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Carb Loading Doesn't Help Runners: Study

By    |   Thursday, 30 October 2014 03:33 PM

Since the Beatles were at the top of the pop charts, fitness experts have been advising athletes to gear up for marathons and competitive sports by loading up on carbs.
But a growing body of research suggests that may not be the best pre-game prep to boost athletic performance or endurance.
Jeff Volek, M.D., a registered dietician and assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut, and Colette Heimowitz, a nutritionist and vice president of nutrition at Atkins Nutritionals Inc. are among a growing cadre of experts who are questioning the mantra of carbo-loading, Fox News reports. 
Heimowitz notes that in 1925, researchers found that blood glucose decreased during the Boston Marathon and that injecting glucose into an athlete improved their performance.
“The recommendation of a high-carb diet came based on that theory, and then in 1967 the nail was put into the casket because through muscle biopsies they found the importance of glycogen,” she added, noting glycogen is where carbohydrates are stored in muscles.
But the time has come to question that theory. In fact, there is substantial evidence that a low-carb diet that includes moderate iron is a better way to go.
But the experts note that what’s most important is that athletes not make dramatic changes to whatever diet they typically follow — high carb or low, high protein or low — right before competition.
“We have this legion of ultra-endurance athletes who are abandoning their high-carb diets and instead following a low-carb moderate iron diet,” Dr. Volek said.
It takes the body an average of three months to fully adapt to a low-carb diet, but the benefits are numerous, including enhanced performance and longer endurance, he added.
“The most remarkable finding is that these athletes have extraordinarily high rates of fat oxidation, or fat burning, so they burn fat at twice the rate as their high-carb counterparts do,” he said. “This is really important because during a marathon or a race lasting longer than a few hours, you burn through your carbohydrates.”
Heimowitz said the ideal meal the night before a race or competition would include low-fiber foods to avoid rapidly cleaning your stomach, such as a protein like fish or chicken, a salad with an olive oil dressing, and half a sweet potato.
When the race ends, researchers have found that those on the low-carb diet may have an easier time recovering than their high-carb counterparts, but Dr. Volek also noted other health benefits from the diet that will last long after you cross the finish line.
"Managing the risk for diabetes, reversing Type 2 diabetes, improving your cholesterol level, and lowering the risk of heart disease," are things, according to Dr. Volek, that can be a result of a low-carb diet, "when you get it right." 

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New research is challenging the time-honored advice fitness experts have been giving to marathoners to load up on carbs before a race.
carb, loading, runner, marathon
Thursday, 30 October 2014 03:33 PM
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