If there are topics which should never be discussed on the dinner table or in public, these would be the topics about politics, religion… and CARBS, of course! These are the topics, which force people to lose their mind and try everything, just to defend their own point of view.
I love discussing exactly these topics- those that help you earn a bunch of criticism and a bunch of supporters. I think that in discussions like those, you get to discover a lot of information and a lot of pieces from the puzzle of your own truth. Then you can use the new data, as a stepping stone to a deeper understanding.
That’s why I decided to reach out to some well-known doctors and experts, who have kind of controversial opinions about carbs and fats and ask them one question:
What is your take on carbs? What should be the proportion between carbs and other macronutrients and what type of carbs do you recommend? Do you have a different approach to carb intake, when it comes to the average person and when it comes to athletes?
Before you go ahead and read what the experts said, I can’t wait to share with you a project I’ve been working on. It’s called IFS Journal- my FREE online magazine. Go ahead and subscribe for it HERE.
Now go ahead and read what the experts had to say about carbs.
1. Eating fewer carbohydrates can help you get lean or stay lean.
A key component of weight loss is tapping into storage fat (adipose tissue) for energy. This fat access simply cannot happen if the body is constantly drawing on carbohydrate reserves and blood glucose for energy. In a moderate to high carbohydrate diet, not only does the utilization of fat for energy become far less crucial, but the body never becomes ideally efficient at using fat.
When glucose is used to create energy, a high number of free radicals are produced. Free radicals are dangerous molecules that can damage normal cellular processes . The burning of fat for energy does not create this same cellular damage
2. Eating fewer carbohydrates can increase energy stability and eliminate gastrointestinal distress while training or racing.
Uncomfortable amounts of gas and bloating in athletes can be due to the high rate of bacterial activity caused by carbohydrate fermentation in the digestive tract. Many athletes experience an even greater degree of gastrointestinal distress from food allergies or intolerances to common carbohydrate sources, particularly wheat.
Yet another follow-up study in trained cyclists performed high intensity interval training with no carbohydrate intake showed improved fat utilization and an increase in the enzymes involved in energy metabolism, again, with no loss of performance.
Additional research shows that when carbohydrate stores are depleted by almost 50%, there is evidence that there is actually increased stimulus for enhanced enzyme activity in skeletal muscle, which is a good thing, since it means you can more efficiently produce energy from fuel.
3.A high fat diet can cause a shift in the gene expression that code for specific proteins which increase fat metabolism and cause very similar adaptions to exercise itself. So the mere act of shifting primary fuel intake from carbohydrates to fat begins to make you more “fit” even in the absence of exercise.
Read more HERE.
From the information I have seen, it’s clear that humans are genetically set up to consume and digest carbohydrates as part of a healthy diet. If a person manages to become insulin resistant or develop type 2 diabetes, or exhibit some of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, then the body can no longer manage carbohydrates well and a lower carbohydrate diet would be beneficial. In my opinion, we get to this state not by consuming carbs, but by consistently and slowly over-consuming calories- which is typically easiest to do on a diet full of highly palatable processed foods, inflammatory seed oils, and sugar.
As for the macronutrient ratio, it really depends on who you are. From a health standpoint, as long as your kidneys haven’t been ruined by chronically high blood sugar, protein numbers are the most standard- around 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. Your body can SURVIVE on a low protein diet, but it’s not going to be optimal from a health and performance standpoint.
Fats really come in to make up what’s left in terms of calorie demand, which will then be based off of what your carb intake looks like.
As a general rule, the more conditioning you do, or “Cardio”, and the better you are at it, the more carbohydrate you will need. If you just started working out or do relatively little conditioning, it shouldn’t affect you as much. Carb levels are based on tolerance, and everyone is a little different there. If they make you retain a bunch of water or feel lethargic and inflamed, or seem to contribute to weight gain: you’re not tolerant at that level of carbohydrate intake. For me, I have been able to slowly increase my carb ratio (and tolerance) by adding in 2-5% of calories from carbs per week, and holding it there for the whole week. It seems like hardly anything each week, but after a few months it adds up!
note from Ines Subaska: You can read further about Sarah and her experience with carbs HERE.
Carb cycling with safe starches during the two hours after exercise not a bad idea for peak performance. For those who need to lose weight I really like ketogenic diets for workouts!
I like to keep it so simple, sans counting: More carbs on training days (and specifically, right around training sessions), fewer on nontraining days. Then, pay attention to your body comp, pay attention to your performance, and adjust accordingly. Net and proportions are gonna be different for everyone.
The optimal carb intake varies greatly between individuals and depends on activity levels, metabolic health and personal preference in food choices.
For people who are inactive and have obesity or metabolic problems like diabetes, low-carb is an excellent choice. Most people would function well within 50-150 grams of carbs per day, although some prefer to go even lower.
However, people who are healthy, lean and active can tolerate a lot more carbs than that and athletes should consume enough calories and carbs to fuel their workouts.
Getting carbs (and other macronutrients) from whole, single ingredient foods is always the best choice.
Carb intake is a pretty complex and relative about every person. Usually when I work with clients, I make analysis about their present carb intake and its effect on their level of fitness and body composition. I take into account their blood type. There are people who are pretty sensitive to carbs and you should be more careful, others lose muscle mass without eating enough carbs. That’s why I always start manipulating their carb intake according to their present level and goals. I think that a macronutrient proportion around 40/40/20- proteins/carbs and fats is a good start. According to how the body reacts, I will make some changes. Later on the macronutrient proportion changes in favor of proteins.
Personally I follow a diet with moderate to low-carb intake, even when my goal is an increase in muscle mass. I take around ¼ of my carbs with my second meal, ½ of the carbs 30 minutes after my workout and ¼ of the carbs with my post workout meal. With every carb meal I use ALA or chrome/biotin/ cinnamon.
When it comes to the average person, who is not an active athlete and who doesn’t go through really intense workouts, I recommend carb intake, limited to just one meal a day. If the person is with fast metabolism, he might tolerate carbs in two or three of his daily meals. But people who are sedentary, do not need that much carbs.
Sure I recommend the intake of slow carbs during the day. I use fast carbs only 30 minutes post my workout. In my post workout meal I add rice- red, white or spaghetti and rarely potatoes or quinoa. In my morning meal I use whole wheat spaghetti, brown rice and sometimes oats or fruits- pineapple, grapefruit, bananas and so forth- not more than one piece a day.
I add broccoli, carrots, beetroot and other veggies, which contain carbs.
Setting your carb intake isn’t nearly as complicated as people make it out to be.
Here’s an easy three step process for how to set your carbohydrate intake. I talk about the type of carbs at the end.
1. Know your goals.
If you’re sedentary, most research indicates you’re generally going to have better health markers (such as lower triglycerides), if you eat a lower carb diet.
If you’re an athlete, there’s overwhelming evidence that you’ll perform better on a higher carb diet. If you’re an endurance athlete, you may need anywhere from 3-12 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram to perform at your best.(1)
If you’re a strength athlete, you generally don’t need as much. In most cases, 2-6 grams per kilogram is a good starting place.
As a general rule of thumb, the higher your total energy expenditure, the more carbs you should consume to perform at your best.
2. Modify your diet based on personal preferences, tolerances, and results.
If you want to eat more or less carbs than the above recommendations, that’s generally fine as long as you get enough protein and fat.
If you feel sluggish in your workouts and notice that your performance (strength, pace, power output, etc.) drops, you probably need to eat more.
Your insulin sensitivity can also vary significantly, and some people may feel better on lower-carb diets. That said, exercise tends to make this far less of an issue.
3. Don’t stress about it too much. As long as you’re in the ballpark for carbohydrate intake, you’re fine. You don’t need to hit the above numbers exactly every single day.
The type of carbs you eat doesn’t matter nearly as much as many people think. If you’re active, you’ll generally be fine eating more high glycemic “fast digesting” carbs, like sugar, white bread, etc.
If you’re sedentary, and over-consuming calories, then you’re better off focusing on higher fiber foods with a lower glycemic load. However, if you’re in a caloric deficit, the glycemic index of your carb choices matters less.
There are obviously other reasons to pick high fiber foods, but it really depends on your current situation and goals. Once again, most people worry about it more than they need to.
Reference 1. Burke LM, Hawley JA, Wong SHS, Jeukendrup AE. Carbohydrates for training and competition. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S17–27. doi:10.1080/02640414.2011.585473.
What is your take on carbs?
I rarely give my clients a no/ultra low carb diet. For average fat loss clients, I always prescribe carbs, but for bodybuilder clients we may go low/no carb a few days a week depending on how much fat she needs to lose. Types of carbs certainly vary depending on the digestion of my client. Most tolerate grain well, but for those who don’t we stick to root veggies, fruits, ect.
What should be the proportion between carbs and other macronutrients and what type of carbs do you recommend?
Again, this depends on the client and the goal. For a majority of my fat loss clients who are new to lifting, I prescribe a 33/33/33 diet. This isn’t a set standard, but it is often a starting point. I also implement carb cycling for some clients once we establish the correct caloric goal.
Do you have a different approach to carb intake, when it comes to the average person and when it comes to athletes?
Yes, typically athletes have higher carb intake on training days than non-athletes. I don’t work with sports competitors, only runners and bodybuilders. I typically cycle carbs for these athletes so they are eating higher carbs on training days—depending on the training they have scheduled. I find for those who are just performing resistance training for 20-45 minutes a few times a week and who aren’t lifting heavy, carb cycling and high carbs isn’t as effect as it is for my higher intensity clients.
