Do LOW Carb Diets Help Swim Performances?

In Technique by RITTER Admin2 Comments

  This post is brought to you by Mike Molloy from M2 Performance Nutrition!

If you’re a health conscious person living in the modern world, you’ve inevitably encountered the idea that LOW carb diets are a good approach for weight loss. You may have even seen some stories about athletes running ketogenic diets, a VERY low carb approach, having success in endurance efforts such as iron-mans and other triathlons. What do we make of all this? Should YOU experiment with these approaches if you’re an active swimmer? Let’s get you some answers!

Also, if you haven’t read Part’s I or II of this blog series–we suggest doing so before reading on. Here are the links:

[CLICK HERE] to read Part I

[CLICK HERE] to read Part II

Otherwise, let’s get started!

Can low-carb diets help people lose weight? Of course, but is it SPECIFICALLY because you’ve reduced carbs? Or just calories? Are there some potential consequences to drastically cutting your carb intake? These are the bigger questions that need to be addressed!

As a weight loss strategy, cutting carbs (while reducing the total number of calories) clearly works pretty well for some people. If it didn’t, then the Atkins diet would have never gained traction in the nutrition world in the first place.  However, cutting down your carbs tends to cost us in our overall potential through the long term–especially for active athletes.

Consequences of carb reduction can lead to:

  • Decreased thyroid function, which controls metabolism
  • Increased cortisol production, or a greater stress response
  • Decreased testosterone which can control muscle mass formation and sex drive
  • Impaired cognitive ability
  • Reduced or altered immune system function

To summarize, your metabolism might tank and you’ll feel more stressed. Also, you won’t build lean muscle mass and you’re more likely to get sick.

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So you might be thinking–should we just use a low carb diet to lose weight and then, go to a HIGHER carb diet for increased performance??

Scientific studies have shown that, when calories are controlled–low carb diets are NO better for weight loss, than high carb diets–especially when the levels of protein are controlled.  In fact, if anything, the most important aspect for successful weight loss seems to be the appropriate intake of protein. In one landmark study, volunteers who ate a moderate carb diet (~40%) reported the same weight loss as those on a very low carb, ketogenic diet, as reported better overall moods.

With all of that being said, it wouldn’t be right to ignore the fact that there are some athletes out there succeeding on very low carb diets.  For example, there is an interesting study looking at competitive road bike cyclists, where the following results occurred:

  • 2 of the 5 participants reached exhaustion sooner on the low carb diet
  • 1 participant had a massive improvement on a low carb diet, taking 84 minutes longer to reach exhaustion.

It’s pretty obvious what this means; each person’s unique genetics and training history will result in a different approach that is the “best” for them.  However, when we look at LARGE populations, the moderate to high carb approaches work the best for the most people, with clear outliers.

How Do we APPLY this Swimmers???

It’s very easy to get caught up in new fancy fad diets, but most of them have some potential serious side effects. If you want to give them a try, that’s fine, but make sure you have clear comparison points to what you were doing previously.

  1. How are you sleeping?
  2. How is your performance in and out of the gym/pool?
  3. How is your mental awareness and overall mood?
  4. Are you getting sick more or less frequently?

Ultimately self-experimentation is necessary to generate the best results, however getting the help of a proven professional along the way to help you assess these questions can provide the all important perspective needed to decide what is truly right for you.  If you’d like to have some help, please reach out to us at anytime or [CLICK HERE] for more information!

For more from Mike:

1. ) [CLICK HERE] to listen to his INTERVIEW on the Ritter Sports Performance Podcast

2.) [CLICK HERE] to watch a FREE 1-Hour Webinar Mike hosted titled “We NEED to STOP Starving Our Swimmers.”


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