In this episode of the Athletes Compass podcast, hosts Paul Warloski and Paul Laursen, along with guest Marjaana Rakai, delve into the controversial yet increasingly popular topic of low carb, high fat (LCHF) diets for endurance athletes. They discuss the principles behind LCHF, its intended effects on performance and health, and the challenges athletes face in adapting to this dietary approach. The episode aims to shed light on the benefits and misconceptions surrounding LCHF diets, providing listeners with insights into how they can optimize their nutrition for endurance sports.

Key Episode Takeaways:

  • LCHF diets focus on reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing fat consumption to improve athletic performance and overall health.
  • Fat adaptation allows athletes to efficiently utilize fat as a fuel source, extending their endurance and reducing reliance on carbohydrates.
  • The debate surrounding LCHF diets stems from evolving scientific understanding and individual differences in response to dietary changes.
  • Implementing an LCHF diet requires careful planning and adaptation, with a focus on consuming whole, unprocessed foods.
  • Athletes should listen to their bodies and experiment to find the nutritional approach that works best for their individual needs and goals.

Paul Warloski (00:37)

and welcome to the Athletes Compass podcast where we navigate training, fitness and health for everyday athletes. Today, today we are talking about nutrition and we are accepting that we're going to get possibly some grief for these episodes because the subject of nutrition has been changing so much in the past decade. And we are learning so much more lately about what really does work for endurance athletes to improve their performance.

Paul Laursen (00:41)

training, fitness, and health for everyday athletes. Today we are talking about nutrition and we are accepting that we're going to get possibly some grief for these episodes because the subject of nutrition has been changing so much in the past decade and we are learning so much more lately about what really does work for endurance athletes to improve their performance and health. Sometimes change is controversial.

Paul Warloski (01:06)

and health and sometimes change is controversial. So Paul and Marjaana we're purposely stepping on some landmines today to talk about what works nutrition because it gets confusing because literally people tell us to train fasted or without eating and others tell us to consume as much carbohydrate as possible. So we have both ends of that spectrum, but surely the truth lies somewhere in between someplace along that.

Paul Laursen (01:10)

So, Paul and Marjaana, we're purposely stepping on some landmines today to talk about what works nutrition, because it gets confusing.

tell us to train fasted or without eating and others tell us to consume as much carbohydrate as possible. So we have both ends of that spectrum but surely the truth lies somewhere in between, someplace along that continuum. Both of you are proponents of a low carb, high fat diet for everyday endurance athletes. So let's focus on that first. This week we're going to focus on...

Paul Warloski (01:35)

continuum. Both of you are proponents of a low carb, high fat diet for everyday endurance athletes. So let's focus on that first. This week, we're going to focus on explaining the value of that kind of nutrition of the low carbohydrate, high fat diet. And next week, we'll get specific on coaching me because I don't really know what I'm doing on how I should adapt my diet. So these are going to be.

Paul Laursen (01:48)

explain the value of that kind of nutrition of a low carbohydrate high fat diet. Next week we'll get specific coaching from me because I don't really know what I'm doing and how I should adapt my diet. So these are going to be epic and great episodes. Let's start. Explain for us please, the two of you, for the everyday athletes, what are the basic principles behind the low carbohydrate high fat diet and its intended effects on the athlete's body and mind.

Paul Warloski (02:03)

Epic and great episodes. Let's start. Explain for us, please, the two of you, for the everyday athletes, what are the basic principles behind the low carbohydrate, high fat diet and its intended effects on the athlete's body and their performance?

Paul Laursen (02:20)

Well, I just want to start by saying that we probably might have lost like half of our audience. They might have just like, you know, switched to a different podcast after you mentioned that Marjaana and Paul are advocates of an LCHF, a low carb high fat diet. But let me just kind of explain first of all why it is a little bit controversial.

it's going to be controversial these topics because everyone out there is an expert. Everyone's got their own context. We're all experts because we all eat. So we all have our own experience and we all, you know, that's that everyone has their own kind of bias. It's very similar to politics and religion because, you know, everyone will have their own mindset and belief in these sorts of items. And we all feel that our

our stance is the right one. So with that being said, it is nice to look at different viewpoints. And especially when we're concerned about the sport of, you know, endurance sports in general, that's generally what we focus on in Athletica. It's in, you know, we need to be taking a, you know, a scientific process, a reverse engineering analysis of,

You know, what is it that's going to help our performance at the end of the day? And maybe even helping our health and recovery. That's certainly of relevance as well. And yeah, I guess to finally get to your question, Paul, you know, said, what are some of the principles of having a lower carbohydrate than a higher amount?

Well, maybe actually, I want to flip it actually. Let's start with, I want to flip it and start, well, what's the principles of the high carb diet first? And the, you know, because this is where I started and sorry to be robbing the microphone here, but I started with high carb stuff and I was, I actually invented an app called Neverbonk and we spent a lot of money into this app called Neverbonk. And it was looking at optimizing how much,

carbs and gels and sugar that you should take on in any event so that you could kind of calculate it out and push out your amounts to 90 grams per hour. So I was really looking at helping to optimize. Now, that switched for me when I realized that that was probably not the science I wanted because the...

If you're taking that mindset, you're all about carbohydrates, which are the, it's like the gasoline. You're like, you know, you're, when you're taking on carbohydrates, you're putting gasoline in your engine, right? You're like kerosene over top of it. And that's great. That's a hot, that's a fast fuel, burns super hot, but it can burn out rather quickly and doesn't, it isn't always the best fuel for the long go. And what do we do when we,

are in ultra long kind of distance events, whether it's, you know, grand Fondo cycling, or it is, you know, 70 .3 or Ironman or ultra marathons, you really want to have the lower end, the ability to burn fat dialed in. And you don't just have to do that with training. You can also get an extra leverage with if you know how to move the levers with your nutrition.

And that includes not even what you eat, but also the timing of when you eat those sorts of things as well. So I've spoken a lot and there's so much more, but maybe I'll just pause there so I don't rob the whole mic. But Marjaana do you want to add anything?

Marjaana Rakai (06:23)

How ironic, Neverbonk? So you were trying not to bonk until you found a way to like push the bonk.

Paul Laursen (06:25)

Yes, I know.

Paul Warloski (06:26)


Paul Laursen (06:36)

Yeah, what is bonking for the listener out there? What kind of bonking are we talking about?

Marjaana Rakai (06:38)

Yeah, let's talk about bonking People talk about hitting the wall or bonking, just don't have any energy. Motivation, like for example after 30k marathon running, motivation to cross the finish line is high, but you just can't bring yourself to run any faster. And oftentimes you end up walking. That's bonking.

Paul Laursen (06:45)

There you go.

I can remember my worst bonk. And that was, well, I remember I was a young triathlete and I remember being out for, you know, it was a monster ride. But for whatever reason, I was just, like, I was almost, almost came off my bike. It was so bad. Like there was so little energy in my brain, in my mind that,

Marjaana Rakai (07:12)

Let's hear it.

Paul Laursen (07:36)

Yeah, I think I did. I laid over in the grass and I was wondering, can I get some nutrients out of this grass as I lay there? It was that bad. So those of us that have experienced this know how bad this, you know, hitting the wall can get. So yeah, this is, you know, and I had no more food on me. So it was just like I was lost out there in the farm fields.

Paul Warloski (07:44)



Paul Laursen (08:04)

pit meadows around Vancouver where I used to train. So anyways, so it can get really bad. What's interesting is it doesn't have to be that way. And this is where we'll get to, but you have to do a few things first.

Paul Warloski (08:20)

of the things that are a challenge with the carbohydrates. Maybe we should go there first. What are some of the issues with the high carbohydrate, low fat diet that, you know, honestly, and you know this, that that's kind of the current way of thinking of that's what, you know, I see articles about the pros, you know, trying to get 120 grams or more.

into their bodies, you know, 120 grams an hour has a lot of carbohydrate. So, what is wrong with that way of thinking for the everyday athletes?

Paul Laursen (09:00)

Yes, well, hey, these guys are doing that. So before we say it's not possible, we know it's possible. So you can go that way. But it doesn't work really well for everyone. And there's some fundamental principles that we should take on board first when we step back and try to figure out

as an individual, what's going to work for me? Well, you're an individual listening to this. You're going to have, when you take on your carbohydrate or your sugar, you have to have what's called an insulin response, right? Insulin is the primary and central hormone that is produced by your pancreas and its job is to stabilize your blood glucose and to bring the glucose into

Marjaana Rakai (09:49)

is to stabilize your life and to bring those into the sounds that you hear.

Paul Laursen (09:56)

the cells that need it, the muscle cells predominantly. And that insulin rises in proportion to the level of carbohydrate or sugar that you pull into your body. And herein lies potentially the problem because many of us have heard of this problem. It's called insulin resistance. So you can be resistant to any hormone or any substance, but when you get...

Marjaana Rakai (10:18)

It's called.

Paul Laursen (10:25)

a lot of insulin all the time. For example, if you're always having carbohydrate, you've got to always have insulin, generally speaking.

there's another mechanism that causes your, basically the cells of your muscles to open up and take on the glucose. So that is separate from the insulin. But in general, insulin is the primary lock and key sort of mechanism. You gotta have,

insulin present for the lock to be open and for glucose to come into the cell. But like so many other different things, if you're always hitting the key, if the keys are all over the place, the cell isn't as good at responding to that and opening over time, and you need more and more and more and more. And that's the vicious cycle that you wind up having. And that eventually drives you into,

type two diabetes, you become officially insulin resistant. And we know this actually, this goes right to you, the athlete that's listening. And there are so many athletes, sadly, that we have seen, that we've worked with in the Olympic programs in New Zealand and Australia, and we look at them now and sadly, they are not what you would expect of a lifelong athlete.

They've finished their careers and these are individuals that have won Olympic gold medals and they are now overweight and they have chronic illness. I can't say that the practices that they were doing when they were young were leading to that.

but it certainly could be the case. So this definitely has, it has relevance to your longevity, to your health. And that's what we also wanna optimize that with what we're trying to do here with Athletica. So yeah, insulin is the primary problem when you're always hitting it, hitting your body with carbohydrates.

Paul Warloski (12:40)

So how do we know that we are insulin resistant? What are some ways that we can figure that out?