Telling people to eat more carbohydrates and less food overall is not a diet, it is torture. It is the ultimate test of someone’s willpower. When carbohydrates hit our brain and turn our blood sugar levels into a roller-coaster ride, we crave more and turn into gluttons. The recommendations to eat more carbohydrates are the CAUSE of our current gluttonous state, NOT THE RESULT of it – down to the exact date of these recommendations! (Read more HERE )
While carbohydrates are often praised as health foods in our society and fats are demonized, the irony is not lost on Caveman Doctor that high blood sugar levels can quickly (acutely) kill us, while fat and cholesterol are vital components of many parts of our body and cell membranes. This is why you will find fat and cholesterol floating in our blood bound to lipoproteins naturally and we don’t have to quickly remove them like blood sugar.
Insulin causes hunger through a complex feedback system of environmental, behavioral, and biological factors.
Cavemen likely ate a similar diet and went for days without carbohydrates. Regardless of the level of carbohydrates that we eat, keeping them low will keep insulin low, the weight off, and energy high. Once again, a diet similar to the one that nature laid out for the cavemen appears to be the healthiest. Let’s find simple ways to mimic it for better health. (Read more HERE )
1.If you want to live longer and be healthy, you should have periods without carbs, periods when you are in ketosis. The positives are many. I won’t list them.
2.Carbs should be eaten in their inherent season- when it is hot and sunny and the day is longer.
3.If you eat too many carb, you should increase your vitamin D, vitamin C and magnesium intake. If some of these micronutrients is deficient, a higher carb intake will harm you.
4.The more damaged is once metabolism, the less carbs you should eat and you should emphasize on a ketogenic diet. I.e. the healthier is your body, the more “crappy” foods you might eat without serious consequences.
5.When it comes to athletes, carbs help but for the price of the length of their sports career, their life and their health in the future. What are the mechanisms behind this is a whole different topic, but carbs are something like the turbo. If you use them constantly, the engine will run out quickly. Carbs help you recover faster, but if you are constantly eating them, with time you will need bigger amounts for recovery. Mitochondria will become more inefficient and they will exhaust your stem cells.
6. Carbs make you age faster. Google ÄGE”, “protein crosslinking”,”ROS”.
This is in summary. The conclusion is that carbs should be used smarter in order to avoid trouble.
And last but not least, women tend to get in a hypoglycemic state faster. They need a little bit more carbs.
Dr. Jack Kruse
Carbs should be eten based upon the photoelectric effect from the sun not when humans want to eat them. This allows for proper circadian signaling in organ systems and mitochondrial control of electrons derived from the oxidation of foodstuffs.
Carbs are not our enemy, but in order to be our friend, we need to take some things into consideration. My present carb intake is around 100-150grams daily( I eat them in two of my daily meals), my protein intake varies between 180-200 grams, and my fat intake is around 100 grams. My body responds pretty good to carb rotation, where in the time period of 4 days, I decrease the quantities from 250 grams to 0 carbs ( I take my physical activity into account).
On the days with a higher carb intake, I decrease my fat and protein intake. The carbs sources should be carefully picked. I think that people would derive a lot of positive effects, if they limit gluten-containing foods. I recommend- rice, potatoes, quinoa, tapioca, corn, raw nuts and fruits ( be careful about them). It is good to eat veggies which are in season.
There should be a difference in carb intake between an average person and a professional athlete.
There are three main things– not just when it comes to carb intake but when it comes to nutrition as a whole: there isn’t a common valid truth; everybody should listen to his own body and experiment according to his individual specifics; the food should be clean and minimally processed. When it comes to the amount of carbs, you should consider the state of your metabolism; lifestyle; the type of sport and the frequency of the workouts; some health specifics ( if there are some food intolerances; hormonal imbalances, allergies, insulin resistance and so forth).
What is your take on carbs?
Carbs aren’t the enemy. Actually, they are our bodies’ main energy source. If we are not getting enough with food, our bodies will manufacture it from proteins or fats. Even the greatest energy consumer in our bodies runs only on glucose (which is a simple carbohydrate) – our brain.
We can even break down our own muscles if we need to. That’s how important are carbs for us.
I don’t believe we would have evolved to such complex creatures if carbs were our enemy.
What should be the proportion between carbs and other macronutrients and what type of carbs do you recommend?
I don’t believe, neither do I like using proportions with macronutrients. Yes, some people feel and perform better when they eat more carbs, others – when they consume more protein and fats. And some are more balanced type – they get along with whatever they have. People should listen to their bodies. They don’t need any formulas. They don’t need macronutrients proportions. They don’t need to count anything. Just be aware of our own bodies.
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