Lance Armstrong, Guy Fieri and the Carb-Loading Myth

It’s a classic image. An athlete bingeing on massive amounts of carbs before a race. The logic being that when you digest carbohydrates, they turn into sugar that goes to your cells to give you energy. The excess sugar is stored in your liver and your muscles as glycogen. It is believed that by loading carbohydrates beforehand, you are more likely to complete longer events requiring endurance.

A culture that Carb-Loads.

We are a culture that watches athletes. There are hundreds if not thousands of sports channels on planet earth. For every one endurance athlete there are a 10,000 butts parked on couches. Many people dress and talk like their sports heroes. They also EAT like them. While dressing and talking like your favorite athlete might not hurt you, except maybe the wearing of workout clothes in a non-gym environment (you know who you are). Carb-Loading without the intent of strenuous physical activity is like hitching a fuel tanker to your mini-cooper for a trip to the store. It’s pointless and destructive. Many also emulate their favorite sports stars apparent love of sugary beverages without any thought to the incredible damage it’s doing.

It doesn’t help that we have a veritable cornucopia of TV shows glorifying the mass consumption of the stuff…from Guy Fieri stuffing his face with the worst possible foods to Adam Richman’s one-man mission to eat everything in sight. Self destruction never looked so fun! It is a very bizarre situation indeed. A couple years ago Paula Deen was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and “found the Lord”. Fortunately, she has all the money (and managers) in the world to rebuild the proverbial mini-cooper. What about all of her fans? They end up sick and discouraged without a business manager to support them on the road to recovery.

Big Tobacco meet your match

Without a doubt, historians will correlate the advent of food television culture with the exploding diabetes and obesity epidemic. Just as lung and other cancers are now traceable to the smoking culture of the previous decades. When it comes to reducing the population, “Big Tobacco” has met its match in “Big Food”.

Here is the irony of the carb-loading myth. Acclaimed sports medicine scientist Professor Timothy Knoakes famously wrote in his book “The Lore of Running”, that athletes were best served by carbo-loading before strenuous activity. In a recent interview he mentioned that he deeply regrets ever writing that. EVEN athletes shouldn’t be carb-loading, then shouldn’t the rest of us avoid it that much more!

Lathe Poland is one of the creators of Carb-Loaded a documentary film that examines the causes of the diabetes epidemic.

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