Why do we use coffee? Well I know for me that I just love it. I love the experience, the smell of the beans, the grinding, and even being sans machine at the moment, I love using my aeropress to slowly stir the grinds and capture the aroma.

I love it straight up black, been known most mornings to add a sizeable amount of butter to it … I like the smell, the taste, the experience and of course the benefits.

Though coffee is a stimulant and thus part of the benefits but it can go too far…

Coffee is a stimulant but, it can go too far…

Yes it can. (Pete. Put down that 3rd Double Espresso.)

Now we need to place carbohydrates – especially those of the refined variety – into the same category.

Stimulant.

Zach bitter summed it up nicely with “My goal, and the goal for anyone following OFM, is to become as fat adapted as possible without sacrificing the high octane performance benefits of refined carbohydrates. I never have, and never will, argue that carbohydrates aren’t a great source of fuel. The misconception comes in how many and how often we need them. I treat carbohydrates like a stimulant: When used properly they can vault you to the next level. When abused, they can leave you wrecked, burnt out, puking up gels, or in the worst of scenarios finishing an event in a state akin to going into shock.” Read his post here on what is low carb

I couldn’t agree more.

What I care about is performance. I care about it over the long haul. And that means you need health. I know I’ve got awesome performances and also fucked my health at times too and if you don’t have health then you can forget about performances.. Hell you can forget about doing the sporty things you love.

Work on health and have great performances both on and off the track – simple.

Well it should be simple but the lines get blurred for those doing endurance sports. What I see happening again and again is that athletes go from one side of the pendulum arc all the way to the other side and all of a sudden it goes from minimal effective dose to an ideal that you should be going without carbs for as long as possible or not taking any on at all.

And that is going to have deleterious effects on both performance and health.

We are NOT the general sedentary population. For the most part we’re hard training endurance athletes and that is a big differing factor.

I believe when you add some volume and intensity that you do need some (word here is some) carbs. This becomes a strategic thing and there are differences for males and females. Guys can get away with less but our awesome female counterparts are hardwired differently and that importantly needs to be put into the mix. Simply you’ll need a little more the night before any hard or longer session and a small amount after long or intense sessions.

How much I hear you ask?

Well we know 50g of carbs is thrown around here there and everywhere and we know triathletes love numbers. “Give me the number! I don’t care about understanding what my body needs by learning to be intuitive mindset is going to hurt you and your performances.”

We might all have the same “red meat computer” but our physiology differs due to so many factors. Genetics, time spent getting fat adapted, your athletic age and training history and especially how robust you are and some people are simply more carbohydrate sensitive than others.

Effectively you need to be your own n=1 experiment. N=1 is your science (to borrow from Peter Defty).

If you’re just starting this journey, expect that it’s going to take time. There is no “acquire now pay later” process here. You have to pay now and be patient. So there is time and place.

Yes to kickstart this journey you need to go very low carb, I personally didn’t start my journey that way (the information was even more lacking when I started this journey). I just cut the shit refined foods, ate a lot of veggies, some fruit (probably too much) moderate amounts of protein and kept piling on the fat (figuratively). I went all training sessions sans food. But not sans calories… Butter in coffee helped improve my fatty acid oxidation, helped mental acuity and as I said in the opening paragraph I loved the process of it.

Couple that with longer easy warm ups in training to help groove in your fat burning capacity and you’re on the right path. Did it take me longer … sure – my fat adaptation journey was probably lengthened a little compared to going cold turkey on super low carbs – which is absolutely ok to do and likely optimal, however you better plan on flipping the training switch to very easy and low volume.

Your energy will suffer and thus your training will suffer because your body has to make the adjustment and relearn to use it’s huge amount of stored fat energy. It’s so used to using a small glycogen tank that you have to continually refuel so expect there to be some sluggishness to just feeling plain awful for a little bit. But once you get the shift… It’s like the city power has been turned on.

Now if you think you can game the process and you try to still do higher volumes and intensity you can/will screw your hormonal health. You’ve gotta leave your ego at the door.

Performance cannot be rushed.

This is what Peter Defty regards as a hard reset. So it could well take you the better part of a month. Take the pressure valve off training and just enjoy the activity of movement. Go easy, get adapted all the while developing very worthwhile structural undertones.

It’s probably best to do in an off season. For Aussies that seems pretty tough as there could be well, no off season but the more I play in the game of sports performance and health improvement the more I believe in some ‘off’ time. this does not mean no activity time it just means a change of focus… which is immensely powerful mentally and physically. A great time to improve your fat adaptation.

So you’re well on the path to adapted and you want to ramp up your training volume and intensity. Giddy up – lets do it.

We have to go back to you.. yes you as your own little experiment of one. N=1 (that is for you and only you).

Grab your self responsibility by your big girl pants and lets go all in.

So how low is low?

Well the true answer is ‘it depends’ and I know you don’t like hearing that .. you’re a triathlete and you love some hard and fast numbers.

Sorry you need to test. You need to experiment.

First and foremost as Donal Oniell said in our recent Cereal Killers Run on Fat Podcast “If you are doing all this training and have a gut or are overweight, something is seriously wrong with your diet” .. if you fall into that group you’ll likely be on the lower end of the daily carb amount spectrum.

So if you’re carb sensitive, pre diabetic or diabetic (I’m talking type two here… but I have a friend that is type one and doing exceptional on his LCHF diet and he is way more versed on LCHF for a Type 1 then I’ll ever be) then it could be quite low as Noakes says under 25g/day. For many (more sedentary) it could be 50g/day with the max being 200g/day and I’d say that is the upper end of a very hard training endurance athlete.

Noakes put it well on Steph Lowes podcast for athletes that were feeling screwed at 50g/day but got them up in the 100-120g/day range and the lights went on. Some hard training professionals might need more but 200g is considered the upper end of low. However that would be considered low coming from some athletes that take on 3 or more times that in daily carb intake!

I’d recommend starting – after you’re adapted – and have started to ramp up training again somewhere on the upper side. Give it a few weeks and see. How did you feel? What’s your recovery like. Are you desperately hungry or not hungry at all. What is sleep like (taking all stressors into consideration .. work, family, finances etc) and so on. Then ratchet it down a little and again see how you feel. What are the known benchmark performances like? Better, worse or the same? Rinse and repeat. On low or no training days, you can go low. Enjoy that new found metabolic flexibility.

Start asking better questions so you can use critical thinking and improve yourself.

Get familiar with Peter Deftys OFM and start understanding how to add carbs strategically into your diet. When you have some bigger intense sessions or races on. This is not carb loading – it’s just topping up the limited muscle/liver glycogen tank from the more intense session. It’s part of keeping you a strong and robust athlete.

As Zach said “I treat carbohydrates like a stimulant: When used properly they can vault you to the next level”

Carbs aren’t inherently bad like coffee when used well. I’m not going to say moderation because that is a myth that Phil Maffetone so eloquently wrote about.

So all this hoopla surrounding LCHF? is going crazy and this space will get more noisy. Sure all this nutritional ketosis and varying levels of fat adaptation is complex stuff but it can be made simple.

Really simple.

You just have to understand the basics, avoid the common mistakes that we have talked about over and over.

Carbs are not king but they are bloody useful to us endurance athletes – yup the correct use is like bolting a turbo onto that well developed and highly tuned diesel.

And that is how you get both performance and health.