Dietary Carbs Important for High-Intensity Exercise

During the first six months of weight loss, low-carbohydrate diets are more effective than low-fat or mixed diets. This has encouraged some athletes to use low-carb diets to fuel their training sessions. This is a mistake. Research since the 1960s has definitively shown that carbs are the main fuel for exercise at intensities above 65 percent of maximum effort. Endurance decreases markedly during low-carb dieting, particularly during repeated training sessions. A Brazilian study showed that low-carbohydrate diets decreased high-intensity exercise capacity and endurance in physically active men. Exercise capacity was measured in maximum watts, or the power you produce during training— the more power you are producing, the harder you are working. Notably, the perception of effort was not different between low- and high-carbohydrate diets. In other words, you don’t feel any worse during exercise on low-carb diets but you can’t exercise as hard. Eat your carbs when you’re training hard. (International Journal Sports Nutrition Exercise Metabolism, 24: 532-542, 2014)

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