Jeff Volek of the Ohio State University Department of Human Science has long been studying low-carbohydrate diets, and focuses on the role of ketogenic diets in athletic performance and recovery.
In a recent New York Times article discussing the long held belief that high-carbohydrate diets are preferable for athletes and new research that suggest high-fat diets might actually be better. If you yourself are an athlete or know one you’ve probably heard the term “carb loading” before. Recently this traditional wisdom has been challenged by scientists like Dr. Volek who was quoted in the article:
“From an evolutionary standpoint, a high-fat performance diet makes sense. Early humans, the hunter-gatherers, who were quite physically active, primarily ate fat. It’s been the main fuel for active humans far longer than carbohydrates have been.”
In agrarian societies carbohydrates were hard to come by and took a lot of energy to gather while not providing as much overall benefit as the protein and fat from meat.
The New York Times article also discusses the fact that exercise scientists have known for a long time that endurance training adapts the trainee’s body to better metabolize fat and use it as fuel.
While the scientific jury is still out on which is better for athletes, fat or carbs, the continued work of Dr. Volek and others should lead to some interesting results and possibly completely change what training athletes eat.
In 2000, charity participants took the first walk over the newly opened London Millennium Footbridge. As they walked their feet synchronized and the natural side-to-side motion caused the bridge to sway—much to the dismay of the walkers. Officials closed the footbridge until 2002 while they made modifications to stop the swaying.
Obviously the charity participants were frightened, but in a sense they brought it on themselves: because walking on a swaying surface takes about 5% less energy than walking on a stationary surface.
Ohio State University researchers wanted to look into the human behavior side of this equation. Why is it that, consciously or unconsciously, the charity participants fell into the same way of walking and kept walking that way as the bridge swayed beneath them?
The study found that when a few people walked on such a surface as the bridge, the optimal way to walk was without shaking it. Add enough people and the group will make the bridge sway to lower the group’s energy cost.
The research team is trying to discover a complete theory of why we walk the way we do. Unsurprisingly they found that stability is always the first concern, but the next priority is conserving energy despite the situation. The team has jokingly named it “the principle of maximum laziness” as their working theory suggests people usually adjust things like cadence or length and width of strides to save even a tiny it of energy.