Paul Laursen (12:50)

So you will know if you're, and thanks for asking that. It's a great question. And I would think, you know, a lot of my education, I revert to the great Dr. Phil Maffetone who's written chapter seven for us in, in HIT Science and the nutrition chapter. And, you know, he, he says the key thing that you will know if you are insulin, insulin resistant.

is you'll start to be what he terms over fat. And there's no shame in the word, but you just have more, you're carrying around more fat than you know is ideal. And typically you're also carrying that fat in your abdominal region. For some reason, most of that,

Most times when you're over fat, the body tends to store it in the abdominal region. So that tends to be where it sits. So you'll all of a sudden have a waist size that might be inappropriate relative to what's ideal, right? And I think there's some formulas as well that Phil purports as well that it's something like you wanna have your waist size

Marjaana Rakai (14:11)

under 50 percent.

Paul Laursen (14:13)

under 50 % of your height. That's right. Thanks, thanks, Marjaana. Exactly. So if you as long as you're yeah, that's how you can kind of sort of self assess whether you're you're, you know, you've potentially got some of that going on. Other other means you're, you're probably you almost know when you don't respond well to carbohydrate foods, right? Like you kind of, if you're always hungry, that's definitely so that's definitely something. So if you're always hungry, like in other words,

A meal with carbohydrate really just isn't hitting the, it's hardly hitting the sides, is what we would sort of say. And like, you know, like you just, it's not satiating. That's one, might be one thing that also tells you that you might be a little bit insulin resistant. And that's because, you know, insulin is, its job is to get that fuel inside the body. It's an anabolic hormone. So all of a sudden, if you're eating and you're not getting, you know, that,

if it's not really doing the job, well, then you're insulin resistant. It means you're always gonna have to eat to get to the hunger level. You're always gonna be hungry. So if you're always hungry, that's a classic, another sign that you might be potentially insulin resistant and you might wanna switch up the fuel sources that you're having. The over fat, the hunger.

looking in the mirror, really, really simple, but it's just actually looking in the mirror is another one. And I think those are probably the big ones.

Marjaana Rakai (15:49)

Maybe I can jump in here and tell my experience. I was training for Full Ironman and as the current sports nutrition advice goes, I was trying to feed myself with carbs during my rides. I would get into like living in Dubai, we would have this beautiful bike track that I miss. But around...

100 Ks in, I would have to stop and drink a Coke or Pepsi and eat an ice cream and flush it down with coffee to just like energize myself to go further. While also my sports bar, there would be grapes and jelly beans and gummy bears, sandwiches. It was just like eating fest

Paul Warloski (16:40)


Marjaana Rakai (16:46)

while I was riding my bike. Buffet, yeah, as it goes. And, you know, like it's hot, it's humid. You need more carbs. You need more energy, you know? So I would just eat. And before a ride, it would be a breakfast, you know, oatmeal, very carb heavy. And during the rides, I would start like really feeling fatigued and like I can't keep up my power.

Paul Laursen (16:48)


Paul Warloski (16:50)


Marjaana Rakai (17:15)

This went on like months, so it wasn't that I wasn't fit. But then after the rides, I would just be so tired that I just wanted to watch Netflix on the couch. And some days I had to, I just didn't have any energy. And I started having like these visual impairments during the ride, some of the long, long rides. Like I would have a hard time just, you know,

figuring out where I'm going. And yeah, I started to gain weight, especially around belly. And just wasn't feeling good. Granted, some of this was probably associated that I pushed a little bit too far, but my high carb diet didn't help.

Paul Laursen (18:07)

I mean, Marjaana, the key thing is that Marjaana added a fourth point on another a signal that you might be insulin resistant. And the fourth one there is the fact that you're, you've got like a chronic fatigue after your, your, your training. Now we're all, we're often always tired and stuff after our training, but there, there is, there is kind of a difference. So.

You don't have to be that tired. Marjaana is smiling and so I know she knows this, right? Like there's a, yeah, you don't have to be sitting on the couch all the rest of the day kind of thing. And if you have to do that, you might be, you know, you might be partly insulin resistant. Your fuel sources might be the reason. And why? It's because your fat, your flow of energy coming out from your fat cells is probably just not optimized.

And so yeah, so you just always sort of feel low with energy. And you don't want that as a high performer. Most people listening to this are, they're high performers, right? So you've got a, it's more than just your sport and all these sorts of things. You're performing in your work as well. And so having a steady stream of energy throughout your day is something that you probably would value. I know you value.

Marjaana Rakai (19:27)

Yeah, absolutely. Cognitive capability was very low. After lunch, training in the morning, after lunch, it was always a nap time because I just couldn't do anything. I was just so tired all the time. You want to be present with your family and your friends and in your work. And if you're always just fatigued, it's not a way to be.

Paul Warloski (19:52)

So What does the current research say about the efficacy of this low carb, high fat diet for performance and for health? I mean, how is it actually working for people?

