High Protein Low Carb Diet For Athletes

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What I eat as a lean vegan athlete – high carb low fat diet

According to strong science, eating more protein can reduce your appetite and help you lose body fat and preserve muscle.

With our meal plan, youll experience all the benefits of a high-protein diet without having to spend time searching for recipes or figuring out what to eat, how much to eat, or how to cook it.

Keto Diet For Athletes

The keto diet is a diet that is very low in carbohydrate intake and high in fat and protein. The idea is that on a ketogenic diet its easier to lose and maintain weight by using a fat source instead of a carbohydrate source for energy fueling your cells. But for athletes, sports medicine has traditionally favored carbohydrates.

Weve recommended for years that you get in carbohydrates before, during, and after exercise or competition. This is because carbohydrates are a fuel thats readily available to our muscles and allow them to contract. So what happens when athletes change their fueling from carbohydrate or glucose-based, to fats or ketone based diets?


Well it turns out that the research is showing that a keto diet may help you if youre an endurance athlete but work against you if you do high-intensity or anaerobic sports. In two recent studies athletes eating a high carbohydrate diet outperformed athletes eating a low carbohydrate diet when tested in activities requiring short bursts of energy. But interestingly, those same athletes taking in a high carbohydrate diet underperformed against athletes taking in a keto-like or low carbohydrate diet when tested in endurance activities.


So the answer to the question Will keto benefit me as an endurance athlete? still remains unclear. I hope Ive answered some of your questions about the current state of our knowledge about keto and athletes.

Slowly Absorbed Versus Rapidly Absorbed Carbohydrates

Panelists pointed out that, before and during exercise, the rapidity with which a carbohydrate source enters the bloodstream could impact exercise intensity and duration. High-carbohydrate foods and beverages that tend to be rapidly absorbed are best for providing the muscles with the energy that they need during exercise to maintain performance. Over the years, some sports nutritionists have theorized that lower glycemic index carbohydrates, those that appear in the bloodstream more slowly after ingestion and promote a blunted rise in the blood glucose response, may be preferable before exercise because they tend to meter the appearance of glucose in the blood. However, this construct is not supported by robust data the experts pointed to recent research indicating no difference between pre-event consumption of a low GI meal or a moderate GI meal on the ability to maintain or improve high-intensity running performance .

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Apr Low Carb Diet: Role In Young Children And Athletes

A low carb diet may be a sensible option for children or athletes concerned about excessive weight, risk of diabetes and athletic performance.

That very phrase may run contrary to common teaching.

  • Should be the majority of daily calories
  • Best sources are complex carbohydrates
  • Higher fiber multi-grain breads, pastas, and cereals
  • Less emphasis on simple, higher sugar-based sources
  • Snack/dessert products, juices
  • Good pre-event sources, especially in higher amounts before endurance events
  • Proteins
  • Should be about 20% of daily calories
  • Meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts
  • Dairy products
  • Maximum of 30% of daily calories
  • Majority from unsaturated food sources
  • Nuts, fish, plant oils
  • Smaller amounts from animal-based sources
  • Meat and dairy products
  • Choosing The Right Diet


    Alexandra Cook is a competitive endurance runner and sports dietitian. Rather than suggesting clients take on extreme diets that either focus on carbs or protein, she prefers a more balanced approach. Theres a huge amount of misinformation out there. Were in a world where there are a lot of influencers and people tend to look at what other people are doing and think, if its worked for you, its going to work for me, she says.

    Cook finds herself having to battle misinformation about certain diets especially ones that are restrictive. Some athletes especially in the ultra-endurance world do tend to go for this low-carb approach and it works for them, which is great. But then they say when Im up and running, Ive never felt fitter. That doesnt mean its going to work for everybody else. I know for sure if I cut out carbohydrates, I probably wouldnt be able to get out of bed, let alone run a 50-mile race.

    So Cooks approach is to instead tweak the guidelines to the individual shes working with, so that it accounts for their sport or for personal reasons such as different tastes and requirements.

    This means no extremes of either protein or carbs.

    This isnt particularly exciting or novel, its the Eatwell Guide advice. Theres a tendency for the newest-best-thing to be the diet you should be doing. But actually, theres usually limited evidence behind whether they are attainable and have the results people think they do, he concludes.

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    Additional Findings On Carbohydrates

    British exercise physiologist Ron Maughan, PhD, asked, Why would you even want to burn more fat than carbs during exercise? He explained that fat, as compared to carbohydrate, requires more oxygen to produce energy. Burning more fat means that you have to work at a higher fraction of your maximum oxygen uptake. Isnt that the opposite of what you want to happen?

    Some athletes claim a key benefit of being fat-adapted is a reduced need to consume food during endurance exerciseand thereby reduce the threat of intestinal distress. Hence, fat-adapting seems like a logical plan for numerous endurance athletes who fear sour stomachs and fecal urgency. The problem is, if they want to make a surge, sprint to the finish, or dig deeper to go harder or longer, they will lack the glycogen required for that higher intensity burst.

