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Need advice.. long-time LC, but endurance race coming up in August.

by (2227)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:45 PM
Created May 21, 2012 at 2:01 PM

It has been a long time since I've asked a "plase hack my..." question, but I need some help.

First question: I work 8-4, followed by crossfit everyday from 430-530. Sleeping around 7/8 hours a night. I'm constantly playing with IF protocols, but most often skipping breakfast.

I've heard a lot about these BCAA's lately and fasted training. I would love to play with that, but with my current sleep/work schedule I think this is impossible. Anyone have any ideas?

Second (more important) question: I've been low carb for a long time now, but after starting crossfit a few months ago I've noticed that some of the SAD eaters are out lifting me BIG TIME. I tried upping my carb intake with sweet potatoes, apples and bananas a few weeks ago but it just made me feel lethargic. (I think it was just the fruit, sweet potatoes are great.)

What should I do here? If I can increase muscle mass that's great, but I don't feel like packing on fat just to increase strength. Getting stronger for my current size is my main goal. (5' 10", 160# last time I checked.. it's been awhile.)

On top of that, I've got a five day endurance race (gold rush mother lode) coming up in August that I have just started training for. Everything I've read is telling me the same thing, I need to up my carbs.

That being said, what should I experiment with to meet these goals? Do I need to abandon low carb all together? Increase carbs on the non-crossfit training days? (Biking 40-75 miles, running 2-4 hours.)

TL;DR 5' 10", 160# .. currently LC, need to increase strength and endurance but stay lean.

Bonus question: I need ideas for lightweight carb-dense paleo-friendly race food. (I'll be packing food bags that need to fit in my backpack and fuel non-stop running/biking for 12 hours at a time.)

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2227 · May 22, 2012 at 1:22 PM

Ordered it yesterday :) thanks man!

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5188 · May 21, 2012 at 9:48 PM

I can speak from experience and tell you that LC *will* work HIT :)

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5188 · May 21, 2012 at 9:46 PM

I've seen conflicting evidence on the use of BCAAs. In general these days I take the view that if I can't cope using real food then I'm doing something wrong/pushing too hard. I'd rather take an extra day for recovery. That said, recovery isn't really an issue when low-carb. Every day I'm stronger than the one before, whether I've eaten or not.

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1019 · May 21, 2012 at 8:45 PM

Oh, I didn't see that bit about carb loading post workout, that'll probably be your best option.

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1019 · May 21, 2012 at 8:42 PM

You did say you felt lethargic. I can speak from experience, and tell you that LC won't work HIT, but I understand that people have to come to find that fact for themselves. What are your reasons for wanting to do low-carb? I have cycled carbs (300g+ on workout days every third day) successfully to get myself under 6% bodyfat, looking at being under 5% soon, so please tell me bodyfat isn't your reason.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 8:17 PM

thanks for the information though. i'm going to try and keep it low carb, read this 'Art and Science of Low Carb Performance' book I just ordered and do some carb loading after workouts.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 8:16 PM

i never said i felt physically drained ;) just said others were lifting A LOT more than me. i've been consistently setting new PRs

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 8:15 PM

i totally agree, that is why I'm trying to figure this all out now. i just ordered Art and Science of Low Carb Performance. thanks for all the info.

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1019 · May 21, 2012 at 8:04 PM

Carb refeeds have been a tool in use for enhancing physique AND performance for years. Just look at Lyle McDonald and Martin Berkhan.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 7:17 PM

yes, i understand that. fasting 16 hours a day isn't easy. well actually it is, but it wasn't when i started.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 7:17 PM

lol yes, i understand that.. fasting 16 hours a day isn't easy.. well actually it is, but it wasn't when i started.

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5188 · May 21, 2012 at 6:24 PM

And yeah, those numbers are assuming you're burning up carbs. There's research showing sled dogs actually replenish glycogen during multi-day races. If you're genuinely struggling for energy then it might be worth getting a blood meter and some ketone testing strips to see if you're actually getting into a good range before writing off the whole concept. All I know for sure is that I'd be far more interested in taking on a multi-day event in a practical and sustainable way as if there were some survival aspect than to be drip-feeding carb gels and trashing my health for a week.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 6:22 PM

totally, thanks I appreciate the feedback

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5188 · May 21, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Strength is mainly technique, or at least is as much about that and CNS activation as muscle size. One deadlift isn't going to exhaust anyone's energy stores. And once you've trained for it, your muscles can store as much fat locally as glycogen anyway. So long as you're making progress I wouldn't worry about what other people are doing.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 6:13 PM

The article linked above by Veriria has a lot of good information, but if you scroll down to 'Average Intake for Endurance Athletes' I can't even start to imagine 320 g/day. I will look into both your and Simon's LC endurance links.. probably a better approach for where I am at.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Good point, I definitely don't NEED to out-lift anyone.. just found it interesting that guys literally my same size are deadlifting double what I am. Then again I thought a barbell was heavy 4 months ago. :P

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3870 · May 21, 2012 at 6:01 PM

No, no, I don't mean to criticize. I'm all for the mental challenge / bucket list kind of event. And as far as the article goes: unfortunately I'm not sure if he actually has an article describing the method as of yet. I'm just piecing his statements together from recent podcast interviews. I remember Robb Wolf mentioning something of the same vain in the past, stating roughly that "even a relatively lean person would have literally days worth of fuel if they could run their activity on fat exclusively." Unfortunately, our physiology does not allow for that, but one can adapt in that direction

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14877 · May 21, 2012 at 5:42 PM

Well, call me old fashioned but I believe most things worth having require some hard work and sacrifice.

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14877 · May 21, 2012 at 5:36 PM

... and when I say 4-6x a day, 1x could be a piece of fruit, another could be a protein shake, another could be a handful of almonds, another could be a chicken breast with a few slices of avocado.

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14877 · May 21, 2012 at 5:24 PM

Yeah, well, I am of the belief that most good things come with hard work and sacrifice.

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1439 · May 21, 2012 at 4:52 PM

In my opinion, one day of increasing your storage of glycogen in your muscles and liver is not going to hurt you. In fact, that is one of the purposes of your muscles and liver. Your endurance race will empty that storage in about 20 minutes anyway. I say go for it and have fun! But only do it just before your big races.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 4:17 PM

only half way through this article and it's AWESOME, thank you.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 4:11 PM

@simon, awesome i will check this out.

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48 · May 21, 2012 at 3:45 PM

This link is more for body building but has some useful info : http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/keto.htm

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48 · May 21, 2012 at 3:30 PM

If you want to do low carb competitively go ketogenic, keep carbs at an absolute minimum for six weeks. From then on as long as you keep carbs in check you will never hit a wall and always have reserves of energy. Just make sure you don't sabotage yourself by taking sugary drinks during the race. Google Dr Peter Attia, he's a long distance swimmer who uses this diet.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 3:10 PM

Can you link that MDA article?

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 3:00 PM

I was afraid of this answer, but it's what I need to hear. Guess I was just hoping for some secret diet regimen that could help achieve both.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 2:55 PM

Yeah, I understand the 5-day race is pretty crazy. I'm just doing it as a challenge to myself/bucket-list thing. It definitely doesn't jive with most of my paleo ideals.. but it'll be fun. I will look into that MDA article, thanks!

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 2:53 PM

6x a day sounds super tedious, I love waking up, grabbing a coffee and going to straight to work. Anyone else have insight on BCAAs vs l-glutamine?

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 2:50 PM

I totally understand I can't train for endurance and stay LC.. I'm just looking for some help with a plan to transition out of LC.

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1607 · May 21, 2012 at 2:45 PM

If you stay too low carb, you aren't going to see strength gains. All that working out will NOT jive with low or low-moderate carb. You'll burn out/overtrain/up your cortisol doing LC and trying to do all that physical activity. I don't know why the fruit would cause lethargy...that's weird. Keep up the sweet potatoes, and do other root veg too.

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5188 · May 21, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Ok, I'll say it. Suddenly switching up to downing loads of carbs may be the worst thing you could do. You don't need them. They are a poor option for sustaining 5 days activity, you'll be eating constantly, you'll neglect eating anything more nutritious, you'll feel like crap trying to get up again the next day and you'll just accept it because that's what everyone says you should feel. If you're already well-adjusted to burning fat then just focus on your hydration and micro-nutrition (in particular sodium) and enjoy knowing you already have all the energy you need on board. At the very least take the opportunity now to see how you're coping (and recovering) with endurance training instead of assuming you need carbs. It needn't compromise your performance either - 5-day races aren't determined by your max sprint speed. Art and Science of Low Carb Performance (Volek and Phinney) has some anecdotal evidence. It's up to you what approach you commit to, I just wouldn't want you being talked into going against your instinct just because that's the only experience being offered. Low-carb works for some people, even when they have to maintain elite athletic performance, train every day etc. High-carb can work. Even vegans can be competetive.

As for your strength - any reason why you should be out-lifting everyone? Are you failing to increase strength progressively? Is your training geared towards strength gain (and recovery)? I'm sure you can always eat more without necessarily eating more carbs.

Regarding IF, you could throw in one or two days when you fast all the way through to your workout and then eat all evening, but I'd agree your schedule isn't really ideal for a regular set daily pattern. And if you're concerned about strength gains then missing meals may not be helping. Hard to tell without lots more details! If you stick to a small number of heavy lifts you should get stronger without too much problem.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 8:15 PM

i totally agree, that is why I'm trying to figure this all out now. i just ordered Art and Science of Low Carb Performance. thanks for all the info.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed
5188 · May 21, 2012 at 6:24 PM

And yeah, those numbers are assuming you're burning up carbs. There's research showing sled dogs actually replenish glycogen during multi-day races. If you're genuinely struggling for energy then it might be worth getting a blood meter and some ketone testing strips to see if you're actually getting into a good range before writing off the whole concept. All I know for sure is that I'd be far more interested in taking on a multi-day event in a practical and sustainable way as if there were some survival aspect than to be drip-feeding carb gels and trashing my health for a week.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 6:22 PM

totally, thanks I appreciate the feedback

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5188 · May 21, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Strength is mainly technique, or at least is as much about that and CNS activation as muscle size. One deadlift isn't going to exhaust anyone's energy stores. And once you've trained for it, your muscles can store as much fat locally as glycogen anyway. So long as you're making progress I wouldn't worry about what other people are doing.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 6:13 PM

The article linked above by Veriria has a lot of good information, but if you scroll down to 'Average Intake for Endurance Athletes' I can't even start to imagine 320 g/day. I will look into both your and Simon's LC endurance links.. probably a better approach for where I am at.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Good point, I definitely don't NEED to out-lift anyone.. just found it interesting that guys literally my same size are deadlifting double what I am. Then again I thought a barbell was heavy 4 months ago. :P

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3870 · May 21, 2012 at 2:48 PM

  1. As long as you can eat lunch during work, I don't see why the schedule itself is antagonistic to an IF schedule. However, and this a big however, if you want to attempt CrossFit after work, I would not do that in a fasted, low-carb state. BCAAs are a definite plus to the IF protocol, but with regards to using them for fasted training, it seems your schedule refuses to allow that.

  2. If performance in this endurance event is your main goal, then intermittent fasting needs to be ditched altogether. This question is unfortunately the classic case of trying to keep too many plates spinning. If gaining strength is the achievement that will make you most happy, then endurance training is going to rain on your parade. The same is true in the opposite situation. Select a goal and with it, stick, young padawan. With that said, if you're set on doing this FIVE DAY endurance test (holy crap, batman), then you're definitely going to require a bump in carbohydrate. That doesn't necessarily mean that each and every day needs to be a declaration of war on your fridge's carbohydrate contents, but I think you'll definitely need a bump. Mark Sisson has recently described a protocol of training cyclic low-carb endurance athletes such that they may more efficiently dig into their fat stores while going out long. That sounds absolutely ideal, so if you want to do a little research into that, go for it.1.

