Triathletes and Carbohydrates

There are many differing views when it come to triathletes and carbohydrates

I can’t help but cringe every time another so called expert puts a book out that vilifies carbohydrates and insist that we are heading for an early grave by consuming any sort of wheat products or for that matter most forms of complex carbohydrates.

Don’t eat rice or pasta or whole wheat bread and go easy on the potatoes. This is the mantra that has been the focus of many books by so called experts on the subject.

Avoid carbohydrates like the plague and load your plate up with protein and fat.

I’m no doctor or expert on wheat or rice, but as an endurance athlete who was in the trenches for over three decades experimenting, failing, and eventually succeeding in finding the right nutritional balance to get me successfully through a marathon or Ironman Triathlon I think I can speak with some first hand knowledge on the subject.

When they write these books denouncing wheat and complex carbohydrates in general I wonder who they are directing their books at?

Surely the authors of these books have never experienced a marathon or Ironman Triathlon or they would know better.

RUN A MILE IN MY SHOES

Chances are you are a runner, a triathlete, or Ironman Triathlete if you are reading this.

I wonder how many of you have ever tried eliminating most carbohydrates from your diet for a few months and loaded up on mostly protein and fat-based meals and then gone out and tried to run a marathon or attempted to reach the Ironman finish line?

As a test I tried the Atkins Diet for two months and then entered a 10k race. I was consistently running 37-38 minute 10k races before this experiment.

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Grain has been a staple for generations.


The gun went off and I ran about 25 meters and I knew I was in trouble. My normal 5:50 or so first mile was closer to seven minutes.

I couldn’t believe the lack of energy and the further I got into the race, the worse it got and I struggled across the line in 41 minutes and that’s when I realized a low carbohydrate diet was a really bad idea for endurance athletes.

There are those who claim the Paleo Diet is the only way to go. After all, it was good enough for the caveman so why shouldn’t it be good enough for us?

Sure, but they didn’t swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and then run 26.2 miles without stopping. They also had a life expectancy of about 25 years.

The Paleo Diet, The Atkins Diet, The Wheat Belly Diet, and so many others are all variations of the same concept.

Eliminate wheat and all other grains from your diet and you’ll lose weight.

Sure you will, but you’ll be hard-pressed to reach the Ironman finish line.

CARBOHYDRATES ARE THE CAUSE OF OBESITY

The experts claim that the evolution of the human diet toward carbohydrate laden grains has led to a world full of obese people.

Eat mostly protein and fats and avoid carbohydrates and you’ll lose weight.

Of course you will…and you’ll feel like crap most of the time and will soon miss your pasta, oatmeal, and whole wheat bagels.

The worse part is that after you go through all that to lose the weight you’ll gain it back because these high protein/fat low carbohydrate diets are simply not sustainable for the long haul and if you deprive people of too much they simply slide back into their old ways.

The modern human has evolved from a highly varied diet.

We are not cavemen.

It is our varied diet and advances in modern medicine and attention to overall fitness that allows us to live over three times longer than the average caveman did.
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It’s the people who abuse the nutrition sources we have available to us who suffer the consequences of lethargy and obesity and disease.

When they are born they are given this gift of an amazing body that can do great things if properly nurtured and they have never given themselves a chance………have never realized their full potential.

BALANCE IS THE KEY

The body seems to operate at it’s maximum potential if one strikes a balance between wholesome food and exercise or work that challenges it to become better and stronger.

Take for example a farm family of over a century ago.

Everyone worked to survive. The farmer and his wife worked hard and as soon as the kids were old enough they worked hard as well.

The drank fresh milk, they ate chicken, pork, and beef. They ate bread and pies and cakes. They ate eggs and berries and fresh vegetables.

The boys grew amazing strong and the girls had smooth glowing skin, lustrous hair, and lean healthy bodies.

It was not a miracle diet. It was not a diet they read about in a book. There was no mystery.

They ate a balance of wholesome Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates.

Almost daily they challenged their bodies physically and that gave cause to their bodies to respond to that challenge and grow stronger on every level.

They did not sit in front of computers or televisions and completely disregard the quality of the food they were consuming.

Obesity was a non-issue.

Now consider the endurance athlete of today.

The key to strength, fitness, and good health is no different than it was for the farmer and his family.

You absolutely need protein in some form in your diet whether you eat meat or not.

You also need high quality fat in your diet. Three good examples are Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and Omega-3 oil that is found in most fish.

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Keep it simple like the farm family. Balance is the key


Most of all you need Complex Carbohydrates in your diet to strike an important balance that will provide you with strength and most importantly….endurance as there is no doubt in by mind that triathletes and carbohydrates are essential for optimum performance.

Whole wheat bread, brown rice, potatoes, and oatmeal were the carbohydrates I included in my diet that proved the most successful when it came to improving overall energy and endurance.

It’s the protein that tempers the glucose that is generated by the complex carbohydrates.

For instance if you had a bowl of ice cream it would be assimilated into your bloodstream very quickly and have too much and you could have a sugar crash.

HOWEVER……..if you had half a cup of cottage cheese right before the ice cream it would stall the assimilation of the sugar into your bloodstream and prevent a sugar crash.

So proteins and carbohydrates compliment one another if properly balanced.

The third part of the puzzle is the fat.

It’s the high quality fat that provides the clean burning fire that consumes carefully chosen complex carbohydrates that in turn creates hi-test fuel to propel you.

From all I’ve learned over the years I believe that triathletes and carbohydrates are inexorably linked and are the cornerstone of an optimum endurance diet.

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