A study just published in the British Medical Journal, states that women who regularly eat a low carbohydrate, high protein diet are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease (such as heart disease and stroke) than those who do not. Read more…
Mayo Clinic corroborates that several health problems may result if high-protein diet is followed for an extended time, read more
I already wrote about the risk of a low carbohydrate diet and going gluten-free. Now I want to summarize the risk of this revisiting fad diet.
Mary’s Top 10 Reasons Runners Should Not Eat a High-Protein,Low-Carbohydrate Diet:
10. No “race food”. So much for picking up a sports drink, power gel or other free high carbohydrate race goodies, such as bagels and bananas. Be prepared to pack your own aid, as well as post-race snack needed to replenish glycogen stores or just ignore the hunger pangs and body’s cry for recovery nutrients.
9. Low in potassium rich foods. Countless studies have shown that a diet low in potassium-rich fruits and vegetables raise blood pressure and appear to increase risk of stroke. The evidence is so strong that FDA approved a health claim for foods that are good sources of potassium such as, orange juice, banana, cantaloupe, green beans, and potato.
8. Poor bone health. Calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K are all important to keeping bones strong and imperative for warding off fractures. Numerous studies show that as protein intake increases so does the amount of calcium in the urine. This calcium loss may affect the density of bones and increase risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones. Milk is routinely fortified with vitamin D and the richest and most absorbable source of calcium, so people that avoid milk and yogurt because it contains carbohydrates, also put their bones at risk. Vitamin K is thought to help keep bones strong by allowing a specific bone protein, osteocalcin, to undergo a chemical alteration that then lets it take its place in the body’s skeletal structure so this vitamin is crucial for developing peak bone mass. Harvard researchers found that vitamin K reduced the risk of hip fractures among women. Dark green vegetables, such as collard greens, brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach are the richest source of vitamin K, and all these plant sources are carbohydrates.
7. Bad breath and smelly urine. Yes! Stink even more than we already do. With less carbohydrates available for energy, the body attempts to break down more fat stores in attempt to provide energy for the brain and nervous tissue. Instead, large amounts of fat break only partially down, combining with each other forming ketone bodies, resulting in an accumulation in the blood called ketosis, a condition that disrupts the body’s normal acid-base balance. Elevated blood ketones sometimes spill into the urine and a volatile ketone (acetone) is exhaled in the breath. This bad odor has been described as “over-ripe pineapple”, “nail polish remover” and “stale”.
6. Dizziness. When body deprived of carbohydrates you are more likely to experience frequent orthostatic hypotension or rapid drop in blood pressure when you go from lying down to standing. And if you find yourself more “brain dead” than usual at work, it is due to lack of glucose to fuel brain. Only glucose can provide energy for brain cells, which comes from eating carbohydrates. Fat CANNOT be converted to supply any significant glucose and body protein in emergency (starvation), but would result in sacrificing that body protein’s functional role (enzyme, muscle, hormone, antibodies, etc.)
5. Low in vitamin C and other antioxidants. Low levels have been associated with poor immune function. As a runner, vitamin C is also important for strength since it aids in synthesis of collagen for bones and connective tissue. Strawberries, kiwi, all types of peppers, tomatoes, and of course, oranges and orange juice are a few of the many rich carbohydrate sources which are also high in antioxidants.
4. Drought and Gout. High protein diets result in a greater load of nitrogen for the body to excrete in the form of urea in urine. To keep urea in solution, the body needs water, and lots more water if protein intake is high. In fact, water loss from glycogen and protein breakdown makes high-protein diets appear to be very effective at the onset. An elevated uric acid in the blood can lead to needle-like crystals in joints, a very painful condition called gout that usually first surfaces in feet. Dehydration and sore toes great for runners huh?
3. Constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis and colon cancer risk increase due to extremely low fiber intake. Fiber-rich whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables will not only protect your GI health, but numerous studies show it is one of the key components to losing weight and keeping it off for life. Not to mention what else this means as a runner, lack of bowel movements equals less enjoyable moments socializing while waiting in bathroom lines 3-5 times before each race.
2. Heart disease and cancer. The evidence is overwhelming that risk of heart disease and cancer is increased greatly on a low carbohydrate, low fiber diet that is high in animal protein, cholesterol and saturated fat. Not to mention that if a diet is low in plant foods it will be deficient in folic acid and void of phytochemicals (phytochemicals are non-nutrient compounds found only in plant foods) both which have been found to decrease heart disease and cancer risk. Evidence shows that without folate, homocysteine accumulates in blood, which seems to enhance blood clot formation and arterial wall deterioration. Deficiency of this vitamin can also lead to anemia. Good sources of folate are leafy green vegetables, orange juice, grains and beans.
1. Reduced running performance. There is no other option, carbohydrates are the major fuel source for exercise, and you need to continually replenish your muscle glycogen with foods rich in carbohydrates. Consuming too little plant food means no glucose for muscles or the brain, which equals poor exercise performance and fatigue. If your athletic performance is important, there should be no question whether to grab the bagel or bacon to before a workout.
The bottom line: To lose weight, calories consumed must be less than calories used, no matter where you get them from. Excess calorie intake and lack of activity are to blame for the American obesity epidemic, not carbohydrates. And if you want to run to your maximal potential, carbohydrates are the crucial dietary component.