Are Carbs Bad?

Carbs are often blamed for being “bad” in today’s society.  In recent years, low-carb diets like Keto and Paleo have become extremely popular.  So what is a carb, anyway? Carbs are a macronutrient, along with protein and fat.  Carbs includes foods like bread, rice and fruit. Carbs contain about 4 calories per gram, while protein contains 4 calories per gram and fat contains 9 calories per gram.  All three macronutrients are important, for various reasons, but today we will focus on carbs.

When you eat carbs, your body converts them into an energy source known as glycogen.  Glycogen is the fuel your muscles use for training.  For those who are active, eating more carbs can be beneficial for various reasons:

  1. Train Harder:  If you don’t exercise, the amount of carbs needed if much less than an active person.  However, those who exercise regularly will need the “fuel” carbs provide to perform well.  Eating carbs around your training, (before, during and after) will allow you to perform more reps, lift more weight and feel better while doing so. Most people will notice an increase in their performance and their overall energy levels if they increase their carb intake appropriately.
  2. Recover Well:  If you work out day after day on a low-carb diet, you will likely deplete your glycogen stores within a few days.  However, keeping an adequate amount of carbs and glycogen in your system allows you to recover well and continue to train hard day after day.
  3. Increased Muscle Growth:  If you chronically deplete your carb intake in comparison to your training, it can actually inhibit muscle growth. When consuming adequate carbs and keeping glycogen levels high, muscle growth will occur more easily and more readily.

So, how many carbs should you eat?  First, take into account how active you are in your day-to-day life.  Do you sit behind a desk all day or are you on your feet waiting tables?  Second, how hard do you workout?  If you sit at a desk all day and then come home to sit on the couch, you probably don’t need many carbs because your activity level is low and your body doesn’t require much “fuel” for these activities.  Alternatively, if you sit at a desk during the day, but complete an intense workout every day, your carb intake needs goes up along with your activity level. Pair an active day job with intense training every day, and your carb intake needs go up even more.

The bottom line is that carbs are not necessarily the villain that they are often made out to be.  Depending on your activity level, they can be great for improving training, recovery and muscle growth.  And it IS possible to still loose weight while consuming carbs, as long as you keep your carb intake levels in line with your activity levels.  However, if you are very inactive, a lower carb diet, like Keto, may be a great fit for you.  There is no one-size-fits-all, so examine your lifestyle and your goals and make a determination on what works best for you.  If you’d like to chat more, we offer nutrition services with our partners at Renaissance Periodization.   Schedule a free intro session here.