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[KETO] Just How Important are Carbohydrates for Athletes...Really?

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Just how important are Carbohydrates to athletic performance...really?  Most people are under the assumption that a keto nutritional lifestyle is simply unsuitable for athletes.   Here’s why I think this popular belief is not entirely correct.

 

The popular belief is that you need carbohydrates to replenish glycogen.   This seems obvious, because our muscle cells and liver can store glucose, which is sugar.   If you want to restore your fuel, then eat carbs, right?

 

However, the fact is that it’s not necessary to eat carbs to refill our glycogen stores.   Glycerol, which is found in triglycerides, can be turned into glycogen through the same process of gluconeogenesis.   Consumption of foods with amino acids and low carb vegetables also contributes to this.   It’s estimated that about 200 grams of glucose can be manufactured daily by the liver and kidneys from dietary protein and fat intake [see this study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition].   After some time, you will be able to store glycogen even on a ketogenic diet due to what’s referred to as “keto adaptation”.

 

Even in intense resistance training (weightlifting), you would also need to perform an absurd amount of volume to deplete your glycogen stores in the first place.   A full-body workout consisting of 9 exercises for 3 sets each at 80% 1RM empties only about a third of the body’s glycogen and 9 sets for a specific muscle result in 36% depletion in that muscle[See this study].     Also, the body self-regulates itself according to the stimulus it receives.   The more you deplete your glycogen, the faster the re-synthesis will be.   Even amongst endurance athletes, glycogen gets refilled almost completely within the first 24 hours.

 

The only benefit to eating easily absorbable carbohydrates would be that they get the job done faster.   You’d have to train the same muscle twice a day with insane amounts of volume, something you can’t handle naturally, to need carbs for glycogen replenishment.    You’ll know it when you’ve completely emptied your glycogen stores because you’ll be unable to move, a feat most athletes rarely achieve.   Unless you’re training for the Olympics you don’t need to “carb load.”

 

However, I’m not saying that carbs don’t serve an important role.   Fatty acids and ketones are actually superior for fuel at low intensities, but your performance is nevertheless limited by glucose and muscle glycogen.   Anyone who is following a ketogenic diet can benefit from some exogenous carbs when performing at higher intensities.  If you’re training hard and heavy more frequently, then your body won’t have enough time to replenish your muscle glycogen stores solely via gluconeogenesis.

 

Additionally, glucose is the body’s primary fuel source for a reason.  That’s why we don’t always need nor want to be in ketosis all the time, and most athletes who practice a ketogenic lifestyle understand this.   Muscle contractions for absolute power require some glycogen but that happens only very rarely.  If you think that simple aerobics will cause that to happen then you’re wrong.   What I’m talking about is 110% of our VO2 max and not for short bouts but prolonged time periods.  Very intense metabolic conditioning is glycolytic and requires glucose to be performed.

 

My point is simply that, contrary to popular opinion, even though we might be exercising it doesn’t mean we’re tapping into our glucose reserves.  We shouldn’t want to either.  Training to failure all the time isn’t the way to build muscle as a natural athlete.  Because it’s a vital fuel source the body will try to hold onto every gram no matter what and use it only in survival scenarios where failure is not an option.

 

There has to be both intensity and volume - near maximum effort - for glucose to be released.  In the modern world we can create a similar response with high intensity interval training (HIIT) or heavy weightlifting, or Crossfit (combining these two activities).  Depletion, however, is unlikely considering the relatively short period of time involved. 

 

So, a ketogenic lifestyle for an athlete is entirely appropriate and advantageous when the real-world role of carbohydrates is respected.

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Within limits carbs are important for multiple reasons. Just not processed carbs. Carbs help with insulin and insulin helps building muscles (and prevent fat loss) so it kinda depends what your goal is how you eat. Personally I eat my carbs in moderation and they help my lifting. 

 

You are right you can't deplete all your glycogen in an weightlifting session as honestly you don't burn that much lifting weights. Unless your only doing heavy compounds. Someone doing deadlifts with 170kg burns a lot more then someone doing them with 40kg. 

 

A diet should be tailored to the person and its goal, its unrealistic to say this is the best for all.

 

Just stepped down from my eleptical and will do a weight lifting session later in the day. Carbs are not my enemy but my ally when taken in moderation. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I agree with everything you said.  I always appreciate your input even though we have different viewpoints on nutrition and athletic performance because you have an open mind and base your viewpoints on solid science, not guru-speak.

 

I only started this thread because the popular belief by many is that carbohydrates are “essential” macronutrients needed to maintain health, when in fact, they really are not.  

 

Protein is essential and so are various fats because the body is unable to produce them.  Carbohydrates are not because the body can produce them in ample amounts from dietary protein and fats (gluconeogenisis and ketosis) to sustain a healthy resting metabolic rate and good health for most people who don’t engage in heavy labor or intense athletic activities.  

 

For those who do expend more “explosive” energy in work or sports, carbs are certainly advantageous and necessary for optimal performance but can be limited to the timeframe before and during those high-performance activities.

 

I’m not necessarily saying someone should adhere to such a rigid regimen, only that it’s possible to have optimal athletic performance by doing so, and timing their use around those high-energy activities.

 

My aim was only to dispel the myth that carbs are a “essential” macronutrient because too many people will ignore the health advantages of Keto on this basis alone.

 

Edited by WaveHunter

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Posted (edited)

Carbs are not essential but there are many healthy things in certain carbs (think fibers and other stuff). I just baked a whole wheat bread ate it with some fine Dutch cheese. I don't often eat bread but sometimes I just like it. Sometimes I put almond butter on it (healthy fats and proteins).

 

I am certainly not one of those guys that goes carb loading, i try to eat them moderately and only the unprocessed kind. I found your post quite balanced and that is what I like not ... this is it and there are no other ways.

 

You wont find me sipping on energy drinks or anything like that. I find proteins far more important and make sure i get my healthy fats. I have no fat fobia i know fats are needed.

 

I just want to build a system where my body is efficient at burning both fat and glycogen. 

 

The question remains do you want your protein (building blocks for muscle) to be used to be turned into glycogen. I mean would that not mean less proteins for building. I am not sure about this it could be that the building blocks get used and the rest burned. My knowledge does not go that deep.

 

I really stopped stressing out about diet now that I am lean again. I might try to become extra lean but on the other hand building extra power without adding much fat is interesting too. Not because i want to be bigger but because i want to see progress in some way. 

 

I think the cardio I am doing will give me progress in an other way. It might help me lift more but who knows. 

 

I like debating with you you mellowed down a bit too and so have I.

 

Do look at the message i send you .. im like a child with a new toy.

Edited by robblok

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I agree with both & can happily survive keto adapted - i think for real world situations its much easier than an athlete. This does (as you both mention) depend on your athletic endeavour.........

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16 hours ago, eezergood said:

I agree with both & can happily survive keto adapted - i think for real world situations its much easier than an athlete. This does (as you both mention) depend on your athletic endeavour.........

Yes it really depends on your goals, i can happily eat carbs and stay lean and build muscle but i do stay away from the processed stuff. Its far to easy to overeat on that. 

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Posted (edited)
23 hours ago, robblok said:

Carbs are not essential but there are many healthy things in certain carbs (think fibers and other stuff). I just baked a whole wheat bread ate it with some fine Dutch cheese. I don't often eat bread but sometimes I just like it. Sometimes I put almond butter on it (healthy fats and proteins).

 

I am certainly not one of those guys that goes carb loading, i try to eat them moderately and only the unprocessed kind. I found your post quite balanced and that is what I like not ... this is it and there are no other ways.

 

You wont find me sipping on energy drinks or anything like that. I find proteins far more important and make sure i get my healthy fats. I have no fat fobia i know fats are needed.

 

I just want to build a system where my body is efficient at burning both fat and glycogen. 

 

The question remains do you want your protein (building blocks for muscle) to be used to be turned into glycogen. I mean would that not mean less proteins for building. I am not sure about this it could be that the building blocks get used and the rest burned. My knowledge does not go that deep.

 

I really stopped stressing out about diet now that I am lean again. I might try to become extra lean but on the other hand building extra power without adding much fat is interesting too. Not because i want to be bigger but because i want to see progress in some way. 

 

I think the cardio I am doing will give me progress in an other way. It might help me lift more but who knows. 

 

I like debating with you you mellowed down a bit too and so have I.

 

Do look at the message i send you .. im like a child with a new toy.

For sure we have both mellowed down.  Hahah!  That’s the thing I like about informed but open minded debate when it comes to controversial subjects.  It forces you to test your ideas and fine-tune them.

 

Understanding complex metabolic mechanisms isn’t really necessary to lead a healthy life but I (and I guess you, and many others) have inquiring minds and like delving into these things.  Nothing wrong with that!

