You Can Have Your Carbohydrates and Eat Them Too!
By Dr. Rick Kattouf II
In today’s world of nutrition & sport, just mentioning the word "carbohydrate" can tend to send folks into a frenzy. Every time we turn around, the headlines are talking about another ridiculous food fad and diet; the next latest and greatest low-carbohydrate diet. The majority of these diets and food fads are suggesting nutrition such as high protein, high fat and low carbohydrate. Are these diets a good thing to try? Let’s get right to the point and not beat around the bush. The answer is, No, plain & simple. Now, if your goal is to lose weight quickly and then be guaranteed to regain some, all or more of the weight you lost, than, yes, go for it; these diets will ‘work’ every single time! Keep it simple folks, a DIET is simply a, Disaster Imminent EveryTime®!
Also, in this world of high-protein diets, it seems as if there is a big misunderstanding regarding vegetables. All too often, an individual’s verbiage is, "yes, I eat vegetables as my carbohydrate." Well, let's take a closer look at this because vegetables are not giving your body the necessary carbohydrates for your brain and body to function optimally. For example, one cup of broccoli has only 5.8 g of carbohydrate. Bottom line, vegetables are not carbohydrates; sure, they may add a few grams of carbohydrates to your meal, but they are not a carbohydrate source.
In addition, many of these athletes adopting the low carbohydrate/high protein-high-fat diets are also adopting the "no-fuel/low-fuel" during exercise and training. Many times, these athletes thought process is, "why should I put calories in during exercise. The less I eat during exercise, the more calories and fat I will burn." In addition, athletes feel as if eating less during training and less carbohydrates in general, that this will help to burn fat. Often time’s individuals are drawn towards such food fads and diets because they are looking for a fast weight loss. Sure, reducing carbohydrates can create a fast weight loss (this is very temporary of course; the bodyweight typically goes right back on, quickly). This is where we have to ask ourselves if we are looking for "change" or if we want results-meaningful and sustainable results for a lifetime. There is a big difference between the two. A food fad or diet that brings about a quick weight loss and then an even quicker weight re-gain did not bring about results; rather, it simply brought about change. The body changed temporarily and then went right back. Let's adopt a nutrition lifestyle for a lifetime that will produce meaningful and sustainable results; not just change.
Have you ever listened to the verbiage of many of these individuals that jump on the food fad and diet bandwagon? Let's say the high protein-high fat/low carbohydrate diet is called Diet-X. An individual will start Diet-X and they are gung-ho and super motivated. And then, within a very short period of time (sometimes as soon as one day or one week), many of these individuals will say something like this, when asked how the Diet-X is going, "well, I am now 70/30 Diet-X.” (meaning that they are following Diet-X only 70% of the time, and 30% of the time, well, not following it at all!) Wait, what? 70/30? What happened to All-In Diet-X? Well, what happened is that these individuals’ bodies are screaming, "I need carbohydrates!" And, thankfully, these individuals are not ignoring their body and they are feeding their body the carbohydrates that have been cut out. And, as you can imagine, when their energy, performance and recovery are still not up to their expectations, 70/30 quickly becomes 60/40 and so on and so forth.
Do we need carbohydrates? Ahhh, yes! Glucose from carbohydrates is the fuel your brain uses to produce the energy that moves and motivate you (The Human Brain). Nuf said! We could just end this article here. Instead, let's keep going.
According to Dr. Carol Greenwood, "Not only does a diet lacking in carbohydrates cut off the brain's main energy supply but a scarcity of glucose can impede the synthesis of acetylcholine, one of the brain's key neurotransmitters.” When she tested the memory of older adults after they ate a breakfast of mashed potatoes or barley, she found that "eating carbohydrate foods can improve memory within an hour after ingestion in healthy elderly people with relatively poor memories."(The Human Brain).
Another key component for athletes is the want to burn fat, understandably. And, unfortunately, this has become an additional reason for individuals to significantly reduce or eliminate carbohydrates. The thinking has become that consuming carbohydrates and the ability to burn fat do not go together. Well, great news…you can burn fat and consume carbohydrates! Always keep this statement in mind, ‘fat burns in the carbohydrate flame.’ Not only does the consumption of carbohydrates provide energy for working muscles, but they also assist in enabling fat metabolism. In short, carbohydrates need to be present in order for fat to be utilized for energy.
When it comes to athletes and performance and in-training fuel, once again, carbohydrates remain vitally important just as they do in our every day meals/snacks. In order to maximize and optimize performance and recovery, we want to continually load and reload muscle glycogen stores. If we adopt a low carbohydrate/high protein diet, we're not going to be able to load and reload our muscle glycogen stores. According to Ashley Chambers, M.S. and Len Kravitz, PhD, muscle glycogen is the primary fuel (followed by fat) used by the body during exercise. Low muscle glycogen stores results in muscle fatigue and the body's inability to complete high intensity exercise. The depletion of muscle glycogen is also a major contributing factor in acute muscle weakness and reduced force production. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise decreased glycogen stores, so the need for carbohydrates is high for all types of exercise during this energy phase. Jeukendrup, PhD, and Michael Gleeson, PhD mention that there is convincing evidence from numerous studies indicating that carbohydrate feeding during exercise lasting 45 minutes or longer can improve endurance capacity and performance.
In summary, if you are looking for maximal and optimal mental acuity, performance, recovery, body composition change and meaningful and sustainable results for a lifetime, avoid jumping on the bandwagon of the latest food fad and diet. Keep it simple, Avoid The Diet Disaster, Start Eating Right™!
No matter what your goals, when it comes to nutrition, there are three key components we want to focus on when it comes to your everyday nutrition:
1. The proper fueling frequency
2. The proper fueling timing: when it comes to frequency and timing, let's keep it simple… Fuel your body immediately upon awakening and then every 2.5-3.5 hours thereafter. When you are spot-on with your fueling frequency and nutrient timing, you will help assist your body in stabilizing blood sugar, insulin and serotonin levels. This will result in high and stable energy levels all throughout the day as well as reduced if not completely eliminated food cravings.
3. The proper macronutrient balance: at every meal/snack, let's goal-set for the proper balance of carbohydrate-protein-fat. Maintaining a macronutrient balance at every meal/snack that contains 50-65% calories from carbohydrate, 15-25% calories from protein and 15-25% calories from fat will help to stabilize blood sugar, insulin and serotonin levels. And, this will help to properly load and reload muscle glycogen stores.
Let’s go all-In on fueling the body right. Let’s avoid the 70/30, 60/40 Diet-X mentality and get your body and brain fueled properly. Let’s take performance, recovery and body composition to a whole new level!
Timing: The New Frontier in Fitness Performance
Ashley Chambers, M.S. and Len Kravitz, Ph.D.
Iowa State University, Extension and Outreach
Carbohydrate intake during exercise
WORKOUT SMART, EAT RIGHT, GET RESULTS®!
Download the TeamKattouf® Nutrition LLC app:
Rick Kattouf II, O.D. is a 2x Best-Selling Author and Fitness & Nutrition expert and has been named one of America’s PremierExperts® and one of the World Fitness Elite® Trainers of the Year. He has been seen on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates around the country as well as in the USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Ironman.com, Livestrong.com, FIGHT! Magazine, Florida Cycling Magazine and The Independent in the UK. Rick is the CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Inc, CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Nutrition LLC, CEO/Founder of Virtual Gym LLC, Creator of TeamKattouf® Nutrition Supplements, Host of Rx Nutrition, author of Forever Fit, Creator of 5-Round Fury® Nutrition Supplement, 5-Round Fury Fitness® workout app, Creator of Coach2CEO, Creator of Fuel Keeper®, Entrepreneur and Inspirational Speaker. Dr. Rick has personally coached individuals in 30+ states and 10+ countries.