Going on a low-carb diet as an athlete can have its challenges, but also comes with massive advantages too. Randall Cooper sat down with Dr Peter Brukner, an Australian sports physician, author and real food advocate, on what his Top Tips were on how to integrate a low-carb diet into your athlete lifestyle.
Timing is key
There’s a lot of advantages to going on a low carb diet but there are some short term issues, you’ve got to pick the right time to swap. You’re changing your fuel from carbs to fats and that takes time. So do it in the off season, when you can take a break from training, not a week before you run your big marathon.
Secondly when you start a low carb diet, often for a couple of weeks you don’t feel great, there’s a thing called keto flu so if you go ketogenic, that’s very low carb, you get these flu like symptoms where you don’t feel great and your athletic performance goes down. We believe it’s due to lack of salt so if you do go low carb, you need to add salt to everything. We normally get our salt from processed foods, so if you suddenly stop have processed foods your depleting yourself of salts and that’s why you feel bad. Be patient with the change over and don’t throw it all away when you start to feel bad.
Increase your training load
Once you’re into a pattern of low carb you’ll find you feel great. One of the interesting things is then recovery, because you’ve got less inflammation after you exercise you recover a whole lot better. It means you can increase your training load because you don’t have that soreness afterwards.
Even endurance athletes can get away without big bowls of pasta or rice the night before a race, in fact they’re often the ones who are most suited to it. One of the problems is fuelling, you constantly have to eat and drink right through an endurance set or event. When you’re on a low carb diet you don’t need that, I’ve had people who are on a low carb diet do an Ironman on water alone and not even needing to have any breakfast, you’re using the fat in your body as fuel.
Check out the full podcast where they discuss the effect of a low carbohydrate high fat diet on pain in people with osteoarthritis, in the latest episode of The Journal Club with Randall Cooper here: