Health & Diet

Avoid ‘cutting carbs’: Warning of diet mistakes many are ‘not aware’ of

Rapid weight loss 'becoming much more accepted' says Mosley

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There are so many diet rules for eating healthy it’s a wonder how we keep up with them all. But it seems there are a few that nutritionists see time and time again with their clients, and have identified it’s an issue among athletes – whether they be professional sports people, gym-goers or those who enjoy keeping active and healthy.

Despite new ways of thinking constantly emerging, subtler food rules such as “limit carbs” and “stay away from eating processed foods” still persist among health-conscious people.

And while these protocols have been drilled into our heads for years, experts warn it might not be the best thing for us, especially when we’re training.

Kelly Jones, a Philadelphia-based certified sports dietitian, said: “The majority of the clients that come to our practice, as well as athletes whose teams I consult for, are under-fueling in some way,” she says.

“Healthy eating for an athlete is so different than for a non-athlete. Many athletes are not aware of how much higher their energy needs are.”

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She noted that these people are not eating enough carbohydrates or eating the right nutrients at the right times, which can go on to effect their performance.

Carbs are a predominant energy source for the body including our muscles, brain, nerves and other body tissues.

Aisling Pigott, a registered dietitian and British Dietetic Association spokesperson, said carbs are “key” for energy and nutrients, which also keep us feeling full.

She advised that cutting back on carbs may lead to deficiencies in fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins, and may even cause weight gain caused by carb cravings.

They help delay fatigue and sustain a person through prolonged workouts or competitive sports.

So when it comes to exercise, Jones made it clear carbs should not be cut out of anyone’s diet at all.

“Carbs are the most efficient and preferred energy source for exercising muscle,” she explained.

“It’s important to eat them throughout the day, not just during or around workouts because carbs get stored as glycogen to be used during exercise.

“When you run out of stored glycogen and there’s not enough glucose in your bloodstream.

“Your body will start burning fat—which is OK but not optimal for high-intensity workouts—and may also start breaking down muscle for protein.”

She noted that eating adequate carbohydrates throughout the whole day is important to “ensure the body isn’t tapping into muscle protein”.

This can go on to impair recovery and adaptation to training sessions.

Instead, she suggested consuming a pre-workout meal or snack that’s high in carbs.

If the workout is moderate or high intensity and lasts longer than an hour, eating at least 30g of carbs per hour, will improve performance and prevent muscle breakdown.

For example, this could look like one banana, two slices of bread, or three or four energy chews.

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