The Low Carb Athlete is a very short book. It’s the good kind of short, however, that teaches just the essentials to those who have already decided to train and race on a low carb diet.
You don’t have to stay in the ketogenic state at all times. You simply have to become fat-adapted.
The book answers a few questions on why it’s good eat less carbohydrates and more fat, especially from the point of view of a competitive athlete. Ben lists a few key reasons for choosing to go on a low-carb diet:
- Trying to lose weight.
- Improving wellness and longevity.
- Improving performance and avoiding gastrointestinal distress while training or racing.
If these aren’t good enough reasons for you to consider switching to a low carb diet, consider my own, fourth, reason:
Commonly, in order to consume enormous amounts of fuel required, athletes will literally stuff themselves with high-sugar and high-fructose energy gels.
Think of a marathoner burning 5k calories on a single run. Now split that in half or so for the Spartan Beast. You might say that carbohydrates (sugar), which are broken down into glucose are essential for good energy levels and optimal performance. They are, but at what cost?
Athletes primed to fuel on sugar can consume as much sugar as an obese person. The only difference between the two are their activity levels. Does burning all the sugar off make up for having consumed it in the first place? Think about the footprint on your insulin and the unavoidable blood glucose spikes? What concerns me most personally is the pre-diabetes condition and the higher risk of type 2 diabetes development in insulin resistant people.
Because if you are one of those insulin resistant people – priming your body to burn carbs will eventually result in needing a hospital bed and needles.
Are you inclined to object to this? That’s fine. Actually, you just reached my favourite part in the book: addressing the common objections.
Ben Greenfield lists the 3 common questions that prevent people from going low carb:
- Aren’t glucose and carbohydrates necessary to have energy during exercise?
- Isn’t fat dangerous because of cholesterol-related heart disease, as well as posing an increased risk of weight gain?
- Don’t you need to load up with carbohydrates before a race?
The short answer to all of these is NO.
Ben addresses each of these questions in depth. He also includes simple nutritional breakdowns so anyone can do the low-carb approach right. For example, you’ll still want to incorporate a good amount of carbs before long training efforts and you’ll also want to practice carbohydrate cycling, so that you don’t end up binging in the long run.
More than half of this small book is made up of these detailed meal plans and nutrition guides to help you successfully adopt the high-fat, low-carb way of eating. The key point Ben makes is that you don’t have to stay in the ketogenic state at all times, as you would for other high-fat diets like the bulletproof diet. You just have to become fat-adapted.
Lastly, another useful takeaway is regarding supplements that every low carb athlete should take daily. These are:
- Whole Amino Acids
- MCT (medium chain tryglicerides) and/or Coconut Oil
- Vespa (amino acid compound extracted from wasps)
As you can see most of these supplements can be beneficial even on a ‘normal’ diet higher in carbohydrates. From personal experience however, they are absolutely essential if you’re on the low carb lifestyle but need to perform physically. As I wrote in my previous article on fat-fuelled training and racing, a lack of sodium and other electrolytes made me constantly dehydrated. If you find yourself in a ketogenic or a fat-adapted state with similar symptoms, supplementation might be the best route to get you back on track.
This book is small but mighty. Straight to the point, specific and barring fluff, The Low Carb Athlete addresses all the questions and hesitations you might have about this lifestyle. So if you’re tempted, but you haven’t yet swung over to the low carb side, do pick this book up.