What is considered “low carb” for an athlete?

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Are athletes protected from chronic health conditions? What is the most common chronic condition in athletes? What does research on endurance-sport performance show? How can you transition an athlete from a high-carb diet to a low-carb diet in a way that minimizes the impact of the initial drop in performance?

In this presentation from the Low Carb Denver 2019 conference, Dr. Caryn Zinn talks about fat adaptation and low-carb sports performance.

Watch a part of the presentation above. The full video is available (with captions and transcript) with a free trial or membership:
Building healthy athletes: from beginner to winner Dr. Caryn Zinn

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Dr. Caryn Zinn:  I’d like just to look at a few definitions. This is what mainstream carbohydrate recommendations are for sport.

If you’re doing a little sport, you still need between three and five grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per day and if you’re doing very high amounts of sports, and you have extreme commitment according to mainstream, you need to have somewhere between 8 g and 12 g per kilogram body weight per day.

That is a staggering amount of carbohydrate that we are guiding athletes to eat. But think about it if you are getting on a bike for four or five hours and you are a carb burner then you’re just burning through your glycogen, so every time you deplete it, you need to replete it.

So, it makes sense why you need that amount. These athletes are very metabolically inflexible, so they have to feed that carbohydrate line all the time. So, then what’s low-carb?

Well, I guess by default throwing a dart to the dartboard, you can see that low-carb is pretty much anything less than 3 g per kilogram per day in the low carb sports world or under 150 grams per day. How did I get to that number? Well it is a little bit like throwing a dart.

If you weigh 70 kilos and you have 3 g of carbohydrates per day, that is 210 g of carbohydrates which is still not in our world, not hugely low but certainly lower than what mainstream guides.

And then of course keto and keto is a lot more well-defined in terms of its macros because the goal is nutritional ketosis.


Low Carb Denver 2019