Are you satisfied with your athletic performance? Do you find yourself worrying about your athletic potential as you age? Many athletes don’t notice the affects of nutrition on performance until later in life and spend years dodging their true potential. By focusing on the factors that differentiate top end athleticism between the 1 and 3%, individuals can eliminate holes in their game before they even appear.
In last week’s discussion, CrossFit Endurance founder Brian MacKenzie and WellnessFX CEO Jim Kean touched on how athletes can push towards peak performance. In the second part of our CrossFit Endurance & WellnessFX series, Dr. Justin Mager walks Brian through our body’s fuel system and why the traditional American diet is not optimal for athletic training.
In a nut shell, the body’s fuel system works as such:
- Fuel in the form of carbs, proteins, or fats are used to produce acetyl-CoA, an important coenzyme involved in metabolism
- Acetyl-CoA moves into the mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell
- Mitochondria use acetyl-CoA to generate ATP, the body’s ‘unit of currency’ for energy transfer
We’ve been told time and time again that high-carb diets are the best way to feed this fuel system due to its role in aerobic activity. Surprisingly enough, however, fat is the fuel of choice when the body is in the oxidative state experienced during endurance exercise. Because it takes longer to process, fat as fuel puts ‘stress’ on the system, but the overall energy output is greater. Much like athletic training itself, this stress is a good thing! More mitochondria are generated to deal with the ‘stress’ and the body becomes more efficient at turning all types of fuel into energy. When the system is instead bombarded with carbs, the ‘easy’ fuel source, mitochondria levels decrease and the efficiency of the entire system drops. Come performance time, it’s obvious which system will come out on top!
As Brian can attest to, high carbohydrate diets can be adequate for endurance training. But why settle for adequate, when you can have optimal?