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Thread: Fat or carbs for performance?

  1. #1
    James17's Avatar
    James17 Guest


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    I am an athlete. I want to keep my carb intake low, so can I get my energy before a performance from fats or will they be less useful than carbohydrates?

  2. #2
    Mick's Avatar
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    I think it's an uncertain area, so I doubt think anyone could honestly give you definitive advice. And possibly it would also be dependant on what sport you're doing at what intensity for how long.

    There is more interest now in high-fat diets - which is welcome and long overdue. I guess people went so far the other way that in the end they began to find that banging their head against a brick wall didn't get better even if they did it more.

    I suppose as part of the general interest in high-fat diets there is now something called "fat loading" just as there used to be something called "carbohydrate loading". Google the phrase and you'll find some references.

    Besides modern studies, one could look at the ethnographic sources. The Eskimo derived most of their calories - up to 80% - from fat. It seemed to serve them very well for activities that might require endurance - hunting, travelling with sleds, for example - in cold conditions.

    However, I have come across a reference to a Plains Indian taking a leather bag of dried maize flour with him when he went out on a raid. His usual food would have been mostly buffalo meat and fat and prairie turnips. So why did he take only maize flour? Because that activity would be better on it, or simply because it was light to carry? Who knows.

    I think possibly the only certain thing one can say is that everyone should get enough animal fat - in particular so that they get enough of the important fat-soluble vitamins. (This means eating cod liver oil, organ meats (particularly liver), butter, eggs, fish, yoghurt, etc.) If some people with very high activity levels eat carbohydrate-rich foods as well that's probably OK, but they should, like anyone else, have that basis, so to speak, underneath.

  3. #3
    James17's Avatar
    James17 Guest


    Thanks Mick. My sport is 'GAA'. I'll explain it in case anybody is interested.

    Most people here won't know it, as it's almost entirely confined to Ireland. There are actually several sports to the Gaelic Athletic Association. Those that I play being Hurling (Similar idea to soccer with a 'baseball' and a flat baseball bat) and Gaelic Football (Soccer with hands). They are about as intense as soccer, maybe more so. A game lasts about an hour (the older age groups play for 70 minutes). Here is a video of a hurling game for a better idea:

  4. #4
    Nick's Avatar
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    My impression is either way, you tend to be more efficient with the fuel you have spent time training and adapting yourself to. If you eat low carb, and continue training in the same way, your body will upregulate gluconeogenesis and other mechanisms to help meet the demands you place on it. So my recommendation would be to definitely avoid trying to eat no carbs before a game if you usually do, but maybe slowly reduce them, or eliminate carbs in the offseason and give yourself time to adapt.

  5. #5
    SullynNH's Avatar
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    James very impressed! Hurling can be a tough game for sure (being an O'Sullivan, I've heard of both before ;-) )

    I do some intense workouts with out any problem and many folks crossfit on here with out any issues either...I'd agree with Mick and Nick's suggestions...

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