Train Low Compete High

Train low, compete high (i.e., train with low glycogen stores, and compete with high glycogen stores) is a fueling practice that some serious athletes use-sometimes unknowingly when they do double workouts and fail to refuel well after the first workout. After being trained half the time in a glycogen-depleted state, the (fueled) muscles of 10 (initially untrained) men responded with greater endurance (Hansen et al. 2005). But questions arise: Does this same response happen with trained athletes? Can you train as well when your muscles are glycogen depleted? Do your form and technique suffer? Are you more prone to injuries? Are you able to enjoy the workout? The research is still too sparse to justify recommending this technique without caution.

Whether your sport is ice hockey, soccer, rugby, football, basketball, or any intense sport, remember to eat responsibly, with carbohydrate as the foundation of each meal and protein as the accompaniment.

Consuming carbohydrate also allows for the replenishment of muscle glycogen after exercise. In a landmark study by exercise physiologist Dr. J. Bergstrom and his colleagues (Bergstrom et al. 1967), researchers compared the rate at which muscle glycogen was replaced in subjects who exercised to exhaustion and then ate either a high-protein, high-fat diet or a high-carbohydrate diet. The subjects on the high-protein, high-fat diet (similar to an Atkins-type diet with abundant steak, eggs, hamburgers, tuna salad, peanut butter, and cheese) remained glycogen depleted for five days (see figure 6.1). The subjects on the high-carbohydrate diet


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. Carbohydrate diet


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Protein & fat diet

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Rest/exercise 5 15 25 35 45 hours 5 days

Recovery time

Rest/exercise 5 15 25 35 45 hours 5 days

Recovery time

Figure 6.1 A carbohydrate diet replenishes the glycogen content of muscles more quickly than a protein and fat diet.

Reprinted, by permission, from J. Bergstrom et al., 1967. "Diet, muscle glycogen and physical performance," Acta Physi-ologica Scandinavica 71:140.

totally replenished their muscle glycogen in two days. This result shows that protein and fat aren't stored as muscle glycogen and that carbohydrate is important for replacing depleted glycogen stores.

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