T Nation

Carbs, Fat Loss, and Endurance Athletes

Hello everyone!

I’m a 16-year old (5’2", 123 lbs, at least 20% bf) seeking advice.

I have always been muscular, and up until a year or two ago, fairly lean. In October 2001, I broke my leg pretty badly playing soccer. It has been a year since I resumed regular physical activity, but the unfavorable change in body composition accompanying my months out of commission has remained with me.

But enough of this life story, and on with the questions.

I am aware that some T-Maggers follow a pretty low-carb diet and have had great results. I guess my real question is, in an effort to lose a significant amount of fat, whether an endurance athlete such as myself can keep my performance level fairly high while on a low-carb diet, or whether there is a better way to shed fat. I am curious if performance in the gym and energy levels suffer from low carbs, and whether this is inevitable on a fat-loss diet. Any nutritional advice would be helpful, especially from those of you out there that have been in a similar situation!

Thank you for your time -
Kathleen

Well at 16 years old I would limit my carb intake to a cup (of pasta, rice, 1 med potato) per meal and stop all carbs by 5/6pm at night. Just make sure you do not gorge yourself in carbs as is easy to do especially if you are very hungry. Try eating your protein 1st in your meal with a full galss of water or diet coke before attacking your carb portion. I would not go on a zero carb diet at this point as I feel you are still young and need proper well balanced nutrition to keep your metabolism healthy.

I was a decathlete in college, and always followed a low carb diet. My performances did not suffer at all, and my performances in the gym have kept going up since I got out of college. As a 16 year old female, I don’t think that you need to be too concernee with that, I would just try cutting down on your daily maintainance calories and you should be fine. Best of Luck with that. If you have any other questions, I’ll try to offer what advice I can.

When you say your an endurance athlete do you me you run marathons or are you a soccer player. Because that does make a diffrence.

You are an athlete, and you must train and eat like an athlete. How is your training? If you need something to take you to next level, you may want to look into Renegade Training.

But let’s address nutrition. Since you are doing plenty of running and probably some sort of weight training, you will need carbs for energy. I would not recommend going too low in carbs because of your activity level. But, you can replace many bad carb sources with some much better carb choices.

  1. Be sure to eat 4-6 small meals throughout the day. This will keep your metabolism in high gear so you’ll keep burning fat and not feel hungry or sluggish throughout the day.

  2. Be sure to eat protein with each meal. Protein from lean meats (beef, chicken, fish), cottage cheese, eggs and canned tuna, fish and chicken, as well as protein powders.

  3. Eat all the vegetables you want, and some fruit (2-4 servings of fruit is okay).

  4. When considering fruit, try to stick to low-glycemic fruits such as apples and oranges. Bananas, grapes and others will send your insulin-levels sky high, which could promote fat storage. So eat more of the slower-releasing fruits and always eat them with some protein and preferably earlier in the day.

  5. Be sure to make good carb choices. This means to emliminate any breads, white pasta and white rice from your diet. Instead, stick to any and all veggies and long grain brown rice.

  6. As a female, you probably gravitate toward bread and pasta. But these sources of carbs are best for those who want to bulk up. Also, from a health standpoint, white sugar, white flour, white rice, pasta, bread, etc., is absolutely horrible for you and has become one of the leading causes of obesity and diabetes in this country.

So like I said, you can still eat your carbs, just be sure to make proper food choices. I guarantee that if you replace the “junk” carbs with fruits and vegetables, you will get leaner and still have the energy you need for your sport. Also, figure out how many calories you need each day. If you’re eating too much, then you may want to subtract a few total calories to help shed some fat. But just be careful when doing this so your training doesn’t suffer.

And if possible, keep your carb intake lower in the evening. You should consider a post-workout shake after your training. That is the one time where you need the carbs, and a properly formulated post-workout shake is ideal (Surge or Relentless).

Remember, “If it’s man made, don’t eat it!”

Hi, Tuesday. Thanks for posting this on the forum. It’s a really good question.

There’s no two ways about it, you can’t do endurance anything without carbs to fuel your work. A carb-dominant diet is a necessity. But you’re wanting to lose a little weight, and I have to admit that it is “challenging” to lose weight on a carb-dominant diet.

However, let’s take a look at your situation. 20% BF is not bad at all. My recommendation would be to hit it on two fronts. 1). Drop BF a few percentage points, and 2). Start a strength program to harden up the muscle you currently have.

Re dropping BF, you don’t have a heckuva lot to lose. Let’s say your goal were 14% BF. That’s only 7.5 pounds. And I’d really hate to see you go much lower than that, honestly. Much more than that and your stamina will start to suffer.

So in answer to your question, make sure you’re taking in quality carbs, green veggie carbs, lots of them, all you can eat; spinach, broccoli, asparagus, kale, squash, green beans, brussel sprouts. Avoid sugar and any carbs you would get in a package. Avoid all non-diet soft drinks and even juice. Breads, too, if you’re trying to drop weight, should be off your diet.

Honestly, Tuesday, I think if you meet your protein requirements (1.5g of protein per pound of LBM per day, divided into at least 6 meals) and if you take in the quality carbs I recommended, you’re going to start dropping BF. I’d really like you to try the approach I recommended above before you start cutting further.

Additionally, in conjunction with your carb choices above, plan on adding in one or two strategic carb refeeds per week. The minimum should be once a week and if you notice that your performance/energy starts to suffer, you’ll need to do refeeds more fequently. It’s just a case of learning how your body works and responding. Timbo has started a great thread on the use of strategic carb refeeds. Read that, and also do a search on the forum.

