Carb Depletion – Low (No) Carb Diet

A topic discussed within many endurance sports circles and raises many questions is the concept of ‘Carb Depletion’ or ‘low carb diet’ pre ‘Carb Loading’ for a key race.

This post covers the concept of ‘Carb Depletion’ and how as an Endurance based athlete I have used the technique placebo or not! in my build up to previous key marathons,  and as I prepare for my debut England vest running the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k.

The technique of ‘Carb Depletion’ as part of pre-race build up was originally developed in the late 1960’s and typically involved a 3-4 day ‘depletion phase’ involving 3-4 days of hard training plus a low carbohydrate diet followed by an increase in carbohydrate intake in the final couple of days. The initial phase was (is) very unpleasant (some would say brutal) and not always proven to help performance as it was damaging psychologically however some go with it and use it as a motivator or key step in the final stages of preparation and taper using it as a psychological plus.

A benefit I find from using this technique before starting a carb loading period is the assistance it gives to staying at target race weight during the taper phase, it can be difficult as the training load reduces in the final weeks of taper not to keep eating the same energy intake whist the energy expenditure reduces. However using the carb-depletion you will see some weight loss during the three day depletion phase, and the final run on day three will feel tough as your energy levels hit the lowest BUT that will then be rebalanced when loading begins.

Remembering the role of carbohydrates is to provide a steady and readily available supply of energy for the brain and the central nervous system. Carbohydrates can either be used immediately or stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, a starch that maintains blood sugar levels. So it should be noted that when aerobic exercise is performed during the depletion phase you will use these carbohydrate stores before some using some of your body fat as fuel, but you will also lose some fat free mass, which is not desirable. A reason why the carb depletion phase is not performed for an extended period of time and only recommended in build up to a carb loading phase.

Organising my carb depletion meals

My standard routine is set as a 3 day carb depletion phase, using Sundays last longer run and the Sunday night’s meal a week out from a Sunday race as my last carbohydrate intake, then I start carb loading after my Thursday morning run.

Anglo Celtic Plate 100k – March 2016

For the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k I have prepared the following food plan;

Food Diary by days:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Breakfast Salmon, Spinach, Chedder Cheese, 2 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking) Smoked Haddock, Spinach, 2 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking) Salmon, Spinach, Chedder Cheese, 2 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking)
Lunch Green Salad (Iceberg lettuce , Cuecumber) with pre-cooked Roast Chicken, King Prawns, Avacardo and fatty dip (Pecorino and Basil Dip) Green Salad (Romaine Hearts, Cuecumber) with griddled Turkey Steak, Parma Ham and fatty dip (Pecorino and Basil Dip) Green Salad (Romaine Hearts, Cuecumber) with pre-cooked Roast Chicken, Cray Fish, Avacardo and fatty dip (Pecorino and Basil Dip)
Dinner Griddled Turkey Steak, broccoli, cauliflower, chedder cheese topped with Parma Ham Lamb Rump Steak, Griddled Mushrooms, Aubergine, green beans and courgett with a fried egg. Rump Steak with Mushrooms, King Prawns, Pine nuts and Asparagus with a fried egg. + small green side salad.
Training Summary 10 miles steady 5 mile tempo 5 mile tempo
Drinks Coffee, Green \ Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water, Pepsi Max, High5 Zero + Beet-IT Sports Shot Coffee, Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water, Pepsi Max, High5 Zero + Beet-IT Sports Shot Coffee, Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water, Pepsi Max, Nuun Tri-berry + Beet-IT Sports Shot

Looking for alternative food staples for a card depletion meals, Try our ‘Meal Planner’ Ideas using some of the alternatives below;

London Marathon – April 2016

For the London Marathon 2016 I have prepared the following food plan, the change was removing more vegtables from the diet and aprroaching with a no carb approach over low carb, this means between 5g – 12g carbohydares per day;

Food Diary by days:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Breakfast Salmon, Chedder Cheese, 3 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking) Salmon, Extra Mature Gouda Cheese, 3 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking) Salmon, Extra Mature Gouda Cheese, 3 medium egg Omlette (Reduce Salt Butter for cooking)
Lunch Iceberg lettuce with pre-cooked Roast Chicken breast, Cray Fish & Stilton Iceberg lettuce with pre-cooked Turkey steak, Italian meats & Extra Mature Gouda, Stilton & Camembert Iceberg lettuce with pre-cooked Roast Chicken breast, Bresaola , Cray Fish & Camembert
Dinner Griddled Turkey Steak (2), Italian meats and Extra Mature Gouda Pork Lions (2) Griddled, Bresaola with a poached eggs (2) and melted Camembert Rump Steak with Extra Stilton stuffed Large Mushroom, King Prawns with a fried eggs (2).
Dessert Hartleys – 10 Calorie Jelly – Cranberry and Raspberry Sugarfree Jelly – 175g pot with Waitrose – Jersey Double Cream, 30 ml Hartleys – 10 Calorie Jelly – Blueberry & Blackcurrant Sugarfree Jelly – 175g pot with Waitrose – Jersey Double Cream, 30 ml Hartleys – 10 Calorie Jelly – Mango and Passionfruit Sugarfree Jelly – 175g pot with Waitrose – Jersey Double Cream, 30 ml
Drinks Coffee, Tea, Green \ Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water Coffee, Tea, Green \ Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water Coffee, Tea, Green \ Fruit Teas, Sparkling Water, Nuun Tabs

If still hungry for snacks I will eat some more Italian meats with cheese, but normally I will stick to the above plan with no additional snacks.

Foods to Eat

Looking for alternative food staples for a card depletion meals, Try our ‘Meal Planner’ Ideas using some of the alternatives below;

Ensure you eat either three regular-size meals a day or four or five smaller meals. Don’t skip meals or go more than six waking hours without eating. When you’re hungry, you should eat until you are satisfied but not overly full. If you’re unsure, wait ten minutes and have a glass of water to see if you’re still hungry. If you’re not hungry at meal times, you can have a small low carb snack.

The following list is a guide, there are many options for food choices

Monday
Meat: Beef, Lamb, Pork, Venison, Ham – Look to avoid processed meats as they are cured with sugar, which will add to your carb count.
Poultry \ Game: Chicken, Duck, Goose, Pheasant, Quail, Turkey and even Ostrich – Grass-fed is best
Fish: Haddock, Cod, Halibut, Salmon, Sardines, Sole, Trout, Tuna – Wild-caught fish is best.
Shellfish: Prawns, Clams, Crab, Lobster, Mussels, Oysters, Shrimp, Squid – Oysters and mussels have a higher carb count, so you should limit these to 115 grams per day.
Dairy
(High-Fat )
Eggs – A staple breakfast item and Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs are best, Cheese, butter, heavy cream, yogurt.
Vegetables (Salad Raw) Iceburg lettace, Celery, Cuecumber, Mushrooms, Peppers, Rocket, Romaine Lettuce.
Vegetables (Raw or Cooked) Asparagus, Aubergine, Avacados, Bamboo Shots, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Courgette, Green Beans, Kale, Leeks, Okra, Olives (Green \ Black), Rhubarb, Spinach, Cauliflower, Waterchestnuts – and many others.
Fruits: Apples, oranges, pears, blueberries, strawberries.
Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
Fats and Oils: Coconut oil, Butter, Lard, Olive oil – ideal for sautéing, Sunflower oil, Vegetable oil – particularly those labelled ‘cold pressed’, Mayonnaise – provided it has no added sugar
Suggested Drink
  • Coffee
  • Tea including Herbal, Fruit \ Green Teas
  • Water
  • Tap water, Carbonated water – must say no calories, Carbonated soda without artificial sweeteners.
  • Diet soda – be sure to monitor the carb count.
  • Unflavoured soy/almond milk.
  • Cream – single or double.
Some Healthy, Low-Carb Snacks

There is no health reason to eat more than 3 meals per day, but if you get hungry between meals then here are some healthy, easy to prepare low-carb snacks that can fill you up:

  • A Piece of Fruit
  • Full-fat Yogurt
  • A Hard-Boiled Egg or Two
  • A Handful of Nuts
  • Some Cheese and Meat
Foods to avoid
Sugar: Soft drinks, fruit juices, agave, candy, ice cream and many others.
Gluten Grains: Wheat, spelt, barley and rye. Includes breads and pastas.
Trans Fats: Trans Fats: “Hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils. High Omega-6 Seed- and Vegetable Oils: Cottonseed-, soybean-, sunflower-, grapeseed-, corn-, safflower and canola oils.
Artificial Sweeteners: Aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose, Cyclamates and Acesulfame Potassium. Use Stevia instead.
“Diet” and “Low-Fat” Products: Many dairy products, cereals, crackers, etc.
Highly Processed Foods: EASY RULE: If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.

Remember this is supposed to benefit you preparation for a race not hinder all the hard work you have done in training, using this diet technique may not work for everyone and be very wary of making big changes before your ‘A Race’ all diet changes should be tested and vary from person to person.  ‘Carb depletion’ can be added into a buildup plan but it’s always recommended that you check with a NWM advisor or other nutrition professional.

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2 thoughts on “Carb Depletion – Low (No) Carb Diet

  1. Pingback: Training 21 – 27 March inc. Anglo Celtic Plate 100k – fuelled.run

  2. Pingback: ACP 100k Build-up & Training Summary – May 2017 – fuelled.run

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