The role of an athlete’s dietary intake (both timing and food type) goes beyond simply providing fuel to support the body’s vital processes. Nutritional choices also have an impact on the metabolic adaptations to training. Over the past 20 years, research has suggested that strategically reducing carbohydrate (CHO) availability during an athlete’s training can modify the metabolic responses in lieu of simply maintaining a high CHO diet. Several methods have been explored to manipulate CHO availability and include: Low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diets, performing two-a-day training without glycogen restoration between sessions, and a “sleep-low” approach entailing a glycogen-depleting session in the evening without consuming CHO until after a morning training session performed in an overnight fasted state. Each of these methods can confer beneficial metabolic adaptations for the endurance athlete including increases in mitochondrial enzyme activity, mitochondrial content, and rates of fat oxidation, yet data showing a direct performance benefit is still unclear.
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