We have all of these holidays coming up and you might be wondering, "Should I just go on a low carb diet so I can avoid temptation this holiday season?"
As a runner, wouldn't avoiding all the holiday "junk" and "treats" be the best decision for your body? And won't a low carb diet like paleo or whole 30 help you do just that?
So this may blow your mind, but having carbohydrate is absolutely essential for female athletes! Low carb diets hurt you the most. Yes, even more than that leftover pie.
I know that might sound dramatic but I am not being dramatic, I have helped hundreds of female athletes go through this exact process. IF low carb dieting worked then the failure rate for dieting would not be 95%. It just doesn't work, as a female athlete your body is constantly responding to stressors from strenuous exercise, and going low carb just stresses the body more! Low carb diets spike the hormone cortisol in the body. And I don't know if you have heard this before but stress is not good for your body :) ... So it doesn't make sense to be contributing unnecessary stress by just avoiding carbs.
I understand both sides of this situation. You may be thinking, "Serena, I went on a low carb diet and I lost weight really freaking quickly" and you may have heard that when you lose weight really quickly its often water weight (lets be honest that kind of feels abstract, like what does that even mean?). However, the purpose of when someone goes on a diet is to lose fat, right? So let's look at the word carbohydrate. I want to emphasize right now the hydrate. How do we hydrate our bodies? Water, right? Carbo-hydrate literally has two hydrogens and one oxygen.....H2O!
When you stop eating carbohydrate, immediately what happens is that your body loses water. You might think, "Holy guacamole, I lost a couple pounds!" But that is only temporary because being dehydrated is also not healthy for your body...especially if you are female athlete! Dehydration can have effects on your performance up to 2-3%, that is a huge amount of performance loss!
Why are low carb diets popular?
It's because you get this instantaneous effect of "weight loss" (now you know it's water loss). But remember...it's temporary and it is not achieving the thing that you actually want.
So.. What is it achieving? It is hurting you. With chronically spiked cortisol, your estrogen and progesterone levels (female sex hormones) will be affected adversely. Sex hormones help our body to have the shape that we are looking for, they help build new muscle, for women it helps us keep our bones strong. Did you know that when estrogen production is decreased women are actually at a greater risk for injury?
So why are you making this choice to go low carb?
It could be because you are afraid of the holiday sweets, and maybe you don't like feeling like crud! I am here to tell you that the problem is not sugar. Sugar is not inherently evil. A carb is a carb. In my group coaching program, Food Freedom Fit Fam, we talk about sports nutrition all the time. We start to think about sports nutrition the way a dietitian thinks about food... So you don't label things as bad or good the way the internet tends to make us do. So when thinking about food as a dietitian when carbs breakdown whether it's candy, a pineapple, a potato or a lollypop... it all breaks down to sugar in the bloodstream. Also, when you understand sports nutrition you know how to use sugar to your advantage.
I have an example for you, one of my Food Freedom Fit Fam members, Alyssa, was on keto for a few months and she lost a bunch of weight but her energy levels were lagging. She was struggling with over eating at meals and having binge episodes. Her performance in the gym was struggling. She was not feeling confident and sexy in her body because she could not keep the keto train going! Like Christmas would come and she would eat a bunch of cookies and go off her diet. Who can relate to this?
It was not a sign of poor willpower. It is human biology! Your biology wants to set you up to feel good! This keto athlete was lifting heavy & running, but depriving her body of it's preferred energy source, carbohydrates. SO of course her body was craving sugar. Her brain was perceiving that carbohydrates were in scarce supply, and thus she had horrible urges to over eat carbohydrates. This is why low carb dieting doesn't work because your biology is smarter than your willpower. Willpower doesn't stand a chance against biology and this is why diets fail!
So what do we do instead?
We need to learn to work with our body. Which is exactly what Food Freedom Athlete, Alyssa, did! She started listening to her body. She started to feel confident and comfortable in her body.
Food Freedom Fit Fam offers body image workshops where you learn how to rewire your thoughts around your body. She shared a story about going on a road trip with her fiancé and usually road trips were a disaster for her because she would struggle with munching in the car and loss of control when choosing restaurants on the road. Road trips made her feel anxious and nervous and binge. But this time when she was on the trip she had no stress around food! The whole trip was about adventures and enjoying herself and she got so much ENJOYABLE exercise in because she wasn't trying to balance exercise with binging. And she had the best time of her life! That comfort in your body is exactly what you want! Isn't it?
When you go low carb you want comfort in your body. You want to feel good in your body. You want to feel energized in your body. That's what you want isn't it? Here is how you ACTUALLY get it...
You find food freedom. Food freedom is not a diet. It is a proven framework that guides you back to the intuition of your body. Using Food Freedom Fit Fam's Four Question System, you'll learn how to listen to your body again... and once you tap into your inner wisdom; it is abundant! Who knows you better than you? I always tell people I am the nutrition expert but you are the expert of your own body!! How empowering is that?
If you're excited about finding food freedom, then add your name to the waitlist. We will be opening up doors again soon to welcome new food freedom athletes to our team in 2022!