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How Many Carbohydrates Should I Eat? Or should I avoid Carbs?

It seems like many in the fitness world is crazy about (typically against) carbohydrates (carbs).

Some people seem to like them a lot and choose to eat them  frequently.

Others see them as evil and would rather (almost) not even touch them.

Carbohydrates are an interesting part of our diet because we don’t need them all the time or in more than ‘normal’ quantities, unless we are athletes.

Some nutrients, like certain amino acids and fatty acids, are considered “essential” because the body can’t make them on its own.

Carbohydrates are not part of this group. Sugars and other things we need can be made from other stuff in our bodies.

For this reason, some people have pushed for a low-carb diet…So why do we eat them if we don’t need them?

Well, it turns out that eating carbs makes some things much easier for us to do. This is especially true if we want to do our ‘best’ work.

Even so, there is still a lot of confusing information about how much carbohydrate you should eat.

A lot of your carbohydrate intake amounts will depend on the sport and/or activities you do.

There is no doubt that marathon runners need a lot of carbs in their diet, but do all athletes need the same amount? Should people who lift weights or do powerlifting “carb up” for their sport?

It’s important to know how many carbs you should eat to get the most out of your Exercises without hurting your health.

Aerobic Exercise

You may already know that a lot of endurance athletes eat a lot before big races. This helps them store as much glycogen as possible in their bodies. So, when they are running the race, they can stay as fresh as possible for as long as possible.

So, if they are running a long race, they might “hit the wall” at some point. Their body screams at them to stop running, and it’s a real test of their will to keep running.

This is usually caused by a lack of glucose or glycogen, but it isn’t always the case. Simply put, their body knows when glycogen and glucose are running low and tries to stop them from exercising further.

If their goal is to do their best in a race, this is one of the worst things that can happen. So, endurance athletes need to keep their glycogen stores full most of the time to avoid this. Carbing up is a good way to make sure that everything is full.

 So far, at least, that’s what the research has shown. When comparing constant high carbohydrate (CHO) diets to lower carbohydrate strategies, high carb diets have always led to better performance [1, 4].

The International Olympic Committee has guidelines to be followed based on how intense the endurace athlete exercises [2]. 5-7g/kg of CHO per day would be a good amount to eat for endurance exercise of moderate length and low intensity.

People who do a lot of endurance training would need between 7 and 12 grams of CHO per kilogramme of body weight per day. And if a person is a marathoner, ultramarathoner, or triathlete, they may need more than 12g/kg of protein every day.


Strength Training

You might be wondering how eating carbs would affect your weight training. When you lift heavy weights in the gym, you definitely work hard, but glycogen depletion isn’t as bad as you might think.

So, an athlete who does resistance training doesn’t need as many carbs as an athlete who does endurance training.

To say it again, the minimum amount of CHO that an endurance athlete should eat every day is 5g/kg. On the other hand, this number may be the most carbs that athletes who do resistance training can/want/need to eat, depending on various factors.

It’s important to remember that strength athletes don’t always need to eat CHOs. When it comes to resistance training, low carbohydrate intake has a much smaller effect than when it comes to endurance training.

One study showed that elite gymnasts’ strength and power did not change after 30 days on a ketogenic (no carb – high fat) diet [3]. Other studies have come to the same conclusions.

So, if you don’t like eating CHO, you can still do well with your resistance training even if you don’t like eating it and especially as long as these carbohydrates are replaced with a sufficient amount of the ‘good’ fats.

Mixed Modal

Mixed-modal exercise is another interesting area of Exercise where carbohydrates can be useful. This is the category for workouts that are like CrossFit, where high-intensity mixed-mode exercise, CHO is going to be important.

Diet plans like Paleo and even Ketogenic are popular in the Crossfit community, which is interesting. This could be because they are more likely to follow fitness trends or because they like “clean” or “very natural” foods.

No matter what, the diets these people follow often limit the amount of carbs they eat, either directly or indirectly.

But this is not a good idea for athletes who do more than one type sport, so Mixed-modal training can take a toll, even if it doesn’t need as much CHO as intense endurance training.

Those taking this sport seriously, probably do both strength training and metabolic conditioning. At times, there are two of these training sessions in one day. That conditioning work requires either very hard work or work that lasts for a long time. In either case, CHO will help with a lot of that work. If they don’t eat enough CHO, their performance in this sport will definitely go down.

In this case, the CHO needs for mixed-modal training can be somewhere between what is needed for strength training and what is needed for endurance training.

Most likely, between 3 and 7g/kg of CHO per day is enough. This will depend on how hard they train and how often you do it. But again, it wouldn’t be a good idea to combine high-level mixed-modal training with a low-CHO diet.

Athletes who play for fun

All of the above suggestions are made for athletes who compete at a higher level in a certain sport, but not everyone who works out is trying to compete in a sport.

Many of us just want to try out a certain training style for fun. Also, our lives outside of the Fitness Studio may involve a lot of sitting (Think desk jobs with 30 minutes of Proper Exercise around 3 times a week).

If you like to run a couple kilometres a few times a week, it’s not that important to eat a lot of CHO. For one thing, you don’t burn as many calories as you would when doing endurance training for 1–3 hours. So, if you want, you can get away with less CHO.

The same is true for resistance training and mixed-mode training, such as we do at the A New, Better Life Studio in Naxxar and/or Online.

If you only lift weights for fun and especially as part of your fat loss journey, don’t force yourself to eat carbs.

Of course, you can include CHO in your diet if you like them. Just be aware that unless you train like an athlete, you might not be burning as many calories as you think. If you cram several hundred grammes of carbs into your mouth without thinking, it probably won’t do your health or body shape much good.

Overall, remember, the amount of calories matters and really matters if fat loss is a priority. So by deciding to go for a lower-carbohydrate diet, doesnt mean that indulging in ‘good fats’ is beneficial. Same is true for the opposite, if you decide to cut out on the ‘good fats’, this is not an instruction to over-eat on the carbohydrates.

For your own personal Eating plan, we suggest that you contact us @A New,  Better Life, where our Internationally qualified Nutritionist will be desigining a Personalised Eating Plan (based on your Wants, Needs & Preferences)

 + Online Nutrition Coaching & Accountability by Video and/or Text by the the same Qualified Nutritionist for Faster & Better Results on Messenger / Whatsapp and/or even Zoom!

Conclusion

The most ‘mysterious’ of the macronutrients are carbs. Unlike protein and fat, carbs are not essential in our diet. Because of this, it is hard to find specific advice about how much carbohydrate to eat. Still, there are some general rules we can follow, depending on how we live and how & what we train.

Endurance athletes are the ones who need CHO the most. This is because there is a direct link between feeling tired and running out of carbs.

Next are athletes who do a lot of different kinds of sports. Their workouts are usually very hard.

Interestingly, athletes who do strength training have much less of a need for CHOs. Thirty minutes to An hour of resistance training does not use up a lot of glycogen.

A strength athlete, might even be able to get away and even do well with a ketogenic diet.

Less CHO is also needed by people who exercise for non-competitive Health, Fitness & Fat Loss.

This means that we need to find a balance between our needs and personal preferences and the amount of CHO we eat if we want to stay healthy and do well, again a properly planned Personalised Eating plan by a Qualified Nutritionist can work wonders.


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