Carbs, carbs, carbs… love them or hate them they’re a topic to discuss because they’re massively misunderstood.
The biggest misconception amongst carbohydrates is that everything you hear about them is completely true and complete bullshit at the same exact time.
I know that doesn’t make sense, so let me explain.
Carbohydrates are one of the most individual nutrients that we consume as human beings and they ARE the most individual macronutrient we consume.
Protein is standard, get about 1g per pound of bodyweight and you’re set. Little less or little more, you’re still getting all the benefit and no risk either way.
Fat is also pretty standard, stay in the 0.3-0.4g per pound range or 20-35% of total calories and you’re getting enough to optimize hormones and not worry about any health risks. If calories are controlled, you can even push that up without any negative side effects like weight gain.
But carbs… carbs can be a tricky one.
Not enough carbs and you have health issues, nervous system issues, hormonal issues, performance declines, muscle loss, crankatitis (chronically cranky)….
Too many carbs and you begin to get bloated, cause gut stress, possibly cause insulin resistance, add unnecessary body fat, cause inflammation, and probably some other wild claims out there I’m forgetting to mention.
So there’s this fine line that we have to dance on to create a proper balance, because if we swing too far on either end of the pendulum, we’re likely to cause some kind of issues. Now obviously there’s the case to be made for keto, which is way on the other end of the pendulum, but the reality is that keto is very hard to adhere to and unless you can truly change your lifestyle to fit that style of eating – it’s not a smart way to eat. It’s an all or nothing type of diet.
Part of finding this balance, comes a lot of confusion for people.
Which is why I wanted to write this article for you. To show you some serious benefits to eating carbs that you may not want to neglect or miss out on. But also to open your eyes a bit, showing you that balance is most likely the best route in 99% of cases.
So… let’s get started.
#1 – CARBS HELP HORMONES
One hormone that MANY people have issues with is the thyroid gland.
The thyroid affects nearly every other human cell in the body and every single hormone in the human body. Which means if you have a thyroid issue, you likely have other underlying issues manifesting as well. Whether that is cortisol issues, low testosterone levels, estrogen imbalances, or metabolic adaptation – there could be much more to the picture that you don’t even realize.
Adding to thyroid, carbs are essential for the hormones insulin, cortisol, testosterone, and the metabolism, as well. ALL which are also affected indirectly by the thyroid gland.
So as you can see, this is kind of like a big family tree of hormones. They’re all connected and can all be positively influenced by the proper carb consumption.
When looking to change our performance or body composition, we want to utilize insulin to manage storage of nutrients around our training. This is because when we train, our insulin sensitivity improves – allowing our body to shuttle more nutrients to the muscle, rather than store as body fat. But the nutrient it is shuttling into the muscle cell is almost primarily carbohydrates alone, which is also why carbs have the biggest impact on insulin.
When consuming carbs, we can bring cortisol down – the stress hormone – due to this impact on insulin. But I won’t go too deep here, because that’s #3. I’ll just say, it’s crucial in seeing physical success.
#2 – CARBS BOOST MUSCLE GROWTH
First thing to point out on carbs and muscle growth is that carbs are a protein-sparing nutrient. What this means, is that in absence of protein – your body will make due by using carbs to get the job done.
This is a VERY important aspect of nutritional strategies for muscle growth, because it solidifies the need for carbohydrates as a back up nutrient for further gains OR muscle tissue maintenance when on a cut (a diet phase). Which is my next major point here…
When we’re on a cut, we’re actively putting our body into a scarce mode of survival. Sounds a lot more harsh when we put it in those terms, but the reality is that our body is not designed to diet and get shredded for the sheer purpose of looking aesthetic.
When we’re in this cut or diet phase, our body will not perform optimally. How can it? We’re depriving it of fuel and forcing it to use what has already been stored, which can lead to the issues of muscle loss if your macros are not dialed in accordingly. This is a major reason why we see so many bodybuilders getting absolutely shredded, yet keeping a lot of muscle mass during the process. Their diets are almost always carb heavy – because carbs will help performance AND are a protein sparing nutrient, which are the two definitive ways to hold onto muscle while losing body fat (training and protein ingestion).
#3 – CARBS REDUCE STRESS (MENTAL AND PHYSICAL)
Carbohydrates spike insulin and during that process, they blunt a cortisol response in the body. Cortisol is a stress hormone that rises, as stress is high.
THIS IS GOOD! At the right times…
If we have cortisol spiking at the wrong times, like when we’re trying to go to bed, or chronically spiking so that we never come down from a stressful state – we’re in trouble. But if we have cortisol spike at the right times, like in the morning when we need it to wake us up or when we want to go harder in the gym – we’re going to be more alert and see better results.
And since we know that carbs can help us control and lower this stress response, we now have a tool that can allow us to lower stress levels and improve recovery. Improved recover equals, the body is happy and you will see results.
When stress is high and cortisol is up, we’re in a sympathetic nervous system “mode”. This is our fight or flight response, which means GO – RUN – LIFT. But it doesn’t mean, REST – RECOVERY – REPLENISH – DIGEST. This becomes an issue because if we do not know how to properly shift out of sympathetic and into parasympathetic, which is the rest and recovery side of our nervous system, we end up in a vicious cycle of stress overload.
During that process, our body begins to breakdown in multiple areas because it just simply cannot recover. It needs the ability to shift into a parasympathetic nervous system mode in order to fully recover. AND it needs to fully recover in order to fully adapt (the process of literally creating the changes we want to see).
Time carbs according to when we need recovery most.
→ Post workout carbohydrates are massively important in blunting the cortisol response training gives us and allowing our body to tap into parasympathetic mode.
→ Evening carbohydrates can be critical in allowing our body to unwind and get a restful night’s sleep.
→ Pre workout carbs can be key for those who are already cortisol dominant and who live in a higher state of stress, because it balances the cortisol level prior to training.
#4 – CARBS ARE THE MOST EFFICIENT FUEL SOURCE
Our muscles thrive on carbohydrates, plain and simple
If you give the human body the choice of fats or carbs and ask it to perform hard, it will choose carbs 9 times out of 10. Probably 10 times out of 10, to be honest. Only exception would be if you’ve been practicing keto for months and months and have become fully fat adapted.
BUT even in those cases, we’ve seen these fat adapted athletes jam massive amounts of carbs in their body right before a high performance situation and excel tremendously because they provided the body with fuel. This means the body chose carbohydrates to perform, even though it was fat adapted.
My goal with this article is to bring awareness to carbs and help people understand that they’re not the bad guys here; in fact they’re the good guys in disguise. We need them if we want to thrive and especially if we want to build the best body possible.
But I’m also not here to tell you that fats are bad, we quite literally need them to exist. Period. And I’m a big proponent of balance, making sure my clients get both in adequate amounts to fuel performance but also a healthy body that lives a long life.
So take this article, create balance, find your happy medium, and begin to optimize both macronutrients in order to see better results.
And if you struggle with exactly how to do that (like most people do), click here now and jump on a free strategy call with me.
You can also go through our FREE SMART CARB CHALLENGE and focus on implementing smart carbs into your diet phase to get the best results.