Since the Paleo diet became such a fad, courtesy of CrossFit and other high-protein promoters, science has struggled to address the ratio issue in our diets: that is, whereas once high carbs were promoted for athletes, now suddenly high protein and high fat diets which limit carbs were showing success not just in athletic performance but in body composition.
This should not be too surprising, really, as there are many good arguments for the reduction – not elimination – of carbs in the average American diet, not the least of which is the origins of most people’s carbs – processed and/or junk foods.
But this does not mean we should simply replace carbs with fats or proteins. When it comes to calorie intake, our body really does not care too much wherefrom those extra calories derive.
If we eat more than we need, we gain weight.
Granted, there is a ton of evidence that demonstrates that simple carbs, from processed foods, elevate insulin output and screws with other metabolic systems enough to contribute to many of the diseases that link to obesity.
But eating equal calories of fat and protein has not been shown to reduce weight, body fat, blood sugars and blood fats.
Most low carb diets, in fact, tend toward fewer calories overall as high fat/high protein diets tend to be both more filling and satisfying as well as more boring, after a week or so. After all, how many chicken breasts and eggs can you eat day in and day out before you start hankering for a nice chunk of sourdough bread?
When it comes to performance, especially aerobic performance, the balancing of macronutrients is essential. Many many studies, dating back to well before I started grad school in 1978, have proven the value of carbs, even simple carbs, for runners and cyclists.
And while getting enough calories overall, inclusive of sufficient amounts of protein and fats, has always been recommended, the aerobics-weight loss fads of the 70s-90s misconstrued the message for athletes: the “Eat more carbs” motto does not a thin person make…not unless you’re also a long distance runner.
So when I read an article like the one linked below, I feel the need to explain that eating a high fat diet has its upsides for athletes ONLY if you tend to restrict them in the vain effort to lose weight while training.
Otherwise, eat a balanced diet, of 25-30% fat, 15-25% protein, and 45-55% carbs.
High fat diets may not make you faster or more durable, but could screw up your health, too