Are Low Carb Diets Optimal for Athletes?
As a dietitian, I always tell people that a balanced diet is the best way to fuel your body, especially for athletes. Low carb diets have been all the rave for fat loss, but because it limits foods such as bread, pasta, and fruit, it may be suboptimal for intense exercise.
When you're playing a sport or doing any kind of physical activity, your body needs energy. The most abundant form of energy our body needs is from glucose, which is found in carbohydrates. When you eat foods with carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose. If you're on a low-carb diet, you may not have enough glucose to give your best performance.
Carbohydrates also play a big role in recovery after exercise. After a tough workout or game, your muscles need to repair and grow. Eating carbohydrate-rich foods helps to refill the energy stores in your muscles (known as glycogen), preparing them for the next time you train or play. This is often why marathon runners will "carbo load" before a race - it's to optimize their glycogen stores which will allow them to run more intensely for longer.
While a low carb diet may work for some people for fat loss, athletes need carbohydrates for energy and recovery. Every person and athlete is different, and what works for one might not work for another. So, if you're an athlete, make sure to include some carbohydrates in your meals and snacks. Your body will thank you for it!