Low Carb day 16 - Performance issues, re-evaluating carb goals
Saturday, February 04, 2012
This post is sort of technical and boring: if you skip down to the "summary" at the bottom you won't miss much. I mostly write this stuff down for my own benefit, so I can clearly document problems and organize potential solutions.
Note: "Net Carb" in this blog entry refers to grams carbohydrates minus fiber.
Low-carb has been moderately successful for me in terms of weight-loss, but not so much in quality of life.
I am walking a thin line between low-carb and high-performance: As you probably know, I really enjoy strength training. I also have recently started running again. However, due to this low-carb diet, I am having issues with energy, fatigue, and endurance during workouts.
I suspect that the endurance failings at least are due to the low-carb diet: my glycogen stores are not properly replenishing and it leads me to hit "the wall" much earlier during my interval training than I am used to.
I read this article saying that your brain requires 100-150g carb per day just to function.. I have only been eating 160-200g net carb per day... no wonder I can't concentrate and feel fatigued! After my brain is done with those carbs, there are barely any left to fuel my muscles. (And yeah, I know, Atkins people will swear that it can run on protein and fat, but I do not, nor have I ever been able to endorse the Atkins diet.. it is not for me).
I am at a point where I am unsure which is better for my metabolism: eating low-carb or partaking in high-performance exercise and strength training. On the one hand, I have blood sugar issues, and it seems that a low-carb diet is the conventional doctors' wisdom until my metabolism is "fixed."
On the other hand, strength training and running are also helping to "fix" my metabolism and insulin sensitivity, but I cannot do them very efficiently if I don't properly fuel my body. Also, the fatigue and exhaustion affect every aspect of my life, including school.
So I will attempt to strike a balance between the two:
-Eat high-carb post-workout meal (dinner): this will help replenish my glycogen with high-quality carbs from plant sources (potatoes, squash, fruits, legumes, and some whole grains).
-Eat moderate carb during all other meals (not the 50-60% of calories that Spark recommends, but higher than the 30-39% I have been eating, perhaps 40-50%,depending on my activity that week. If anyone remembers, I tried this "moderate carb" diet before, and it seemed to work in October when I lost a significant amount of weight and had the energy to go to the gym more often.
One thing that I failed to take into account previously is WHEN I eat my carbs. I feel it is important to eat the most carbs during my breakfast and dinner meals for various reasons:
-First, I use my Byetta ( a medication that helps me process carbs more efficiently) before breakfast and dinner, so these are the meals during which I am most likely to process carbs effectively as opposed to dysfunctionally.
-Second, if I don't eat carbs in the morning, I get cranky, headachy, and fatigued -- and this just does not mix well with walking around on campus or trying to concentrate on my lectures. Breakfast needs to be substantial, larger than lunch, and it needs to contain carbs!
Sample Carb Load:
Dinner:75-150g (higher if I had an intense workout, lower if I did not)
Total: 225-300g net carb per day (depending on my activity level). I feel like this increase will help my glycogen stores to stabilize and my energy levels to increase. FINGERS CROSSED that my workout performance will also benefit.
Summary: This is all just so complicated. I am sure that a low-carb diet works for many people, especially those on low-moderate intensity exercise regimes. However, in my case I do not want to give up intense workouts, and I need to properly fuel my body for them. Thus, I believe that this hybrid approach--which takes into account not only amount consumed but also TIMING and QUALITY of carbohydrates--will lead to great success.
We shall see!!!!
The next 2 weeks will tell.
I will call this experiment the "moderate-carb temporal test run!"