 

However, I think too many people are swayed by misinformation and half-truths when it comes to nutrition which, more often than not, come from dubious sources (health gurus), and ignorant people with limited understanding.  You know what they say, “a little knowledge can be worse than no knowledge at all”.

 

Instead of just letting their body guide them and being attuned to how their body reacts to the foods they eat, they wind up getting fat and sick from eating the wrong things, and then look for some silly-ass fad diet to fix things.

 

It’s nice to know the physiological / biochemical mechanisms of fat metabolism and carbohydrates metabolism, but the body already know far better than your brain can ever know what it needs and what it doesn’t, and it has the ability to communicate this to us in a pretty powerful way, if we only let it.

 

It doesn’t take a PhD, and it doesn’t require exotic “super foods”, complicated diets, counting calories, or any severe regimens to live healthy.  It just takes common sense, and letting your body communicate with you.

 

Nature intended for it to be that way!

Edited by WaveHunter

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13 minutes ago, WaveHunter said:

It just takes common sense, and letting your body communicate with you.

So why the need for topic after topic, page after page of repetitive clickbait terms?  Why is it so important for you to push your keto agenda on others?

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Posted (edited)
35 minutes ago, villagefarang said:

So why the need for topic after topic, page after page of repetitive clickbait terms?  Why is it so important for you to push your keto agenda on others?

Look, I don’t know why you and certain other individuals seem to have a bug up their ass.  Nobody is forcing you to click on these topics.

 

If you actually bothered to read my posts you’d realize I am not pushing Keto at all, merely discussing and debating it and many other aspects of metabolic science in an open-minded, and informed way.

 

Many of us wish to be informed about the current underlying science of metabolic mechanisms, instead of being ignorant and accepting the status-quo of outmoded nutritional dogma based on misinformation and half-truths.

 

We benefit from open discussion and debate with like-minded people with inquiring, open minds...not dealing with people like you who only have mean-spirited and inflammatory remarks to make. Have you nothing better to do with your time than to be a troll?

Edited by WaveHunter
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14 minutes ago, WaveHunter said:

Look, I don’t know why you and certain other individuals seem to have a bug up their ass.  Nobody is forcing you to click on these topics.

 

If you actually bothered to read my posts you’d realize I am not pushing Keto at all, merely discussing and debating it and many other aspects of metabolic science in an open-minded, and informed way.

 

Many of us like to be informed about the underlying science of metabolic mechanisms, and discuss/debate related topics with like-minded people...not deal with people like you who only have mean-spirited and inflammatory remarks to make. Have you nothing better to do with your time than to be a troll?

Look, you don't know me either, but I do like to read these topics because I'm building up a library of nutritious books...

 

On the topic of the poster, all you need to do is to report him for 'baiting' to the Mods.

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Posted (edited)
12 minutes ago, stephenterry said:

Look, you don't know me either, but I do like to read these topics because I'm building up a library of nutritious books...

 

On the topic of the poster, all you need to do is to report him for 'baiting' to the Mods.

Thanks for your positive comment.  As regards posters who “bait”, trolls are just a part of any forum.  They’re like flys on a hot day; just an annoying nuisance.  Who am I to deny them of their perverse pleasure?

Edited by WaveHunter

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9 minutes ago, WaveHunter said:

Sorry, I have no tolerance for people who’s only desire seems to be to disrupt threads with mean-spirited, inflammatory remarks.

I am not trying to be mean spirited.  I am trying to understand why you repeat the same arguments and use the same terms over and over and over and over again.  I have read all of these topics and posts and they seem very repetitive to me and you seem to get very upset and very dismissive when someone doesn't adhere to your agenda.

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i'll respond in full once I've had the opportunity to digest the posts. As has been said many times, it depends on the individual because we all have different DNAs, plus the fact that there is no exact overall nutritional science - merely numerous health studies that may or may not contradict previous conclusions. 

The nearest we can get is 'observational' studies, blind correlation studies, and in a few extreme instances a causal link that may or may not be attributed solely to the health benefit or unhealthy benefit outcome.  I am currently reading two nutritional books full of scientific analysis and study results that contradict each other! Go and work that one out.

 

The old saying that 'one man's meat is another's poison' is so relevant when discussing nutrition.

 

BTW, if you are looking for a way to improve your 'exercise performance', a study on sipping natural beetroot juice a couple of hours before running, weightlifting or whatever sports indicated that performance notably increased - bettering steroids! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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