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Higher carbs but lower fructose

by (80)
Updated about 5 hours ago
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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3150 · May 28, 2013 at 6:54 PM

Wow I've been fooled by a recent answer and didn't realize this came from 2011! Would like to know how things have been going during this two years so we can gather more experience in low-carb vs high-carb endurance.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · May 28, 2013 at 6:50 PM

So in the end, maybe the question would be if we should be supporting such strenuous endurance activities that either will hurt us if we go all-out or we should dose very carefully if we want to reap its health benefits, but then we could not compete. It pains me a lot to say this since I'm an endurance runner myself but that's what I ended finding out... still thinking in some more hacks for mitochondrial support to deal with it...

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · May 28, 2013 at 6:48 PM

But, even if we were to accept that carbs do improve performance (and could really be the case) what about health? There's some evidence that using the glycolitic pathway too much for endurance creates a lot of ROS and general body inflammation that accelerates ageing a lot. But this is like a catch-22 because if you do strenuous exercise but turn back on carbs, you cannot deal with all the cortisol release and catabolic response that it brings so you could end with adrenal fatigue (overtraining symptoms).

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · May 28, 2013 at 6:44 PM

Carbs can improve performance when you exercise in the glycolitic pathway, but for very long events at pure aerobic effort I guess rob can have a point in these. Even for not-so-long activities, there are many studies comparing high fat vs high carb diets that could not get a conclusive stance on which is better. This year I managed to pull a 2h47' marathon on low carb (less than 100gr a day) while last year did in 2:56 moderate carb (150-250gr)...

B124653b19ee9dd438710a38954ed4a3
1634 · October 08, 2011 at 12:29 PM

So sad that this is crazy hard to find in Europe :( Miss my canned pumpkin.

Medium avatar
3014 · August 12, 2011 at 4:23 AM

Can you provdide any good links to info on the FODMAP diet? A friend recently realised that she's sensitive to a lot of these foods and is trying to figure out what to do.

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546
1781 · February 06, 2011 at 7:17 AM

Your mind seems firmly made up that you need carbs and that's that. The big mistake you and all these studies you refer to make is their erroneous makeup. You simply cannot do a double blind study in under 6 months at a minimum. As far as I can find there has not been one study where the time to fully fat adapt was allowed. Most were 2-3 weeks, ridiculous! Is a theory that is subsequently proven true false until then? *"I am talking about highly competitive athletics at the elite level"* Who are you? Have we heard of you?

Medium avatar
3244 · February 05, 2011 at 10:19 PM

6 - 8 hours in the saddle is rarely a "joy ride", but you may be right. I think there are people who perform at an elite level and recover just fine. The science is, actually, inconclusive: "Scrutiny of the literature, however, does not strongly support the hypothesis that...in dietary carbohydrate energy impairs training or athletic performance." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1844399 "A high-carbohydrate diet maintains muscle glycogen, but this has no apparent benefit on training capability or high-intensity exercise performance." http://www.ajcn.org/content/57/1/27.abstract

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80 · February 05, 2011 at 4:02 PM

I've been getting lots of comments that completely miss the point. Let's set a few ground rules. Eating carbs and a 'paleo' diet are not incompatible. Carbohydrates are essential for peak athletic performance. If you dispute these fact, please do your research.

F900c4e7dc008b7604206c803467a661
80 · February 05, 2011 at 3:55 PM

Carb intake "needs" to be high in as much that your are burning through 300+g of muscle glycogen a day and need to get up the next morning and do it again. The science is fairly well established that higher carbs = higher performance. If you're just out for the joy of riding and are willing to sacrifice performance a bit, then you can get away with low carb paleo. But my sponsors and my own commitment to my cycling career demand that I get the best performances I can and I'd be foolish to think I could do so on a low carb diet.

F900c4e7dc008b7604206c803467a661
80 · February 05, 2011 at 3:51 PM

I am talking about highly competitive athletics at the elite level. There have been dozens of controlled, double-blind studies which confirm that performance is greatly enhanced with a higher carb intake and not a single one which shows the opposite. Sorry but you can make up theories all you want - if they are not confirmed by science, they are just wrong. Also you seem to think that having adequate carbohydrate stores AND optimizing your fat burning are mutually exclusive which has also show to be false. I've tried training/racing on low carbs and it simply didnt work.

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22913 · February 04, 2011 at 4:21 PM

exactly the point several of us are attempting to convey :)

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · January 22, 2011 at 6:41 PM

It's 100% optional. The literature is out there. As I said, do what makes you happy and best of luck

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80 · January 22, 2011 at 4:19 PM

I don't really like potatoes that much so 5 of them sounds like a chore. Maybe I just need to get more creative in their preparation? Great point about the fructose not being available for muscle glycogen replenishment - all the more reason to do starch and glucose post-workout. Though there are some studied that show having a little post-workout fructose is good since it goes to replenish liver glycogen sparing the glucose for your muscles.

