12
01
2017

Carbs or Fats for Athletes

“Should I eat carbs or should I eat fat?”

This question has been a topic of hot debate recently, with very credible arguments on both sides. On one hand, we can consider the “right” answer for the general population, which is to probably take it easy on the sugar. However, when we consider the performance and athletic side of things, it is important to note that eating a diet that contains zero carbohydrates may not be the correct answer.

What Fats are All About

Fat is the most energy-dense macronutrient of the three macronutrients. (Carbohydrate, Fat, Protein.) Carbohydrate and protein each have four calories per gram, whereas fat has nine calories per gram. Fat is the major source of energy when the body is at rest. Fat metabolism is also the predominating source of energy during endurance exercise.

There are many crucial roles that fat plays in the body, some of which include the following:

  • Storing energy for later use in the form of adipose tissue
  • Aiding in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K
  • Building of cell membranes
  • Consuming essential fatty acids is important because the body cannot produce high enough quantities of them it’s own so they must be consumed in the diet

Fats in the diet also play a role psychologically. Having fat in our food provides some wonderful flavors and textures that we, as humans, really enjoy. Fat also helps give us a feeling of fullness after a meal. Since fat plays so many major roles in the body, it is important to have some in our diet.

healthy-fats

What Carbs are All About

Carbohydrates are a major source of energy for activities that are short and intense in nature. Take a pitcher throwing a ball or a hitter sprinting to second base as an example. Without getting into too much detail on energy metabolism and the complex equations that explain it, let’s consider an example. If you ate pancakes for breakfast before the game (or the night before), your muscles have turned them into glucose to be used by the body in order to power the muscle contraction that propels you into a full sprint. (It’s not important to the conversation right now but creatine phosphate also plays a role here.)

Although clearly important for athletic performance, carbohydrates are not essential. We can function just fine without carbohydrates in our diet after getting used to it. That being said, I don’t recommend that any power athlete should restrict carbohydrate intake. The performance decrease is too large for someone who is carbohydrate adapted to make it worth depleting glycogen stores and committing only to getting energy from fats.

To truly optimize athletic performance, a baseball player should eat a diet that has plenty of protein, adequate carbohydrate intake, and enough fat. The combination of all of these macronutrients is enough to keep the body running at its best and will help athletes to train and compete harder.

This article was written by Driveline Strength Trainer Gabe Juarez

Comment
1
Kevin Smith

In the long run adapting to Fat instead of Carbohydrates, as energy usage, will be most optimal for athletes. Equal amounts Fat and Protein to allow the body to process the protein on the cellular level. Not enough fat and the protein will just turn into sugar. That’s why protein shakes are unfortunately a poor source of nutrients. Not enough fat.

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