'Low Carb' (high veg); High Protein/Fat Nutrition: Issues for Athletes

‘Low Carb’ (high veg); High Protein/Fat Nutrition: Issues for Athletes


I am eager to discuss a few points of low carb; high protein and fat nutrition. I have some comments/points to make, but, for the most part seek your feedback. Thanks.

After experimenting for some time on my own body, I am now a convert to so-called ?low carb?, high protein / fat nutrition. The particular style of eating I favour is one which leans towards Paleolithic ideals. In this sense, the diet is not ?low carb? per se, as I consume lots of vegetables. However, the amount of calories derived from these carbs (i.e. vegetables) could be said to be comparatively low.

Problems/questions/requests for help with the high fat/protein protocol:

1)a) Being a swimmer who weight trains (with a resulting high caloric expenditure), I now find it difficult to attain the calories required to sustain and gain muscle mass. Anyone got any solutions for increasing calories while remaining in paleo / high protein/fat mode? What are good sources / means of attaining quality calories? Any other suggestions?

1)b) Connected to issues of high protein/fat consumption (plus veggies) is the sheer volume of food that one has to cram in the stomach to meet high caloric requirements. Any on increasing protein / fat use by the body or ways to get more of this food in throughout the day? I have considered nutritional absorption products, but do not know of any major brands/lines. Any vegetables, nuts, fats etc. that are significantly high in calories / helpful for the athlete?

  1. As yet, I have not read widely on the subject. Top books I have heard of come from:
    Natural/Historical perspective, Price, W., Bond, G.
    Paleo/natural: Eaton, S.B., Cordain, L., Audette, R., Hofmekler O. & Holtzberg, D.
    Low carb; high prot&fat: Allan, C.B. & Lutz, W., Eades, M.R. & Eades, M.D. Sears, B., Atkins, R.
    Low carb; high prot&fat and sport: Di Pasquale, M., McDonald, L.

What books on this subject do you feel are superior for the athlete?

Thanks all.


Ain’t nothing more calorically dense than oil. Chug lots of olive, flax, and fish oil and you’ll have no problem getting as many calories as you want. As an athlete, though, I doubt this strategy would be optimal. I’d think you’d need some low-GI carbs in the form of fruit, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and maybe even (gasp!) pasta.

Nuts taste good and are very calorie dense. Zev-f you do not believe that athletes do well on low carb diets check out Alessi’s column at:
Strength Training, Bodybuilding & Online Supplement Store - T NATION.

Because of your energy expenditure, you could probably use a little more carbs in your diet. You could up the fats a little more, but because you swim some low GI carbs would be beneficial to your goals of gaining muscle mass.

Scott – reread Alessi’s column. It’s not a compelling argument in the least. Let’s examine his evidence that carbs are overrated: 1)one anecdotal example, himself, of low carbs “working” in terms of energy levels (whatever that means – I’d like to see his performance following alternate high and low carb eating plans quantified in various athletic endeavors). Need I even go into why this doesn’t convince me? Hell, I’ve got one anecdotal piece of evidence that gainsays his: me. 2)A quote by DiPasquale that says that muscle glycogen is depleted in 15 minutes (in whom? doing what? basically a useless piece of info) and must thereafter be synthesized from protein and/or fat. In adapted individuals he says up to 90% of gluconeogenesis can occur from fat stores. Even if I bought these figures, that still doesn’t mean that glycolysis (i.e., carbs for energy) isn’t a superior source of energy to fat-based gluconeogenesis. Yeah, maybe in a person adjusted to keto diets 90% of their gluconeogenesis occurs from fat stores, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not still getting far less energy for muscular exertion than they would if they had carbs in their system. The “15 minutes and glycogen is used up” idea is ludicrous. Wanna see the hundreds of studies that show the benefits of CHO ingestion to aerobic exercise? Oh, and the vertical leap example? A vertical leap is the definition of anaerobic – meaning neither glycolysis or gluconeogenesis is involved in the energy used to power it. So on its own it couldn’t be less relevant to the matter at hand.

