Debbie Potts Coaching

Coach Debbie on SFuels & EndureIQ Right Fuel, Right Time

Coach Debbie shares a new research on fat oxidation rates for low carb endurance athletes in an article shared by Leighton Phillips from SFuels and more blogs from Dr. Dan Plews of EndureIQ program.

Click here to head to SFuels for their updated Fueling Guide


2023 Research Paper – Findings In a new paper (Feb, 2023), a group of highly reputable sports-science researchers, challenged the former premise, that athletic performance was superior via a high-carbohydrate diet and fueling regime.   What was most striking at first glance of the paper, was that the question of ‘endurance performance’ was tested at a very high intensity (@~85% vo2Max), shorter duration tests including 1mile, and 6 by 800m interval repeats.   Traditional thought would consider such intensity-duration testing, as ‘anaerobic’ and by nature more dependent on carbohydrate oxidation, and less-so fat oxidation.  But in a rigorous highly controlled testing protocol, and elegant research design, the team produced a set of findings that will certainly challenge traditional thinking.

Bottom-line: ensure you pay attention to the guidance (above 3 points in blue) for an effective low-carb high-fat diet transition period – in realizing the intended metabolic shift, and performance outcomes of a low-carb lifestyle.

In this study, a 2018 paper on cross-country skiers and our own lab observations of low-carb high-fat athletes, we are seeing more consistent references to high-fat oxidation rates (>1.5gr/min) at high intensities >80% Vo2Max.  This is supportive of the suggestion, that such metabolic efficiency,  could possibly provide a glycogen-sparing effect when fat can be utilized predominately for fuel at these intensities. It is an important note, that aside from the athletic performance outcomes, a number of health markers were also tested, and reference was made to the complications (pre-diabetes) that were associated with high-carb diet athletes.   I guess from a balanced perspective, you would like to see more subjects in such a study, and also would like to have the study repeated for women.  Nevertheless, the paper highlighted that prior studies that had less attention to study design controls (diet, fueling and training-load factors) drove different and non-repeatable findings. 

Study summarized 4 notable findings:  1) High-Carb athletes had no superior (high-intensity) performance over LCHF (low-carb high-fat) athletes,  2) Even at intensities at >85% Vo2Max, LCHF athletes were oxidizing fat at rates of 1.58gr/min (+/- 0.33gr/min). 3) LCHF athletes had higher HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol,  4) LCHF athletes, had reduced mean-median blood glucose levels.  Conversely, 30% of the High-Carb athletes, had mean-median blood-glucose levels consistent with pre-diabetes.  SFuels: Perspective on the Research It’s great to see such a well-controlled set of factors (diet, training load, body composition, etc.) and high-intensity testing protocol, where the core, pre-dominant factor of difference was diet and fuelling.  To help you with this, download and read our –  1) SFuels LIFE Guide – giving you over 40 simple meal, snack, and shake ideas for a low-carb high-fat lifestyle – using SFuels TRANSFORMSFuels RevivialSFuels Keto3SFuels TRAINSFuels LIFE Bars.  2) SFuels Fueling Guide – and noted research on the impact of Medium Chain Triglycerides in diet and fueling.

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