Carbohydrates vs Common sense
If you’re an athlete, or performing any amount of physical exercise, you should never be “anti” carbohydrate. We require carbohydrates as human beings for optimal performance, function and hypertrophy. What we should be worried about when creating either a plan for muscle gain or weight loss is timings and amounts of carbohydrate consumption.
When putting together a nutrition program the first consideration should be what ratio of macro nutrients you should consume to achieve your goal. This just mean how many calories you get from carbs, fats and proteins.
Why do we eat protein?
As human beings we require protein to exist. The process by which we build new tissues and heal existing tissues, is called protein synthesis. An important fact about this process is that it is either ON, or it’s OFF. We are either growing (anabolism), or were breaking down (catabolism). If your goal is to build muscle then you obviously want to ensure that you are always giving your body what it needs to grow, hence the common practice of eating every 2-3 hours.
Why do we eat carbohydrates and fats?
Carbohydrates are one of the body’s two major energy sources. We all know this. Research shows that your body is constantly switching between using carbohydrates (glycogen) for energy, as well as fat.
Low Carb vs low fat for weight loss
By consuming a diet that is largely dependent on carbohydrate for fuel, your body is more likely to become efficient at using carbohydrates for fuel. Simply put, it will spend more time burning glycogen because more glycogen is present.
Equally, a diet with a larger percentage of fats will lend the body to a greater affinity to use fats as its primary source of fuel. By training the body to use fats as fuel more often, it seems likely that it can become easier to manipulate body fat levels once a caloric deficit is achieved.
As mentioned above, fats are a known energy source and essential for many bodily processes from hormone production to cellular metabolism, even having an effect on inflammation. Certain fats have been shown to have particular functions within the body, so consuming
a wide array of fat sources is a good idea.
Having to eat carbohydrates with every meal seems to be one of the major misconceptions within our industry. Carbohydrates are not considered essential, if your body requires them, it can make them in the liver from amino acids. If you’re aiming to gain muscle it is a good idea to keep liver and muscle glycogen topped up, but most people overdo this drastically.
It is for these reasons that most athletes find low carb diets work better over low fat diets for weight loss.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
• If your serum (in the blood) insulin levels are elevated, your body completely stops using fat for fuel (fat burning stops when you eat large amounts of carbs)
• It has been suggested that if your liver glycogen levels aren’t topped up before bed that the body will resort to using amino acids for fuel. So, unless you’re eating protein through the night you’re going to be catabolizing your muscles.
• You may want to consider eating a percentage of your daily carbohydrates before bed. Carbohydrates are a sedative-like food due to the release of serotonin. Eating them before bed can assist in better sleep (aka better recovery!).
• Your body and brain need glycogen and glucose so going zero carb isn’t optimal for performance. Just choose the right times to be consuming carbs.
• Eating a high fat breakfast has been shown to increase total fat oxidation for the remainder of the day.
• Eating a large serving of carbohydrates for breakfast will definitely replenish glycogen stores, but unless you’re training soon after, that may not be ideal: 1) you halt morning fat burning, and 2) you’re more likely to store additional carbs as fat throughout the day because your glycogen stores are topped-up and additional carbs have nowhere to go.