If you are subject to a low carb diet, you will know what I mean when I say that life becomes a little less fun without being able to enjoy a piece of bread and an occasional pizza.
In the diet world, carbs are often still seen as the enemy. I’ve fallen foul of this in the past and also treated carbs as the devil, notably at my strength, energy levels, brain function and bodies demise.
So if you are still ‘one of those people’ who gets the fear from the bread basket, a few facts for you to consider.
This is my current physique on a high carb diet. I eat carbohydrates with most of my three meals a day and can also sometimes snack on carbs too. I do no ‘fixed cardio sessions’ aside from walking. I am however active, and train with weights/kettlebells 4 times per week.
I do not measure my macronutrients or my calories but I have a rough idea how much I consume each day. So thats no weighing, no measuring, no tracking.
On training days my guesstimate is that I eat close to 3000 Kcls. I eat bread, burgers, cake, wheat and dairy. I just don’t eat them all the time, in fact the bulk of my food intake is pretty simplistic and what I would call 'natural' unprocessed food. When I eat a burger however, it is not the ‘healthy burger variety’. In fact it is usually the one on the menu which is loaded with extra calories or extra cheese. I love eating burgers on training days as they make me feel like I am feeding and replenishing, and re-building my body (I also get to use that hashtag of Gainzzzzzzz, which is obviously really cool too……).
Now the point of me sharing this is not to tell you that eating the above is ‘good diet advice’. In fact if your goal is fat loss and you are overweight, I doubt I would tell you to eat in the same way as me.
BUT what I am trying to point out is that there is more to the ‘eating carbs makes you fat’ argument, than you think.
Whilst I know that my physique is in no way the ‘leanest there is’, at the moment I train for the purpose of performance as opposed to atheistic reasons. But I definitely don’t do badly to dismiss rumours that carbs make you fat. Knowing that carbs helps my performance allows me to train harder and heavier with a greater intensity which overall will help my body reap the rewards. Down the line and if I ever wanted to get leaner I would probably look more closely at tracking what I eat. I would however still eat burgers (with the bread). I would just make sure that this fitted into whatever my calorie intake had been reduced to. This is because enjoying life, and enjoying food of all varieties, is to me more important than restriction of everything that is deemed to be unhealthy or fattening.
So how can this help you and your diet?
Learning how to balance macronutrients and foods which are healthful, for me, is what I have found to be the most helpful approach for long term diet and nutritional success.
So a few
FACTs and FICTIONS to help you make a decision about where carbs should sit in your life.
Carbs provide an easy to use energy source for the body. This includes brain function. So if you ditch carbs completely, but require a mass amount of brain power in work for example you could well be putting yourself at risk of being a space cadet.
Contrary to popular diet belief. Carbs can help control cravings, especially if they are carbs that are also high in fibre. There is a lot to be said in science about what foods are satiating (fill you up). But overall, most research points to the inclusion of all macronutrients as a balanced approach to help this. I also believe this can be very personal. For example fats are said to be satiating as they are more calorie dense, right?- But, for me if I ate a handful of nuts when i was very hungry there is no way I would feel satiated. If I had a slice of fresh bread with a slice of turkey I would feel fuller. This is a higher carbohydrate but lower calorie option.
BUT-it is important to recognise that still
Some carbs are easy to overeat.
Science will tell you a lot about this.
I would simply say
THE ONES YOU LIKE/ENJOY THE MOST
For the purpose of weight gain, the body does not care if you overeat ‘healthy carbs’ or ‘unhealthy carbs’.
Too many calories is too many calories.
Calories don’t always increase just because something is ‘unhealthy’. Likewise ‘healthy options’ aren't always lower calorie choices. So knowing this on a fat loss plan is pivotal. I often hear ‘my diet is healthy yet I am struggling to lose weight’. Chances are in this case the diet is healthy yet the client may well just simply be eating too many calories for their activity level.
If you know you cannot stop eating a ‘certain food’ whether this be carbs or fats, healthy or unhealthy, you are probably better off managing this as your own personal choice of imposing a restriction. Just dont have it in the cupboard is a simple answer this.
Knowing how much you should eat, but also how many carbs you should eat each day is a helpful start to any nutrition plan. This is where for MOST PEOPLE -tracking amounts is helpful. (****As I mentioned above at the moment I don’t track closely as my goal is not fat loss. If it was I would begin to use a tracking method. If I wanted to ‘lean out’ (hate that phrase) I would track carbs, fats and protein and amend portions as and when I saw results).
So a quick SUMMARY to help you move towards your goal.
If you overeat (above the bodies energy requirements) on ANY MACRONUTRIENT then you can gain weight. This is the same for CARBS, FAT and PROTEIN. Carbs don’t make you fat. Overeating on Carbs can make you fat.
-If you undercut or undereat (for your activity level) on ANY MACRONUTRIENT then you can lose weight. This includes FAT or CARBS or PROTEIN.
-Science shows that carbs have a direct and positive influence on exercise performance and mood. If you are therefore ‘training’ heavily on a low carb diet there will be a direct correlation in relation to your performance. This does not mean you cannot perform well on a low carb diet. However most current science evidences that you may well be making things harder for yourself if you limit your carbohydrate intake too much, especially for exercise at higher intensity.
-Science does however indicate that to ‘get the most out of your carbs’, and specifically if you want to look at when to eat them, eating carbs, before and after you train is probably the wisest choice as this helps the body replenish.
-Carbs help the body retain water. This is why after a high carbohydrate meal or day you can appear a little more bloated. The scales may show an increase. Overall if your training is appropriate for your use of carbohydrates however this does not matter long term as the fluctuation will be temporary. Again tracking other variants of ‘weight measurement’ is helpful here (so think- less about scales more about measurements long term)
-Cutting macronutrients out of your diet is an easy way to create a calorie reduction. THIS is why low fat, low carb, low ‘whatever’ diets work for helping weight loss occur. This is not down to the macronutrient you have cut out. This is simply down to clever marketing and a CALORIE REDUCTION.
So if like me, you like to ‘seize the day’. Seize the carbs too - just keep an eye on your intake and roughly track your calories. If you find this doesn't work track a little closer.