LOSE IT! - - Contents -

Why Nédene Cahill ad­vises other ath­letes to go LCHF

How did you get into cy­cling?

I’ve been cy­cling com­pet­i­tively since 2011 – some would call me a late bloomer be­cause I only got into it in my 30s! I race in the Masters cat­e­gory, which is for the over 30s who missed the boat pro­fes­sion­ally. For some­one my age, it’s as pro­fes­sional as you get. I was al­ways ath­letic at school, but didn’t do any­thing for 10 years after school. I got into a bad habit of par­ty­ing, drink­ing and smoking. Pick­ing up a bike at 27 was the best thing for me.

What made you switch to a low carb high fat diet?

I was al­ways on a diet be­cause you need to be as light as pos­si­ble for cy­cling. But at the same time, I had a se­ri­ous sugar prob­lem. When I de­cided to get back into sport, I had to quit the par­ty­ing and ev­ery­thing that came with it. But I just turned to sugar – cho­co­lates re­placed smoking. It was a case of switch­ing one vice for another. And I’d swing be­tween two ex­tremes: I’d binge on sugar, then crash diet be­cause I felt so guilty. It got so bad that I didn’t know who I’d be­come – some­thing had to change. Go­ing cold turkey didn’t work. Des­per­ate to dis­cover a way to get rid of sugar crav­ings, I came across bant­ing. It sounded great but I couldn’t see how it would work with cy­cling. I had six months be­fore the World Champs so I thought I’d try it for two months, then, if it didn’t work, I’d have time to go back to my reg­u­lar diet.

You must have had raised eye­brows from other cy­clists when they heard you were cut­ting carbs?

Peo­ple thought I was nuts. I was train­ing with wa­ter while they all had sug­ary en­ergy drinks. At first, when the diet didn’t seem to be work­ing, peo­ple blamed bant­ing and urged me to go back to carbs – for the sake of my cy­cling.

What re­sults have you seen on the LCHF diet?

I’ve only been bant­ing since Fe­bru­ary 2014 – six months be­fore the race of my life, the World Cham­pi­onships. I de­cided to stick with bant­ing in the lead up to the race – a mas­sive risk. I don’t usu­ally do marathon dis­tances in cy­cling, but be­cause it was World Champs I had to go for it. I got off to a bad start and was way at the back – any com­men­ta­tor would have said I had no chance. As the race went on, I slowly caught up. I wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily speed­ing up, but I felt I could go at a con­stant pace for a long time. Be­fore, I’d get tired and lose ground to­wards the end of a race, which is very nor­mal in cy­cling. So when the other girls started to slow down 40km to 50km into the race, I kept get­ting closer and closer to the front – and ended up win­ning! I couldn’t be­lieve it. So much of en­durance cy­cling is about the men­tal ca­pac­ity to push past the feel­ing of giv­ing up and col­laps­ing. It’s as if I’ve de­vel­oped a su­per­power to by­pass that feel­ing. I went on to win a sec­ond world ti­tle in 2014.

What chal­lenges did you face adopt­ing the diet?

My big­gest worry was hav­ing enough en­ergy to sus­tain me through long races. Most cy­clists carbo-load. I spoke to Prof Noakes who sug­gested I up the good carbs be­fore a race. It took about three months to adapt be­cause I wasn’t very strict – I’d give in to sugar. It was one step for­ward, two steps back. So it wasn’t easy, and it took a while to see re­sults, but I’m so glad I stuck with it. It’s com­pletely paid off.

What other di­ets have you tried?

I’ve been on low-fat di­ets all my life and I be­lieve that has messed up my metabolism and fu­elled my ad­dic­tion to sugar. I will never go down that road again. I tried Pa­leo, which is sim­i­lar to bant­ing, but what at­tracted me to bant­ing was that it was more suited to my tastes than Pa­leo – I en­joy dairy, for ex­am­ple.

What foods make up most of your diet now?

I like to eat sim­ple foods and only eat from the Green List. The most common food in my diet is eggs – I might invest in some chick­ens! Once in a while, I like to try an in­ter­est­ing new recipe like bant­ing pizza, but for the most part I keep it sim­ple. And I do en­joy a good bant­ing treat.

When ev­ery­one else is carbo-load­ing be­fore the race, what do you do?

I eat sweet pota­toes and eggs and they keep me go­ing to the end with­out en­ergy dips or crashes.

Would you ad­vise other en­durance ath­letes to follow this diet?

The best part about this diet is that it gives you sta­ble en­durance and en­ergy, so I would def­i­nitely ad­vise other ath­letes to adopt the life­style. I’ve al­ready done pre­sen­ta­tions pro­mot­ing the bant­ing life­style and its ben­e­fits for ath­letic per­for­mance.

Have other cy­clists adopted bant­ing after see­ing your suc­cess?

Many cy­clists now bant, but I can’t say whether it was due to me. I hope my pre­sen­ta­tions and my ‘Ask-An-Ath­lete’ pro­gramme will help ath­letes tran­si­tion from a high carb to a low carb diet.


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