    Hence, their best bet would be to train their bodies to accept food during exercise. By experimenting during training and seeking help from a sports dietitian, an athlete can figure out which fluids and foods will settle well. Perhaps a different brand of sports drink or gel, or a swig of maple syrup, could offer the needed fuel without creating distress.

    Carbohydrates from colorful vegetables and fruits are particularly important for athletes. They help keep your body healthy. Case in point, Montmorency cherries. The deep red color of these tart cherries comes from a plant compound that reduces inflammation and muscle soreness.

    Low Carb And Sport My Journey

    Ever since I was a young boy, sport has played an important role in my life. From growing up on sidelines in rural Ireland watching my dad play Gaelic football, to participating in a wide range of sports myself. I thought to myself I want to play sport forever. For me, organised sport has always been a great way to enjoy physical activity and to develop special friendships, some of which continue to blossom some 20 years later.

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    Putting It Together: A Prescription For Athletes

    Lets say our athlete is an 80 kg man. Then maximum muscle gain will be achieved at a protein intake of 1.875*80 = 150 g/day. Toxicity will begin somewhere between 150 to 200 g/day. So the plateau region where all the benefits, and none of the toxicity, are achieved is between 150 g/day and some protein intake not much above 150 g/day.

    The plateau region is quite narrow! What this tells us is that athletes should consume about 150 g/day protein.

    This assumes a high-carb diet, so that no protein is needed for gluconeogenesis. The body utilizes about 600 calories/day of glucose, plus another 100 calories per hour of intense training.

    With carb intakes below 600 calories/day, additional dietary protein would be needed, because protein would be consumed nearly 1-for-1 with the missing carbs.

    So we can summarize these results as follows:

    • On a high-carb diet , 600 protein calories/day maximizes muscle gain.
    • On a low-carb diet , 1200 carb+protein calories/day maximizes muscle gain.

    Looking back at Advocatus Avocados personal experience, he eats a low-carb diet with 460 carb calories per day. We predict therefore that he would need 740 protein calories a day to maximize his muscle gain .

    Advocatus says he needs 800 protein calories/day to maximize muscle gain. Close enough for blog work!

    At these protein intake levels, Advocatus is probably experiencing mild ammonia toxicity. He might slightly improve his health by eating a few more carbs, and cutting his protein intake a bit.

    Overview Of Lchf Diet

    Why Athletes Should Eat a HIGH CARB DIET For Performance

    LCHF diets, or ketogenic diets, usually contain less than 20% of energy from carbohydrate, more than 50% of energy from fat, and variable amounts of protein . Several studies used extreme LCHF diets that contained less than 5% of carbohydrate . LCHF diets usually lead to ketosis when the liver oxidizes high concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids into ketone bodies, including 3-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate, and acetone . The physiological ketosis from LCHF diets results in blood ketone body concentration of around 7-8 mM and blood pH of 7.4 . Although the brain prefers glucose as the main energy source, it can metabolize ketone bodies as fuel for long periods of time during starvation and hypoglycemia . Muscles and other organs also are able to oxidize ketone bodies as an alternative source of energy when carbohydrate supply is limited. Oxaloacetate becomes a limiting factor for fat oxidation after several days of LCHF diets because of inadequate glucose availability. In order to maintain citric acid cycle function, oxaloacetate has to be provided by deamination of glucogenic amino acids such as aspartate and asparagine. Therefore, daily consumption of between 1.3 to 2.5 g/kg of protein is necessary to ensure the maintenance of muscle mass, gluconeogenesis and fat oxidation when consuming LCHF diets .

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    Fats Carbohydrates And Proteins

    Central to macro counting are the three basic macronutrients: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

    Each of these macros has a different effect on the human body. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy they are essential for the brain and nervous system, as well as other bodily functions.

    Meanwhile, protein is what the body uses to build and repair muscle, tissues, skin, blood cells, etc.

    Finally, fats are what the body uses to produce hormones, cell membranes, and absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

    In moderation, all three macronutrients are healthy for the body, and the key to macro counting is to adjust.

    Strawberry Rhubarb Protein Overnight Oats

    Image: Randa Nutrition

    To finish out your round-up of high-protein recipes, we couldn’t forget about dessert.

    If you have a sweet tooth, there’s usually a way to satisfy any cravings without wrecking your meal plan. Chia pudding, smoothies, and overnight oats are just a few dishes you can sweeten with berries or other healthy sweeteners. Add a scoop of protein powder to the mix for an added protein boost.

    These high-protein overnight oats are a cinch to prep the night before. Plus, you can get your sweet fix by adding vanilla protein powder, almond milk, and a homemade strawberry rhubarb sauce.

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    Negative Experiences On Low Carb

    I have had some negative experiences however, and it is important for me to share these with you. At times in my low-carb journey, I have got my preparations wrong, resulting in significant drops in performance and experiencing negative side effects. These experiences happened in the early days of my change in diet, where I trained and played in a keto state.

    During these early experimental stages, I felt lethargic, had mental fog, and was unable to perform anywhere near my usual performance. These experiences may relate to the central fatigue which can be associated with exercising in a keto state . In the past 18 months of this journey, this has only happened to me twice, where is used to be a regular occurence on a high-carb diet. The lesson that I learned from this was that I was not able to reach my performance needs on a pure low-carb or keto approach. Playing sports like rugby can put high energy requirments on my body, and I was not able to meet these intense energy demands on a keto diet alone.

