What does an endurance athlete need to eat to fuel their best for training and racing?
What does a FEMALE athlete need to eat to fuel their best for training and racing… pre, peri and post menopausal?
How do we determine what our unique body needs to feel, look and perform our best in LIFE and SPORTS? What about our FUTURE SELF?
Tips to get started on fueling and training the low carb athlete:
- Genetics & Ancestry background
- Functional Lab Testing
- Metabolic Typing
- Nutritional Therapy Assessment
- Blood sugar and ketone testing
- Heart Rate Variability measurements
- Tracking and matching fueling with intensity
- Fasted exercises vs. fed exercise depends on time of day, previous day, HRV, intensity and duration of workout
Keto, Carnivore, Paleo, Vegan or ?
Insulin antagonizes the breakdown of fatty acids (lipolysis) for use as energy, or in a low-carb setting, blunts ketogenesis.
Insulin secretion, can be triggered in a few short minutes once the pancreatic cells sense a rise in blood glucose, or amino acids (from proteins). Insulin once produced by the pancreas, continues in the blood for around an hour, with a small half-life (4-6mins) through clearance via the liver and kidneys.
Generally Keto lifestylers are well aware of the effects of spiking blood sugars and insulin secretion – however you may not be as aware that some proteins can also stimulate insulin secretion. While high protein foods like fish, eggs, collagen are less stimulatory on insulin, whey protein does have a stronger insulin stimulatory action.
“With this in mind, clearly the timing and use of whey protein needs attention for the Keto or low-carb lifestyler.
Most active lifestylers and athletes use a whey based shake as part of their post-workout breakfast regime. This makes good sense, as muscle contractions and subsequent muscle-tissue bio-markers trigger rapid transport of amino acids (from whey) from the blood to the muscle cells for protein-muscle re-synthesis and repair. Research has shown that Ketones, or BHB (Beta-hydroxybutyrate) can further offset the break-down (or oxidation) of muscle tissue (notably leucine), and suggests a protein conservatory mechanism of ketones(1). Further to the complete amino-acid profile of whey, additional Glutamine supplementation has shown to decrease markers of muscle damage in athletes (eccentric muscle contractions), with a balanced response of anabolic/catabolic hormones from exercise.
These three key nutrients of whey protein isolate (little/no lactose), BHB Ketones and Glutamine provide a comprehensive foundation to the active lifestyler and athlete looking to build/maintain muscle mass, and recover rapidly from workouts, while minimizing sugar triggered blunting of ketogenesis (and fat oxidation).
Test and not guess your glucose changes from meals
Glucose will be higher in the morning and post workouts so “don’t chase ketones” or freak out if glucose higher from your workouts.
Don’t chase ketones.
Glucose, Ketones and Exercise
What Happens to Your Body When Working Out?
What’s going to happen is when you’re working out, your body will start utilizing ketones, but if you’re working out with a lot of intensity, your body has no choice but to start trying to utilize carbs as a source of fuel. You may be wondering, well, I’m not consuming any carbs, so how is this happening? Well, your body has a really interesting pathway known as gluconeogenesis, where it could actually take your existing proteins that are inside your body and convert them into a sugar, because certain activities actually require carbs no matter what.
What will end up happening is after a workout, you’ll test your ketone levels, and you might find that they’re a little bit lower than what they were before. You might panic at first, but I want you to understand that this is a pretty normal response and your ketone levels are going to stabilize after another hour or so. But by testing immediately after a workout, you can give yourself a good idea of whether you’re working out a little bit too hard for ketosis, or if you’re really pushing it a little bit too far and allowing your body to start utilizing those carbs a bit too much.
What is Optimal Ketone Level After a Workout?
Optimally, you don’t want your ketone levels to change too much after a workout. At the very most, you might want to see them move maybe 0.5 millimoles, not too much. If they start moving more than that, you know, you either need to tone down your workout a little bit or increase your fat intake prior to a workout. One other time that you’re going to want to test is a couple hours after your workout to make sure that your body is stabilizing. If your ketone levels are staying lower for hours after your workout, you definitely need to reevaluate how many calories you’re consuming, and you may have to go back to the drawing board just a little bit to increase your calories and take a broader look at your overall macro levels.
How are Endurance Athletes Different?
Now, if you’re an endurance athlete, things might be a little bit different. You see, whenever you are working in endurance capacity, you’re utilizing what’s called the aerobic energy system. This aerobic energy system actually combines oxygen with fats, which when you think about it, that’s a perfect thing for ketosis, since we have plenty of fats and plenty of ketones flowing around through the body. The unfortunate thing is normally when you first look at this, it looks like you’re going to have to keep your intensity nice and low. Basically, saying if you’re staying in the aerobic threshold that you have to be working out at a low intensity to ultimately be utilizing ketones, but it’s not entirely true. There’s something known as the metabolic edge, which means when you’re on a ketogenic diet, you can slowly start to increase how much output you can achieve, even on a ketogenic diet. It just takes a little bit each time with each workout. For example, if you can exert a 50% effort for one hour while cycling at a baseline, you could slowly start to increase that week over week even when you’re in ketosis, to ultimately get to a point where you’re utilizing 75% total exertion for a full hour. The metabolic edge is a really unique thing that allows the ketogenic athlete to slowly increase how much output they can actually give, even while on a ketogenic diet. So, I hope this helps clear up when you should be testing if you’re someone that works out frequently.