Paul Laursen (20:09)

Yeah, it's really mixed, I think, Paul. And this is why you started reminding us that this is a bit of a landmine sort of field, right? Like, you're going to see different sources telling you different things. And one thing I will say is that this comes directly from

Phil Maffetone in our course. It doesn't, like all carbs are not bad, all fats not bad. You can find bad sources of fat and you can find bad sources of carbs, which is just sugar, right? And probably same with protein too, right? Protein and meat sources can be ultra processed. At the end of the day,

the main thing we want is sort of this slow release of fuel into the body. And that can be done usually, that can be done a bunch of different ways. If you are insulin resistant, an ideal strategy is to probably take away the thing first that's making you insulin resistant. And that's usually excessive carbohydrates. So there's almost kind of this progressive approach.

if you want to change things. And if you are, you know, if any of this, these symptoms are resonating with you, the listener, you might want to go through a phase where you're, you know, really removing the key source that's causing insulin to be pushed. And that's most of the carbohydrates. First of all, sugar, but then, you know, secondary.

a lot of the carbohydrate sources. We're talking things like your pastas, your rice and potatoes, your bread, things, gluten is probably not your friend. Well, you keep, be mindful of your lactose levels as well. Those are, when those items are lowered or reduced or eliminated, there's usually good things that are kind of around the corner.

And then, there's a big difference between, you know, a gel that you're cracking versus an apple, right? Like an apple is probably gonna be very slow to release that it's glucose into the system. so, you know, they're completely sort of, they're both carbohydrates, but one is a natural form.

versus the other. So as a general approach, whatever you're consuming, the more it can come from Mother Nature, whether it's carbohydrate, fat or protein, the less processed it is, the better. And just take all the low carb versus high carb religion out of it. It's just like, if you can kind of go back to fundamentals there with what Mother Nature kind of put in front of you.

then you're gonna be absolutely doing really, really well. But yeah, there can be sort of this process, this emphasis in the beginning, if you're just starting out on this process and you might wanna lower the carb angle first, if you're on what would be called like a traditional high carb diet.

Paul Warloski (23:35)

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (23:42)

And I think there's lots of misconception about the whole.

Paul Warloski (23:47)

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (23:48)

ketogenic diet. And a lot of people talk about, oh, you should not restrict anything. You should be eating anything you want. And I don't believe in restriction at all. But I also think that, like you say, Paul, we need to go back.

Paul Warloski (23:53)


Marjaana Rakai (24:14)

couple of decades when we didn't go into grocery store to get like our 10 pack of bars that are full of sugar. You can't even find oatmeal without added sugar in the store. You know, like low carb, I don't, like I'm eating low carb, but I don't count my calories. I don't track my macros. I'm eating, you know,

Paul Warloski (24:23)


Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (24:45)

all colors. That's what I try to do. I try to eat all colors. And I did a period of time where I tracked everything and I learned what everything like how many carbs does, you know, red onion have. And so I educated myself for a while to understand like what.

Paul Warloski (24:47)


Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (25:09)

food items have lots of carbs in them. And then I just choose, like you said, if I can pull it out of the ground, it's good, or chase it down, it's good. And when I go to grocery store, I try to avoid the middle aisles. So those are like my principles. But I think a lot of people don't understand that low carb is not the same as keto.

Paul Warloski (25:15)


Marjaana Rakai (25:36)

And there's like, I'm not restricting anything. I'm just eating really healthy.

Paul Laursen (25:42)

Yeah, for sure. And here's the thing is if you are an athlete and you're doing a bunch of training and you're eating like Marjaana says, you don't even realize it, but you wind up being a keto athlete anyways because you're always burning calories and you wind up keeping your insulin level low just through the combination of the exercise and then the healthy eating.

And then, so you get the same benefit. So there's a, just to be clear listener, there are a bunch of studies that show the benefits of a ketogenic diet. And it's like, it's used, here's one of my key books from Tim, right? Like it's an actual clinical like method, right? Of reversing diabetes in...

in individuals, right? So there's a whole bunch of bunch of benefits that from from cell signaling and telling yourselves to be younger from the energetic properties of the ketones themselves. Ketones are what's produced when you only have fat available and your liver basically converts them into something that can be taken up by your brain. Because you can imagine that we didn't

In the, you know, I guess the evolutionary times, if we didn't have sugar available, your brain had it, your brain, it needs, it can only process glucose. So it had to invent something else that it could process and ketones were what it invented where it basically, it takes your fat stores, it rips them apart and it converts them to three different ketones that can be taken up by your brain. And it just so happens that when your brain is taking up those ketones,

Paul Warloski (27:29)

Thank you.

Paul Laursen (27:36)

you're actually even more alert and energetic. They actually provide more energy per unit of ATP. They give you more bang for buck ultimately, and the more free energy ultimately. So yeah, you get those same benefits is what I was saying, even by just having an exercise and a healthy diet kind of program.

And this is why actually athletes are primed to be able to adapt to this diet so much more than a sedentary individual. Athletes find this actually quite easy and they adapt quite quickly to a lower carb diet. They can do this a lot easier than say someone that's very sedentary and very insulin resistant.

Paul Warloski (28:29)

Why is that?

Paul Laursen (28:30)

because they're already there. They're halfway there already. They're in general because of their exercise and the fact that exercise is always keeping their insulin levels generally lower than a person who is sedentary. It doesn't take them too long to change over that fuel source because that's the whole purpose of the endurance training. If you're on Athletica you're aerobic rides. Typically what you're trying to do in this is

build your ability to burn fat as a fuel. And you do that by burning more fat and going longer. But here's the twist is that you actually don't have to go as long and as hard to get the same sort of bang for buck if you can pull the nutrition lever as well. So you can, and Dan Plews talks about this all the time, right? Like he compares,

You know, the typical age group or professional, you know, the top age group or professional Ironman triathlete who are training towards 30 and 35 hours per week. Well, you can back that up basically by 10 hours and get the same benefit, but train 10 hours less if you simply know how to move the nutrition lever as well. And train smarter as well. You know, ultimately a lot of the...

the sessions that we program in Athletica. So yeah, you don't have to go out there and just smash yourself for 35 hours to get these aerobic benefits. You can do it also with moving the nutrition needle.

Marjaana Rakai (30:15)

Yeah, and if a listener doesn't know, fat, one gram of fat has nine, nine kilocalories instead of one gram of carbs, which contains four kilocalories. So this will over double as much energy per gram.

Paul Laursen (30:29)


Yeah, and that's a really great point. We sort of should have let off with that, but the other important point is the amount that's stored on us. So in a lean individual, the amount of fat that's stored on us is something like 200,000 kilocalories of energy energy, which is about enough energy.

Marjaana Rakai (30:46)


Paul Laursen (30:59)

I'm in British Columbia, so if you put a gun to my head, I could march up to Mark who's in Palm Springs right now. So, you know, that's how far, that's how much fat I've got in my relatively lean body. But I've only got 2,000 kilocalories or, you know, 350 to 400 grams of carbohydrate in my liver and muscle stores. I can't go very far on that. It's only gonna take me two hours and I'm gonna be done.

So, you know, it's just the level of difference in terms of stored energy on the body is so heavily favored in that of fat. If you can only learn how to open the, you know, the gas hose to allow that energy to come out of your fat storage,

amazing things happen such as, you know, in some of my professional triathletes that I train where they ride eight hours fasted and that sounds crazy and nuts and I don't recommend that the listener does that if they've never, you know, worked up to that but that's what these guys wind up doing and that's the capacity of their ability to reach in there. And here's the crazy thing, I know you guys will know that I'm not crazy but they'll do this and

they'll say they got better after the back half. It got a lot easier in the back half. Yeah, once I hit four hours, it was just, it really felt good. It was just, anyways, it's crazy.

Marjaana Rakai (32:36)

It sounds crazy, but I've witnessed that so many times. It's almost like elevated. It's kind of like a euphoria almost. But a lot of the critics about low carb, they say that it's very restrictive diet and you end up in a low energy availability state.

Paul Laursen (32:51)

Yeah, yeah.

Paul Warloski (33:04)

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (33:05)

you know, REDS and put yourself in the hole.

What are your thoughts about that?

Paul Laursen (33:14)

Yeah, I just don't understand that. here is the thing, and you hear me that harping on about this one, Marjaana, is that, you know, I never want you to be hungry, right? When I was initially coaching this, if you're hungry, you eat, you find something to eat, but try to find something that's healthy to eat. So I'm all for the concept that you said before, where you just, you know, you don't restrict yourself, like,

you know, restrict yourself from sugar that you know is going to be harmful and causing the insulin spikes. But don't restrict yourself from healthy foods. You can have as much healthy foods as you want. And in fact, you should be. So listen to that apestat in your mind and feed it because your cells need that energy. I don't, to me, the whole REDS phenomenon, reduced energy deficiency syndrome,

Marjaana Rakai (33:43)


Paul Laursen (34:08)

doesn't kind of make sense because it to me it it suggests again that insulin is blocking your ability to release energy from your fat cells. That's you know insulin anabolic hormone and it needs to be lowered in my mind so that the fat cells the energy kind of comes out.

I don't believe we should be restricting. I don't think we've totally figured out where REDS sort of sits in this whole thing yet. I think there's other contextual issues that might be confounding our ability to kind of get this one right. But I'm all about bringing on the nutrients on board.

never restricting those, the good nutrients that we need. And it is a problem if we're restricting. But we don't restrict on our diet, do we?

Paul Warloski (35:05)

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (35:06)

No, and you said something that I think is very important here and that's restricting sugar. Our brains are addicted to sugar. It loves it, right? So going from eating whatever and jelly beans, jelly beans, coke during the ride. Oh yeah, my brain loved it. Yay, I can have a coke and not feel bad about it, but emotions and feelings.

are so connected to what we eat. Not everybody, but we have our own relationships with food. Like when we're feeling down or we're feeling bad, we go and grab ice cream or whatever our go -to is. For some people it might be alcohol, right? So, and oftentimes we grow up restricting, you know, what we eat and...

Paul Warloski (35:52)

Thank you.

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (36:03)

As a female, we often restrict what we eat because we want to be lean and we want to be skinny, which is not a way to go if you're an athlete, by the way, like restriction.

Paul Warloski (36:16)

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (36:18)

To me, the hardest part was mentally not take that snack before a ride. You know, like right before a ride, ongoing for a long ride, I need to fuel myself. I need to eat. Um, even though I wasn't hungry, but it was just something that it was so ingrained in my habits to, to do. And I remember the first like fasted runs. It was only 30 minutes.

and then I was like super hungry. So I would go and have a banana with me. So I would just eat the banana after I got so hungry that I had to have something. But then they increased to two hours. I'm like, oh, this is actually pretty good. After two hours, it was like three hours. And slowly it got me up to six and a half hours and just...

freaking amazing. But then the next thing was not fueling for those high interval sessions. So I would have a 30 -30s in the plan, mid -morning, a few hours after breakfast. Normally I would have grabbed a banana or something. And Paul, you said, stay curious.

