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Diet Confusion: Which Diet is Best for MX?

by Kim Wathen, M.S. Exercise Phys/Dietitian

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If you are training or need to lose weight, the diet you choose can have an extreme effect on you health
Practically daily someone somewhere gives us a “new” awesome diet they say we should be following. Of course each one is “the best” and will lead to miraculous changes in our physical appearance and performance according to the authors! In my opinion as a Registered Dietician, diet choice should be based upon the needs of the user. Because motocross is primarily an endurance sport, the majority of your diet as a motocross rider should be made up of good fats and some carbohydrates. If you are a motocross rider who is attempting to shed a few pounds then you should be controlling your calorie and fat intake.

The majority of the “new” diets we see fall under the same categories as previously released diets. For instance, Atkin’s New Diet Revolution, Protein Power, The South Beach Diet and Sugar Busters are all versions of a low carbohydrate, high protein diet. The bottom line is that typically if a diet works it is because the dieter is paying more attention to caloric intake (and most likely eating fewer calories), and is possibly adding exercise as well. But which diet, if any should the serious or recreational rider be following?

When comparing diets for the rider who is looking to lose weight, there are a few questions you should consider when deciding if the diet will work.  A diet may not work in the long run if it promotes:

  • Foods and approaches with “miracle” fat or weight loss qualities
  • Odd amounts of foods or rigid food combining
  • An overemphasis on any particular food or type of food
  • Quick weight loss
  • A food or product you must buy for success with the diet
  • Little or no physical activity

Bottom Line
As an athlete it is important to eat for both health and performance. While many diets may contribute to weight loss in the short term, many of them are not healthy long term nor are they the route to achieving optimal performance on the track.

As stated earlier, the majority of your calories should be coming from good fats and carbohydrates. Not only does your body use them for energy, they are your brain’s only source of energy. If you don’t give your body and brain an adequate supply, the result will be lack of endurance/energy and mental sharpness among many detrimental effects to your health.

The charts below lists the main advantages and disadvantages of some of the most popular diets listed by name.

Weight Loss = No
A low carbohydrate, high protein diet.
Athlete = No

Advantages:

  • Quick weight loss = psychological boost
  • Appetite suppression

Disadvantages:

  • Much of weight lost is water weight
  • Appetite suppression caused by ketone formation which can cause weakness, nausea, dehydration, light-headedness, irritability, and is hard on the kidneys.
  • These diets are often high in fat which can increase the risk for heart disease and cancer
  • Muscle is broken down due to lack of carbohydrate for energy
  • Depleted carbohydrate stores in the liver and muscles can impair strength and endurance
  • The brain needs glucose to function efficiently and the body takes longer to break down fat and protein than carbs to provide the needed glucose
  • Eating less than 150 grams of carbohydrate daily will disrupt normal metabolic activity

Weight Loss = With Caution
A low calorie diet which focuses on healthy food choices. The plan also includes exercise.
Athlete = With Caution

Advantages:

  • Healthy foods are emphasized
  • Meals scheduled frequently to avoid hunger
  • Exercise is included

Disadvantages:

  • May be too low in carbohydrates for someone who is very active

Weight Loss = No
A low calorie, high protein, low fat diet. Also includes high amounts of exercise.
Athlete = No

Advantages:

  • Includes exercise
  • Uses small meals throughout the day so the body will use fat stores for energy
  • Quick weight loss

Disadvantages:

  • High protein levels can be hard on kidneys
  • Some may not adhere to high levels of exercise
  • Fatigue, dizziness, lack of energy
  • Weight loss may be short term because people don’t stay on the diet

Weight Loss = Yes
A nutrition plan based on healthy food choices and focusing on programming your life so you will be successful with your weight loss.
Athlete = Yes
Advantages:
  • Focuses on the whole person
  • Creates an environment for success
  • Uses “high yield” foods (foods which supply a lot of nutrients relative to the calories they contain)

Disadvantages:

  • None!

Weight Loss = No, No, NO
This low-carbohydrate, moderate-protein diet is a low-calorie diet averaging 800-1,000 calories in most versions.
Athlete = No, No, NO
Advantages:
  • None!

Disadvantages:
  • Inadequate amounts of nutrients
  • Weight loss is short term because people don’t stay on the diet
  • Fatigue, constipation, nausea, diarrhea, hair loss
  • Weight loss is due to eliminating food groups and lower caloric intake, not to any single food or food group

Weight Loss = No
A low carbohydrate, high protein diet that claims weight loss, no hunger, and healthier heart.
Athlete = No

Advantages:

  • Quick weight loss = psychological boost
  • Appetite suppression

Disadvantages:

  • Much of weight lost is water weight
  • Appetite suppression caused by ketone formation which can cause weakness, nausea, dehydration, light-headedness, irritability, and is hard on the kidneys.
  • These diets are often high in fat which can increase the risk for heart disease and cancer
  • Muscle is broken down due to lack of carbohydrate for energy
  • Depleted carbohydrate stores in the liver and muscles can impair strength and endurance

