Endurance athletes who ‘go against the grain’ become incredible fat-burners

Elite performance on diet with minimal carbs represents paradigm shift in sports nutrition

By: Emily Caldwell

Published on November 16, 2015 The Ohio State News Room published

The study, the first to profile elite athletes habitually eating very low-carbohydrate diets, involved 20 ultra-endurance runners age 21-45 who were top competitors in running events of 50 kilometers (31 miles) or more.

“These low-carb athletes were spectacular fat burners,” said lead researcher Jeff Volek, professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University. “Their peak fat burning and the amount of fat burned while running for three hours on a treadmill was dramatically higher than what the high-carb athletes were able to burn.

I love reading this stuff.  Seriously, the overwhelming belief is that you cannot be an effective endurance athlete without Carbs.  Most of the attempts at disproving the value of eating Low Carb, never deal with those who are actually Keto adapted.  This one does.  Why – because the researcher is Dr. Jeff Volek.

I’m not going to quote the entire article here, click on the link and read it. But – this is the part that I love.

Another key finding: Despite their low intake of carbs, these fat-burning athletes had normal muscle glycogen levels – the storage form of carbohydrates – at rest. They also broke down roughly the same level of glycogen as the high-carb runners during the long run, and synthesized the same amount of glycogen in their muscles during recovery as the high-carb athletes.

“This was completely unexpected, but now that we have observed it we have some novel ideas why this is the case. We can only speculate on the mechanism behind it,” Volek said.

Muscle glycogen was discovered in the 1960s to be a critical energy source for athletes, which led to decades of emphasis on high-carb diets to support energy needs during intense exercise. But Volek said the body has an elegant system to support glycogen levels even when carbohydrates are limited in the diet.

So this raises the question – is Carb Cycling necessary to replenish glycogen stores in your muscles?  It doesn’t look like it.

If you are a science nerd – which I am not – here is the link to the underlying research published on line in the journal Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental.