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Eat Carbs; Lose Fat. Really.

Read time: 10-12 minutes

I’m excited to introduce Kyle Sommer from Achieve Coaching. Kyle is a fellow BioSignature coach, and is also a Poliquin Certified level 2 State Strength Coach.

Ah, the carbohydrate. I don’t think anything in nutrition has had more written about it recently than this. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard in passing or from experience that “carbs are bad.” Maybe you believe it, and maybe you’re on a low-carb diet now. Or, maybe you think that low-fat diets are the way to go. Even still, there’s another camp that just goes with making sure your calories are in a deficit to lose fat.

I’m going to assume here for the sake of the sheet of paper that you as the reader know what carbs actually are. If your knowledge is a little bit more advanced, you also know that there are different types of carbs, and that some are better or worse than others. I know there are several different ways to categorize carbs and some people disagree or have differing opinions on how to do that, so I’m going to save myself the trouble and categorize them how I use them in my practice!

Starchy Carbs

Here’s where we have oatmeal, potatoes, yams, rice, and other starch loaded foods. These carbs vary in digestion rate, glycemic load, and so forth. Breads fit into this category as well as pastas, but there is a caveat to this as you’ll see later. These carbs are best for reloading glycogen stores in the muscle when eaten during the day. They are poorly used for energy during the day for most people, but are excellent for recovering from workouts when eaten outside of the workout window.

Fruits

This is really, really self explanatory, so I hope I don’t have to point out what a fruit is. Fruits tend to be good at providing slow burning energy for the day, but they are only average for recovering from workouts, though there are exceptions to this rule. There are exceptions to EVERY rule, so get used to it.

Fast Carbs

These are carbs that are digested very quickly, and are best at restoring glycogen immediately after workouts. Dextrose, maltodextrin, waxy maize starch, and other workout carb products fall in this category. Certain fruits, such as raisins, grapes, dates, and some dried fruits that have higher concentrations of glucose also fall in this category (the exception above). These carbs are awful outside of the workout window, unless of course you want to get as fat as possible, then by all means load up on them.

Crap Carbs

These are carbs you really shouldn’t eat unless you’re consciously cheating on your diet. They are digested too quickly, have a tendency to get stored as fat, and are usually food intolerances. They include obvious things like candy, snack foods and pizza. I also add to that list anything that contains gluten, so, get ready, that eliminates wheat, breads, pasta, and anything of that nature, unless they are rice or quinoa based.

If you look at the list above and focus on the bolded words and let that guide your eating, you’d probably do better than 95% of people. Unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple for those with higher level goals. The amount of carbs you need to eat is dependent on a variety of factors. I’ll actually take an excerpt from my upcoming Nutrition Guidebook. In my opinion, there are four factors that determine it, mostly. I’ll introduce you to two of them here (I can’t give away everything, now can I?). They actually are one in the same.

Volume/Intensity of Activity

This one is pretty straight-forward – the more active you are, the more carbohydrates you’re going to need to both fuel and recover from your activities. It’s intrinsically tied with the intensity of the activity, though. If you spent 10 hours a week doing steady-state cardio on the treadmill, your carbohydrate requirements won’t change very much because you don’t use that much muscle glycogen during that activity. The intensity is too low, so it predominantly uses fat as an energy substrate. If you did three 20 minute sessions of HIIT on the stationary bike, and then 4 weight-training sessions with reps in the 10-12 range for hypertrophy, you would have a far greater carbohydrate requirement, because those activities demand glucose. It isn’t by accident that many bodybuilders eat high carbohydrate diets – not because it “works for them,” but because their high volume of glycogen-based exercise makes it a requirement for them to make progress. There are low-carb ways to fuel glycogen synthesis, but in my opinion they are not practical and it’s just easier to eat carbohydrates when you need them.”

Got it? Alright, now, let’s look at how you can apply this today. Assuming that you’re in the gym right now (as you’re reading this article), consider both the workout you are going to perform/just performed, and run it against the factors above.

Sample Workout

Arms, 45 minutes – 6 exercises, 20 sets, 8-12 reps per set
15 minutes of bike intervals

Does this workout qualify for fast carbs?

Yes. It does. The volume of the lifting is quite high. You’re doing a lot of reps and work in the “glycolytic” zone, so you’re using a lot of muscle glycogen that needs to be refilled.

Does this workout qualify for a post-workout meal consisting of starchy carbs?

Yes, but this is a more complex answer that requires another article (I wonder if that’s what that Part 1 means). In most cases, yes, the volume and intensity of the work are both high enough to justify post-workout starches.

Sample Workout

45 minute spinning class
15 minute ab workout

Does this workout qualify for fast carbs?

Absolutely not. Aerobics do not burn enough glycogen as fuel. You’d be providing a lot of muscle glycogen to muscles that are already full of glycogen. The only place left for the sugars to go is fat cells. This is why drinking Gatorade during aerobics is completely moronic.

Does this workout qualify for a post-workout meal consisting of starchy carbs?

Again, no. I defer once more to this being a more complex answer, but viewed solely in what I’ve introduced in this article and the context of the workout, you would not want to consume rice or potatoes after this workout. In part two of the article, I’ll touch on the other factors involved in determining how, when, and what type of carbohydrates you should include in your diet.

What’s your personal experience with eating less or more carbs based on how much activity (and what style) you do?

A note from Kat

Until the end of October, whilst I’m living it up on my holiday, I’ll be introducing a series of posts from fellow Personal Trainers, BioSignature coaches, and wellness gurus. These are some of the most inspiring and useful people I know both on and offline, and I trust you’ll enjoy what they have to say. I’ll still be dropping by once a week with my own post and will be in touch via comments and email, so don’t be shy! Read more from Kyle over at Achieve Coaching. Oh – and stay tuned for next week, when Kyle will share the 2 traits you may already have that allow you to freely eat carbs!

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