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Low Carb Diets & Exercise


QUESTION:

I have heard that low carbohydrate diets are detrimental to exercise performance.  Is this true?

ANSWER:

The simple answer to this question is yes.  Low carbohydrate diets do not provide adequate carbohydrates for the formation of glycogen, which is the body's carbohydrate fuel store used during exercise.  As a result, these low carbohydrate diets (e.g., the Atkins Diet) cause a dramatic reduction in the duration and intensity at which a person can exercise.

The main concern is that the limited capacity to exercise while on a low carbohydrate diet means that users are forced to rely on diet alone for their weight control.  This works in the short term, but the goal of any weight loss program is to alter lifestyle to develop a sustainable and enjoyable "new life" involving healthy food choices and daily exercise.  A low carbohydrate diet does not fit this goal. The diet is too radical to sustain for lifelong change and, because it does not promote exercise, a valuable disease-prevention method is left by the wayside.

Remember to go back to the basic questions regarding diet and carbohydrates.  Are carbohydrates bad?  No, only the excessive intake of simple carbohydrates is detrimental to weight control and health.  Is the excessive intake of protein and fat healthy?  No, excess protein places strain on the liver and kidneys, and the fat that often comes with a diet high in animal protein is detrimental to your cholesterol level, blood vessels and heart.  What is the major culprit of the American diet?  Excess calories!  What is the largest contributor to the poor health and rising health care costs of Americans?  A sedentary lifestyle!

The basic facts tell us that the best lifelong approach to weight control is to choose healthy nutrient-dense foods, watch portion control, and to develop a lifestyle that supports daily exercise.

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Our expert, Dr. Sharon E. Griffin, holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in the areas of exercise science/physiology.  She also holds a second M.S. degree in Nutrition and is a licensed nutritionist and an ACSM certified health and fitness instructor.
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