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80 · January 22, 2011 at 4:13 PM

Take a look at the scientific data re: carbs and performance. What you're saying makes sense for everyday activities but has no basis in competitive sports - carbs improve performance, as does the ability to burn fat at moderate intensity levels. The two are not mutually exclusive.

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80 · January 22, 2011 at 4:10 PM

300-400g of carbs per day is hardly overcarbing. And I said nothing about 'running on carbs' but it's been studied to death for the last 50 years and the scientific data is crystal clear: carb intake during races and maintaining high glycogen levels has an ergogenic effect. When you compete at the top level and train hard every day, having adequate carbohydrate stores is not optional. Of course timing of carbs and training your body to a greater percentage of fat at greater intensities is essential as well.

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461
12174 · January 21, 2011 at 7:14 PM

Sausage and pumpkin is a great combo! So is a saltier beef. Throw some sauteed onions and leftover roast beef or beef brisket in the mix with canned pumpkin, and you have yourself a meal in a jiffy. http://primalkitchen.blogspot.com/2010/11/smoky-autumn-beef-brisket-soup.html

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461
12174 · January 21, 2011 at 7:11 PM

Throw some sauteed onions and leftover roast beef or beef brisket in the mix with canned pumpkin, and you have yourself a bonafide soup in a jiffy. http://primalkitchen.blogspot.com/2010/11/smoky-autumn-beef-brisket-soup.html

072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d
3717 · January 21, 2011 at 3:05 AM

Cinnamon, a little vanilla if you want it on its own. Mixed with scrambled eggs, cold. Slathered on pork chops. Very flexible.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705
18701 · January 21, 2011 at 12:50 AM

I am making a pumpkin sausage soup recipe I have this weekend.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc
15976 · January 20, 2011 at 11:57 PM

holy hell, this is a great idea. pop it open like popeye spinach. wait a minute, combo time

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · January 20, 2011 at 8:17 PM

mmm pumpkin. I need to go shopping this weekend.

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb
6550 · January 20, 2011 at 7:38 PM

Good to know, Stephen.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · January 20, 2011 at 7:31 PM

cassava is high in phytoestrogens as well. Id avoid it personally.

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80 · January 20, 2011 at 5:42 PM

I do have that book - read it several years ago when I started getting interested in paleo. However, it seems to rely a lot on "food supplements" and the suggestions for increasing carbs are mainly things that I've already tried. You can only eat so many sweet potatoes!

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18701 · January 20, 2011 at 5:13 PM

Have you checked out the Paleo Diet for Athletes book by Loren Cordain? It's got some great ideas for endurance athletes.

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11 Answers

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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!

Medium avatar
3014 · August 12, 2011 at 4:23 AM

Can you provdide any good links to info on the FODMAP diet? A friend recently realised that she's sensitive to a lot of these foods and is trying to figure out what to do.

0adda19045a3641edac0008364b91110
3
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.

F900c4e7dc008b7604206c803467a661
80 · January 22, 2011 at 4:13 PM

Take a look at the scientific data re: carbs and performance. What you're saying makes sense for everyday activities but has no basis in competitive sports - carbs improve performance, as does the ability to burn fat at moderate intensity levels. The two are not mutually exclusive.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · May 28, 2013 at 6:48 PM

But, even if we were to accept that carbs do improve performance (and could really be the case) what about health? There's some evidence that using the glycolitic pathway too much for endurance creates a lot of ROS and general body inflammation that accelerates ageing a lot. But this is like a catch-22 because if you do strenuous exercise but turn back on carbs, you cannot deal with all the cortisol release and catabolic response that it brings so you could end with adrenal fatigue (overtraining symptoms).

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · May 28, 2013 at 6:54 PM

Wow I've been fooled by a recent answer and didn't realize this came from 2011! Would like to know how things have been going during this two years so we can gather more experience in low-carb vs high-carb endurance.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · May 28, 2013 at 6:44 PM

Carbs can improve performance when you exercise in the glycolitic pathway, but for very long events at pure aerobic effort I guess rob can have a point in these. Even for not-so-long activities, there are many studies comparing high fat vs high carb diets that could not get a conclusive stance on which is better. This year I managed to pull a 2h47' marathon on low carb (less than 100gr a day) while last year did in 2:56 moderate carb (150-250gr)...

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · May 28, 2013 at 6:50 PM

So in the end, maybe the question would be if we should be supporting such strenuous endurance activities that either will hurt us if we go all-out or we should dose very carefully if we want to reap its health benefits, but then we could not compete. It pains me a lot to say this since I'm an endurance runner myself but that's what I ended finding out... still thinking in some more hacks for mitochondrial support to deal with it...

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb
3
6550 · 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.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · January 20, 2011 at 7:31 PM

cassava is high in phytoestrogens as well. Id avoid it personally.

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb
6550 · January 20, 2011 at 7:38 PM

Good to know, Stephen.

