In this podcast clip with Triathlete Diane Cridennda, we discuss dietary strategies and their impacts on athletic performance. While many swear by either the ketogenic diet or high carb diet, their limitations for performance and overall health deserve a closer look.
Understanding the Keto Limitations
The ketogenic (or keto) diet has gained traction among fitness enthusiasts due to studies suggesting it can enhance performance. (Spoiler Alert: Some of these studies use VESPA /OFM Athletes who are not strict keto). These studies emphasize fats as the primary energy source, pushing carbohydrates to the background. But when it comes to endurance training, especially for high volume and intense training loads for Ironman distance Triathlons or Ultras, a straight keto approach falls short.
The reason is you need to maintain your Glycolytic Adaptation to access Glucose (carbs/Sugar) to obtain that performance push for the adaptive stress signaling that is vital for building Metabolic Capacity so you have the Metabolic Flexibility to obtain the full benefit of training. Without being able to harness carbs when needed athletes actually can get themselves into a state of adrenal stress. Vespa & OFM, teaches athletes to not be afraid of carbs, but rather use them “Strategically” to enhance performance without affecting their metabolic health.
The High-Carb Dilemma
On the other end of the spectrum, high carbohydrate diets, while providing a quick energy source, come with their own challenges. One major downside? If you are following the conventional ‘science’ backed approach of a high carb diet and supplemental fueling during exercise this amounts to essentially consuming incredible amounts of sugar….and this is not trivial because following the conventional high-carb advice for a 6-month training block leading to an Ironman or 100 mile Ultra an athlete will consume a staggering 155 pounds of sugar. . . . and it is not much better for a Marathon or Half IronMan…..130 pounds of sugar following the conventional ‘science’.
This level of sugar consumption, essentially consuming your body weight in sugar, is simply NOT sustainable and won’t end well in the long run (pun intended).
That said, it's not about demonizing or eliminating carbs entirely. They play a crucial role in energy provision, especially during races and higher intensity training. This is precisely why understanding how your your underlying metabolism is actually made to run on fat is so crucial to be able to moderate the sugar intake. This will not only yield better health outcome and longevity but, as our athletes have demonstrated time and time again, winning results. What if, instead of consuming 2 energy gels every hour during a race (a common recommendation), you could be fine on 1 by using VESPA? This not only cuts down on sugar intake but also optimize the body's underlying fat metabolism, leading to similar, if not better, performance outcomes without the fear of bonking, GI issues and slow recovery..
Embracing Flexibility and Resilience in Diet and Training
One significant takeaway from the conversation was the idea of resilience. Whether it's adjusting carbohydrate intake or navigating a knee injury, the key is adaptability. Perfection is not the goal. Building your Metabolic Capacity is. This allows athletes the flexibility in their diet and training regimens, allowing for that occasional miss or adjustment without derailing their progress.In conclusion, it's clear that while dietary strategies like keto or high carb have their merits, a one-size-fits-all approach is not ideal and adhering to either end of the dietary spectrum comes with a host of ‘unintended consequences’ their advocates almost always fail to address when talking about he benefits.. On the other hand, here at OFM, we help athletes and people alike to understand the native physiology we all share; the one that harnesses fat for your aerobic metabolism, then teaches the athlete how to individualize their journey to achieve that metabolic goal by giving them the tools and protocols to reach what we call "Higher Health & Peak Performance”.