Why Low Carb Diets Do Not Work

I completed the Triple Crown series on a high-carbohydrate vegan diet. The Triple Crown series consists of three half-marathons: Carlsbad Half-Marathon, La Jolla Half-Marathon, and the America’s Finest City Half-Marathon.

Potato Is As Effective As A Carbohydrate Gel In Athletes

According to this study, consuming potatoes in the form of potato puree works as well as those carbohydrate gels endurance athletes rely on. It sustains blood glucose levels and increases athletic performance during long-distance races and in training. They said potatoes are a good alternative because it is cost-effective, nutrient-dense, and a whole-food source of carbohydrates. Furthermore, it is a healthier option compared to a more sugary carbohydrate gel.

Cyclists Were Used In The Experiment

The researchers recruited 12 cyclists who were healthy and dedicated to their sport. They averaged 165 miles per week on their bicycles. All the cyclists trained for years. They have to reach a specific threshold for aerobic fitness and had to complete a 120-minute cycling challenge followed by a time trial. The cyclists were randomly assigned one of the three conditions: They would consume water by itself, a carbohydrate gel, and an equivalent amount of carbohydrates from potatoes. The researchers recorded what the cyclists ate for 24 hours before repeating the 120-minute challenge and time trial. The scientists measured their blood glucose levels, core body temperature, exercise intensity, gastric emptying, concentrations of lactate, and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Potatoes As Good As Carbohydrate Gels

The researchers found similar increases in performances for the group who consumed the potatoes and the group who consumed the carbohydrate gel compared to the control group that drank only water. Plasma glucose concentrations in both groups went up compared to the water-only group. They were also faster on the time trial compared to the control group. Although those who consumed the potatoes experienced gastrointestinal bloating, flatulence, and pain than the other two groups, it may be because the amount of potatoes consumed was equal to the amount of carbohydrate gel. This could indicate a smaller amount of potatoes is better. Yet, average GI symptoms were lower and were tolerated.

Why We Need Carbohydrates

This study proves why carbohydrates are important in our diet, especially in the diets of endurance athletes. Carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel source and provide energy. You need glucose to fuel a lot of your body’s activities from breathing to walking to running a half marathon. The cells in your body require glucose to make adenosine triphosphate or ATP for energy through cellular respiration and fermentation. Humans were born with the enzyme salivary amylase, which breaks down starch. Excess glucose gets stored as glycogen in the liver and in the muscles. The neurons in your brain need a lot of glucose to make energy in the form of ATP. Neurons cannot use proteins and lipids for energy. They also do not store glucose at all, so they need a constant supply of glucose. If the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates, it will start burning fat and make substances called ketone bodies. However, ketones are just a back-up source if your body doesn’t get enough carbohydrates for fuel. The brain prefers carbohydrates as its main source of fuel. Finally, ketone bodies can make your body acidic, resulting in calcium being leached from your bones and increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

Low-Carb Diets Do Not Work

Low-carbohydrate diets such as the ketogenic diet, Atkins diet, paleo diet, etc., do not work. As mentioned above, carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel source of energy. Endurance athletes need carbohydrates to fuel for long-distance events, such as marathons, cycling events, and triathlons. That is probably the reason a lot of endurance athletes carbo-load before these endurance events. They need to store a lot of glycogen so they can utilize it when they run, swim, or cycle at these long-distance events. Also, the ketone bodies can make your body more acidic and your body will maintain homeostasis by taking calcium out from the bones, possibly increasing the risk of osteoporosis. In addition, a lot of people who do a low-carb diet eat a lot of animal foods, in which most of them contain saturated fat. This increases their risk for cardiovascular disease. Finally, eating too much protein will be hard on the kidneys. When there is too much protein, a lot of it leaves the body as urea. Because amino acids have nitrogen atoms in their arrangement, it gets converted to urea and leaves the body as a waste product through the kidneys and urinary system. Furthermore, too much protein increases the acidity of your urine, which can increase kidney stones. Finally, because too much protein makes the body acidic, calcium can also leach from the bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

Not All Carbohydrates Are Equal

The only bad carbohydrates are refined carbohydrates, such as cupcakes, donuts, carbohydrate gels, gatorade, sodas, white bread, etc. However, the media and a lot of people twist it to blame all carbohydrates. Do not forget that complex carbohydrates are the healthiest carbohydrates. The potato used in the experiment mentioned is a whole-food, nutrient-dense carbohydrate. In addition to potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, beans, oats, etc. are examples of complex carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are healthy to eat and the fiber balances out the simple sugars in fruits. These are examples of healthy carbohydrates.

A Vegan Diet Leads To Weight Loss And Other Health Benefits

It has been shown in the Seventh-Day Adventist studies that vegans have the lowest BMIs compared to vegetarians, pescetarians, flexitarians, and omnivores. As a vegan, I have lost a lot of weight and got leaner. I seem to have more energy that I could keep up with my younger cousins, nephews, and nieces. My performance as an endurance athlete has improved. I can run longer distances with an average pace of 8 minutes a mile. Most importantly, I can recover quickly between runs and workouts. As I am taking Physiology at Miramar College, we would take our blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and our heart rates. My lab partners were amazed that my blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and heart rate are all perfect. I also noticed my reflexes are relatively faster compared to when I was still eating animal foods. One thing I also notice is that after a run or a workout, I would come home and still help out with chores lifting heavy things. These are all the benefits I have experienced on a high-carbohydrate, vegan diet. Before I became vegan, I did try low-carb and I was tired most of the time. I remembered my average pace was slower than when I was on a vegan diet. I couldn’t think straight either. It also felt like I was lethargic a lot. I experienced the complete opposite compared to a benefits of a vegan diet. Therefore, I would recommend a vegan diet instead of a low-carb diet.

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