NUTRITION AND PERFORMANCE.
Low-carbohydrate diets have developed quite a following, and for some very sound reasons. Diets like Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, and Zone deliver on their promise of weight loss. By reducing carbohydrates, dieters can lose excess fat rapidly. Atkins, Paleo, and Zone also promise improved physical performance. The allure of being leaner and performing better is enticing to athletes, which is why many adopt Low-carbohydrate diets.
What many athletes do not realize is how reducing carbohydrates in their diet will affect their performance. Excessive weight loss may lead to dehydration, fatigue, slower recovery, and thus, decreased performance. Reduced carbohydrate intake leads to a decreased storage of glycogen in muscle tissue, which is essential for any athlete competing in an event requiring speed or power. This decreased muscle glycogen availability may not affect endurance athletes in the same way, as these efforts can be powered by lipolysis. Specifically, the Atkins and South Beach diets feature initiation phases that severely limit carbohydrates to an extent of ketosis that will not support an athlete’s normal training or competition needs. Dehydration often coincides with weight loss experienced following these diets, which can further impact performance.
Dietary restrictions advocated by Low-carbohydrate diets can often lead to energy and nutrient deficiencies. Of all of the Low-carbohydrate diets discussed, the Zone diet is the most balanced, and provides the most carbohydrates to fuel the performance of athletes. Other diets may limit carbohydrates to the point of ketosis, which can be deleterious and even dangerous for the athlete if not closely monitored. Before initiating a Low-carbohydrate diet, an athlete must consider his or her priorities. Which is more important to being successful in their sport: weight loss, or performance?
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