A Feed Zone Approach to High-Carb, Low-Carb, Paleo, and Everything In Between

We at Feed Zone headquarters got an interesting question from an athlete who is shifting to an all-natural fueling system for training and racing.

Tony H. asked, “For the past few months, I’ve adopted a more low-carb approach. I don’t mean a ketogenic diet, but I am limiting my carbs. Several of the sample recipes on feedzonecookbook.com show around 30-40g of carbs per serving, which is more than double my goal carb intake. Are there recipes in your cookbooks that are targeted toward low-carb athletes?”

So we asked Biju and Allen what they thought.

The Feed Zone Cookbook by Chef Biju Thomas and Dr. Allen Lim FZC

Biju: We don’t advocate any particular type of diet in the Feed Zone cookbooks. Instead, we want to offer our readers ideas and inspiration to cook and enjoy food that suits whatever diet they pursue.

Most of the recipes can be adjusted to any carb-fat-protein ratio and still taste great. The flavors and ideas behind each recipe are based on real-world success at the highest levels of sport – and you can bet those athletes have their own preferences about carbs, fats, and proteins. Use the Feed Zone recipes as a starting point.

Personally, I find that fewer carbs helps keep my middle-aged Indian man-belly in check!

Allen: I agree with Biju. We don’t endorse one particular diet over another. We want to inspire people to get in the kitchen and cook real food. I recommend people increase or decrease carbs, fats, and proteins according to their own needs. In the end, science isn’t just a set of facts or knowledge, nor a debate between right and wrong. Science is ultimately a process for discovering answers. When it comes to diet, exercise, and life as a whole, each person is their own living experiment.

Personally, I find any form of extremism revolting. I’m even revolted by my own extreme disdain at extreme stances on diet!

That said, I don’t know many endurance athletes who have been competitive on a low-carb diet. For those who aren’t training or competing full time, it certainly helps to cut out excess calories, especially for those who spend much of their day sitting in a desk chair. For some, that might mean reducing calories from carbs. Still, there are plenty of diet plans that are plant-based or completely opposite a paleo approach. In the end, calories matter and while a paleo-style diet can work during training, I find that most athletes on this diet need to increase their carbohydrate intake during or leading up to competition. The bottom line: diet is all about context.

Eating food keeps people alive. Whether eating a certain type or group of foods works better depends on what those people want to do with their energy. Clearly, the evidence shows that a high-carb diet is optimal for acute endurance exercise. There is other evidence that shows reducing carb intake during training (not racing) can improve fat utilization and performance. There is other evidence, too: diets high in animal proteins present increased risk for cancer and heart disease. There is evidence that diets void of animal proteins can lead to chronic fatigue and immune disorders.

In the end, the only evidence that matters is how someone feels and how they perform. I encourage people to decide for themselves and to be methodical about understanding how they feel and perform. It’s a deeply personal issue for many, just like religion and politics.

In fact, This American Life episode #511 argues that food is one of The Seven Things You’re Not Supposed to Talk About.

In the Feed Zone, the menu has changed and no one can argue with the results: real food is better. Real food tastes better, digests quickly, and helps you perform at your best.

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