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<February 2014>
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colette_heimowitz's Blog
Yes, Low-Carb is Good for Athletes!

While it is not necessary to exercise in order to lose weight on Atkins, there are many other reasons to exercise. Once you’ve made it through the initial couple weeks of Atkins, and your body has gotten used to burning fat for fuel instead of carbs, there are many good reasons to start exercising. It helps boost your mood, decrease stress, increase energy, plus it lowers your risk of a host of health issues, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type-2 diabetes, depression, certain types of cancer, arthritis and falls. Another huge bonus? It can help you maintain the weight you’ve already lost on Atkins. While most of you may fall into the recreational athlete category, some of you may be inspired to take your athletic goals to the next level. And research shows that a low-carb diet can be used to help athletes train harder, perform longer and recover faster.

In one study, elite cyclists consumed a diet equivalent to the Induction phase of Atkins for four weeks while maintaining an intense training regimen. You would think that these cyclists were burnt out and exhausted, with a serious decrease in performance by the end of four weeks. In fact, the results were not significantly different than when they were consuming their usual high-carb diet. And, by the end of four weeks, they had trained their bodies to burn fat for fuel during exercise, which means they were able to hold on to their reserves of glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates in the body). Another study of elite cyclists published in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise also showed that while following a low-carb diet, the cyclists also burned fat as fuel, while preserving glycogen stores. Once again, performance was similar among both the high-carb and low-carb group.

To sum it up, whether you’re exercising at the gym or competing in a race, you want to be able to burn fat efficiently. As you become accustomed to eating fewer carbs, your body adapts, and starts burning more fat for fuel. Running on a fat metabolism is exactly where you want to be during long-distance training or a race. This means you may avoid “hitting the wall”, so to speak, because your body has already made the switch to fat burning. Any carbohydrate stores that you have are saved for exactly this purpose, versus being used up earlier in your training or race.

Although this goes against the conventional pre-race “carb-loading” strategy of the past, it makes perfect sense. In addition to the research, there are many anecdotal reports from our Atkins Community of people who have chosen to stick to their low-carb lifestyle even while training and competing, and have found they have hit the dreaded “wall” not nearly as early as they did in their carb-loading days.

And a low-carb diet may be beneficial for people who participate in resistance training as well. In one study, overweight men who followed the Induction phase while participating in an intense resistance-training program (three workouts per week) lost on average of 16 pounds (thanks to the low-carb diet) after 12 weeks. Meanwhile, their lean body mass actually increased by 2 pounds, credited mainly to the resistance training.

Whether you’re training for a 5K or marathon, or you just want to make the most of your time in the gym, a low-carb diet like Atkins may be quite beneficial to your body composition and performance.


Published Friday, February 14, 2014 01:44 PM by colette_heimowitz
Filed Under: Exercise, Nutrition
mollytinker said:
I really enjoyed this post. I have been wondering how athletes who follow a carbohydrate-restricted approach to nutrition bump up their calories to compensate for the energy output. Is it fat? If the body turns excess protein to glucose, do they increase protein instead? Or are they able to eat more carbs than, say, a sedentary person in induction? Thanks, Lee.
February 14, 2014 02:58 PM EST
colette_heimowitz said:
That is correct , extra calories should come from fat to fuel the fat metabolism. Since a fit individual has less fat stored they need more from dietary fat.
February 15, 2014 08:43 PM EST
lgusaas said:
Please provide links to the studies you mentioned. Without them your article is mere opinion.
February 18, 2014 02:03 PM EST
prabbitt said:
Great post, I actually trained my body to burn fat as primary fuel source prior to Atkins by keeping heart rate on long runs to 60% of max heart rate. However, if I exerted myself about that rate, I burned carbs. Now that I started Atkins, I'm in day 5, lost 7 lbs, feel great and run 7 miles per day.plenty of energy for runs, but I start the runs slow and gradual. I do make sure to not eat at least two hours before run or I get acid taste in my throat. I love this diet. My appetite is actually getting smaller (this is a first for me). Energy feels extremely balanced too.
February 22, 2014 09:02 PM EST
lgusaas said:
You still haven't given links to the studies you mentioned. I'm not questioning your statement about those studies but without the links the article is useless as a citation for the benefits of a low carb diet for athletes. Good journalism (and academia) requires valid links to resources cited.
February 22, 2014 11:58 PM EST
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May 29, 2014 10:56 AM EST
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