The debate continues. High fat or high carb. Some athletes still swear by their pizza and pasta prior to races while others stick strictly to high fats, guzzling down a fat shake before serious exercise. Yet it’s not surprising that the research is inconclusive.
Laurent Bannock, an expert nutritionist responsible for the training and nutrition of elite athletes, is unconvinced by the hype around new diets entering the sporting scene.
“It’s a ludicrous conversation, which camp we’re in, high-fat or carb,” Bannock says. “We should be in both. It’s the same with, ‘Which is more important, the front or rear wheel of your bicycle?’ They’re both important.”
Bannock contends that it’s all about context. For most people, this just means a diet with a balanced amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates with carbs primarily in the form of vegetables and fruits. To get more specific, though, for sprinters and other short-duration cyclists, a diet with more emphasis on carbohydrates is typically the ideal, while endurance and long distance riders may see benefits to being fat- or keto-adapted and lowering carbohydrate intake.
Yet everyone is different. What works for an elite-level athlete may not work for someone that works a desk job and hops on the bike before dinner. Even elite athletes differ in metabolic rates and have varied reactions to carbohydrates and fat. “Every individual has a unique physiology…influenced by genetics and adaptation to our environments—including habitual diet and our training methods.”
Athletes shouldn’t start any diet that eradicates a food group. “That’s a problem, because it’s not just about fuel. Each macronutrient does different things,” Bannock explains. “For example, the immune system, to some degree, needs certain carbohydrate-like substances. Gut bacteria—that we’re starting to learn play essential roles in our health—those bacteria require carbohydrates.” You can’t skip an entire food group and expect to have your best performance, though you can cut back on either fat or carbs.
Moral of the story? Like everything in life, it is important to do most things in moderation. Enjoy your cream in your coffee and that piece of chocolate cake that goes with it.
The information and some of the copy for this article came from www.bicycling.com and Molly Hurford.