Here’s What You Need To Know…
1. We’ve all heard it before, “carbs make you fat,” and some of us still believe this myth. You know what makes you fat? A surplus of calories, shitty food quality and a sedentary lifestyle.
2. Sure you can drop a few quick pounds fending off carbs for a while, but your performance, hormonal balance, and general mental and emotional abilities and health will suffer. Did I mention you’ll probably end up even fatter once you kick the “low carb” kick?
3. Here’s why prioritizing carbs, and training and eating like an athlete will create the foundation for fat-loss and general health benefits we are all shooting for. And yes, this is a sustainable long term option unlike your low carb crash diet.
You Think Carbs Will Make You Fat?
“Carbs will make you fat. Want to lose fat? Just cut back on your carbs, and increase your cardio.” – Muttered by numerous fitness “professionals” on a daily basis.
It is this irresponsible advice and approach that has wrecked peoples bodies internally and externally, left people feeling like shit zombies, and kept people looking flat and deflated.
Carbs have gotten such a bad rep over the years that it has become the second coming of the low fat craze. Everything is touted as low-carb, low-glycemic, etc. and all to stave off the dreaded belly fat.
The truth is, whether you are a competitive athlete, professional physique model, or just a weekend warrior looking to shed some pounds for your upcoming high school reunion – carbs can, and should be your friend.
Low carb diets may work in brief for quick “weight loss”, but what is this weight loss, and what are the real results when cutting out a high amount of carbs from the diet?
To break it down simply, low carb diets do work for general WEIGHT LOSS because you are entering a caloric deficit by cutting out an entire macronutrient group, and thus a huge chunk of your calories; creating a caloric deficit which is needed for weight loss.
Low Carb diets may also be good for more sedentary individuals or extremely obese individuals looking to control insulin and blood sugar levels. Because you ended up reading this article, I assume that you don’t fit this category.
Why Low Carb Diets DON’T Work for the Body You Want
More times than not, the weight loss from low carb diets ends up being water loss, and glycogen depletion, thus leaving the dieter looking flat, feeling weak, confused and tired. As soon as carbs are re-introduced, weight gain occurs and the “weight loss” visual results vanish as well.
Most people who have serious aesthetic goals in mind have a certain body type they are looking for. To get that body type you need to be training seriously, intensely, and continuously. You cannot perform optimally in the gym, and reach the gainz you seek long term without carbohydrates.
For men, being on low carb diets for extended periods of time can also lead to lowered testosterone levels and elevated cortisol. These are two of the most important hormones when it comes to getting shredded versus holding onto fat, and low carbs may push each of them in the wrong direction.
For women, eating low carb for extended periods of time leads to hypothalamic amenorrhea – i.e. irregular periods and some seriously messed up hormones.
4 Reasons You Need Carbs
Here are the four most important reasons you better be prioritizing carbohydrate intake in your diet. If you are struggling with your body composition or performance in and out of the gym, you may want to take notes.
#1 Carbs Fuel Intense Workouts
Because you read Dr. John Rusin, you must train seriously. Because you train seriously, you need carbohydrates in your life. Carbs fuel your intense workouts, allow you to avoid burnout, and push through those final reps of triple drop set split squats.
While pre-workout carbs don’t directly lead to muscle gain, as they have a limited role in muscle protein synthesis, they DO allow you to train harder, heavier and thus leading to the appropriate anabolic response and hormonal cascade that we are all seeking.
Loading up on the right kind of carbs pre-workout is just as important. You know what your body can handle, but most people would feel a high fiber carbs or large meals sitting in their guts during their squats.
A lighter, faster digesting carb 60-90 minutes before you workout is the best option. Some good options here would be white rice, white bagels, bananas or other lower fiber fruits or starchy carbs. If Whole food doesn’t sit well with you, try a liquid carb drink, as some carbs here may be better than none.
Bottom line is, I recommend a minimum of 30-60 grams of carbs 60-90 minutes before your workout.
#2 Carbs Promote Recovery After Intense Workouts
During intense training sessions, glycogen is pulled from muscle storage to help replace your ATP, fueling muscular contractions. Over the course of an intense training session, glycogen can be depleted by as much as 26%. However, this is a total body measurement and glycogen stores are actually used locally. What this means is that if you train legs, almost all of the glycogen in your legs could be used up – but only 26% of your total body glycogen was used.
Long story short, you need to replenish that glycogen, and carbs will do the trick.
Within a hour or two after your workout, make sure you consume 1/4th to ½ your body weight in grams of carbohydrates. For example, a 200-pound man should have 50-100 grams of carbs within an hour or two after an intense workout.
Good choices here are your faster digesting carbs again, as we don’t want them sitting in our gut, and sometimes it can be hard to eat high fiber carbs right after a workout. White rice, pasta, bread, or a sport drink will do the trick here.
#3 Carbs Optimized Hormones
Hormones play a huge role in gaining muscle mass, losing body fat, and just feeling good overall. So why would we want to go on a diet that messes with all of those elements so dramatically?
Low carb diets for people who are serious about their training can lead to the following hormonal changes:
- Lowered testosterone
- Increased cortisol
- Lowered thyroid function
- Lowered luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in women.
All of which lead to less energy, slowed metabolism, low sex drive, and impaired immune function. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?
One of the most important, and obvious hormones that is controlled by carbs is insulin. Insulin, being very anabolic, is important for building muscle and is crucial for replenishing glycogen as stated earlier.
The fear of insulin is what started the whole low-carb craze in the first place. Remember, you train hard, you need insulin to build your body, you don’t fit the mold of the low-carb dieters.
So how do we avoid messing up our hormones and reverting to the levels of a 10 year old boy? Make sure your daily carb intake never gets under 100 grams per day or under 30% of your total caloric intake just to be safe. You need to monitor your energy levels during workouts to truly know what your goal should be, as some people may need a much higher minimum dose than 100 grams.
#4 Carbs Enhance Mental Health
Live your life…responsibly. One of the most important, and under talked about aspects of our nutrition is how it affects our mental health. Low carb dieters tend to get to the point of jonezing so hard for carbs that its all they want to talk about.
We should be able to enjoy what we eat, while still reaching the goals and bodies that we desire.
Many of our favorite “guilty pleasure” foods are carb heavy. Pizza, pasta, desserts, etc. It is okay to enjoy these things on occasion with responsibility and being able to tell yourself that it won’t completely ruin your physique. If you know your caloric goals, your macro nutrient goals (especially carbs after reading this), make about 10-20% of your weekly calories come from the less “healthy” forms of carbs and foods.
Just make sure that the rest of your carbohydrates during the week come from whole, minimally processed foods such as: oats, rice, beans, fruits, potatoes and non-starchy vegetables.
It’s Finally Time To Embrace Carbs
Don’t be that guy pulling plain chicken breasts out of your pockets when you go out for a nice dinner with friends.
By avoiding a low carb diet, I guarantee you will feel better, be happier, and get the results you are looking for (or even better). Make sure you keep hitting the weights hard, keep your total nutrition on point, and the carbs will do the rest of the work for you.
About The Author
Mike Gorski is a Registered Dietitian and personal trainer located just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. Mike works with clients on a wide variety of goals including sports performance, post-rehab training, weight loss, and overall healthy behavior change. His ideas and methods have been featured on some of the top publications in the fitness industry including the Personal Trainer Development Center. Mike’s mission is to create positive behavior change with all his clients that will not only get them to their personal goal, but last them a lifetime. Learn more about Mike on his: