I cannot believe it was three years ago that I composed a blog about well behaviors, which in a nutshell is a mindset shift on New Year’s resolutions. Most New Year’s resolutions fade before January has passed. As stated in the blog way back when, well behaviors are activities people engage in to maintain and improve good health and avoid illness (Sarafino & Smith, 2011). More like an action plan for your life so you can maintain a decent quality of life with good health. Most folks think of lifestyle changes as exercising more and adopting a low-fat diet.
Can you believe it is 2021 and the number one cause of death is still heart disease? In many folks this can be prevented through lifestyle. As a running coach, it is my job to learn my runners and I have many runners taking blood pressure medication. Most of them turned to running to help combat their high blood pressure they can thank their heredity for. We know exercise is medicine. Do you know how many hours a week a dedicated half or full marathon runner commits to “exercise” per week? Let us just say it makes the “30-minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, 5-days per week or 150 minutes per week” by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) look like child’s play. Yet runners with medically controlled blood pressure do not see any changes in their blood pressure from exercise alone.
Over the last couple years, I have conducted nutrition experiments and challenges with my running cohort. We have seen objective changes, like inches lost from the hips and waist, pounds lost, and clearer skin. We have had subjective changes like better sleep, more energy, and less bloating feeling. Mid 2020, I invited my runners to take part in a dietary intervention using tools I gained in my Precision Nutrition certification course.
The standard American Diet consists of 50-60% of daily calories coming from carbohydrate sources. Traditionally, runners have high carbohydrate diets because they think they need to carbohydrate load to support their running. Long before the Precision Nutrition program, I had already learned in my graduate studies this just is not true. But some things have just been pounded into us, it is hard to see the shades of grey and accept the paradigm shift. Yes, we need carbohydrates as fuel, but not nearly as much as what we believe we need. Anything under 40% carbohydrates is considered low carbohydrate. My runners that accepted the dietary intervention went to 35% carbohydrates in their diet.
Guess what happened??? Double digit fat loss occurred in folks that had no problem exercising at LEAST 300 minutes per week, double the physical activity recommendation of ACSM. Yet, the fat loss did not happen until they had the nutrition intervention. Equally impressive, the cohort were in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, the time in life people find it most difficult to lose weight. Guess what else?? Some of the participants reported their blood pressure going down when it previously remained constant on their medication.
In a recent meta-analysis by Dong et al. (2020), research demonstrated lower carbohydrate diets decreased triglycerides in blood, as well as systolic and diastolic blood pressure after 6-month interventions. This is what we observed in my running cohort. As a running coach, it is exciting to see my runners set, meet, and even exceed their running goals. As a healthcare provider, knowing that my runners are becoming healthier is more rewarding. Speaking of healthcare provider, I just happened to be participating in a continuing education class today when I was presented with this quote, “From an evolutionary point of view, the refined carbohydrates, both on account of the magnitude and the recentness of the alterations, are always the foods most likely to be at fault (for the diseases of civilization), and not the fats.” – Cleave, 1975. Forty-six years later, why don’t we still get it? No more carbohydrate loading all year long runners! I always tell my runners: more miles are not better than the right amount of miles at the right time in training; more intensity is not better than the right amount of intensity, at the right time in training. Clearly, I need to add, more carbohydrates are not better, than the right amount, at the right time in training.
Dong T, et al. (2020) The effects of low-carbohydrate diets on cardiovascular risk factors: A meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2020;15(1):e0225348. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225348
Sarafino, E. P., & Smith, T. W. (2011). Health psychology: Biopsychosocial interactions (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.