When would your performance improve with some of nature’s carbs?
Should you eat before, during or after a workout? It depends on the type of exercise intensity and duration plus female’s hormones and fasting duration.
What Should I Eat Before I Workout?
Here’s the truth: your body does not need carbohydrates to perform. In fact, on a keto diet, your body doesn’t need any pre-workout food or even a keto-friendly sports drink in order to maintain stamina; you can workout on an empty stomach. And this is true for every type of body composition!
That’s one of the beautiful things about being keto; when you’re in ketosis, your body is in prime fat-burning mode. This means that during exercise, your body can tap into stored body fat for workout fuel. In fact, studies have shown that ketogenic dieters burn over twice as much fat during exercise compared to those fueling themselves with carbs.(1) So, if your primary goal is fat burning, not eating before exercise may be a great way to maximize your efforts.
However, not everyone exercises with fat burning in mind or wants to exercise without fueling up first.
To those people wondering what to eat before a workout, we have great news: You can eat whatever keto-friendly foods you know nourishes your individual body and allows you to maintain enough energy and achieve your exercise goals.
If you’re not sure what those are, follow these guidelines:
- Eat protein: it’s great to include before exercise because it gives your muscles the amino acids it needs to perform and repair themselves during exercise, not to mention build muscle.
- Eat fat: it’s your primary energy source on a ketogenic diet, so adding fat before exercise gives your body more energy to call on.
- Eat a full meal, if that works for you: Though not everyone can stomach a big meal before exercising, a full meal before a workout ensures you get enough grams of fat and grams of protein to fuel performance. If your personal preference is a meal, even one including keto-friendly veggies, go for it.
- Or drink a protein shake or smoothie with MCTs: It’ll ensure you have a fast-digesting protein and fat source your body can access shortly after eating, without having to worry about being too full to perform.
What to Eat After a Workout?
Whether you’re keto or not, post-workout nutrition is an important factor for how well your body handles workout recovery. During this time, post-workout snacks are in order, and protein is your best friend.
Protein is often under-consumed on a ketogenic diet because our classic recommendations are to eat 20 to 25 percent of our calories from protein to maintain ketosis. Although these guidelines were developed for children suffering from epilepsy, they continue to be recommended (along with 5 to 10 percent daily calories from carbs) because they represent a baseline for people wanting to get and stay in ketosis, meaning pretty much anyone who stays within these guidelines should be able to get into and maintain ketosis. But because every body is different, what actually works for you depends on your body and your lifestyle. For example, if you exercise intensely via cardio, weights, or otherwise on a regular basis, you need more protein (more on that below, but also see Dr. Marc Bubbs’ book Peak: The New Science of Athletic Performance That is Revolutionizing Sports).
Are you matching your fueling and training…workout days and non-workout days?
Whey shake on non-workout days? Do beware that consuming these high whey formulas, outside of exercise will trigger a material insulinogenic response, thereby blunting ketogenesis and fat oxidation.
- Hold off on the whey proteins and rather use a non-insulin triggering protein like Collagen peptides (or egg).
- Make your creamy shake on ketogenic fats, like medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), full dairy whipped crème.
- Keep sugars to an absolute minimum (<1Gram is best) in avoiding any further insulin response
- Similarly avoid sugar alcohols like sorbitol and sucralose, which can also stimulate insulin release, and/or degrade the gut microbiome.
- If you’re adding fruit – stick with the berries, use the whole fruit, and keep to a level to acquire the taste of the fruit, not much more
What about Morning Shakes for Non-Workout Days?
The popularity of the morning shake is likely a function of its ‘on-the-go’ feature – where a satisfying nutritious meal in a drink can be thrown together as you head out the door, for the day. That said, the issue with most morning shake formulas is that they’re formulated ‘for workouts’ not for ‘non-workout days’. Most notably the issues can be related to, the level of sugar (and sugar alcohols) at times reaching multiple-teaspoons per serve, and,
the amount of whey protein per serve. The sugar issue is obvious to the keto-minded lifestyler – but maybe the high whey-protein level issue, is less obvious.
As highlighted earlier, whey protein does trigger a rapid insulin secretion – particularly in the high whey content formulas.
“In this ‘more is always better’ world we live in – it’s easy to gravitate to protein formulas of 30-60 grams or higher – and think its best.
