Carbs are good. Carbs are bad. You should only ever eat carbs before 6 pm. Because somehow they turn evil after 6:01 pm. You should only eat the purest of organically farmed carb sources. If it fits my mother f****ng macros it’s going in my face.
Let’s be clear on one thing, carbs aren’t inherently bad, nor are they inherently good. It depends on your goal, body comp and other factors to figure out where carbs lie in your nutrition approach.
Regardless of their source, the carbohydrates you eat are all treated the same way. They’re broken down into simple sugars and used/ stored by the body depending on how much glycogen you already have stored away, what your blood sugar levels are like and how much you eat.
Some are broken down quickly, think sweets and biscuits. Some are broken down slowly, think fruit, whole grains and veggies.
This process is also affected by what you eat with your carbs. Eat a teaspoon of sugar and it’s processed quickly and out of your stomach and you’re still hungry. Have a meal with some protein and fats, like a baked potato with a little butter and some chicken, then your stomach empties more slowly and sugars are absorbed more slowly and you feel full for longer.
3 factors that will effect your carb intake.
Your training goal.
This may be the number one factor that affects how many grams of carbohydrate you eat each day. If your goal is primarily fat loss, you are probably going to be on a lower carb intake. Note that this does not mean going full Keto, but simply reducing your carb intake from too much to enough. This will do a couple of things, start to improve your insulin sensitivity and force your body to look to mobilise fat stores for energy.
While fat is a plentiful fuel source, if performance is your goal, carbs are your go to choice. Fat simply doesn’t regenerate your ATP stores quickly enough to allow for high intensity, repeated efforts.
Don’t believe me? Go to any event where power and explosiveness are needed, and then try to find a high performer.
Your body composition
The leaner you are, the better your body processes and handles carbs. If you are overweight or obese, chances are that you’ve built up some insulin sensitivity and your body struggles to use carbs efficiently, you end up storing more as fat. In order to combat this situation, a lower carb approach is needed to improve your insulin sensitivity, think of this as your bodys ability to switch between carbs and fat for fuel at the right times.
Lower carb intake equals lower insulin levels equals more shift towards using fat as fuel.
For most people, most of the time, most of their carb intake should be around training and immediately post training. This helps fuel the workout due to higher blood glucose and helps promote recovery due to higher insulin levels to help with shuttling nutrients into the muscles.
The other time where a little higher carb intake may be of use is during particualrly high energy, non-training, times. If you have a demanding physical job or are doing high energy tasks that last a long (ish) time.
Otherwise, most of your meals should focus on protein, fats, and a selection of veggies.
Here are a few tips on how to get the right amount of carbs for you.
- Carbs are a tool, use them appropriately for your goal.
- Make simple swaps, for example swap out full sugar juices for water or zero calorie alternatives.
- Have most of your carbs around your training sessions. Fuel and recover.
- Increase protein content. Chances are if you are taking in high carb amounts, you’re probably not eating enough protein. You’ll feel fuller and less inclined to snack, usually on sugary carbs.
- Try having one meal each day that is lower or no carb. You’re probably not in high energy demanding situations all day long.
- When you have carbs, serving sizes should be 1-2 cupped handfuls. Don’t overload your plate with carbs at the detriment of more essential protein and fats.
If you have any questions about this topic, or any other I post about, just get in touch – Dave@edinburgh-pt.com and I’ll be happy to help.