Nutrition To carb or not to carb?

To carb or not to carb

Low-carb seems to be the trend nowadays. We are in a world that is all about avoiding “carbs after dark” because they will “make you fat”. False! Carbohydrates do not make you fat. Yes, there are optimal times to eat carbs, but as long as it fits within your caloric intake for the day, a calorie is a calorie.

Now, what are carbohydrates? They are the sugars that are broken down inside the body to create glucose. Glucose is then broken down into glycogen, which is used during exercise.

Why are carbohydrates so important, specifically after a workout?

  • Carbohydrates replenish glycogen, which is the main source of energy during exercise.
  • Carbohydrates decrease protein breakdown, which is important for less soreness and muscle recovery.
  • Also, carbohydrates increase protein synthesis, which is important for muscle growth and building lean mass.

How many carbohydrates are recommended after a workout? Most studies suggest 20-60 grams of carbohydrates should be consumed post-workout.

Now is that post-workout shake vital after completing a workout? Most studies suggest it is not absolutely essential. However, it is correlated to higher compliance of post-workout consumption as some individuals may “forget” to eat or drink their nutrients. Therefore, to ensure compliance it is recommended. Having said that, it is most beneficial for performance and aesthetic reasons as it extremely hard to store post-workout carbohydrates as fat.

What I do see a lot is: “Want to lose weight? Go low carb” – not necessarily. You may lose some weight, but most of that weight will be mostly water and glycogen.

What is the problem with carb restriction?

  • Decreased thyroid output –> lower metabolic capacity
  • Increased cortisol output (stress hormone) –> which increases fat storage
  • Lower testosterone –> lowers muscle preservation
  • Impaired mood and cognitive function –> Mood swings and dysfunctional thinking
  • Suppressed immune function –> say “Hello” to being sick all the time
  • Muscle catabolism –> lower metabolism – less food, but more gain

According to Precision Nutrition, there are unique individuals who thrive on low carbs such as individuals with seizures, neurological disorders or diabetics. However, most individuals require moderate carbohydrates to thrive not only physically for metabolic health, but for the sake of their athletic performance.

So what to do?

  • Eat high-glycemic carbs post-workout
  • Eat a high protein and moderate carbohydrate diet that fits within your daily caloric intake
  • And eat nutrient-dense foods

But most of all don’t fear carbs!

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