Higher carbs but lower fructose

by (80) Updated May 28, 2013 at 6:10 PM Created January 20, 2011 at 4:22 PM

I'm an endurance athlete focusing on 100+ mile and 24 hr races. So I end up biking up to 20 hrs per week. As a result, my carb intake needs to be pretty high - typically 300+ g per day on the average. Believe it or not, this is considered low amongst endurance athletes!!

I've been eating '80% paleo' since 2009 and it has really helped my performance and general health. My deviations are mostly efforts to boost my carb intake and include white rice, oatmeal, lentils, sports drinks/gels/bars, and dairy.

This year, I'm looking to do a more 'strict' paleo approach. For the last month, it worked fairly well - I've been relying on a lot of fruit to provide the carbs. Taking a closer look at my diet, i see that some days I'm getting almost 200+g of sugar due to my fruit intake. So that might be roughly 100g of fructose daily - yikes! I know a lot of this is going to replenish my liver glycogen but I'd still like to minimize the fructose while keeping the carb intake fairly high.

What are the options for high-carb paleo foods that are low(ish) in fructose?

I've tried incorporating as much carrots, squash, potatoes, yams, etc into my diet as I can stomach but its not enough without adding a ton of fruit. Any foods that I'm missing that might be a rich source of glucose and/or starch?

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11 Replies

2854 · January 21, 2011 at 6:47 PM

The FODMAP diet, which is for people with fructose malapsorbtion, recommends the following fruits and veggies- all which are lower in fructose than glucose-

Ripe bananas Blackberries Blueberries Raw cranberries Grapefruit Lemon Lime Orange Raspberries Rhubarb Strawberries Tangelo

Bamboo shoots Beets Broccoli Carrots Cauliflower Eggplant

Also, as strange as it is, white potatos are very low in fructose (in fact, many people w fructose malapsorbtion eat them as a staple).

The rest of the veggies on the list aren't starchy so I didn't include them. Hope this helps!

1146 · January 20, 2011 at 11:41 PM

Become fat-adapted, then you won't need carbs. I was out running and out performing people with only 40 grams of carbohydrates daily a couple months back, but I have gotten lazier, and exercise has become a chore, and I lost a lot of weight.

6491 · January 20, 2011 at 4:47 PM

Beets, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, and celeriac are all starchy staples in my diet, along with sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash.

Taro and cassava/yuca are quite starchy and available at most ethnic markets. If you try out cassava, keep in mind it has to be prepared properly to avoid cyanide poisoning (fun!). It's very tasty, though, as is taro. Green plantains are also very starchy and delicious.

Please let me know if you'd like suggestions on cooking or pairing any of these foods. A great resource that is not paleo but easily adapted is Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters.

Medium avatar
3244 · February 04, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Perrygeo...I agree with your take on carbs from theory, but disagree from an n=1 study of endurance athletes (me). I would never call myself elite or highly competitive, but an endurance athlete I am - road cyclist, to be exact (geez...I feel like I just "outed" myself - please don't judge me harshly my anti-cardio brethren!). I've been paleo for about 4 years, with varying degrees of strictness and put in similar training volumes a few months a year. I ride no less than 50KM and up to 160KM in training (and for fun), and routinely ride 100 to 300KM events through a fairly short Canadian cycling season. I've done 300KM events on a mix of paleo and standard re-feed foods (gels, drinks, Clif bars, bananas...), and I've done them 100% caveman-style. My best results and post-event recovery have been when I'm strict weeks before, during, and after the event. That's no more than 50g of paleo carbs (some fruit) no matter what, lots of fat and meat.

Now...does that mean it's best for you? Don't know. You sound like a more serious athlete than me, so you may very well want to add in more starchy veg, but I would never say that your carb intake "needs" to be high.

Paleo works for this ultra marathoner:


If you don't know Brian Mackenzie, check him out:



Cheers, Chris

22684 · January 20, 2011 at 7:35 PM

Perhaps its a matter of making the potatoes more palatable? Kerrygold Butter, Cinnamon, Herbs Spices, alternating cooking methods etc.

I really have to question overcarbing for endurance exercise. Im not going to tell you to avoid doing what you love. But trying to keep running on carbs for that distance is silly, if you allow fat to be your fuel, youll find it much easier to maintain your energy for your marathon cardio.

Eat the starches after in quantities adequate to restore muscle glycogen, consume overall enough calories to make sure you are fueled enough to stay energetic through your next event.

1746 · February 04, 2011 at 1:27 PM

I don't under all this talk of "needing" carbs. We all know that even with super-compensating we can only store an hour or so of carb energy before the body must switch to fat for energy. Why not start out burning fat. Quite a few endurance bike racing teams are doing this now. Even to experimenting with super-compensating fat.

3697 · January 20, 2011 at 8:00 PM

I eat a lot of canned pumpkin post workout for a very easy starchy carb.

Medium avatar
39204 · January 20, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Were I in your cycling shoes, I'd be eating tons of potatoes all day, but I guess that gets old fast. To hit 300g in a day, you'd have to eat 5 large potatoes. Seems doable.

The fructose you're consuming is not making its way to your muscles, so your performance would likely be far better on a purely starch intake.

One other upside to the potatoes is the not inconsiderable amount of vitamins and minerals: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2558/2

You could be far less concerned about hemorrhaging electrolytes, especially since you'd be salting them presumably.

0 · May 28, 2013 at 6:10 PM

I just wanna point out that an edurance athlete will need fructose as this gives you the energy that is stored by the body. Glucose works in a shroter time to replenish muscle energy used before eating or fill your muscle energy stores before exercising. Also the glucose energy in your muscles will burn within an hour or so no matter how many carbs you eat, its the fructose that will gradually keep you energised on a long run. When fructose runs out you start burning fat. Although if you eat too much it will harm your performance, not having enough will do the same.

356 · February 04, 2011 at 3:45 PM

All good answers. I somewhat follow a PDFA book advice, first 3 or 4 chapters are good. I do Nordic ski racing (average citizen racer) Post workout: -

Sweet potatoes (got boring until i started making sweet potato french fries!)


-Heed (Yes i will use Heed after long or hard workout).

-some left over meat, or egg protein powder if no meat.

-experimenting with Yogurt and soaked white rice.

I don't eat as many carbs during off season and base building, however I do run better on more carbs even when not training or racing. Good luck.

455 · January 20, 2011 at 9:40 PM

you could use tapioca

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