Low-carb diets are often related to weight loss and are generally considered to be the peak of healthy eating (though the idea of the ‘perfect diet’ is a topic of debate). However, when it comes to eating specifically for working out, there does not seem to be a consensus on what the right diet is for athletes. Some nutritionists and athletes might promote a low-carb, high protein diet, while others might encourage carb-inclusion to sustain your body during high-intensity workouts. It is rather difficult to say what the right diet for athletes, but today we will be looking at whether low-carb diets, in particular, can be a good choice for athletes; so, what are the positives as well as the negatives of this diet?
What Is A Low-Carb Diet?
A low-carb diet (not necessarily ketogenic) is a diet that, as the name would suggest, is low in carbohydrates. A low-carb diet, in the case we are discussing, should not be confused with a keto diet. While keto diets are low in carb, they are far more restrictive than your average low-carb diet averaging approximately 30-50g of carbs per day combined with a high fat intake. A low-carb diet, on the other hand, consists of approximately 50-150g of carbs a day – and includes an high protein intake and moderate fat intake.
The Benefits Of A Low-Carb Diet
By restricting carbohydrates such as grains, beans, potatoes, and cereals (as well as the ‘secret carbs’ found in sugary treats and some fruits) your body will start to use stored body fat as fuel. This can be extremely beneficial for weight-loss and improving body functions, as instead of your body using the easy-to-burn carbs from your meals it is forced to break down the existing fat you have stored in your body – therefore helping you to lose weight and burn fat more effectively. Fat is a much more abundant resource in your body and therefore, if you are able to activate your body’s ability to burn fat you may be able to workout for longer. Some studies suggest that a low-carb diet (as long as it includes high protein and moderate fats to fuel your muscles) will not impact your ability to workout effectively and might help you to lose weight while maintaining muscle mass.
The Negatives of a Low-Carb Diet
While it is suggested that low-carb diets might be beneficial for athletes, giving them the ability to utilise fat as a fuel for workouts, other studies suggest that it may not be the best diet for those regularly performing high-intensity workouts. It is suggested that carbohydrates are a better and more efficient source of energy than fat as it makes allowances for the production of more energy in comparison to your oxygen intake – which is incredibly important for high-intensity activity. If you do not consume enough carbohydrates (particularly if the diet is not balanced with enough protein or fat) you will struggle to perform exercise at intense levels for any extended period times. There is also a misconception that carbs are fattening, which is not correct – it is more a question of eating a balanced diet with the correct number of calories to maintain your body during activity.
So, Low-Carb or Not?
In conclusion, it seems that the low-carb debate depends entirely on the person. Some people respond well to low-carb diets and others need more carbs to maintain their lifestyle. It seems that the more intense your workouts the more carbs you might need to maintain your body during exercise and if your goals are more weight-loss oriented, perhaps a low-carb diet might work for you. The out-and-out best thing to do is check in with a medical professional to see what will work best for your body as well as your exercise routine.
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