Finally, take a look at Joel Marion’s Ripped Rugged and Dense. It’s a 5x5 strength program. It’s your ticket to greater strength and harder muscles.

Okay, Tuesday, I wish you all the best. If you have any questions or I wasn’t clear on something, don’t hesitate to ask!!

Nate Dogg: Good post. Probably your best post. ever. Good common sense.
Let’s see here, Kathleen. You are 16 and the weight you have accumlated is from within this past year of lowered physical activity. Correct?
I would say to not panic by restricking your carb intake. But, as Nate said, just make good “carb choices” and realize that once you up your physical activity again, your body will respond in kind.
When I was your age, I too was involved with soccer. During the season, I was in great shape - but away from soccer, my shape would greatly fluctuate. But once the season began - there was no problem in whipping myself back into soccer shape. Not the smartest thing, I know: be better to remain in shape year round - but hey, this was like 1982.
I see you have some advantages: you say you’ve always been muscular and you’re young (16). So, again, once you embark on regular training - you will rebound. Just don’t panic and do anything drastic/extreme.

Thanks Patricia!

Thanks for the invaluable advice, I really appreciate it.

To Fitone - I am a soccer player, by no means a marathoner! The activity I do is more like sequences of sprints interspersed with rest/jogging periods.

Nate Dogg - Thank you for presenting that great info in a clear, straightforward way. I’m going to the grocery store today, and plan to become the produce section’s best customer. Right now, I eat oatmeal + all bran for breakfast carbs, and most of my other carbs tend to be derived from grain products. Even for cutting purposes, I trust the oatmeal is all right? As for Surge, I can’t afford it right now, is there something else comparable, or has it really been worth the investment to you?

Tampa Terry - Thanks for all the help, and I will look into the 5x5 program. Currently, I try to do weights twice a week but I feel like I’m stagnating on my current routine.

Question to all: Currently, carbs make up about 40% of my daily caloric intake, is that categorized as ‘moderate’ or ‘low’? I realize now I didn’t specify exactly how many carbs I am consuming. (around 175 g a day)

I’d say 40% is moderate. Anything below, say, 100g per day (of course, this rule of thumb is very dependent on bodyweight) is low.

I’ve been dropping weight fairly fast just by doing the things that Nate Dogg says, essentially. Stick to the lower GI and II carbs, and eat protein with everything.

You’re sixteen, you play soccer. If you even think about making your diet better, you’re going to start losing weight.

At least, that’s my experience. When does your season start?

Dogchild -

Actually had my first games of the season this weekend. The reason I asked about performance as it relates to weight loss and carb intake is because I am also concerned about playing to the best of my ability… One might say it’s best to try to shed fat in the off-season, but there never really is a set off-season for me, so were I to wait for time away from the game, I could be postponing improvements in my physique/health in general indefinitely.

Tuesday

I don’t think it’s going to be an issue to lose weight–fat–during your season… if anything, the things I’ve read have indicated a performance increase for lost fat.

Of course, as with anything you can go to far. You’re obviously not going to be at your best for soccer at 10% bodyfat (for a woman).

But you just need to ditch five or ten pounds of fat. Sensible food choice (clean foods) plus your increased activity levels from soccer practice and games should take care of it. I wouldn’t think that you would even have to cut your calories at all, as long as you clean up your diet.

That is, if you haven’t screwed up your metabolism through serious dieting before.

Let me offer my 2 cents- try it. I can go on a zero carb diet and feel absolutly no different than with any other dietary regimen I consume; that’s just the way I am. My performance, mood, etc remains unaffected. Then again, some individuals feel like crap when limiting carbs that much. On the other hand, some individuals dont do well with higher carb intakes. With me, I don’t notice any difference between diets apart from the foods I consume.

Joel

Tuesday,

Grains are not the best source for carbs. In fact, grains are the most allergic food known to man (and woman) with dairy being second. Having Oatmeal for breakfast is fine, just be sure to eat some protein with it as well.

You’ll be much better off replacing the grains with more vegetables and fruit. This will keep your carb intake in the 30-40% range, which is where you’ll most likely need to be since you are active all year long and play soccer. You need the carbs for your activity level and performance on the field.

Just try to replace the bad carbs with the good stuff. So go ahead and visit your grocer’s produce section and be sure to get plenty of veggies. Also, since veggies can be expensive or go bad fast, you can also use frozen and canned stuff as well. Don’t let anyone tell you that fresh is the only way to go. Studies have shown that frozen and some canned veggies are just as fresh as fresh stuff found in the produce section, and sometimes, the frozen stuff is more nutrient rich because it’s plucked, pulled and packaged at it’s best time.

As for a post-workout shake, I highly recommend taking one. I workout five days a week, with three of those days actually in the gym with my Renegade workouts. The other two days are for “active” rest and the workouts are much shorter. I usually only use my post-workout on those three gym days. So that means you can get a bottle of Surge or Relentless and have it last a month if used in that way.

You can buy Surge or Relentless online for much cheaper prices, so it won’t be too expensive. Check out dpsnutrition for great prices on Surge and check out vitaplus for great prices on Relentless (made by Xtremeformulations).

I have used both. They both taste great, they are both about the same price, and it is definitely worth using. Other than vitamins, minerals and fish oil caps, my post-workout shakes are always included in my supplement budget. I consider them a necessity, and I have definitely noticed the effects in recovery. So if your budget allows (about $30 a month), you should definitely try to add this.

Nate Dogg hit this perfectly. I agree with his views on this topic. Your demands are that of an athlete, you need to address those. Losing bodyfat should be dealth with in the off season, but cleaning up your diet alone will probably allow you to lose some weight during the season.