Our friends over at the Endurance Store are running an experiment,  take a look and if you’d like to take part be sure to share your feedback…..

“There has been much recent discussion regarding the benefits of high carbohydrate diets and athletic performance. During the last 20 years, pasta, bread, potatoes and rice have been the foundation of an athletes diet to ensure that our glycogen levels (posh word for stored carbohydrate) remain as full as possible. However, in recent years several sports scientists and medical professionals have questioned the benefits of such diets, going as far to suggest that such an approach may even be detrimental to performance.

In the 1980’s we were introduce to the ‘nutrition pyramid’, which promoted the consumption of carbohydrates. The bottom tier of the pyramid, being the foundation of our diet and the largest contribution to daily eating, suggest grain and wheat products should be eaten 8-10 times per day. We now know without any doubt that this was designed to benefit US agriculture, by selling more grain and generating more profit.

Since this time our daily diets have become increasingly full of high carbohydrate foods. This problem was further exaggerated by the ‘supposed research’, which suggested that fat intake, in particular saturated fat, leads to raised cholesterol levels and heart disease.

There is a growing documentary of evidence to suggest that high carbohydrate diets are in fact the cause of obesity and other health issues such as the ever-increasing cases of type 2 diabetes. The issue of diabetes can teach us a great deal with regards to sports performance, in particular how to enable ‘metabolic efficiency’ or ‘greater fat usage’ for endurance sports.

The Insulin Issue

When we eat high amounts of carbohydrate our blood sugar levels will rise sharply, resulting in the release of insulin. The role of insulin is to then lead the circulating sugar from the blood stream to storage in the muscles or liver. The problem occurs when we are continually eating high carbohydrate foods and as a result, constantly releasing insulin. After many years, the insulin just gets tired of this sequence and stops doing its job. As a result, when your blood sugar levels rise, they stay high and this is type 2 diabetes.

There is another issue with insulin, it forces fat storage and discourages fat usage. There’s absolutely no surprise then that type 2 diabetes and weight gain go hand in hand. If you’re a sports person you can also presume that high levels of insulin will also prevent you from using fat as a fuel source. That’s a shame, because it’s a huge fuel store.

I know what you’re thinking, there’s a difference between carbohydrate and sugar, there’s the simple ones and the complex ones! Some cause spikes in blood sugar and some are slow release. In fact, this just isn’t true. There are very few which don’t cause high sugar spikes and most of the ones which you consider to be the complex, slow release variety, cause a spike in blood sugar and an insulin response.

Stop the Spike

Forget carbohydrates for a minute and think about your meals and foods as a whole. Foods are ranked from 1-100 on the glycaemic index (GI) scale and the lower the figure, the lower the spike. As a general rule of thumb, foods which are high in fat, have lower GI scores and those higher in carb and lower in fat, have higher GI scores.

Why Low Carb?

Consider this simple fact, a diet high in fat will be low GI, prevent high blood sugar levels and corresponding spikes in insulin levels. As a result, the body will use higher levels of fat for energy (as they are not being forced into storage) and save glycogen for when it’s really needed. This is likely to result in ‘fat loss’ as opposed to weight loss and further to this, your glycogen stores will last much longer when exercising and your performances are likely to benefit.

What’s ‘Fat Adapted’?

A lot of people believe themselves to be eating a low carbohydrate diet when in fact, they are actually eating a balanced amount of carbohydrate. In a similar manner, a lot of people believe themselves to be ‘fat adapted’ when in fact they are just eating a low/moderate carbohydrate diet.

‘Fat adapted’ is a term coined by various physiologists for the changes, which occur when people reduce carbohydrate intake to almost zero. Your brain currently feeds from glucose (blood sugar), which is why you have a ‘back up supply’ in your liver. If your body were to run empty of glucose, the liver produces ‘ketones’ (acetone smell – pear drops) and these are a substitute fuel for your brain. Fat adaptation is the successful switch from glucose usage to ketone usage at the brain. Once the all-important brain is happy using ketones, your muscles can start to ‘crack on’ and use fats as fuel and you don’t need carbohydrates.

I consider low carb diets and ‘fat adaptation’ to be a sliding scale of fat usage. Fat adaptation is one extreme end of the scale and at the other end is high carbohydrate fuelling. Full ‘fat adaptation’ may well bear fruit for endurance athletes, but it is very difficult to manage. It’s important to remember that simply reducing carbohydrate intake and reducing dietary GI scores will bring health and performance benefits. Its a sliding scale, not 2 simple options.

Low Carb V High Fat

An important point to clarify for sports people is low carbohydrate intake versus high fat intake. For example, if you’re wondering what to eat for breakfast before a long run or ride, you may wish to eat nothing in an attempt to burn more fat, this would be low carb approach. By contrast, you may eat a breakfast very high in fat, this is the high fat approach. You may think that there’s no difference between the two, but you’d be wrong. Eating something high in fat will cause a greater rise in circulating blood fats, which may promote higher fat usage.

The Social Experiment

Let’s find out how it impacts upon you. I want everyone to join in on a mass experiment and collectively we’ll feedback and see what the results are. The basis is simple, if you are a triathlete or cyclist you will use a long, steady ride of 3 hours, if you are purely a runner, it will be a long, steady run session of 2 hours.

Week 1: You will eat a high carbohydrate breakfast, consisting of cereals or toast. Use carbohydrate drinks, gels and bars throughout the 3 hour ride or 2 hour run.

Week 2: You will eat a high fat breakfast and drink only water for the 3 hour ride or 2 hour run.

Breakfast should be 45 minutes before exercise, although runners you may extend this to 60 minutes if you struggle to run after eating. Your high fat breakfasts are as follows:

  1. Fry 3 rashers of bacon and then fry 2 eggs in the remaining bacon fat. Do not remove the fat from the bacon, do not dry the fat from the food. No bread or toast with this breakfast.
  2. Eat a bowl of full fat Greek yogurt, with a large handful of nuts and seeds. Do not add dried fruit, just nuts and seeds. Add some coconut oil or coconut pieces for extra boost!

You’re probably thinking that option 1 is the unhealthy version and option 2 the healthy version, right? That’s because the myth that saturated fat is bad for us, is so deeply rooted, you just can’t get your head round the other possibility..  It’s ok, go for the bacon and eggs.

Make it Valid

We’re not going to be able to use a laboratory for this test, but we do need to try and minimise a few of the variables, by following these guidelines:

  1. You should not be tired. If you’ve had a hard session or race the day before, it’s not a fair test. If you’re ill or been ill that would also impact upon the way you feel.
  2. Eat normal on the days before. Don’t change your diet too much on the preceding days so everything is ‘normal’. Eat your usual amount of fat, carbohydrate and protein, we are only testing the effects of your breakfast choice upon training performance.
  3. Train at the same time as usual and train at the same intensity, don’t try to go harder or easier on either trial.

Most people who read these blogs are very serious about improving their performance, so don’t ignore this post, join in on the experiment and let’s see what happens. All I’m asking you to do is eat bacon and eggs and tell us what happened.. how hard can that be??”

Share this with your friends and ask them to try it too, the more people, the better the feedback!

Be sure to join there facbook page and let them know whats happened…..

Bacon & Eggs