It’s Time to Start Embracing Carbs - Seriously! Why Carbs Are #WorkoutFuel
If the sight of a waiter bringing a basket of bread to your table makes you cringe, we’re here to change your mind!
Carbs are not the enemy!
Your body needs a supply of carbohydrates everyday to perform basic functions. When broken down, carbs create glucose, the primary source of energy for the body, which is stored in muscles in the form of glycogen. Even your brain needs a certain amount of carbs to perform! That fog you get from eating too much or too little sugar/carbs? That’s your brain reacting to glucose levels in your blood and signaling that it’s out of balance.
So let’s talk about carbs and exercise, and how you could actually be getting in your own way by limiting your carb intake. When you eat carbohydrate rich food, your body breaks this down into glycogen, which is stored in your muscles, ready to fuel your body for activity. Especially during high-intensity exercise, your body needs quick energy sources, so it accesses the glycogen stores in your muscles for energy.
If you’re restricting carbs consistently and not replenishing your energy stores, you’re doing more damage than good and probably sabotaging your fitness goals. The goal is to get strong, right?! When your body gets used to not getting enough energy supply from food, it will adjust to avoid starvation by slowing your metabolism. This is why it’s important to make gradual adjustments to your calorie intake when attempting to lose weight, otherwise you’ll be prone to bingeing.
It’s important that these glycogen stores are replenished after exercise as well, which is why meal programming for weightlifters and other high performance athletes typically includes a meal that includes low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates about 45-60 minutes after training. Low GI carbs, like sweet potato, whole grains, and certain fruits, take longer to break down and won’t spike your blood sugar. You might also hear some trainers recommend having carbs around a workout, when they’re more likely to be immediately used. The logic here is that by having carbs before and after, you’re supplying fuel for the workout and then replenishing it immediately after.
So how many carbs can I eat on a daily basis? The truth is that this is unique to you. Your carb intake requirement is based on things like your weight, activity level, and even body composition. A trainer or nutritional programming tool can give you a customized recommendation, but a good, very general rule of thumb when it comes to understanding when to eat more or fewer carbs is: more energy spent requires more carbohydrate intake.
While carbs are necessary to fuel your daily activities and workouts, it is important to note that consuming significantly more carbohydrates (or calories in general) than you burn on a daily basis, can lead to weight gain. Curious to learn more about how many calories your body burns on a daily basis? Check out a total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) calculator to give you a better idea!
You can also check out BodyBuilding.com’s ‘Recommended Carbohydrate Intake Calculator’ as a starting place to get a recommendation based on your activity level and height/weight. You might be surprised at the result! If you’re putting in the work in a new exercise plan and haven’t been seeing the progress you’ve been looking for, take a look at how much you’re eating and whether you’re getting enough fuel. It could make all the difference!
But what about the keto diet? As you may have seen in our recent blog post, the Keto diet is a very low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet. The science behind the keto diet is that when you bring your carb consumption way down, your body is forced to find another fuel source, so it turns to stored fat, breaking them them down into molecules called ketones, that it uses for energy (this is the process of ketosis). If done right, the keto diet can result in significant weight loss (some celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian and Halle Berry swear by it!). However, there are some unknowns about longer-term health effects of this diet. Like everything else, what works for one person may not work for another.
As always, we encourage you to do your research and speak with your doctor before trying a new diet - and then of course, monitor your body closely to see how it responds!