Fad Di­ets

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENT - BY PIP TAY­LOR Pip Tay­lor is a pro triath­lete and nu­tri­tion­ist from Aus­tralia.

ATH­LETES ARE RENOWNED for their at­ten­tion to de­tail and de­sire to gain an edge in that never-end­ing quest for per­for­mance im­prove­ment. This can mean a will­ing­ness to ex­per­i­ment, in­no­vate and try new things. Whether that be new equip­ment, new train­ing pro­to­cols, re­cov­ery tech­niques, or play­ing around with diet and nutri­tion strate­gies, such ex­per­i­men­ta­tion fre­quently re­sults in valu­able per­sonal in­sights and knowl­edge about how in­di­vid­u­als re­spond to dif­fer­ent stim­uli and can spurs in­no­va­tion that leads to per­for­mance gains.

When it comes to diet, triath­letes are gen­er­ally highly aware of the im­por­tant role that day-to-day food choices play in body com­po­si­tion, fu­elling re­cov­ery, as well as race-day strate­gies. How­ever, de­spite this, or per­haps be­cause of this, triath­letes are not im­mune to us­ing non-sci­en­tific meth­ods to gain an edge. This can be partly at­trib­uted to the lure of ei­ther ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing by var­i­ous com­pa­nies or di­etary trends with at­trac­tive prom­ises pop­u­lar­ized by the press, celebri­ties or our per­sonal “hero” ath­letes. Some­times, this can re­sult in pos­i­tive changes, but, most of­ten, di­etary trends are off-base in terms of value in gen­eral health terms, or be­cause they have been in­tended for seden­tary in­di­vid­u­als. Is­sues can crop up when trans­lated to highly ac­tive, fit ath­letes.

Here are some of the cur­rent pop­u­lar di­ets, and what to pick and what to leave for health and per­for­mance gains:

Keto Diet

This in­volves an ex­tra low-carb diet, with the idea that the body be­comes bet­ter able to uti­lize fat as fuel in the ab­sence of glu­cose. The keto diet is, in fact, backed by med­i­cal re­search; it can be an ef­fec­tive di­etary regime. How­ever, its in­tended ther­a­peu­tic use is for con­trol­ling epilepsy. The keto diet has risen in main­stream pop­u­lar­ity over the last cou­ple of years for its weight-loss ef­fects, and is cur­rently the most fre­quently searched diet term. How­ever, for a triath­lete manag­ing large train­ing loads, the keto diet may be one to avoid. While it’s true that low-in­ten­sity en­durance train­ing re­lies heav­ily on fat as a fuel source as op­posed to car­bo­hy­drates, car­bo­hy­drates are nev­er­the­less an im­por­tant en­ergy source for other as­pects of health and per­for­mance, in­clud­ing im­mune sta­tus and hor­mone pro­duc­tion. Com­pro­mises to im­mune sta­tus and hor­mone pro­duc­tion can lead to im­paired re­cov­ery, low testos­terone, de­pres­sion and other mood changes, in­som­nia, ill­ness and in­creased risk of in­jury – ef­fects clearly not con­ducive to sus­tain­able per­for­mance.

TRY THIS IN­STEAD: Rather than adopt a keto diet com­plete with but­ter­filled cof­fee, try ma­nip­u­lat­ing your car­bo­hy­drate in­take to re­flect train­ing and body com­po­si­tion goals. Do­ing some low-in­ten­sity train­ing ses­sions in a fasted state have been shown to help boost the body’s abil­ity to tap into fat stores. Fu­el­ing for high-in­ten­sity work­outs and to sup­port op­ti­mal re­cov­ery, will mean you are still able to hit the high notes in train­ing to drive adap­ta­tions and im­prove­ments while main­tain­ing good health and im­mune sta­tus.

Pa­leo/Pri­mal Diet

These di­ets/life­styles have been well es­tab­lished now for a num­ber of years. There are many pos­i­tives to them, be­cause they fo­cus on whole, real foods. For ath­letes of all sports, both health and per­for­mance can be eas­ily sus­tained fol­low­ing this ap­proach, par­tic­u­larly when qual­ity car­bo­hy­drates are thrown into the mix at ap­pro­pri­ate times, such as around train­ing or be­fore a race. The only po­ten­tial down­side is when ath­letes take the ap­proach too se­ri­ously – for­go­ing mid-race fuel or avoid­ing foods when trav­el­ing just be­cause they can’t source a truly pa­leo op­tion.

TRY THIS IN­STEAD: Go for it, but be flex­i­ble in your ap­proach. Some­times a gel or swig of a sports drink, or even a pre-race peanut but­ter and jelly sand­wich, isn’t go­ing to hurt. At other times, re­vert to whole food and nu­tri­ent-dense op­tions to op­ti­mize health and re­cov­ery.

Su­per­food Diet

Again, in essence, there is noth­ing much wrong with a diet that en­cour­ages qual­ity, real, fresh foods. How­ever, fo­cus­ing on vast num­bers of superfoods, with the al­lure of spe­cial pow­ers and pro­tec­tive prop­er­ties, can be very ex­pen­sive.

TRY THIS IN­STEAD: Save your pen­nies and opt for the less sexy, yet still gen­uine superfoods, such as broc­coli, kale, car­rots, blue­ber­ries and ca­cao, rather than the ex­pen­sive yet well-mar­keted moringa, ginko and maqui berries.

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