Best of luck,

-Ian

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3870 · May 21, 2012 at 6:01 PM

No, no, I don't mean to criticize. I'm all for the mental challenge / bucket list kind of event. And as far as the article goes: unfortunately I'm not sure if he actually has an article describing the method as of yet. I'm just piecing his statements together from recent podcast interviews. I remember Robb Wolf mentioning something of the same vain in the past, stating roughly that "even a relatively lean person would have literally days worth of fuel if they could run their activity on fat exclusively." Unfortunately, our physiology does not allow for that, but one can adapt in that direction

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 3:10 PM

Can you link that MDA article?

De641ff2accb4975e1f42886b43009db
2227 · May 21, 2012 at 2:55 PM

Yeah, I understand the 5-day race is pretty crazy. I'm just doing it as a challenge to myself/bucket-list thing. It definitely doesn't jive with most of my paleo ideals.. but it'll be fun. I will look into that MDA article, thanks!

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1019 · May 21, 2012 at 8:00 PM

HIT 5 days a week will inevitably lead to overtraining. Consider taking more days off. I suspect this is probably the reason why you are feeling physically drained, and why others are out-lifting and progressing past you. If you don't rest and recover how will you make gains? Also, if you are training for an endurance event you won't see much muscle gain.

I wrote an article on why supplementing with BCAA pre-workout is detrimental to the benefit's of fasted training, so this is something you should consider if you are playing around with fasted training and BCAA's.

The best strategy for carbohydrate intake and training, is to keep it low, train, then eat a big meal with carbohydrates. If you eat carbs beforehand the body won't expand glycogen stores, and you'll probably just be tired, via all that insulin.

Bonus question: Bananas would be your best option here, because about 60-75% of the simple sugars are glucose, in the form of glucose, sucrose or maltose, and there is relatively little fructose compared to other fruits. Glucose is of the greatest importance in preserving and refilling glycogen stores, and the banana will digest relatively quickly.

Matthew Caton NSCA - CPT

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5188 · May 21, 2012 at 9:48 PM

I can speak from experience and tell you that LC *will* work HIT :)

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1019 · May 21, 2012 at 8:45 PM

Oh, I didn't see that bit about carb loading post workout, that'll probably be your best option.

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1019 · May 21, 2012 at 8:42 PM

You did say you felt lethargic. I can speak from experience, and tell you that LC won't work HIT, but I understand that people have to come to find that fact for themselves. What are your reasons for wanting to do low-carb? I have cycled carbs (300g+ on workout days every third day) successfully to get myself under 6% bodyfat, looking at being under 5% soon, so please tell me bodyfat isn't your reason.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 8:17 PM

thanks for the information though. i'm going to try and keep it low carb, read this 'Art and Science of Low Carb Performance' book I just ordered and do some carb loading after workouts.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 8:16 PM

i never said i felt physically drained ;) just said others were lifting A LOT more than me. i've been consistently setting new PRs

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1670 · May 21, 2012 at 3:45 PM

I kind of agree with foreveryoung. I IF daily, but my level of activity is much less intense and my sleep is a lot higher than yours. For this reason, I would suggest cutting back on the IF because it could be raising your cortisol and affecting your endurance and lifts at crossfit. On that note, do you really have to be crossfitting every day? I think are bodies need time to relax. But it you aren't getting tired go for it! The best advice I can give is listen to what your body desires. If ur tired don't work out and eat carbs! For better workouts maybe try adding rice too! Any questions?

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418 · May 22, 2012 at 10:44 AM

Read Volek's new book on low carb performance. You want to be in ketosis at about 2.5 mmol. Volek himself is a weight lifting champion who pushes 1/2 ton boulders and his case studies are ultra-runners. For the race itself, Volek loves superstarch from Ucan. He got the science that says endurance is better in ketosis.

