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Nutrition for Performance vs Long Term Health

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Nutrition for Performance vs Long Term Health

Old 10-03-21, 03:08 PM
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PoorInRichfield
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Nutrition for Performance vs Long Term Health

TL;DR
Is a high carb diet used by the majority of athletes good for one's long-term health off the bike or is this a "high performance despite the long-term health risks" diet?

Almost all articles I've read and videos I've watched on cycling nutrition are focused solely on performance on the bike, but few of them talk about the impact of a high carb diet on one's health in terms of heart disease, diabetes, etc. I don't doubt that "carb the f#$k-up" will help win races, but is this a good dietary lifestyle for long term health off the bike?

The Long Story
I started on the journey of becoming "fat adapted" several years ago. I.e., I started eating more food high in "healthy fats" as opposed to high carbohydrate foods as well a intermittent and longer duration fasting (3 - 7 days w/o food). I don't go so far as to say I have a ketogenic diet, but certainly eat more nuts, avocados, olive oil, butter, etc., than I used to eat. Initially, I was seeing no real benefit to this new high fat diet. I was still hungry a lot and nothing changed when riding my bike. It was a year later that I started noticing changes... and was a little freaked-out. I started realizing that I no longer felt hungry all the time, I wasn't feeling sleepy shortly after eating a meal, and what was the most interesting was that I was able to ride my bike on 60+ mile rides w/o bonking and hardly any food at all (Heck, I've never "bonked" since eating more fats.). I'm assuming this meant that it took a while for my body to become "fat adapted"... i.e., it could use either carbs or fat as a fuel source.

The core reason I opted to start eating more fat was the observation that so many people are obese and dyeing of heart disease and type 2 diabetes... and doing so at younger and younger ages. The research I've done points to this health crisis to be the result of a high carb, low fat diet that's been sold to us as being "healthy" for the past 50 years or so. As much as I love cycling, I only care about being fast on my bike if it actually is improving my health. Being the fastest cyclist on the planet that dies at age 50 isn't of interest to me. I'd rather be moderately fast and live a healthy 80+ years of age. I can't help but think that dumping high amounts of carbs into the body, despite the reason, will have the same results long-term... i.e., insulin resistance and potentially Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Most of the videos I've watched regarding cycling nutrition that state that a high carb diet is the way to go feature relatively young cyclists in their 20s or 30s. It's also apparent that the focus is on winning races and being fast, not necessarily on being healthy. When one is young, you can put just about anything in your body and it'll work, but as one ages, suddenly some of the habits of one's youth start to catch-up with you.

If you've experiment with high-fat diets and high-carb diets, what are your thoughts? Is the high-carb / high-performance diet of most athletes sustainable and 'healthy' or simply a "performance at all costs" diet?
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Old 10-03-21, 04:31 PM
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Carbs in itself aren't bad for your health. It depends on an individual person. Some people can tolerate high carb diet without any negative health effects, while others achieve better results with lower carb intake. There is no one size fits all dietary approach that work equally for everyone. Each individual needs to find what works for them and stick with it.
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Old 10-04-21, 05:23 AM
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I saw the name "Dr. Stephen Phinney" pop-up in my search in these forums regarding this topic. Last night I watched a video presentation of his regarding research on a low carb diet and endurance exercise (of which there doesn't appear to be much research in this area). One takeaway from the video that aligned with my experience in eating a low carb diet is that it takes time before one experiences the benefits. One can't go low carb for a week or two and expect good results; a short attempt at adapting your body to fats as the primary fuel source will likely resulting in significantly decreased performance. It's my opinion that this is why so many people don't think a low carb, high fat diet is compatible with intense exercise as few people are willing to 'pause' their cycling career for months or even a year to allow their body to adapt.


Apparently a low-carb diet works well for ultra-endurance athletes as one doesn't need to be eating all the time to replenish glucose. While I'm no ultra-endurance athlete, not needing to eat on riders between 40 and 80 miles is definitely something I've never been able to do before without bonking hard.
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Old 10-04-21, 05:29 AM
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Ditto, individual and genetic factors that can influence whether any particular diet is optimal.

Also, it's difficult to extrapolate anything about diet and health from the pool of former/retired athletes, because many former athletes tend to over indulge to make up for years of sacrifice.

And it's difficult to say whether those years of sacrifice to be competitive strengthened or weakened their bodies for the long haul.