Paul Laursen (37:12)


Marjaana Rakai (37:41)

you don't need that. So I went and did my 30 30s without that little extra fuel and my performance didn't decline just because I didn't take that banana 15 minutes before or whatnot. So I think.

mentally, because we've been bombarded with all these, you need to eat 120 grams of sugar on your training rides. We've just accustomed to believe all that when we really need to stay curious and explore what our body can work with and work best. And I just have to tell recovery after, you know,

Paul Warloski (38:08)


Marjaana Rakai (38:32)

these long runs, my marathon is coming up this week. First of all, I was not able to run long runs before just recently. And now I did like 30 K weekends back to back and I recover from them. It's unbelievable. Not just the, you know, the runs itself, but just a few days after I'm fine.

Paul Warloski (38:51)

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (39:02)

which is to me, it's just new and pretty awesome.

Paul Warloski (39:06)

So for long workouts, for intensity workouts, don't we need carbohydrate to fuel that kind of intensity because there's just not enough energy in fat to make that happen?

Paul Laursen (39:30)

That's what we've been told, Paul. That's what we've been told. But that's not necessarily the case if you are fat adapted versus a carb adapted athlete. If you're a fat adapted athlete, you will use a lot more fat to do either of those two activities you described, whether it's high intensity work or long duration work.

because you go at your exercise a different way. And something called the crossover point with exercise is delayed in the high fat athlete. The high fat athlete will have, yeah, they'll hold on, they'll continue to burn fat as a fuel.

longer into the higher exercise intensity bands even right up to 90 % of VO2 max, right at your highest exercise intensity, like even when you're doing long intervals, say for example, VO2 max intervals, you're doing those burning probably up to 50 % fat for those where, yeah, we haven't thought that that was possible in the past, but the...

data supports that it actually is. And, you know, it's, again, this is kind of, this will be new for lots of people, but that's, yeah, a lot of the studies that are coming through now are showing that we can burn fat up to, you know, 1 .7, 1 .8 grams per minute, which are really high levels that never thought possible compared to the past.

after you just need a relatively long adaptation period. And you can just imagine the benefits of being able to do that means, doesn't mean you're not gonna use carbohydrates, but you're holding onto them and you're storing them so much better. And it means you have full access to the stored fat on your body. And it means that you can still leverage carbohydrate,

Um, just, uh, you know, softer, um, you don't have to completely rely on it ultimately for, for those high intensity exercise or the long duration exercises. Yeah. You can, you know, for training, you hardly need it. And then even for the race itself, you just need a, you know, you don't need 120 grams per hour. You probably get by quite well with, you know, maybe, you know, it's individual, maybe at 60 grams per hour, but at, um,

And there's some more data that's needed in this. I had Tim Noakes on my podcast, the Training Science Podcast. And he said, we're working on this hypothesis, but all the data that he's seen supports the fact that you really, irrespective of who you are, you simply need to...

hold on to a homeostatic or normal level of blood glucose. However you do that, as long as your blood glucose level isn't falling during exercise, you are going to be able to perform to your max. So if you need 120 grams per hour to keep your blood glucose at five millimoles normal, then great, and that's what you need. But you might also get away with 50 grams per hour, a low amount if you are a fat adapted athlete, you're still

even at high exercise intensities like that you're going at during Ironman, you still might be able to hold that five millimole normal level of glucose and that might be optimal for you. So as we say time and time again in the Athletes Compass podcast, it really comes back to the individual. So take the politics away, think about you, what's working best for you and how can...

How can you be better?

Marjaana Rakai (43:44)

And with the 50 grams an hour, that's still hard to get in 50 grams if you don't like, I don't like gels. I can't. Yeah, that's too. Yeah. Yeah.

Paul Laursen (43:53)

Hmm. Yeah, that's two gels an hour. Two gels an hour if you're on the bike. Right?

Marjaana Rakai (44:00)

I can't even get in one because they just taste so gross and it makes me feel bad. But I do do my jelly beans and whatnot. But if you don't, if you don't have to take 120, how much easier practically it is to plan your, your race because you don't have to haul all these gels and packs and stuff them everywhere. You know, it's so much easier.

Paul Laursen (44:24)

Yeah, and then not only easier from the practicality standpoint, Marjaana, but also what causes what the problem with 120 grams per hour, this is what most athletes come to me for, especially professionals who are trying to do these 120 gram per hour pushes, they come to me and they say, I just bloated, like I just, my stomach was distended. And that's because like there's a fermentation process that is required.

Paul Warloski (44:46)


Paul Laursen (44:52)

to digest carbohydrate, right? It produces gas and we just are not all, you know, accustomed to being able to process that much carbohydrate in our gut itself. And a lot of these guys will have dropped out not for a lack of exercise ability, but for the pain that happened in their gut because the gas pushed out their gut so much.

that the pain was too debilitating and you see them on the side of the road in Kona and they're just, they're walking and they're holding their gut because they're just feeling so bad. And they just, they can't handle that much carbohydrate processing. So this is again, in the low carb situation, you get to a much more manageable amount that the gut can handle and you run free and you run to your ability.

