High Carb or High Fat: Which diet athletes should choose?
I work with some of the best athletes in the country. Our interaction during counseling sessions often revolves around freely available nutrition information on the internet or why one diet that has been worked for a colleague of my client might just not right for him/her.
Many athletes make one mistake that I also try to make them aware of, its that the training and nutrition go hand in hand. They both are interlinked. You eat how you train, sports you represent, your genetics, goals, and blood chemistry.
This makes your nutrition needs unique. Nutrition is bio-individual, and if you can identify your body needs, half the battle is already won.
Coming to the question of whether to choose a high carb or high-fat diet, I will say sit on the fence.
Don’t go with the trend; go with the evidence. The goals and objectives for different athletes will vary. A swimmer’s and runner’s nutrition needs will be defined by their individual objectives, so its a wrong notion and the one that frequently has been imposed on athletes that one diet can fix different needs.
Endurance capacity can be boosted with the intake of the right amount of carbs during exercise as it will reduce fatigue. Fat oxidation increases when the diet is rich in fat and low in carbs, but it reduces the body’s capacity to utilize carbs as fuel. This might impact you if you are into high-intensity exercise as the primary fuel to carry such activities is carb.
Each diet has its advantages and disadvantages. To label, one diet superior to the other is not right. I work with my athletes to identify what works for them. May be putting them one diet and observe the changes, then again put them on another diet and observe the impact. Maybe putting them on a high carb diet when they are training on high intensity and vice versa.
The bottom line is to integrate training and nutrition. Before choosing a diet, analyze your genetic response, blood chemistry, training workload, recovery period, traveling, and competition schedule. Once you have this data, you can make an informed choice. Maybe a sports nutritionist like me can help you with this.