David, I am glad that you brought up this topic. I have just recently found out that I am insulin resistant. I have spent the last 2 weeks researching the topic along with Syndrome X. The data is compelling too! I just read the book titled Syndrome X by Deborah Romaine and Jennifer Marks and I am almost finished with The Protein Power Lifeplan by Dr. and Dr. Eades. I have also read a lot of articles on the web, many at Dr Mercola’s site and a few other University sites. After reading all the data it seems to me that many people are insulin resistant to some degree and the health epidemic it is causing is alarming. Feel free to chime in FreeEx! I should have listened to you long ago! Remember when type II diabetes was called “adult-onset” diabetes? Not anymore, now kids are developing it as young as 8, scary! So after reviewing all of my blood work and other tests (blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, LFT’s, etc) I decided to follow the PP Lifeplan with some mods for the bodybuilder. Most of us have used a diet like this (ketogenic/low-carb) in the past to shed some pounds and bring out the abs. It usually made me tired in the past too. However I am starting to think that was all in my head or I was eating the wrong fats. I have been at the Intervention level of the diet for a month now and I feel great. I am still hitting the weights with no strength loss and am doing 3-4 days of cardio per week. The only big difference is the types of fat I am consuming. Mostly good Omega-3 fats this time around. Lots of fish oil caps and flax oil in my shakes. I missed the carbs for about the first 10-12 days but not anymore. So now all this has me wondering, why do we need carbs for bodybuilding in mass quantities like we always hear? What studies are out the proving that we need lots of complex carbs for muscular hypertrophy? Why not stick to protein, (like we didn’t already) healthy fats, tons of veggies with very controlled timing of some carbs? After 4 more weeks of the Intervention I will add 2 carb doses to my diet with hypertrophy in mind. Which after 2 months of intervention, my insulin receptors should work great on very little carb due to the down regulation during the low-carb weeks. I propose this: follow any low carb, high protein/fat program out there for a few weeks to prime your insulin receptors. After this initial phase, add a dose of low GI carbs about 90 min before your weight training to raise your blood glucose levels (1/2 cup oatmeal for me yielding 22g carbohydrate.) Then have 8oz of juice with your post-workout protein or better yet a cup of blueberries (lower GI than most juices) with your protein. Even these 2 doses may not be essential but I feel that they will help your liver maintain healthy blood sugar levels after intense weight training sessions. Other than those 2 times stick to the Paleolithic diet. Hell I will be the test subject since I am doing the diet to get my health in order, so this is not a passing fancy for me. Isn’t it funny that we can appear so healthy on the outside yet so screwed up on the inside? Trust me I am not trying to push any low-carb propaganda here. I am 4 weeks into this diet already, however David’s post compelled me to relpy. Any others out there already doing something similar I would love to hear from. By the way David, I am getting about 3000 calories per day in with all the good fats and protein. Before I used to have trouble getting in my 250g of protein a day, now I easily get 400-450g. I am eating a ton of broccoli, zucchini and various greens and have not had any gas problems either. It all seems to work for me. I wish you the best.

Thank you all for your intelligent contributions. I can understand and relate to all of your information. JS: I know where your coming from in a big way!

Update and elaboration on original post:

Note that I called the ideals I try to aspire to so-called Paleo. I am quite sure that had the paleo concept (as we know it) not taken off and become notorious, that I would be eating in this manner anyway - I just wouldn’t be saying ?it aspires to Paleo ideals?. Really, it is just a way for me to eat clean, that seems to match modern interpretations of paleo nutrition. In fact, sometimes I wish I never this ?buzzword? in the first place! Nevertheless, I suppose it gives others a good enough idea of where I?m coming from.

To be more accurate, I eat high fat/protein with high veg. I consume lots of meats, healthy fats/oils, nuts and vegetables. I avoid anything processed or refined. I avoid dairy. I eat in this manner to avoid many of the foods I seem to have problems with (dairy and processed grains being the biggest culprits).

If I was okay with modern-day carbs and dairy, then I probably wouldn’t go ‘crazy’ with a diet such as this anyway! Yet, the irritating side effects make me gravitate towards other solutions. If I could continue to eat high carb and dairy all the time and attain awesome results with no side-effects, I probably would! However, it just doesn’t seem to agree with me. It is great to see an increase in consensus (both academic and grass-roots) that it can be done another way.

It would be unrealistic to say such protocols are easy. They are not. They require planning, effort and funds. But for me, and seemingly many others, the rewards have been worth it.

Plans/Actions to implement:

I am now pursuing various plans of action:

Means of increasing calories:

  • More nuts.
  • More oils.
  • More butter.
  • More avocados (high in fats)(added to blends).
  • Occasional carb loading (perhaps every 4-5 days / once a week on hardest training day).
  • Pre/post training carbs.

Means of improving recovery/maintenance:

  • Protein.
  • Glutamine.
  • BCAAs.
  • Creatine.

If any of the old annoyances related to processed / high carb nutrition return, I will make changes accordingly.


David, Where do I start? I wish I would have started eating like this years ago. I always loaded up on the carbs because all of the so-called weight lifting literature said I needed to. Funny how I will research a supplement to death, or a specific training strategy, however some things like that I took as truth. Now I am researching how the body uses carbs (all macronutrients too) and the associated insulin response. Also how the body can maintain proper blood sugar levels with ingesting any, or very little carbohydrate in food form, through gluconeogenesis. I am just astounded how our bodies were never really intended to eat the way we do now. I have not actually studied the Paleo diet in itself, however when reading most high protein/fat theories you tend to put together many facets of the Paleo diet without much of a problem. I admit that I will keep some dairy in my diet after the first couple of months, however it will be in moderation, mainly cottage cheese. I can tolerate dairy just fine, it is the grains that seem to cause me problems. The more I read on how the body uses different enzymes, acids and bacteria to digest different types of food, I am once again mind-boggled as I learn more and more. It is almost like any processed grain is poisonous to some degree in the human digestive tract. All of this is aside from how the body uses insulin to keep blood sugar at bay. These are other disorders themselves. Insulin resistance just happens to be the one that might kill someone in the long run. Some will laugh at a statement like that, but do the research, it is alarming. Don?t get me wrong, I will still enjoy the occasional ice cream or pizza, however it will only be occasional, not weekly or anything like that. Ok I am not sure where I am going with all this so I will shut up now. Hey by the way, have you read any literature on the ?leaky-gut? syndrome? Very interesting stuff about diet and autoimmune disorders. Anyway David, I am curious to hear how your diet affects your training. Like I said earlier, I am training just as hard and heavy as I was before and I actually feel better. Maybe we could start a support thread for anyone else who is eating like this too. Just a thought. Peace.