And that's a beautiful thing.

Paul Warloski (45:51)

Dr. Noakes who was on your HIIT Science podcast, he wrote a paper that we're going to include in the show notes and he was talking in that paper about how fat adapted athletes are able to use fats at that higher percentage of VO2 max that you were just talking about and possibly extending the crossover point. Could you explain what exactly a fat adapted athlete, what does that mean?

Paul Laursen (46:17)

Yeah, well that means when you look at that crossover point and what we're talking about is, you know, you're going through your progressive exercise intensity, call it a VO2 max test, for example, and you're going, you know, really easy where you're burning lots of fat, everyone's burning lots of fat, but then you move into the middle part and, you know, high fat athletes are going to be burning more fat and typically high carb athletes are going to be burning less fat.

So the crossover point then in those two athletes is different. The high fat athlete, they cross over later into burning more carbohydrate. They're holding on to their ability to burn fat longer throughout the progressive exercise intensity. So that's what we mean when we're talking about a fat adapted athlete. You're able to burn not as is typical 0 .3 grams per minute.

You're now able to burn up to one point, you know, anything from 1 .1 up to 1 .8 grams per minute of fat. And that means, and you're tearing that fat off of your person, yourself, and the stuff that you're holding onto. Sounds pretty good, right? Like a lot of us want to do that. So that's what, if you're fat adapted, you're doing that all the time. You're doing that when you sleep. You're doing that.

If you're listening to this podcast in any way and you're doing that when you exercise as well. So that's, that's what a fat adapted athlete is. You're not getting hungry and reliant on needing to go to the fridge to have that piece of cake that you know is sitting in there, right? Or whatever. So that's it.

Marjaana Rakai (48:03)

Oh, you can make a really yummy, you know, keto cake or my go -to is some berries with whipped cream and some cinnamon top. Yeah.

Paul Laursen (48:06)

Keto cake?

There you go. There you go. Absolutely you can, for sure. For sure. Yeah.

Paul Warloski (48:18)

So are there long term health implications of following this kind of low carb, high fat diet? Michael Becker, one of my athletes and a medical doctor was concerned when we talked about this about increased cholesterol with the higher fat intake. Is there anything to be worried about with cholesterol or with other health issues?

Paul Laursen (48:44)

Yeah, it's a really good point, Paul, and I'm glad you brought it up. You know, if we even go to the very famous Jeff Volek Faster Study, and just to bring up the Faster Study, basically what Jeff and colleagues did was they took high fat athletes and they took high carb athletes, and both were ultra -distance runners. They ran them through a bunch of tests in the laboratory.

including like one where they ran them on the treadmill for three hours at race pace. And then, but they, and they got a full kit of, of bloods on these guys, both the highs and the, and the low carbs. And one thing that they did find in the low carb athletes was to your point, higher levels of cholesterol in the low carb, the low carb athletes. In other words, something about their chronic consumption,

of fat in the diet, fat and protein, led them to higher levels of cholesterol. Now, begs the question, typically, is that a problem? Now, typically, if we look traditionally to the problem with cholesterol, cholesterol is typically thought to be a marker for heart disease. Doctors get often a little bit concerned when they see higher levels of cholesterol. so,

First of all, we say we don't know and we're not completely dismissing the issue, but it is very consistent across the board. But, you know, just a few points on the issue. Number one, there's only, you know, we don't know if there's a causation issue with high levels of cholesterol in the diet or in the blood and an issue for heart disease. You know, we're talking in athletes right now.

When you're looking at these incredibly gifted athletes, we typically do not see these individuals succumbing to heart disease or heart attacks and these sorts of things. That's not the population that gets these issues. So they could be doing things a different ways. Nevertheless, and all of the other, most of the other studies, it's not a causation, it's a correlation. So there's a relationship between higher levels of cholesterol and heart disease.

in some of these other larger scale studies that they've done. There's also different types of cholesterol as well that, you know, there's HDLs and LDLs and there's these particle size things that are in those as well. And then we should also be really mindful that cholesterol is in all of our cells. It's a very important part of the body. And it's, you know, there's a real negative connotation on

cholesterol itself, but it got a bad name and it's actually pretty critical. You're not gonna survive without cholesterol. So all that kind of to be said is, we'll keep an eye on it, but when you look at all the positives that a lower carbohydrate diet has,

in terms of lowering insulin resistance, lowering the incidence of chronic disease, lowering your level of diabetes and diabetes risk. In my opinion, the pros definitely outweigh any high level of cholesterol that you might attain in going through this.

but nevertheless mindful and we keep an eye on this outlying marker that your doctor friend makes a good point on.

Marjaana Rakai (52:41)

What about differences between sex or aging athlete? It seems like the younger the athlete, the more carbs they can take and get away with maybe.

Paul Laursen (52:53)

Yeah, yeah, 100%. So, and I put my hand up. So I lived the high carb life as a young, young athlete. And, you know, even when I look to my daughter eats as well, right, and her friends, like it's incredible, the amazing, you know, how well they can consume carbohydrate. And there might be even something that's important to be able to take on a lot of carbohydrate at those young ages when you're growing rapidly, right?