Offhand I can think of two Tour de France champions who gained quite a bit of weight in retirement, a few who stayed relatively fit and trim, and two who died of cancer (Anquetil at 53; Fignon at 40) despite seeming to be reasonably fit and trim for their retirement ages. It's been awhile since I checked the lists of ages and deaths of grand tour champions but overall I got the impression that there was no difference between them, in retirement, and the average guy the same age.

Same with professional boxers, the other sport I've kept up with for decades. Many over indulge, drink too much booze, eat too much, and reckless living plagues many athletes whose sports exposed them to chronic brain damage. Others inexplicably lived long lives, minds still sound.

Genetic luck of the draw seems to be the most significant factor.
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Old 10-04-21, 05:45 AM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield View Post
TL;DR
Is a high carb diet used by the majority of athletes good for one's long-term health off the bike or is this a "high performance despite the long-term health risks" diet?

Almost all articles I've read and videos I've watched on cycling nutrition are focused solely on performance on the bike, but few of them talk about the impact of a high carb diet on one's health in terms of heart disease, diabetes, etc. I don't doubt that "carb the f#$k-up" will help win races, but is this a good dietary lifestyle for long term health off the bike?

The Long Story
I started on the journey of becoming "fat adapted" several years ago. I.e., I started eating more food high in "healthy fats" as opposed to high carbohydrate foods as well a intermittent and longer duration fasting (3 - 7 days w/o food). I don't go so far as to say I have a ketogenic diet, but certainly eat more nuts, avocados, olive oil, butter, etc., than I used to eat. Initially, I was seeing no real benefit to this new high fat diet. I was still hungry a lot and nothing changed when riding my bike. It was a year later that I started noticing changes... and was a little freaked-out. I started realizing that I no longer felt hungry all the time, I wasn't feeling sleepy shortly after eating a meal, and what was the most interesting was that I was able to ride my bike on 60+ mile rides w/o bonking and hardly any food at all (Heck, I've never "bonked" since eating more fats.). I'm assuming this meant that it took a while for my body to become "fat adapted"... i.e., it could use either carbs or fat as a fuel source.

The core reason I opted to start eating more fat was the observation that so many people are obese and dyeing of heart disease and type 2 diabetes... and doing so at younger and younger ages. The research I've done points to this health crisis to be the result of a high carb, low fat diet that's been sold to us as being "healthy" for the past 50 years or so. As much as I love cycling, I only care about being fast on my bike if it actually is improving my health. Being the fastest cyclist on the planet that dies at age 50 isn't of interest to me. I'd rather be moderately fast and live a healthy 80+ years of age. I can't help but think that dumping high amounts of carbs into the body, despite the reason, will have the same results long-term... i.e., insulin resistance and potentially Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Most of the videos I've watched regarding cycling nutrition that state that a high carb diet is the way to go feature relatively young cyclists in their 20s or 30s. It's also apparent that the focus is on winning races and being fast, not necessarily on being healthy. When one is young, you can put just about anything in your body and it'll work, but as one ages, suddenly some of the habits of one's youth start to catch-up with you.

If you've experiment with high-fat diets and high-carb diets, what are your thoughts? Is the high-carb / high-performance diet of most athletes sustainable and 'healthy' or simply a "performance at all costs" diet?
i read all the fat adapted stuff and was lchf for about 2 years.

it is not easy to adhere to

i felt great on it. my endurance was off the chart. think everready bunny

i think the mistake newbie fat adapted riders make is not eating any carbs on long rides.

wrt to type2 diabetes and other self inflicted syndromes, i do think diet plays a big role
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Old 10-04-21, 12:03 PM
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You can do with your diet what you want. But for while you are actually on the bike, I wouldn't think consuming carb's will be any issue for ones long term health. It's not like you are completely replenishing with carbs the amount of carbs you burn. Because you can't.