For intense physical exercise-training these may have a place. However, beware that consuming these high whey formulas, outside of exercise will trigger a material insulinogenic response, thereby blunting ketogenesis and fat oxidation.
What is you are doing an intense strength training workout or HIGH intensity intervals?
KetoGains: CKD plan to avoid breaking down muscle!
The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) is a dietary approach that combines carb loading day(s) with the standard ketogenic diet. It is typically used by people who are more advanced in terms of high-intensity exercise. Bodybuilders and athletes are a prime example of people that should use the CKD, since a high volume and intensity is needed in their training to optimize their performance. With this much volume and intensity, it is nearly impossible for them to train at their best without the help of carbohydrates.
For this reason, it is best for them to implement carbohydrate refeeding days once or twice a week to fully replenish glycogen stores so that they have an adequate amount of sugar to fuel their training bouts.
Unlike the TKD, where the primary goal is to maintain blood sugar and muscle glycogen at a moderate level for training, the goal of the CKD is to completely replete glycogen during carb loads and deplete glycogen and increase ketone levels between the carb loads. However, both dietary approaches will allow you to reap the benefits of carbohydrates and ketosis.
Keep in mind, however, that these are not strict guidelines. When it comes to figuring out whether CKD or TKD is best for you, experimentation is key. No individuals are the same, and you have to see what works best for you. Some people find different variations of a CKD are best, while others find the TKD to help them more consistently. This allows you more freedom to choose what works the best.
Another option that you can try is to stay on the SKD and adjust your workout program. Training at high-intensities without needing extra carbs for performance is possible. To learn how to do this without losing any strength or muscle, check out our guide to keto bodybuilding.
The only strict guideline you should follow is this: If you are not exercising at high-intensities regularly, then you should stick to the SKD. Most people need nothing more than an SKD diet.
The CKD and TKD should only be used to fuel high-intensity exercise performance, and should NEVER be used as an excuse to eat something sweet before a workout.
If you are not “hitting the wall” on a weekly basis with your training, there is not really a need to add carbohydrates to your diet. CKD and TKD are for people who are pushing their body to the limits, and not to just for craving suppression.
SFuels formulations for the LCHF Endurance Athlete (Fat Adapted) to go LONGER…
At SFuels, we’ve been advising a unique approach to fuel athletes in training and racing, since the day we opened our doors. More specifically, we formulated products for changing physiology from rest, to long-slow training, to high-intensity training and racing. So what’s the rationale?
Well, much changes in our energy-processing physiology between sitting on a couch and after an hour or so of aerobic exercise. It’s commonly assumed, that how our body moves glucose out of the blood and into the muscle cells, is a singular and fixed process at rest, and during exercise. But it’s not at all true. In high-level concepts, here’s what actually happens.
At rest, when we drink some juice, or any form of carbohydrate, (particularly simple sugars, like sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltodextrin) sugars are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, and then move through the liver. These sugars (glucose), then trigger our pancreas to produce and push insulin into the bloodstream. By design, insulin will interface with muscle cells and trigger them to open up glucose channels, allowing glucose to flow into the muscle cell. Conversely, insulin also informs fat cells NOT to oxidize or breakdown fat for energy.
Now, let’s look at what happens after an hour or so, of aerobic exercise.
Repeated muscle contractions over an extended period release chemicals like Calcium, nitric oxide, and free-radicals. While still being researched, it’s thought that these chemicals are responsible for triggering the movement of cell-transporters (namely, Glut-4) inside the cell, to move to the edge of the muscle cell, and open up glucose channels, allowing glucose to flow into the cell – without insulin.
At this point, you now have an optimized physiology for endurance exercise, whereby the physiology is optimized to simultaneously oxidize both carbohydrate and fat (fatty acids) substrates inside muscle cells for fuel.
But, here’s the issue –
For the past 30 years of carbohydrate-led fueling guidance, athletes have been asked to start taking carbs, the night before, the morning of, at the start of the race, and through the race. As underlined above, any intake of carbohydrate, particularly the refined types pre-training, or pre-race, will instruct the fat-oxidation machinery to switch off. This effectively blunts your physiology, making the athlete far more dependent on carbohydrate stores and intakes to perform best in their training, or racing goals.
Furthermore, research papers have highlighted that fructose and maltodextrin consumption (in many energy drinks, gels, and bars) suppresses Glut-4, the very muscle transporter you need to bring glucose into the muscle cell. So stay way clear of those two ingredients in your fueling, and diet.
So what to do,
Find the SFuels Race+ product page to download our Optimization Guide – where you will find a chart like below (page 17 of the SFuels Optimization Guide – click here) that highlights, what to do pre-race (or HIIT session), and then the need to shift from a NO-Carb Fat+Electrolyte fuel, to a Carb+Fat+Electrolyte fuel – as you move through the 30-60mins, and then into the 2nd hour of your session or Race. By doing this, you’re training the body to switch on simultaneous carb-fat substrate oxidation for fueling.