This post, we received quite a number of email questions from professional and amateur athletes on the topic of sports performance and high protein diets.
Q: I wanted to lose 10 pounds so I went on the Atkin’s diet. I am a runner and now my performance is suffering. Why?
A: Go back and re-read our prior emails on high protein diets. In short, high protein diets are useful for the proverbial “couch potato” or those who are not terribly active. It is a prescription for disaster for anyone who is moderately active or above. These diets were designed to help the obese drop fat (which is great), NOT to improve athletic performance. In fact, they are a disaster for performance. Power, endurance, stamina and strength will decrease as a result of carb reduction or elimination. Runners refer to this as “hitting the wall.” It is a result of glucose depletion. Glucose is the main fuel for the brain and the central nervous system. When these levels are low, the body will “shut down” or “boink,” which is a defense mechanism to preserve the remaining amount of glucose. In addition, when carbs are cut, so too are essential vitamins, minerals fiber and other essential substances the body needs for basic functioning, yet alone exceptional performance.
Q: What is the recommended diet for performance and to help drop some weight?
A: Three meals per day, with the percentage breakdown of 50-60% carbs, 30-40% protein and around 10% of healthy fats. These percentages must be adjusted based upon how hard or lightly you are training. Watch the sugar and you will be fine.
Q: What about one big meal per day?
A: In short, AVOID. Let me use a unique example of the Sumo wrestlers as an illustration. These individuals are about the size of a mobile home. They average some 400-500+ pounds and have the following dietary habits: – They awaken and meditate to keep their metabolism and heart rates down. This typically takes about an hour. (Remember, their goal is to keep their weight high. As such, they need a slow metabolism.) – they then eat their one and only meal of the day, consisting of oily cabbage, fatty cuts of meat and sugar-based foods.
(One meal slows the metabolism while smaller and more frequent feedings increase metabolism.) – Rest for another hour. – They then work out at extremely high intensities for a short duration, again consisting of about 1 full hour. (This will burn glucose, not fat.) This is followed by another session of meditation. – To assist sleep, they consume wine before bed. (Sugar before sleep will increase fat.)
Need I say more. . .
Q: What about 4-6 small meals per day?
A: In some community, this is popular advice. It is also horrible advice.
4-6 small meals will overwork the pancreas and contribute to diabetes and other types of sugar-based problems. The pancreas is designed to release insulin 2-3 times per day only. If you are eating 6 meals a day you are overworking this vital organ.