So the bulk of what affects you long term is going to be what you eat off the bike, and if you aren't a pro trying to get back the 20,000 Calories you burned that day then most any diet you care to eat or believe is extra healthy for long term will provide for the measly 2000 maybe as much as 4000 or so Calories we lower life cyclist will burn. And we won't even burn that every day like the pro's will.
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Old 10-04-21, 12:32 PM
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Diabetes and heart disease have genetic components, but being overweight or obese are major risk factors and possibly causes. Carbs can be bad for your health if you already have T2D, but if not they're perfectly healthy and the same foods that have complex carbohydrates have fiber which you need for good health.
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Old 10-06-21, 10:08 AM
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IMHO carbs aren't the problem as much as what those carbs come from. I personally think many cyclists consume too many "energy" bar type processed snacks. The best diet will contain a large variety of the most nutritious foods with the least amount of unhealthy ingredients. Getting anyone to agree on what is healthy and what isn't, is a daunting task. Personally I eat mostly whole unprocessed foods including carbs. I will make my own energy bars with toasted oats, dates, dried fruit and berries. The one thing I don't do is trust the food industry with my health.
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Old 10-06-21, 10:58 AM
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I'm 76 and have eaten a high carb, high protein, moderate fat natural foods diet, sort of a Mediterranean diet, for the past 55 years. I'm fine. I'm agnostic about the natural foods part. When I'm riding hard, I absolutely do not eat natural, I eat super high carb weird stuff which works like rocket fuel. The trick is that one has to burn what one eats. It's not complicated. Really, it's not. Eat what makes you fast, not too much. Off the bike, my nigh carb natural diet works very well. One does need to replace carbs burned on the bike or at the gym. You can tell you need more carbs on the bike if you keep bonking or losing power. If you watch your heart rate, you'll see it drop. You can tell you need more protein if your legs are always sore. You don't need much fat, but you need some. By "losing power," I mean dropping back to a bit below the speed you had when you ate more ketogenic.

As regards ultra endurance athletes, some do eat high fat which works well for them because their power output is low. A 4 mph average in hilly terrain is good. That said, Anish, who I believe still has the fastest known time for an unsupported hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail (over 2600 miles and 421,000' of elevation gain in ~60 days) ate mostly energy bars and gels plus a protein shake in the morning. Yes, that's over 43 miles every day. She's nuts but seems very healthy.
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Old 10-06-21, 11:26 AM
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My personal beliefs are that continual carbs are less necessary to someone who has adapted to burning fat. If anyone is used to eating high carbs they will need a continual supply to keep going. A fat adapted person in ketosis won't run out of fuel as fast as a carb burner without refueling. If our ancestors would have had to eat carbs every 2 hours to keep from failing the human race would have starved out long ago. Research how blood sugar levels work and the processes involved and how ketosis works for a better understanding of differences and limitations of each.
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Old 10-06-21, 06:19 PM
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In terms of health, the gentle reader can find all we currently know about diet and its effect on health right here:
https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10...-032013-182351
All the various forms of healthy diets can be summarized as "eat food, mostly plants, not too much."

After reading that, one will have to give a little thought to how these various healthy diets can be used to support an athletic lifestyle and high achievement. Basically, we don't go fast without a lot of carbs. The diet of a Kenyan marathon runner is about 25% white sugar. A rider I know who won the Furnace Creek 508 in ~24 hours went through 19 bottles of Ensure plus a good quantity of other high-carb drinks, all liquid food if I remember right.

We don't necessarily have to aspire to that level of achievement, but OTOH we don't want to be off the back. On our tandem, my wife consumes nothing except Ensure during rides. Otherwise, we eat a Med diet. Gotta do what ya gotta do.
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Old 10-07-21, 11:24 AM
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Everything in moderation, including sobriety.
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Old 10-07-21, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by blacknbluebikes View Post
Everything in moderation, including sobriety.
True, but abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.
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Old 10-08-21, 10:50 AM
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hmm. nothing versus an imperfect something. interesting choice.
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Old 10-30-21, 03:42 PM
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Carbohydrates have never been something forbidden or harmful. The key is to understand what kind of carbs you are consuming. If you eat fast carbs, you'll gain weight. If you eat complex carbohydrates then you can ride a bike and be full. Giving up carbohydrates is not a good idea, you will become exhausted and fatigued very quickly and you will end up crashing and gaining weight. That's why it's better to eat everything in a balanced way.
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Old 11-02-21, 06:30 AM
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Complex carbohydrates are a horrible idea if you're riding a bike hard. The problem with riding hard for prolonged periods is how to digest a sufficient amount of calories so your glycogen stores don't get close to depletion which would kill your power and speed. If you're burning 800, 900, 1000 kcal/hr, plus, it's not the time to be thinking about wholesome healthy foods, you want the maximum amount of glucose and fructose you can digest.

If you're riding easy, then you don't need much in terms of carbohydrates anyway (depending on fitness and so on).

Off the bike, the research on what's healthy can be summed up as "eat moderate amounts of varied food, lots of it being preferably plants, avoid high calorie density foods".
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Old 11-02-21, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Branko D View Post
Complex carbohydrates are a horrible idea if you're riding a bike hard. The problem with riding hard for prolonged periods is how to digest a sufficient amount of calories so your glycogen stores don't get close to depletion which would kill your power and speed. If you're burning 800, 900, 1000 kcal/hr, plus, it's not the time to be thinking about wholesome healthy foods, you want the maximum amount of glucose and fructose you can digest.