    I experienced, learned and adapted the approach to suit my needs. This is what the sports nutrition council state in their current recommendations personalised nutrition plans . There is no right or wrong for everyone, it is about finding out what works for you. Eating high quantities of refined carbs was certainly not allowing me to reach my performance goals, but cutting them out completely was also not helpful.

    Do Athletes Need Carbohydrates

    Low carb high protein diet for athletes â Health News

    Theres an ongoing debate as to how low carb diets affect athletic performance, says Shamayeva. The fact remains that carbohydrates are the bodys preferred source of fuel, especially for moderate and high-intensity performance.

    Again, assuming youre not in ketosis and take that as an assumption with the rest of this piece the body really likes using glycogen as a source of energy, which we get from consuming carbohydrates. A plethora of studies have shown that when glycogen stores are high, athletes perform better and recover more easily, be it from resistance training, high intensity exercise, or endurance training.

    Low Carb Lifting

    But how important are glycogen stores really when youre just lifting heavy weights? Like it or not, your average resistance training session isnt all that aerobic, nor does it burn all that many calories. Theyre tremendously beneficial in countless ways but do you really need huge energy stores to excel?

    In our article on ketogenic diets, sports physiology expert Dr. Mike Israetel noted that low reps with longer rest periods pretty typical of a lot of lifting sessions typically uses ATP-CP energy system, which doesnt rely as heavily on glycogen.

    The higher the total volume of work you perform in training, the more youre going to rely on glycogen and carbohydrate to potentiate that performance. In strength sports, because the work is typically not as high in duration, people can get away with lower carbs in general.

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    Start With Calories And Macronutrients

    Carbohydrates, protein and fat are the three macronutrients in your food. Low-carbohydrate diets help you lose weight and preserve muscle mass, because they’re generally high in protein. It’s important to retain muscle mass as a bodybuilder you need as much as possible on stage. As you lose weight before the show, you’re more likely to lose muscle mass, but eating enough protein can prevent that. Use a calorie tracker, like MyPlate, to help you keep to your carb, protein and fat goals.

    South Beach Compatible Menu

    This menu is compatible with the South Beach Diet. The nutritional information will vary substantially based on your food choices, the amount of food you consume , and your preparation method.

    As a very general estimate, this day’s menu may provide 11001300 calories, 5065 grams of fat, 50-57 grams of carbohydrate, about 1315 grams of fiber, 2500 milligrams of sodium, and 100110 grams of protein depending on the foods you choose. Dessert calories and macronutrients are not included in these estimated numbers.


    Optional dessert

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    Are Low Carbohydrate Diets Useful For Athletes

    While there may not be severe performance declines for athletes who exercise at low intensities, athletes who need to include moderate to high intensity exercise during their training or competition can compromise the quality of training sessions and performance by following a low carbohydrate diet. During moderate-high intensity exercise the body is unable to use fat as a fuel quickly enough and requires carbohydrate to produce energy. When recovery time between training sessions is short the negative impacts can be even worse. Inadequate carbohydrate intake has also been linked with decreased immune function in athletes and can compromise maintenance of lean mass.

    Track Everything You Eat

    High Protein vs Low Carb: Best Diet for FAT LOSS? (Part 2)

    Use a food tracking app like MyPlate to monitor the amount of carbohydrates, fat and protein you eat every day, as well as overall calorie count. You can adjust on the fly as the day goes on. As long as you don’t eat more than 30 percent of your total calories in the form of carbohydrates, you’ll technically be low-carb.

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    Train Low And Compete High

    Current guidelines for carbohydrate intake for athletes are poorly understood , however there is a growing consensus among sport nutrition experts that high carbohydrate intakes are not promoted for all athletes. The current literature suggests that keto and low-carb diets can aid certain sport performances, mostly in the endurance and strength sports . While there is literature to support my physical and mental performance experiences, the sporting demands of my rugby matches required me to have more carbohydrate stores available to meet the energy demands that I was putting on myself.

    Identifying this, I have now adopted a carb-cycling approach. I live and train in a low-carb environment, and I perform in a state of higher-carb ingestion. This has been nicely explained by Dr. Brukner in his video on the Diet Doctor website. Training low and competing high. Having identified these needs, I can continue to reach and maintain my own lifestyle goals while meeting the increased demands of my rugby games.

    Our Favorite Foods For A Low

    So what are some of our favorite foods to make your staples? Well, we’re happy to say that you can always find a variety of fruits and vegetables on our plate!

    Fruits like bananas, apples, mangos, pears or grapes are sweet treats that are great for any time of day! Vegetables such as broccoli and spinach go well with any meal — so we often take those “side dishes” front and center! We also recommend lots of whole grain rice, sweet potatoes, lentils, legumes — don’t limit yourself!

    Really, there’s a ton of healthy options, and as long as you’re focusing on natural carbohydrate intake, you’ll be on the right track!

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