Five researchers from the Department of Sport Nutrition, Academy of Physical Education in Katowice, Poland just published results of their study into the effects of cycling a group of Polish professional basketball players from a conventional diet (relatively high in carbohydrates) to a low-carbohydrate diet and then to high carbohydrate “loading” diet.
Their results show substantial improvement in body composition and triglyceride levels from following a low-carb diet.
How the Study Was Done
The Polish researchers recruited 11 professional basketball players from Division I (highest level) of the Polish Basketball League. The players were all experienced athletes with at least five years of training. Throughout the study, they maintained a rigorous workout schedule of approximately 10.5 hours of volume per week.
Prior to the start of the study, the participants followed a conventional diet of approximately 55% carbohydrates, 15% protein and 30% fat.
For the first four weeks of the study, the athletes followed a low-carbohydrate diet comprised of 10% carbohydrates, 31% proteins and 59% fat.
After that four weeks, the players then went through a carbohydrate “loading” phase (approximately 70% carbohydrates) for one week.
The researchers kept the player’s total calorie consumption the same for all three phases of the study. They also had the subjects eat healthy options for the low-carb and carb-loading phases of the study—no fast foods, etc.—just high quality sources of fats and carbohydrates.
During the study, the Polish scientists measured the athletes weight, fat mass, lean body mass as well as their glucose and cholesterol profiles.
What the Study Found
The study results showed a significant reduction in the athletes body fat percentage when they transitioned from the conventional diet (labeled as “CD” in the charts below) to the low-carbohydrate diet (labeled as “LCD”) and then a regain of some of that weight during the carbohydrate loading diet (labeled as “Carbo-L”).
The first chart is a measure of the participant’s average body fat percentage (BFP) and the second charts shows their average body fat in kilograms.
The men lost an average of more than 3% of their body fat (which equated to almost 7 pounds of fat) after the transition from the conventional diet to the low-carbohydrate diet.
In addition, the study found “a significantly lower concentration of TAG (triglycerides) after the LCD (low-carbohydrate diet). The test also revealed a significantly higher concentration of TAG and glucose concentration after the Carbo-L (carbohydrate-loading diet) compared to CD (conventional diet).”
This study showed positive results for the low-carbohydrate diet in measures of body composition and cholesterol levels.
The athletes lost several pounds of fat and improved their triglycerides while following the low-carb diet and then regained some of that weight on the one week carbohydrate loading phase of the study. Their triglyceride levels were actually worse after the loading period than before the study (when they were following a conventional diet).
Given that the study participants were well-trained, professional athletes, it’s surprising that they lost a significant amount of body fat while following the low-carbohydrate diet, especially since calorie consumption was kept the same throughout the three diet phases.
You can find more information about this study here.