If you're riding easy, then you don't need much in terms of carbohydrates anyway (depending on fitness and so on).

Off the bike, the research on what's healthy can be summed up as "eat moderate amounts of varied food, lots of it being preferably plants, avoid high calorie density foods".
While that may be true overall, I personally think it's not healthy to just eat whatever you want. I would much rather get my glucose and fructose from 100% natural sources than from a bunch of candy bars or energy bars. I just think it would be much healthier in the long term. The food industry is a lot more interested in their profit than in your long term health.
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Old 11-03-21, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
All the various forms of healthy diets can be summarized as "eat food, mostly plants, not too much."
Originally Posted by Branko D View Post
Off the bike, the research on what's healthy can be summed up as "eat moderate amounts of varied food, lots of it being preferably plants, avoid high calorie density foods".
yes, this. to a large degree, people choose to believe the research which aligns with their personal wishes. research that says natural, plant-based, unprocessed foods rich in vitamins, fiber, minerals are good for you: nah. research that says fatty tasty foods are good for you? yessssss

my father was quite a contrarian, a brilliant man who really truly believed (because he was a contrarian and wanted to believe) all the atkins type HFLC fads of the early millenium. exercised almost every day into his late 70s. died from complications of a stroke during triple bypass surgery to deal with coronaries which were 95% blocked. i'm pretty sure the exercise and veggies didn't put it there.

Last edited by mschwett; 11-03-21 at 08:33 PM.
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Old 11-04-21, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by mschwett View Post
yes, this. to a large degree, people choose to believe the research which aligns with their personal wishes. research that says natural, plant-based, unprocessed foods rich in vitamins, fiber, minerals are good for you: nah. research that says fatty tasty foods are good for you? yessssss

my father was quite a contrarian, a brilliant man who really truly believed (because he was a contrarian and wanted to believe) all the atkins type HFLC fads of the early millenium. exercised almost every day into his late 70s. died from complications of a stroke during triple bypass surgery to deal with coronaries which were 95% blocked. i'm pretty sure the exercise and veggies didn't put it there.
To anyone trying to study and research a healthy diet, and just what that really means, it can be quite confusing to read all sorts of seemingly contradictory data. I also agree that most people tend to scan the surface and cherry pick the info and studies that they like. I mean I can find studies about how healthy bacon is, or studies on how wonderfully healthy cholate is. Then I can use that great new info to know that my bacon and egg breakfast, and Hershey bar snack before my bike ride is leading me on the road to health. If I just stopped a minuet and really thought about it though, I might realize that while I might be OK to enjoy some quality Bacon not pumped full of chemicals every once a while, having it once a day or even once a week might not be as good of an idea. That Hershey candy bar also may not be my best choice to get any real health benefits from consuming Cholate either.

If however I want to know the real answers to what the best way for humans to eat is, I will have to look at the Meta analysis studies comprised of decades long studies ,rather than click bate studies done over 6 months with 500 people . Some of the best info about the best human diet can be found in the Blue zone studies comprised of the longest lived and generally seemingly healthy populations around the world.
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Old 11-08-21, 12:32 PM
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As others have said, the answers are complex and personal.

I was a carb animal for most of my life. for the last 10 years, I've also been a good weight (usually 160-165 lbs at 5'10") and I exercise like crazy (seldom fewer than 5k miles/year, on good years more like 7-9k).

Also, I am celiac, which beginning about 8 years ago, meant that eliminated many types of grain in my diet. My carb-animal habits largely made me into a rice-animal. And mostly white rice.

I figured that as long as I was burning it all, I didn't have to worry. But my fasting blood sugar crept up. First up to about 90 mg/dL, then above 100, then around 105-115 mg/dL. Clearly, I was on my way to T2D.

So I've changed my diet A LOT* and a year later, I'm down to 90 mg/dL. Considering that I'm skinny and exercising all the time, this isn't so great. I think I probably have some genetic predispositions to fend off. But definitely gorging on white rice was just wrong.