Weight Loss = No
This diet boldly claims that much of the current thinking about good nutrition -- a diet high in carbohydrates, low in protein, and fats -- is "dead wrong."
Athlete = No
Advantages:
  • Weight loss and fat loss
  • Allows good amounts of fruits and vegetables

Disadvantages:

  • Weight loss and fat loss are not due to lowering insulin as the authors claim, but cutting back on total calorie intake.
  • Allows high fat intake which may affect heart health

Weight Loss = Yes
(with added Calories)
This program centers around prepackaged meals which the user supplements with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products at the start.
Athlete = Yes
(With Added Calories)

Advantages:

  • Quick weight loss
  • Calorie goals based on the dieter’s height, weight and age
  • 24/7 phone support

Disadvantages:

  • User may regain weight when prepackaged foods are discontinued
  • Limited range of foods
  • Support staff are not trained nutritionists

Weight Loss = Yes
A weight management plan which is portion and calorie control based.
Athlete = Yes

Advantages:

  • Offers support via weekly weigh-ins, counseling, menu plans, recipes and newsletters
  • No points or calories to count
  • Encourages healthy foods but dieters can choose any food as long as the portion size is controlled
  • Exercise is encouraged

Disadvantages:

  • Supplements, snacks, and meal replacements are sold only at LA Weight Loss centers and are only available to clients
  • Counselors earn commission on the products they sell and are sometimes pushy
  • Counselors are not trained nutritionists
  • Could become expensive depending on the foods and supplements chosen

Weight Loss = Yes
A dietary pattern which includes a large amount of plant foods and nuts, small amounts of animal proteins, and a very small amount of saturated fat. A glass of wine is almost always served with lunch and dinner.
Athlete = Yes

Advantages:

  • Weight loss
  • Focuses on healthy food choices
  • Exercise is included as a part of the plan
  • Can help protect against heart disease, diabetes and cancer

Disadvantages:

  • None

Weight Loss = Yes
(with added Calories)
A low calorie, low fat, high fiber, plan which uses prepackaged meals.
Weight Loss = Yes
(with added Calories)

Advantages:

  • Convenient because prepackaged meals are delivered to the users door monthly
  • Users are urged to modify their eating behaviors and exercise
  • Includes exercise guidance
  • Online support is available and by telephone

Disadvantages:

  • Food costs $280-310 per month (plus additional cost for supplemental items from your grocery store)
  • Does not include a maintenance or long term phase
  • Dieter may regain weight if they discontinue use of prepackaged foods
  • May be too few calories to keep user from being hungry

Weight Loss = Yes
An extremely low fat diet. Has been shown to reverse heart disease.
Athlete = No

Advantages:

  • Quick weight loss, reversal of heart disease
  • One of the few popular diets that is based on sound science

Disadvantages:

  • Low choice of food types
  • Very close to a vegetarian diet, so may be hard to adjust to
  • Very low fat intake may leave user feeling unsatisfied at meals

Weight Loss = No
This diet doesn’t focus on weight loss. The author claims that his regimen can make you live longer as well as look younger; improve your metabolism, improve bone density, improve the skin, decrease cancer risk and lift your mood.
Athlete = No

Advantages:

  • Encourages exercise
  • Encourages healthy food choices

Disadvantages:

  • Author suggests taking more than 25 supplements per day
  • Very rigid with very limited food choices
  • Makes some claims based on science, but many claims “stretch” the truth
  • Author sells a line of supplements and skin care products that he recommends in the book
  • Claims to reverse the aging process
  • Supplements, creams and lotions recommended costs $200-$300 per month

Weight Loss = Yes
Diet which uses “low energy dense” foods to keep the user satisfied.
Weight Loss = Yes
(With Added Calories)

Advantages:

  • Encourages exercise
  • Encourages healthy food choices

Disadvantages:

  • Author suggests taking more than 25 supplements per day
  • Very rigid with very limited food choices
  • Makes some claims based on science, but many claims “stretch” the truth
  • Author sells a line of supplements and skin care products that he recommends in the book
  • Claims to reverse the aging process
  • Supplements, creams and lotions recommended costs $200-$300 per month

Weight Loss = No
A very low calorie diet which uses organic foods exclusively and includes the use of colonic cleansing, HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) and vast amounts of supplementation.
Athlete = No
Advantages:
  • None

Disadvantages:

  • Very rigid, small selection of allowed foods, all of which are organic
  • Calls for injections of HCG, a hormone which is not approved for use as weight loss treatment in the U.S.  Doctors who administer injections are rare.
  • Author spends 7 chapters spelling out an alleged conspiracy theory saying that the American Medical Association, the FDA and other medical establishments are purposely keeping Americans fat by withholding information so that they can make billions of dollars from drugs and surgery.
  • Includes daily injections, taking digestive enzymes, many pills and many colonic* cleanses

*colonics can lead to electrolyte imbalance, dehydration and bowel perforation


Weight Loss = Yes
This program offers 2 programs; one based on point tracking for foods consumed and one which uses calorie tracking.  Both plans are based on healthy eating guidelines.
Athlete = Yes
Advantages:
  • Local meetings provide motivation, support and encouragement
  • Website offers recipes, exercise information, online support community and progress charts
  • Users are not told exactly what to eat, but are encouraged to make healthy food choices
  • Exercise is encouraged
  • Does not sell its own food products
  • Teaches users how to eat healthy and how to maintain their weight loss

Disadvantages:

  • Calorie intakes recommended can sometimes be too low for long term.
  • The user may need to increase their calorie intake slightly once the weight is lost.