So, but the, and I'm just speaking anecdotally, but it does seem like there is this resistance to insulin that's created as you age. And the older you get, the harder you have, the harder time you have keeping yourself at a weight that you might want to be at. And so yeah, there's definitely an aging component there.

where that sits, where that lies is so individual. And a sex difference, I think, I'm actually not too sure. I think it's more an individual sort of thing, but yeah, any thoughts on that, Marjaana?

Marjaana Rakai (54:15)

hear a lot of talk, especially in social media, that women should not do low carb, we need more carbs. I have not been able to wrap my head around that because women are better fat burners already.

and sex hormones like hormones you need energy you need fat to you know produce hormones correct?

Paul Laursen (54:46)

Yeah, absolutely, right. And that actually goes back to, there was another point I was going to make on Paul's point on the cholesterol. So cholesterol is the backbone of key sex hormones, sex steroid hormones like, like estrogen and testosterone. So again, there's another key thing that you need that for. So again, more support for, you know, a low carb diet, well formulated low carbohydrate diet as well.

So, and yeah, and I'll say the, I'll just support what you said there, Marjaana, as well. It doesn't make too much sense that there's this backlash against it. Women are in general better fat burners and there are studies supporting that. I've trained women yourself, many others that have, you know, Nicole Walker, I've talked about her on Taryn's podcast as well. So.

And she was seventh overall in Ironman, Arizona, low carb athlete. So on and on it kind of goes. So I haven't noticed an issue personally from females. In fact, they tend to respond really, really well to it. So it's interesting that there is that slant going against it on social media.

Marjaana Rakai (56:02)

There is, and I wonder if some of it is based on, I shouldn't generalize, but based on tendencies to restrict our eating. And when we start talking about low carbohydrate diets and the word diet has a negative, implications to it. So I wonder if some of that is.

based on misunderstandings because I like I, I'm doing low carb, but I'm like, I've never eaten more healthy than I'm right now. So I don't understand like what is, what is so bad about it, honestly.

Paul Laursen (56:40)

I don't know either, Marjaana. I think it's somehow it's the perception of it that maybe you're just sitting down with a bowl full of lard. You know, I don't know. I don't know what it is. Yeah, it's right. It's a little bit different, but who knows.

Paul Warloski (56:53)

Just sticks of butter just arrrr

Marjaana Rakai (57:02)

Yeah, yeah. But yeah, so I've done amazing. Like I've lost, you know, when you have three kids and you stretch your belly stretches and then it goes back and then it's, you know, like you repeat the cycle. So at some point you start thinking like, okay, well, I have a belly pouch. Like, I'm never going to be like I was when I was 30 or under 30. But this, you know, last six months have totally...

changed my body composition, which I'm super happy and stoked about. So it's working for me. "N of 1"

Paul Laursen (57:40)

Well, that's all that matters, right? So if someone's still listening to this, the only thing that matters is you. It really does. Yeah. So figure out what works for you. And yeah, if a couple of these things we've mentioned here help, then all the power to it. And if you've got more questions, make sure you ask them. We've got a great forum, and we're open to having, you know,

Paul Warloski (57:46)


Marjaana Rakai (57:47)

Yeah, totally. Yeah. Yeah.


Paul Laursen (58:09)

constructive conversation around these topics as well.

Paul Warloski (58:12)

Exactly. it's like religion in a way we just need, as you said, you know, we, if we strip away all the religion of the different diets, it comes down to eating well, eating what mother nature gave you. And that's really my first takeaway is.

a low carb high fat diet can improve performance and your health. And it's not about restricting necessarily what you eat. I mean you restrict sugar, restrict processed food, but you eat a really healthy diet. Number two, what we're really focusing on Paul is you said this is that we are looking for a slow release of fuel as energy.

in our workouts. If you are insulin resistant, you want to take away what's making you insulin resistant and that's a lot of carbs. And so to be, and this is number three, more fat adapted when we eat more fats, when we eat more healthy fats and eat a better diet, we preferentially consume fat as our fuel. And when we eat carbohydrates, our bodies oxidize

glucose from carbohydrate and that becomes our fuel. So it's that choice about what we are using as our fuel. So this is a huge topic and we've gone on longer than we normally do, but there's so much to get into. When we meet next, Paul and Marjaana are going to coach me through the specifics of what this kind of diet might look like.

because I'm new and I don't really know what I'm doing and I'm experimenting. So that's all for this week. Thank you for listening and join us next week when we get really specific about this kind of nutrition on the Athletes Compass podcast. You can help us by asking your questions. I mean, this is gonna, hopefully we get a lot of questions about these episodes in the comments.

Paul Laursen (59:56)

So that's all for this week. Thank you for listening and join us next week when we get really specific about this kind of nutrition on the Athlete's Compass podcast. You can help us by asking your questions. Mrs. Kinniparai, I hope you get a lot of questions about these episodes in the comments. Like and share the podcast. Give us some five -star reviews. We've been getting some of those. We appreciate that. Engage with us on our social media.

Paul Warloski (1:00:17)

Like and share the podcast give us some five -star reviews. We've been getting some of those and we appreciate that Engage with us on our social media and for Marjaana Rakai and Dr. Paul Laursen I am Paul Warloski and this has been the athletes athletes compass podcast. Thanks for

Paul Laursen (1:00:28)

I am Paul Berlowski. This has been the Athletes Compass Live Host. Thanks

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