I still consume those "bad" sugary things during my bike rides. I don't think those harm me at all because I don't take in huge amounts at a time and so my blood sugar doesn't spike. I favor energy chews, and I don't eat a whole pack at once. I eat 2-3 individual chews and then later, 2-3 more. It was those large carb-rich meals that led to those awful post-prandial stupor-naps that were doing me harm, I believe.
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Old 11-09-21, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield View Post
Apparently a low-carb diet works well for ultra-endurance athletes as one doesn't need to be eating all the time to replenish glucose. While I'm no ultra-endurance athlete, not needing to eat on riders between 40 and 80 miles is definitely something I've never been able to do before without bonking hard.
It works well because they are not at high intensities. It depends on how the body produces energy. And at lower intensities it uses fat. For everyone. For most of the energy generation. And you can better train this than via low carb training.


It is in German but you can skip to 23:00 and just look at the graph they are talking about. They do confirm that fasted training or low carb only makes sense long term, as you say you can't just try it a couple weeks. But watching it, I got the gist that they think if you want to increase the watts at which you still predominantly use fat, you do it via training and not just via diet. This can include low carb (but not no-carb) training sessions. Dan Lorang, one of the speakers is Jan Frodeno's (and Anna Haug's) coach and works for Bora-Hansgrohe, too.
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Old 11-09-21, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield View Post
TL;DR
Is a high carb diet used by the majority of athletes good for one's long-term health off the bike or is this a "high performance despite the long-term health risks" diet?

Almost all articles I've read and videos I've watched on cycling nutrition are focused solely on performance on the bike, but few of them talk about the impact of a high carb diet on one's health in terms of heart disease, diabetes, etc. I don't doubt that "carb the f#$k-up" will help win races, but is this a good dietary lifestyle for long term health off the bike?

The Long Story
I started on the journey of becoming "fat adapted" several years ago. I.e., I started eating more food high in "healthy fats" as opposed to high carbohydrate foods as well a intermittent and longer duration fasting (3 - 7 days w/o food). I don't go so far as to say I have a ketogenic diet, but certainly eat more nuts, avocados, olive oil, butter, etc., than I used to eat. Initially, I was seeing no real benefit to this new high fat diet. I was still hungry a lot and nothing changed when riding my bike. It was a year later that I started noticing changes... and was a little freaked-out. I started realizing that I no longer felt hungry all the time, I wasn't feeling sleepy shortly after eating a meal, and what was the most interesting was that I was able to ride my bike on 60+ mile rides w/o bonking and hardly any food at all (Heck, I've never "bonked" since eating more fats.). I'm assuming this meant that it took a while for my body to become "fat adapted"... i.e., it could use either carbs or fat as a fuel source.

The core reason I opted to start eating more fat was the observation that so many people are obese and dyeing of heart disease and type 2 diabetes... and doing so at younger and younger ages. The research I've done points to this health crisis to be the result of a high carb, low fat diet that's been sold to us as being "healthy" for the past 50 years or so. As much as I love cycling, I only care about being fast on my bike if it actually is improving my health. Being the fastest cyclist on the planet that dies at age 50 isn't of interest to me. I'd rather be moderately fast and live a healthy 80+ years of age. I can't help but think that dumping high amounts of carbs into the body, despite the reason, will have the same results long-term... i.e., insulin resistance and potentially Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Most of the videos I've watched regarding cycling nutrition that state that a high carb diet is the way to go feature relatively young cyclists in their 20s or 30s. It's also apparent that the focus is on winning races and being fast, not necessarily on being healthy. When one is young, you can put just about anything in your body and it'll work, but as one ages, suddenly some of the habits of one's youth start to catch-up with you.

If you've experiment with high-fat diets and high-carb diets, what are your thoughts? Is the high-carb / high-performance diet of most athletes sustainable and 'healthy' or simply a "performance at all costs" diet?
That is not entirely true. For one, this is largely due to fast food type food which sure as hell is full of fat and processed food. And fats themselves aren't all the same. Plant >>>> animal fat for example. The same goes for carbs. Yea, if you pump processed sugar into your system that may not be a good idea. But things made from whole grain are healthy. Lentils, beans, and other legumes are healthy.

It sounds like your diet works for you, great, stick to it. Personally, I haven't changed my diet because of cycling, I do just eat more on days where I burned a lot, and yes, my diet consists of a lot of carbs. It works for me.
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Old 11-10-21, 01:56 AM
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benhlth
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Eat natural food is best but I recently found some of the meal replacement shakes with impressive results.
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Old 03-22-22, 01:10 PM
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For an athlete, it is very important not so much proper nutrition as a rational ratio of all macro-and microelements. Unless, of course, you want your body to function fully. If I haven't convinced you, go to https://writix.co.uk/essay-examples/health and read the health essay example to understand the importance of a healthy diet, especially if you have daily exercise. Take care and love your body, and then it will serve you for a long time.

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