About the Author - Kim has an undergraduate degree in Dietetics from Michigan State University and began working as a personal trainer and nutrition consultant while finishing her Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology. As a self-employed trainer and dietitian, she has the privilege of working with people at many levels of fitness. She designs custom nutrition and fitness plans based upon the client's goals and current fitness level. She has designed programs for, athletes, senior citizens, and professional motocross riders. She designs complete nutriiotnal packages for $50 and can be reached at kim@fitnessandfuel.com or 517-404-9003.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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Discussion

  1. Gravatar
    Kyle May 21, 2010 at 2:47 am

    I believe the Zone diet is good for motocross. I eat about 30 percent of carbs fats and protein or more protein. I have actually gained weight about 8 lbs in about three months but I feel better and my endurance and athleticism is better. I also look better. I am not sure if you think the zone diet isnt great because it means high in carbs because the zone diet is strict on only fruits and veggies. I eat fruit in the morning sometimes with eggs and then later I eat salads and have a dinner with meat, veggies or a sweet potato and some fats whether from an oil or fish oil supplement. I also have checked my blood sugar after a large meal and was at a great level even tho I ate 'til I was full. About three weeks after sticking to the diet I have also had a blood test done and everything showed up great. The Zone is based on not increasing your insulin levels and keeping your blood sugar at the right zone. Which your article of the caveman diet is very similar too. This is just my nonprofessional, experimenting opinion. I am always trying new things. Please let me know what your take is. Thanks!

  2. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer May 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks for the input Kyle. It is my opinion that no diet exists that will work for everyone. If you are having good results on the Zone, I think that is great. Thanks again for sharing.

  3. Gravatar
    ktonka February 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    What r your thoughts on the warrior diet? I have been doing it for about a month now and find my energy levels and stamina to be my best ever and when I have my one main meal at night I enjoy a variety of food without putting on any fat.

  4. Gravatar
    Kim Wathen February 21, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I quickly scanned the info about this diet and disagree with the concept. You are most likely consuming fewer calories and eating better than you were prior to using the diet so are feeling better and not gaining weight.

  5. Gravatar
    MOTOADDICT2 June 24, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS FOR A 12 YR OLD ATHLETE TRAINIING FOR LORETTA LYNNS MX? WE CUT FAST FOOD SODA & HIGH SUGAR BUT SINCE HE IS STILL GROWING AS WELL AS THE BRAIN...THEY STILL NEED FATS... WHOS RIDING 2 HR DAILY & 45 MIN WORKOUT CARDIO...

  6. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer June 26, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    MotoAddict2 - Google, Paleo for kids.

  7. Gravatar
    Chris Ewan August 26, 2013 at 6:15 am

    I've been riding since I was 4 but not racing just out in the bush. With my dad, I'm now 17 and recently just had my first motocross race, I ended up finishing mid pack but I noticed that after my 4th lap I was tremendously tired and I could bearly hold onto the bike due to arm pump. I weigh 75kgs but I'm very unfit, I was wondering what the best diet would be for me as I'm aiming to improve in motocross, thanks-chris

  8. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer August 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Chris,
    If you are out of shape and want to get into shape, then the premium training plans we offer on the site are the bet $20 bucks per month you will ever spend. Check them out http://www.racerxvt.com/premium. To me, it's a no-brainer to join and train with one of the best Coaches in the industry (Coach Seiji).

    Regarding diet, I would recommend the Paleo diet (not listed above). This article was written a few years ago and did not include that diet. The Mediterranean Diet is pretty close. You can also search the site for "Paleo" and read all the posted articles.

    http://www.racerxvt.com/article/crossfit-nutrition
    http://www.racerxvt.com/article/moto-superfoods
    http://www.racerxvt.com/article/caveman-diet---the-final-verdict

  9. Gravatar
    Chris August 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks for such a quick reply, ill look into the training and the paleo diet on you site, thanks again

  10. Gravatar
    ric December 23, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    thanks dude, im hoping to start racing in about 3 years im 15 been riding for 3 on a rm 250 for 1&1/2 of the 3 but to do so im gunna need to lose some weight and get in shape and i havnt found any good plans till now

  11. Gravatar
    andrew January 13, 2014 at 2:34 am

    what your thoughts on the body by vi.

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