perfect opportunity for an athlete to take the time to experiment and find his ideal daily nutrition to optimise performance like training for a long-distance. Changes in diet must be done slowly and gradually for better performance.
I hope that some of those ideas will help you in your discovery of the LCHF diet. It is not an easy process and I would love to help you through it. Feel free to email me email@example.com to receive a free 15 minutes phone consultation to understand better how I can help you in your journey. As registered Nutrition Therapist I also hold a Endure IQ Certification, Practical Application of Low Carbohydrate Performance for Long Distance Triathlon with Dr Dan Plews & Professor Grant Schofield.