Medium avatar
2
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:

higher-carbs-but-lower-fructose

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

http://www.gotrimax.com/TriMaxBmac.htm

http://www.iamunscared.com/

Cheers, Chris

F900c4e7dc008b7604206c803467a661
80 · February 05, 2011 at 3:55 PM

Carb intake "needs" to be high in as much that your are burning through 300+g of muscle glycogen a day and need to get up the next morning and do it again. The science is fairly well established that higher carbs = higher performance. If you're just out for the joy of riding and are willing to sacrifice performance a bit, then you can get away with low carb paleo. But my sponsors and my own commitment to my cycling career demand that I get the best performances I can and I'd be foolish to think I could do so on a low carb diet.

Medium avatar
3244 · February 05, 2011 at 10:19 PM

6 - 8 hours in the saddle is rarely a "joy ride", but you may be right. I think there are people who perform at an elite level and recover just fine. The science is, actually, inconclusive: "Scrutiny of the literature, however, does not strongly support the hypothesis that...in dietary carbohydrate energy impairs training or athletic performance." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1844399 "A high-carbohydrate diet maintains muscle glycogen, but this has no apparent benefit on training capability or high-intensity exercise performance." http://www.ajcn.org/content/57/1/27.abstract

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22913 · 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.

F900c4e7dc008b7604206c803467a661
80 · January 22, 2011 at 4:10 PM

300-400g of carbs per day is hardly overcarbing. And I said nothing about 'running on carbs' but it's been studied to death for the last 50 years and the scientific data is crystal clear: carb intake during races and maintaining high glycogen levels has an ergogenic effect. When you compete at the top level and train hard every day, having adequate carbohydrate stores is not optional. Of course timing of carbs and training your body to a greater percentage of fat at greater intensities is essential as well.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · January 22, 2011 at 6:41 PM

It's 100% optional. The literature is out there. As I said, do what makes you happy and best of luck

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546
1
1781 · 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.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · February 04, 2011 at 4:21 PM

exactly the point several of us are attempting to convey :)

F900c4e7dc008b7604206c803467a661
80 · February 05, 2011 at 3:51 PM

I am talking about highly competitive athletics at the elite level. There have been dozens of controlled, double-blind studies which confirm that performance is greatly enhanced with a higher carb intake and not a single one which shows the opposite. Sorry but you can make up theories all you want - if they are not confirmed by science, they are just wrong. Also you seem to think that having adequate carbohydrate stores AND optimizing your fat burning are mutually exclusive which has also show to be false. I've tried training/racing on low carbs and it simply didnt work.

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546
1781 · February 06, 2011 at 7:17 AM

Your mind seems firmly made up that you need carbs and that's that. The big mistake you and all these studies you refer to make is their erroneous makeup. You simply cannot do a double blind study in under 6 months at a minimum. As far as I can find there has not been one study where the time to fully fat adapt was allowed. Most were 2-3 weeks, ridiculous! Is a theory that is subsequently proven true false until then? *"I am talking about highly competitive athletics at the elite level"* Who are you? Have we heard of you?

072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d
1
3717 · January 20, 2011 at 8:00 PM

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

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461
12174 · January 21, 2011 at 7:11 PM

Throw some sauteed onions and leftover roast beef or beef brisket in the mix with canned pumpkin, and you have yourself a bonafide soup in a jiffy. http://primalkitchen.blogspot.com/2010/11/smoky-autumn-beef-brisket-soup.html

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc
15976 · January 20, 2011 at 11:57 PM

holy hell, this is a great idea. pop it open like popeye spinach. wait a minute, combo time

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705
18701 · January 21, 2011 at 12:50 AM

I am making a pumpkin sausage soup recipe I have this weekend.

072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d
3717 · January 21, 2011 at 3:05 AM

Cinnamon, a little vanilla if you want it on its own. Mixed with scrambled eggs, cold. Slathered on pork chops. Very flexible.

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461
12174 · January 21, 2011 at 7:14 PM

Sausage and pumpkin is a great combo! So is a saltier beef. Throw some sauteed onions and leftover roast beef or beef brisket in the mix with canned pumpkin, and you have yourself a meal in a jiffy. http://primalkitchen.blogspot.com/2010/11/smoky-autumn-beef-brisket-soup.html

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · January 20, 2011 at 8:17 PM

mmm pumpkin. I need to go shopping this weekend.

B124653b19ee9dd438710a38954ed4a3
1634 · October 08, 2011 at 12:29 PM

So sad that this is crazy hard to find in Europe :( Miss my canned pumpkin.

Medium avatar
1
39841 · 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.

F900c4e7dc008b7604206c803467a661
80 · January 22, 2011 at 4:19 PM

I don't really like potatoes that much so 5 of them sounds like a chore. Maybe I just need to get more creative in their preparation? Great point about the fructose not being available for muscle glycogen replenishment - all the more reason to do starch and glucose post-workout. Though there are some studied that show having a little post-workout fructose is good since it goes to replenish liver glycogen sparing the glucose for your muscles.

A7e94ae53505a2efef8697502ade7982
0
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.

94577e0344bb1671288ccee96083baf2
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363 · 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!)

-bananas

-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.

79fc447191de75e7c178951594a43f13
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448 · January 20, 2011 at 9:40 PM

you could use tapioca

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