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2227 · May 22, 2012 at 1:22 PM

Ordered it yesterday :) thanks man!

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867 · May 21, 2012 at 3:13 PM

I've been reading a lot about carb cycling lately. It sounds interesting! You might want to experiment with your eating, like foreveryoung said above.

Here is an interesting article I found! http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/nutrition/how-many-carbohydrates-do-you-need.html

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 4:17 PM

only half way through this article and it's AWESOME, thank you.

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14877 · May 21, 2012 at 2:17 PM

Hey man. Personally, I don't use BCAAs but I do use loads of l-glutamine, and am absolutely enamoured of the stuff- helps with recovery, lean muscle gain, and gut health. I often take 5g pre and post workout, and then right before bed. HOwever, I've never used BCAAs, so they might better and I'm just clueless.

As for carbs, try experimenting with differnt forms post workout definitely, and maybe pre or intra workotu if you need it. I have really come to like some form of sugar post workout- oranges, dextrose, pedialite, or even regular old sugar cane. The former does a helluva job at replenishing muscle glycogen stores and also gives a protein sparing effect. even though it is refined sugar, essentially, I do not notice any increases in bodyfat from doing this. Carbs alone do not make people fat and diabetic.

As an endurance athlete myself- soccer and swimmingn through highschool, lots of recreational tennis, and lightweight crew in college + year round weights and sprints/running- I would say that it is my opinoin for optimal perfofmance and body composition, carbs are absolutely essential. Don't be afraid of them maybe unless you're metabolically derranged.

As for IF-ing. I have tried and tried to do it successfully, but it doesn't work for me. Instead I now eat 6x a day.

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5188 · May 21, 2012 at 9:46 PM

I've seen conflicting evidence on the use of BCAAs. In general these days I take the view that if I can't cope using real food then I'm doing something wrong/pushing too hard. I'd rather take an extra day for recovery. That said, recovery isn't really an issue when low-carb. Every day I'm stronger than the one before, whether I've eaten or not.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 7:17 PM

yes, i understand that. fasting 16 hours a day isn't easy. well actually it is, but it wasn't when i started.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 7:17 PM

lol yes, i understand that.. fasting 16 hours a day isn't easy.. well actually it is, but it wasn't when i started.

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14877 · May 21, 2012 at 5:42 PM

Well, call me old fashioned but I believe most things worth having require some hard work and sacrifice.

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14877 · May 21, 2012 at 5:36 PM

... and when I say 4-6x a day, 1x could be a piece of fruit, another could be a protein shake, another could be a handful of almonds, another could be a chicken breast with a few slices of avocado.

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14877 · May 21, 2012 at 5:24 PM

Yeah, well, I am of the belief that most good things come with hard work and sacrifice.

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2227 · May 21, 2012 at 2:53 PM

6x a day sounds super tedious, I love waking up, grabbing a coffee and going to straight to work. Anyone else have insight on BCAAs vs l-glutamine?

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0 · January 29, 2013 at 4:16 PM

Curious how you did on you 5 day event? I have a 6 day event that I am training for and I am a paleo eater. I have been experimenting with gels and they certainly work but it feels a little wrong! I am a fat burning beast. Still, not sure if it is recommended to still add small amounts of carb throughout the day during a long event (running 24- 50 miles per day with pack) or if I should stick to homemade snacks like pemmican and coconut oil/raw cocoa almond butter balls?

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58 · May 21, 2012 at 2:57 PM

At some point, you have to decide... performance or appearance. Up your carbs for performance, lower your carb and IF for appearance. Not very likely you will be able to do both at the same time...

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1019 · May 21, 2012 at 8:04 PM

Carb refeeds have been a tool in use for enhancing physique AND performance for years. Just look at Lyle McDonald and Martin Berkhan.

De641ff2accb4975e1f42886b43009db
2227 · May 21, 2012 at 3:00 PM

I was afraid of this answer, but it's what I need to hear. Guess I was just hoping for some secret diet regimen that could help achieve both.

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