Why should you eat a low carb diet if you’re a runner?
Carbohydrates were once thought to be the perfect fuel for running and a high carbohydrate, low fat diet was thought to be protective against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes, cancer and obesity. However, the tables have turned and now evidence shows this is not the case. Just because you are a runner, this doesn’t necessarily protect you from all those diseases. Although your risk might be lower, a poor diet is not cancelled out by running. Exercise only accounts for 30% of the work towards a good, healthy body. Diet accounts for 70%.
When we eat carbohydrates, the body (specifically the pancreas) releases insulin to break it down. This is the body’s preferred fuel source because it is the easiest for it to use. Excess carbohydrate is stored around the middle once muscle stores have been replenished. These excess stores can often cause fatty livers and give rise to the classic apple shape in women and beer belly in men. When we eat protein and fat, the body has to work much harder at breaking this down and although any excess is still stored as fat, it tends to be distributed through the body. It is much more difficult to over consume protein and fat than it is carbohydrate.
Carbohydrates are not just found in bread, pasta, rice etc. There is carbohydrate in fruit and vegetables, pulses, beans and lentils as well as some from dairy products (lactose). These foods provide enough carbohydrate for any runner without eating lots of bread, pasta and refined carbohydrates. It’s vital to understand that running will not protect you from a poor diet high in sugar and processed foods.
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