Let’s say you decide you want to join the growing list of individuals who have decided to limit intake of starches, bread, pasta, sugars, gels, sports drinks, bars and other traditional endurance foods.
Once your training partners, family or other friends learn that you’re eating fewer carbohydrates, you’re probably going to hear several objections, along with some scoffing and raised eyebrows.
And usually, the criticism of a low carbohydrate diet for triathletes falls into three categories of objections or questions. Here is what people are going to say, and what you need to know to respond properly.
Objection #1: Isn’t glucose and carbohydrate necessary for energy during exercise? You’re going to bonk if you don’t eat carbohydrates.
While it is true that your body’s cells can certainly burn glucose from carbohydrate for energy, fat is actually a preferred energy source in nearly every cell of your body, and especially for your mitochondria, which are the energy-creating compounds within most cells. Until extremely high exercise intensities are achieved (which is rarely the case among endurance athletes) or until the body has exhausted all storage carbohydrate by exercising for 2-3 hours continuously, fat is completely useable as an energy source – and even after that point, it only takes relatively small amounts of carbohydrate to continue to tap into the body’s own storage fat.
Specifically, natural saturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and medium chain triglycerides are extremely dense energy sources that produce very little damaging byproducts from their metabolic use for energy – compared to burning blood glucose for fuel, which can cause a significant amount of free radical damage.
But some specific parts of the body do need glucose on daily basis – such as the brain, the nerves, special proteins called “glycoproteins” (which form important compounds such as mucus), and cells within your immune system, your gastrointestinal tract and the kidneys. However - the maximum daily amount of glucose calories required by these parts of the body is about 500-700 carbohydrate calories, and not the 1500-2500 carbohydrate calories consumed by most endurance athletes!
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