Confused about carbs?? It's amazing how often I hear people say they're going "low carb" or how they're scared to eat that morning bowl of oats... and I just want to scream out "Carbs are not the enemy!!!"
Now, that's not to say I'd suggest hitting your local greasy spoon for a tall stack of pancakes drenched in butter and syrup, followed up by a burger on a hot, buttery bun with a side of fries for lunch... all washed down with a bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo for dinner. All I'm saying is carbs are not the enemy. And we should stop treating them as such.
Let's debunk some common carbs myths and discuss the benefits of eating those tasty whole grains!
1) They fuel your workout. Take it from someone who had their carbs cut as they trained for 3 hours a day, 6 days a week, in preparation for my first fitness competition. Carbs are life. Okay, maybe not life, but carbs do help fuel you for those long, grueling workouts. I'll give you a real-life example:
I was one month out from my show and headed into my local gym for leg day. Now I think it's worth mentioning, I LOVE leg day!! I train glutes directly once a week, hammies once and quads once. That's three days where I beat the every living life out of my little legs. So you can imagine my amazement when I loaded my barbell with 165lbs (a weight I never had trouble picking up thus far) and couldn't get it off the ground. I'm not talking couldn't fully extend... I'm talking not even an inch off the ground. I had ZERO energy and less than zero strength. Prior to cutting carbs, I was crushing 50 pullups a day. Once my carbs were cut, I could barely throw my 100lb body up to the bar... it was brutal.
The lesson I learned is that our bodies need carbs - ESPECIALLY before and after we lift. Which leads me to my next point...
2) They help build muscle mass. Ingesting carbs after a workout kicks off the recovery and muscle growth process! After an intense gym session, our bodies are depleted of glycogen (stored energy) and glucose (usable energy). The reason being, when we're lifting weights our muscles are working hard - using up all available glucose and glycogen for energy. Once our bodies get to a point where there is simply no more glucose/glycogen left to use, we then begin secreting the hormone cortisol - which essentially eats up our muscle tissue for protein and converts it into glucose. This whole process - known as gluconeogenesis - results in a loss of muscle tissue. What a bummer, right?? Which is why it's critical to ingest carbs and protein - getting them to your exhausted muscles immediately following a tough workout.
3) They help you recover faster. Eating complex carbohydrates after an intense lifting session can minimize delayed onset muscle soreness by replenishing glycogen levels, support immune system function, and assist with overall muscle repair (when paired with protein).
And if the reasons above aren't enough, let's face it. Carbs are freakin delicious. Just remember that mostly EVERYTHING we eat has carbs. Fruit, vegetables, multi-vitamins, you name it! However, all carbs are not created equal. Some great complex carbohydrates to add into your diet are:
- Brown rice
- Oatmeal (cook it in water and fold egg whites in at the end!)
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown rice cakes
- Ezekiel bread (their cinnamon raisin bread toasted and topped with a tablespoon of almond butter is the BOMB dot com)
- All veggies
If you take away one thing from this post, I hope that it is the mere fact that carbs - and food in general - are not the enemy. They're fuel. They work in conjunction with our training routines and should be enjoyed and appreciated. Life is too short to live in fear of food!